Eagles

10 observations from Eagles-Cardinals

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10 observations from Eagles-Cardinals

BOX SCORE

Can't tackle. Can't catch. Can't block. Can't run. Can't throw. Can't do anything.

After two encouraging weeks, the Eagles were back to embarrassing themselves Sunday night. 

They've now allowed 40 or more points in three of their last five games and lost by at least 23 points in those three games.

The Eagles got humiliated Sunday night on national TV, dropping a 40-17 decision to an Arizona Cardinals team that seemed to be just toying with the Eagles much of the game (see Instant Replay).

We've definitely had more than our share of this sort of 10 observations this year, haven't we?

1. Monday, the Eagles can get back to pretending they’re in a playoff race. And I guess technically they are, considering the current state of the NFC East. But nobody should confuse being in a playoff race with being a true playoff team. On Sunday, the Cards demonstrated just how big a gap there is between the Eagles and a true upper-echelon NFC team. They came in and manhandled the Eagles on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and they did it in the Eagles’ own building. Yeah, the Eagles can still back their way into the playoffs with wins over the Redskins and Giants (see Mychal Kendricks' take here), but they have a long way to go to be able to compete on a regular basis with a team like Arizona. The Eagles just looked overmatched Sunday. Missed tackles, blown coverages, fumbles. The kind of stuff that should have been cleaned up in training camp. The Cards have drafted better, signed better free agents and they’re better coached. They’re just on a different level right now, and they made sure everybody knew it.

2. I get giving DeMarco Murray a diminishing workload since he hasn’t been producing. I get playing Ryan Mathews more than Murray. But one thing Murray has done awfully well this year is convert on 3rd-and-short. In fact, going into Sunday’s game, Murray was 12 for 12 this year on 3rd- or-4th-and-1, and Mathews was 2 for 5. So why did Mathews get the ball on 4th-and-1 in the closing minutes of the second quarter? While Murray watched from the sidelines (see story), Mathews was stuffed for no gain. One guy is perfect on short yardage, the other guy is at 40 percent. I get using Murray less, but I don’t get not letting him do the one thing he’s still doing well (see Chip Kelly's take here).

3. We have to address David Johnson’s 47-yard touchdown run. Johnson is a talented kid, tough to tackle. But goodness gracious, that was embarrassing. There were five different times that play should have been over. I don’t care how many backups are on the field, how many guys are missing with injuries. That was a shameful effort. Johnson’s TD was the longest against the Eagles in six years and the longest at the Linc in nine years. That’s not talent. That’s not ability. That’s just want-to. Toughness. Will. When that’s missing, you really have a problem.

4. What a colossal embarrassment Chip Kelly’s three biggest offseason moves have turned out to be. Murray, last year’s NFL rushing leader, rides the bench. Kiko Alonso, traded for LeSean McCoy, can’t tackle anybody and doesn’t even look like he’s trying half the time. Byron Maxwell has had a few decent games this year but certainly has overall been a major disappointment. These are the kind of moves that can set a franchise back years when they fail. And when they all fail this miserably? This is what you get. Owner Jeff Lurie really has to think long and hard about making more changes in the front office this offseason and at least giving Kelly a respected NFL general manager to work with. Not Howie. A new voice, a respected voice, a reliable voice. Gotta do something. Gotta get players.

5. Note to Jordan Matthews: Do not celebrate a touchdown down 20 points in the fourth quarter. I don’t care how long it was, how don’t care how far it was. Hand the ball to the ref and go back to the bench. You are getting embarrassed on national TV in your own stadium. Understand the moment.

6. It’s understandable if you had no idea who No. 31 on the Cards was. He began the season as the Cards’ third-string running back. He only had 35 career carries until the Rams game two weeks ago. He’s started three games in his career. He’s David Johnson, a rookie third-round pick from Northern Iowa, and he pounded the Eagles for 187 yards Sunday. Yeah, he’s a talented kid. But to let him run up and down the field in your own stadium like that? Just embarrassing. Inexcusable. I don’t know what else to say about the Eagles’ run defense. I thought maybe they had turned the corner with a terrific second half against Shady, but this was just pathetic.

7. Just to put all this in context: From 1977 through 2014, a span of 36 years, one opposing running back ran for 185 yards or more in Philly — Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith in 1993. Then Doug Martin ran for 235 in Week 11 and Johnson ran for 187 Sunday. That means more backs have rushed for 185 or more yards in Philly in the Eagles’ last three home games than in the previous 36 years. Now that is bad run defense (see story).

8. I should probably say something about Sam Bradford. He did throw for 361 yards and he did make some big throws along the way. But he also threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and he only put 17 points on the scoreboard. I still don’t see the future when I watch him play football. Will the Eagles have a better option? I’m not sure. But I’m not straying from my belief that until they draft a young stud QB and grow with him, they’re not going to be an elite team.

9. One more note on the defense. The Cards racked up 493 yards Sunday. This is the second time this year they’ve given up 490 or more and the sixth time in three years under Bill Davis. The Eagles gave up 490 or more yards once under Jim Johnson. In fact, they’ve allowed at least 490 yards as much in the last three years as in the previous 40 years. The Eagles have now allowed at least 400 yards in five straight games, which ties the fifth-longest streak in NFL history.

10. As bad as the defense has been, the offense hasn’t been a whole lot better. The Eagles have now gone six straight games without scoring more than two offensive touchdowns. Now, two of those games were with Mark Sanchez and one was split between Bradford and Sanchez. Still. The second Dallas game is the only game since Week 6 in which the Eagles have scored more than two TDs on offense. And the last time they scored more than three was the Saints. And get this: The last Eagles wide receiver other than Matthews with 80 receiving yards in a game? Jeremy Maclin. That just about says it all.

Eagles-Cowboys predictions by our (cough) experts

Eagles-Cowboys predictions by our (cough) experts

The Birds are back.

And fresh off the bye week, they hop right into a doozy Sunday night against the divisional rival Cowboys at AT&T Stadium (8:30 p.m./NBC).

Will the Eagles (8-1) push their win streak to eight games? Or will the Cowboys (5-4) answer the bell at home and keep things interesting in the NFC East?

Here are our expert predictions for the Week 11 matchup:

Reuben Frank (9-0)
Eagles 38, Cowboys 11. Usually, I work my way up to the actual prediction and try to build up a tremendous level of anticipation with a bunch of mumbo-jumbo about matchups, trends, analytics and whatnot before getting around to the pick. 

But not this week. I’m not messing around here. The Eagles are going to crush this team. 

Here’s a stat I love: Since 2000, the Cowboys have lost 21 games by at least 22 points. Ten of them — almost half — have been against the Eagles. And five of their seven home losses since 2000 by 22 or more points have been at the hands of the Eagles. Don’t believe me?

2000 at Texas Stadium — Eagles 41, Cowboys 14
2001 at the Vet — Eagles 40, Cowboys 18
2001 at Texas Stadium — Eagles 36, Cowboys 3
2002 at the Vet — Eagles 44, Cowboys 13
2002 at Texas Stadium — Eagles 27, Cowboys 3
2003 at the Linc — Eagles 36, Cowboys 10
2004 at Texas Stadium — Eagles 49, Cowboys 21
2008 at the Linc — Eagles 44, Cowboys 6
2011 at the Linc — Eagles 34, Cowboys 7
2014 at AT&T Stadium — Eagles 33, Cowboys 10

Big Red used to crush the Cowboys, didn't he? Even soon-to-be-Florida head coach Chip Kelly had himself a rout of the Cowboys — it got the Eagles to 9-3 on Thanksgiving Day in 2014. 

So here’s the funny thing: I picked 38-11 and then decided to change my prediction to the averages of those 10 routs and it turned out to be … 38-11. That's fate. Eagles will return to Philly Monday morning 9-1 with an eight-game winning streak and a virtual lock on the NFC East. This one's going to be fun!

Eagles 38, Cowboys 11

Dave Zangaro (7-2)
No Sean Lee. No Ezekiel Elliott. And a banged-up Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith (at best). 

Even if all of them were completely healthy, I'd probably lean toward picking the Eagles. Without them? No-brainer. 

Now, maybe the Eagles come out of the bye week a little rusty. It could happen after a long layoff, especially after a flight to North Texas for the game. But the Eagles have proven time and time again that their focus just isn't an issue. There's no reason to expect that to be a problem Sunday night. 

And the Birds are getting healthy. Ronald Darby is back. As well as the Eagles' other corners fared while he was gone, there's a reason he's a starter. And they get back Zach Ertz, who just happens to be one of their most important offensive weapons. 

Games against division rivals are not normally easy, so maybe the Eagles don't blow them out. But I think this is a win. 

Eagles 27, Cowboys 20 

Derrick Gunn (8-1)
Now that their bye week is over, the Eagles are focused on wrapping up the NFC East. Dallas is licking its wounds after getting manhandled down in Atlanta. Elliott is serving his suspension. Lee is out with a hamstring injury, and the Pro Bowler Smith is ailing with a groin injury. 

It all sounds too easy for the Birds, but with Prescott on the other side, they’re not about to overlook this one. And they still remember what happened in Dallas last season.

Without Elliott and Smith, trying to establish a ground game against the Eagles’ top-ranked run defense will be near impossible. 

Dallas is 0-2 in games Lee hasn't played in this season. 

Carson Wentz will spread the wealth through the air, and now that Jay Ajayi has had extended time to get familiar with the offense, the Birds' running attack should be even more diversified. 

If the Eagles' defense can make the Cowboys' offense one-dimensional, it's game over.

Eagles 27, Cowboys 17

Ray Didinger (8-1)
The Otho Davis Scholarship Fund dinner was held this week, honoring the late Eagles trainer and awarding scholarships to students pursuing careers in sports medicine. The room was full of former Eagles players and Philadelphia fans and, of course, there was a lot of conversation about Sunday's big game against Dallas.

The confidence level was high. I heard a dozen variations on "This will be a blowout." The thinking goes something like this: No Elliott, no chance for the Cowboys. Their pitiful performance in last week's loss to Atlanta was all the evidence the Eagles fans needed. And, yes, if that same Cowboys team shows up Sunday night, the Eagles will be in fine shape.

But my guess is the Cowboys will play much better this week at home. I'm still not sure it will be enough because right now the Eagles are playing better than any team in the NFL. I'll take the Eagles, which will virtually wrap up the division title, but I don't think it will be as easy as some folks think.

Eagles 28, Cowboys 20

Andrew Kulp (8-1)
With all their injuries and suspensions, the Cowboys really don't look so hot. 

Arguably their three best players — Smith, Elliott and Lee — are all out. They won't be able to run the ball, they'll struggle to protect Prescott, and the defense will struggle to slow down Wentz and the Eagles' offense.

All the stuff about this being a division rival on the road or the possibility of the Eagles coming off their bye week flat are going to fade pretty quickly with one simple reality. The Cowboys are an inferior opponent right now. Maybe not 49ers bad, or even Broncos bad, but at this point, they could struggle to finish .500.

Eagles 38, Cowboys 23

Corey Seidman (6-3)
No Zeke, no Lee, maybe no Smith, banged-up Bryant … the Cowboys are oozing with "nobody believes in us" potential this Sunday night. And just when one team is so undermanned that all hope looks lost (see: Giants-Broncos earlier this season), things turn out in an unexpected way.

Still, I'm not taking the Cowboys in this game. If they had Zeke, I think I would. But Alfred Morris is in that Rob Kelley mold of plodding running back who tends to struggle against the Eagles, and that'll make the Cowboys' offense one-dimensional. With Bryant at less than 100 percent, I just don't see Dallas keeping the pace.

Eagles 34, Cowboys 17

Doug Pederson uses last season's losing streak to motivate Eagles

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Doug Pederson uses last season's losing streak to motivate Eagles

This time last year? The Eagles actually still had a winning record and were thinking playoffs.
 
Then disaster.
 
The Eagles were 5-4 going into Week 10 a year ago and proceeded to lose their next five games, the first three in blowout fashion.
 
It was the Eagles' longest losing streak since an eight-game streak in 2012, Andy Reid's last year, and third longest since a seven-game streak spanning 1998 and 1999.
 
More importantly, it was the team's longest losing streak that began with a winning record that late in a season since the notorious 1994 collapse in Rich Kotite's final season — a 7-2 start turned into a 7-9 finish.
 
A losing streak like that can either destroy a team's character or make it even stronger.
 
And Doug Pederson knew it could go either way.
 
"I look back at that, and I just kept reminding the team that you put in the hard work and the preparation, and you believe in each other, you believe in yourself, you trust the process, and that's not cliché," he said Friday.
 
"You have to trust what I'm talking about, what the coaches are talking about, and just stick together, and there's no pointing fingers. That's what they did. They hung together."
 
That losing streak began with a home loss to Seattle. Although the final score was 26-15, it was a 26-7 game until a Dorial Green-Beckham touchdown in the final minutes. (Really.)
 
After that came a 27-13 loss to the Packers at the Linc and then the low point, an embarrassing 32-14 loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati, a game the Eagles trailed 29-0 late in the third quarter.
 
"That was sort of a defining moment at that point," Pederson said. "I guess we were as low as we were going to be as a team and organization coming out of that game. The guys responded well.
 
"(The) messaging was the same. We practiced the same after that. Lot of pride, too. Lot of pride in the coaches. Lot of pride in the players and this organization. …
 
"We needed to change it. We needed to fix it. Even though we didn't win a couple games after that, you saw steady improvement (and then) we figured out a way at the end of the season to win those two games and finish on a high note."
 
The Eagles rebounded to show some fight in close losses to the Redskins and Ravens, then closed out the season with wins over the Giants and the Cowboys. Granted, the Dallas win was over a bunch of scrubs, but after a five-game losing streak, any win was welcome.
 
Pederson said Friday that pushing through that five-game losing streak and coming out and staying together as a team was instrumental in this team's 8-1 start going into Sunday night in Dallas.
 
"I think it directly affects the team this season," he said. "Things happen for a reason, and you learn from them, especially in this business. And really, in life in general. Things happen, and you learn from them. You make the necessary corrections and you move on.
 
"You don't dwell in the past, but you remember, and you reflect from time to time. So I think it's a direct correlation to where the team is today, learning how to finish games and learning how to play together and understanding that they are a good football team."
 
The Eagles are atop every NFL poll these days. They have the NFL's best record and share the longest winning streak with the Saints, and Pederson said it's not always easy for the players to ignore all the praise being lavished on them.
 
"Well, it is hard because the team, rightfully so, is being praised in a lot of areas and they're well deserved of the credit and the praise," he said.
 
"But at the same time, we understand that we can't look past this week. We can't look past this game. It's a division game on the road, national spotlight again. It's two teams that are undefeated in the NFC East. I'd like to say that every game is important, but none more important than the one we're faced with Sunday night."
 
Sunday night starts a very difficult stretch, with four of the next five games on the road and three of those road games against teams with winning records.
 
A year ago, the Eagles were 1-7 on the road, finishing with seven straight losses.
 
This year, they go into AT&T Stadium Sunday 3-1 away from Philly.
 
"Four out of the next five weeks we're traveling, it's kind of like the start of the season," Pederson said.
 
"This is sort of a tough stretch, but at the same time, it's one that we welcome. If we want to separate and become a good football team and a consistent winner in this league, these are the stretches that you have to go through and find ways to win games."