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Birdfeed: Vol. 22.10; First Loss

The Eagles undefeated season is gone and concerns that were “minor” just a few days ago are now very real.

The Eagles defense is a problem. Not a problem to opposing offenses, unfortunately, but to the Eagles chances of making a deep playoff run. The word is out; run the football and attack the linebackers in the passing game.

As I mentioned last week, the December schedule is no friend to the Eagles. After last week, even the Colts and Packers no longer look like easy victories. With the Vikings apparently incapable of losing, the Eagles are in a vulnerable position to surrender the top seed in the NFC, and if they’re not careful, the NFC East could fly out the door as well.

You may be thinking, “It’s one loss, relax.” Sure, it’s only one loss, but the run defense has been a problem since Jordan Davis went out. The defensive line isn’t generating pressure, and Jonathan Gannon, by all accounts, refuses to adjust his scheme. And by that, I mean he continues to drop unqualified defensive ends into coverage while playing soft coverage with his defensive backs. The strategy made no sense Monday night.

Terry McLaurin was roasting the Eagles secondary and Darius Slay was the victim more than any of us expected. Who knows if it was by design or not, but it seemed like Slay was floating at times, almost as if he was trying to make up for the absence of Avonte Maddox. If that was indeed the plan, it backfired, and in a big way. Why not sit Slay on McLaurin and roll the dice on the rest of a less-than-stellar Commander offense beating you?

It wasn’t the defense’s entire fault Monday night. In fact, I think I blame the offense and Nick Sirianni more. After the Jalen Hurts interception (thrown to the wrong shoulder, by the way), the Eagles found themselves trailing by three with about 90 seconds to go in the 1st half. They were also set to receive the ball out of the half. I love being aggressive, but your defense had been on the field at that point for 81% of the 1st half. No, that’s not a joke or estimation, but it is totally ridiculous and embarrassing. Anyway, you have to protect your defense there. Sirianni did not. Instead he came out, threw the football three straight times and punted, giving Washington’s offense another shot against the Eagles exhausted defense. In fact, the Eagles defense played more in that 1st half Monday night than they did in four games this season (MINN, JAC, AZ, DAL). It’s amazing they didn’t give up 20 points in the 2nd half.

But back to the offense… Out of the half, now trailing by 6 instead of 3, I thought for sure Sirianni would settle everything down and go to his bread and butter running attack. Nope. After a run on 1st down it was two straight passes and the defense was back out on the field. After another Washington field goal the Eagles FINALLY resorted to their running game. And guess what? It delivered. A 12 play drive where the Eagles ran the ball eight times brought the Eagles back to within two and all seemed right in the world. I will say again… Jalen Hurts is not the offense’s bell cow. The running game is. I must continue shouting this until Nick Sirianni calls me and confirms he understands. Hurts will not take the Eagles where they want to go on his own. He simply is not a good enough passer. The offense goes as the ground game goes. Run the mother bleeping football and then run it again. Protect your defense, shorten the game, and make the passing game easier as a bonus.

Finally, the Eagles were sloppy Monday night. They played like they were supposed to win and not like they had to win. The defense was undisciplined (looking at you, Kyzir White) and the fumbles were inexcusable (maybe Dallas Goedert’s was somewhat excused but that ball wasn’t high and tight even before the face mask).

On the other hand, it’s better this game happens in mid November than in mid January. The distraction of 17-0 is now gone and there’s something for the Eagles to prove again. As my cousin described it, Monday was the “no effing way” game. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. The turnovers, the failure to get off the field on 3rd down, the horrible officiating; it was a disaster. But the Eagles earned that disaster. Now they have eight more games to earn the NFC’s top seed and prove their impressive start was not just the product of a cupcake schedule.

*****

Thursday Night Pick; Packers -3

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