Birdfeed: Vol. 16.8; Choking in Dallas

Wendell Smallwood’s fumble was one of many reasons the Eagles managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Let’s count down the top seven. (MICHAEL AINSWORTH / AP PHOTO)

Once again, simple, stupid mistakes like drops and penalties haunted the Eagles. Yes, the Eagles have cutback on penalties the last two weeks. In fact, the Eagles were only flagged 5 times for 40 yards Sunday. However, the biggest of those calls came late in the 4th quarter with the score knotted at 23. Dorial Green-Beckham caught a quick out and took it 25 yards to the Eagles’ 45. The play was called back due to offensive pass interference. Instead of a 1st and 10 near midfield, the Eagles were stuck with a 1st and 20 from their own 10.

Green Beckham was also an offender in the drops category. He dropped a pass near the goal line that would have put the Eagles in a 1st goal situation early in the 4th quarter. They settled for a field goal. Nelson Agholor also dropped a 1st down pass inside the ten. Those were just the most crucial drops of the game. The Eagles had at least two others.

Also, could someone remind Fletcher Cox the season has indeed started and he was paid a handsome sum of money to frequently show up in the opponent’s backfield? The only time I remember seeing him in 2016 was when he was giving the opponent new life via dumb penalties inside the red zone.

Missed opportunities often come back to bite you, especially in close games within the division. The Eagles let a couple of interceptions slip through their hands in Dallas, but none were bigger than Leodis McKelvin’s drop with 3 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. Dallas scored the game-tying touchdown on the next play.

The Eagles coaching staff lacked stones. Down a touchdown in the 3rd quarter and punting from his own 27, Dallas coach Jason Garrett called for a fake punt to energize his team. Eagles coach Doug Pederson passed on a 53 yard field goal to extend Philadelphia’s lead to 10 with seven minutes to go in the 4th quarter. What’s worse, Pederson’s kicker already kicked back-to-back 55 yarders in the 1st half. (Only one counted, but still, he’s proven himself reliable from 50 yards.) I hear the “he put trust his defense” argument, but you’re trusting your defense either way. The only difference is you’re risking 20ish yards of field position for 3 points. That’s a risk worth taking, especially on the road.

After the game, Eagles wide receiver and former 1st round pick, Nelson Agholor got tired of discussing his drops. To summarize, Agholor said he only dropped one pass and that was it, and that it wasn’t a big deal. Whoa. That’s a problem. Big deal or not, you don’t want players on your team that lack accountability. Sure, maybe if he’s an elite talent you’ll put up with more diva behavior. Agholor and “talent” hardly belong in the same paragraph, let alone the same sentence. Drops, missed tackles, stupid penalties; these are all personal accountability issues. It’s not play-calling. It’s not about talent. It’s not about coaching. It’s about taking responsibility for your job.

For the 3rd week in a row Carson Wentz was an average quarterback. Sure, his completion percentage was nice and he didn’t turn the football over. Whatever. By my recollection, his biggest play was miraculously not fumbling the football on a sack in the final seconds of the 4th quarter. Once again, Wentz had the opportunity to win the game on not one, but two 4th quarter drives. He went 2/3 for 5 yards, was sacked twice and got zero 1st downs. In total this season, Wentz has had 4 drives over three games with the opportunity to tie or take the lead late in the 4th quarter. He is now 4/9 for 27 yards, been sacked four times, thrown an interception and got two 1st downs, one of which came via defensive penalty. Even Donovan McNabb found ways to rally for victories in his rookie season. McNabb’s receivers back then make Wentz’s present receiving corps. look like Jerry Rice and Julio Jones.

The Wendell Smallwood fumble was an absolute killer. For the 3rd time in four weeks the Eagles coughed up the football in the 4th quarter while nursing a lead. It’s cost them two victories. 4-3 is not anywhere near as pretty as 6-1. While Smallwood fumbled the football, 40% of the blame goes to coaching on this one. You give a rookie his first carry of the game in the 4th quarter? The guy hadn’t had any physical contact in hours. He had no rhythm in the game. He was ice cold. I don’t get it.

Play-calling cost the Eagles a victory. It’s as simple as that. For the record, even if Smallwood doesn’t fumble and the Eagles escape Dallas with a victory, I’d still be complaining about the play calling. The Eagles play scared. Ever since Wentz threw a game-ending interception on a deep ball in Detroit the Eagles have avoided throwing downfield at all costs. If your kid falls off his bike do you put it on Ebay and never let him ride again? There was a point Sunday night where after completing passes on 1st and 2nd down, Carson Wentz and the offense found themselves facing a 3rd and 9. There were no penalties involved in the drive.

Furthermore, the Eagles let advantageous down-and-distance opportunities slip away. After Dallas tied the score late in the 4th quarter, Philadelphia rushed for 8 yards on 1st down. On 2nd and 2 Wentz threw behind the line of scrimmage to Jordan Matthews for a 2 yard loss. I’m not sure I can remember a time where the Eagles threw the football backwards while running a two-minute offense. It’s asinine.

On their previous possession, the Eagles were at the Dallas 32 with a 1st and 10. They ran a failed trick play on 1st down. Ran it for 2 yards on 2nd down and then faced a 3rd and 8 from the Dallas 30. A 46 yard field goal would have extended Philadelphia’s lead to 10 with seven minutes to go. The Eagles threw behind the line of scrimmage and lost 6 yards. I’m fine being conservative there, but call a dive up the middle and try to make a 46 yard field a 42 yard field goal or something. JUST DON’T RISK MOVING BACKWARD!

I gave Aaron Rodgers a hard time for needing 56 attempts to surpass 325 yards two weeks ago. Wentz aired it out 43 times and barely cracked 200 yards. Wentz now has two games with an average yards per attempt under 5.0. The only other quarterbacks who can match that claim are Blaine Gabbert, Tyrod Taylor and Brock Osweiler. That’s not the company you want your franchise quarterback keeping when it comes to statistics. I mean goodness gracious, how many times are the Eagles going to throw short of the sticks on 3rd down?!?! As my cousin shared Sunday night, that crap was supposed to leave town with Chip Kelly.

Talent or not, the greatest limit on the Eagles offense has been the play-calling. It’s downright agonizing and unwatchable. Do better, Doug. Please.

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