The game was there to be won, no question about it.
As battered as the Eagles emerged from their bye week, as kiddie-pool shallow as they are at skill positions, as challenging as the Patriots were supposed to be, the Birds had every chance to take Sunday’s game at Lincoln Financial Field.
The defense certainly showed up. Jim Schwartz’s unit forced Tom Brady into a career-high 14 first-half incompletions — impressive when you consider Tom Terrific has played 637 halves of NFL football. When you hold New England to one TD and three field goals, you deserve to celebrate afterward.
The reasons for this 17-10 loss all stem from the offense and coaching. Rather than conduct one of those cheesy Twitter polls asking, “Who do you blame the most?” let’s stipulate that more than one thing can be true at the same time: Carson Wentz can toss in a clunker, Doug Pederson can lose balance, and the receivers… well, you know about the receivers.
So let’s break down the culprits:
– Any debate about Carson Wentz these days brings out the fanatics on both sides. But can we all reasonably agree that the franchise QB was the opposite of that on Sunday?
Wentz held the ball too long, resulting in five sacks against a Pats team that doesn’t boast strong pass rushers. He sailed easy throws. He didn’t spot open receivers. Most concerning, he had another poor fourth quarter — which is where elite QBs earn their paychecks.
Wentz has not been spectacular this season, but he’s largely been consistent. On Sunday, he looked more like Mark Sanchez than a franchise cornerstone.
– Doug Pederson did nothing to help out his struggling QB. The Eagles kicked a field goal to open the game and put together a magnificent 16-play, 95-yard drive. During that drive, they passed eight times and ran eight more. Terrific balance.
Mysteriously, Pederson morphed back into Andy Reid Jr. after that, abandoning the ground game and taking Miles Sanders out of the plan. It was a curious decision considering that the Eagles ran for 364 yards in their past two contests and that the Pats are much tougher defending the pass than the rush.
Explaining it at his Monday news conference, the coach said, “As the game progressed, for us to get in a position to score and tie it, we needed an explosive game. So the passing game became more important at that time.”
Okay, I disagree. The Eagles were never down more than a touchdown in this one. No need to panic. And to describe the passing game as explosive leads me to the third culprit . . .
– The Eagles wide receivers are just godawful. Once again, they got zero out of Mack Hollins, and one catch out of JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Jordan Matthews, who was sitting home last week, had six targets and one catch for a measly six yards.
But I’ll save the venom for Nelson Agholor who, five seasons into his career, still doesn’t know how to keep his feet inbounds or track a ball.
Yes, grabbing that last throw from Wentz (a terrific heave under pressure, by the way), would have been difficult — but not extraordinary. Agholor was on the 15 when the ball was released. It was never touched by a defensive back. It wasn’t underthrown. A good receiver pulls that in.
Anyway, another winnable game slipped away — just like earlier ones against Atlanta and Detroit. The Eagles still have a path to the playoffs but it doesn’t get easier next Sunday against Seattle.
This one was there to be won.