The Eagles were so bad Sunday and did so many things wrong it was a miracle they even had a chance to win. (Photo by Frederick Breedon | Getty Images)
Right before the Eagles kicked off the season I warned you right here about the very real possibility of the Eagles entering their Week 9 bye at 4-4. At this point, 4-4 would be a welcomed surprise. The Eagles can only be trusted to beat themselves at this point of the season.
That’s a good point, Ryan, let’s start there. The first step to winning a football game is to not beat yourself. Dropping a perfectly thrown ball on 3rd and 21 is bad. Let’s try not to do that. Protecting the football is good, too. Through four weeks the Eagles have committed a crucial turnover while leading in the 2nd half. Twice the defense bailed them out. In Week 4 the defense was not up to the challenge.
Penalties were also devastating on Sunday in Nashville. The Eagles gave the Titans three 1st downs via penalties, including one on 4th down that would have otherwise ended the game. Jay Ajayi had two rushes of over 10 yards (18 and 13) called back due to careless penalties. In all, the Eagles committed 8 penalties for 77 yards.
The red zone was another disaster. With 1st and goal from the ten the Eagles proceeded to fumble and then commit back-to-back holding penalties that ultimately resulted in a 2nd and goal from the 22. Of course, that was the only red zone trip the Eagles would convert to a touchdown, but whatever. They finished 1/4 in the red zone on the day, including two red zone trips where a touchdown would have clinched the victory. For those keeping track, the Eagles converted 67% of their red zone trips last season before the Carson Wentz injury. They converted 70% this season before Sunday.
I’ll say it again, Sunday was just a total collapse in every way imaginable.
Even Doug Pederson had a rough day. Calling the timeout on 3rd and forever at the end of the half when he should’ve let the clock run and forced Tennessee to use a timeout. As a result, the Titans got the football back with 41 seconds remaining and one timeout instead of 41 seconds and zero timeouts. (I know, it didn’t end up mattering because of the interception, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a mistake.)
Pederson’s play-calling inside the red zone on the Eagles final possession of regulation was also suspect. Pederson had the Titans on the ropes. A touchdown wins the game. On 1st and 10 from the 19 he threw a fade to Alshon Jeffrey. Not only is it a low percentage play but it requires precision accuracy from a quarterback that’s played 8 quarters in the last ten months. (In fairness to Doug, Wentz made a great throw and I think Jeffrey should have caught it. Still, though, it’s a low percentage call in that situation.) On 3rd and 3 of that same series, needing a 1st down to keep the drive and hopes of a game-winning touchdown alive, Pederson went to… Jordan Matthews? Not Zach Ertz. Not Alshon Jeffrey. Not even Nelson Agholor. What’s worse, it was a corner route to the end zone. You need three yards and you’re throwing the football into tight windows 18 yards downfield to the worst receiver on the field? I don’t get it.
Obviously, red zone issues weren’t all the Eagles screwed up Sunday. The offensive line was a disaster in pass protection and didn’t do much in run blocking either, or at least not until overtime. I don’t want to live in a football world where Carson Wentz’s tackles are a mess. Lane Johnson and Jason Peters both decided to have their worst game of the season on the same day, I suppose.
The secondary wasn’t good, again. The Eagles just got torched by a dismal offense. There’s nothing special about Tennessee, not even Marcus Mariota. That 2nd half was as embarrassing a half the defense has played since the Super Bowl. Only, in the Super Bowl, despite giving up 250 yards and 21 points, the defense finally made one play to clinch the victory. There was no such play Sunday. In fact, they had three chances to make a play and end the game and failed each time.
Let’s talk about that final drive real quick. By my count, there were four crucial plays that could’ve swung the game. If any of them go differently, the game ends with an Eagles victory or at worst, a tie.
First play; the Titans converting on 4th and 128. That may be an exaggeration but it’s all the same. Look at the picture below and let’s play the game, “Which of these is not like the others.”
Corey Graham is a solid 1.5-2 yards shallower than where he was supposed to be. He also lost “contain” of the area he was responsible for in that situation. Such a boneheaded play by a veteran. If Graham is in the right spot, Mariota either has to force the throw into coverage or toss up a Hail Mary because Derek Barnett was a half second from putting Mariota on his rear end.
Second play; Marcus Mariota rushing for 17 yards on 3rd and 19 from the Eagles 49. A stop here and the Titans face another 4th and forever. If the Eagles even limit the damage to between 7 and 12 yards, it’s likely the Titans attempt the tying field goal of 50+ yards or face another 4th and long. The odds would favor the Eagles in both scenarios. Instead, Tennessee needed only 6 feet and converted on 4th and 2.
Third play; the aforementioned conversion on 4th and 2. I’ve watched this play at least 20 times and can’t decide if Jordan Hicks was late in coverage or if he had to delay to prevent the pass to Tajae Sharpe. Watch and let me know what you think.
Regardless, the most egregious mistake on this play belongs to Ronald Darby. Darby could’ve tackled Dion Lewis at the 28 yard line. But of course, he’s Ronald Darby, so that’s impossible. Instead of Tennessee having a 1st down 28 yards from the end zone, Lewis scampered for another 13 yards. 1st and ten from the 15 is a lot easier to score from than 1st and ten from the 28, especially when you consider time constraints. The Titans had no timeouts. Following the conversion, Mariota snapped the ball with 31 seconds on the game clock. With no timeouts, there’s minimal chance the Titans score from 28 yards out without being able to stop the clock.
Fourth play; Corey Davis drops a one yard pass on 2nd and goal from the ten. This was HUGE. If Davis holds on, the Titans probably don’t have time to run another play as they’d get to the line at or around 8 seconds. If they do, it’s probably something chaotic and unscripted. It’s likely they kill the clock on 3rd down and kick the tying field goal on 4th. The game would’ve ended in a tie.
So many dumb mistakes and miscues for a team that last year nailed almost every one of these situations. Alas.
That’s enough therapy for this week. I’ll see you back here next week to discuss whether Adam Thielen’s or Stefon Diggs’ 400 yard receiving day was more impressive.