MINNEAPOLIS — Another awful start. More terrible cornerback play. A baffling fake field goal.
Today’s edition of Roob’s 10 instant Eagles observations isn’t for the faint of heart.
Because this was ugly.
On the field where the franchise enjoyed its greatest triumph ever, the Eagles sputtered through one of their most disappointing defeats of the Doug Pederson Era.
Kirk Cousins threw four touchdowns, Stefon Diggs torched the Eagles’ beleaguered corners for 167 yards and three TDs and the Vikings embarrassed the Eagles, 38-20, Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
So much for Game 1 of the season-defining three-game road trip.
1. Terrible start, furious comeback. Same old story. How many times have we seen this same agonizing scenario repeat itself? This Eagles team so far has shown zero ability to play 60 consistent minutes. Down 10-0 vs. the Redskins. Down 17-6 to the Falcons. Down 20-10 to the Lions. Down 10-0 to the Packers. Down 10-0 and 24-3 Sunday. They inevitably fight back. They inevitably make it interesting. There’s the inevitable dramatic rally. But you just aren’t going to win consistently digging a big hole for yourself and then trying to fight out of it. Until Pederson figures out why this keeps happening, this team isn’t going anywhere.
2. One play really illustrates just how grave the Eagles’ cornerback issues are right now. The Vikings had a 1st-and-10 just outside midfield, Cousins dropped back, had great protection and a difficult choice to make. Throw to a wide-open Diggs streaking toward the end zone on the left side of the field with Rasul Douglas trailing the play or throw to an even-wider-open Olabisi Johnson running down the right side of the field after separating from Sidney Jones. When you’re in position to throw a 51-yard TD to TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE AT THE SAME TIME … that’s catastrophic. That’s the way the whole game went. The Eagles’ corners were simply overmatched start to finish. I don’t know what the answer is. Is Jalen Mills going to come in next week and turn this around after not playing for a year? You have to put him in there. You have no choice. But the trade deadline is out there in a couple weeks, and if the Eagles really believe they’re a playoff team, they have to go get somebody. Because that was embarrassing.
3. I’ve sensed this before and written it, but I don’t think Pederson has been aggressive enough early in games, and it gets the Eagles into a passive mindset. The first drive Sunday was three runs and a punt, including a 2nd-and-5 handoff to Miles Sanders that went for two yards. Come on, 2nd-and-5? Throw the thing. By the time the Eagles’ best player threw his first pass, the Vikings were up 10-0 and the Eagles were already in scramble mode. I’m all for mixing in the run, but Pederson isn’t starting games with an aggressive mentality and it sure feels like that’s one of the reasons they’re falling behind early virtually every week.
4. I guess we can now say that the best and worst play calls of Pederson's career came in the same stadium. I’m not sure what the point of that fake field goal was. The only way the fake beats a sure three points is if Jake Elliott throws a 21-yard TD pass, and that wasn’t happening. Even if he completed the pass to Dallas Goedert, you have no timeouts and the clock is running with about 13 or 14 seconds left, and Carson Wentz isn’t even on the field to spike the ball. So you’re going to have your kicker try to spike the ball so you have enough time to kick a field goal? Which you could have just kicked in the first place? Made no sense.
5. You could see his frustration a few times, and that’s rare because Wentz is so even-keeled. But it’s also understandable. He’s out there with shaky pass protection, not much of a running game and the usual assortment of drops by his receivers — four of them Sunday, including one by Mack Hollins in the end zone. He threw an interception in the final minutes but really did all he could to keep the Eagles in the game as long as possible. He Finished 26 for 40 for 306 yards with two TDs and the INT. I’m not sure what else he could have done.
6. The progress Miles Sanders has made from the start of training camp really is incredible. With a 32-yard TD and a 45-yarder down to the four-yard-line to set up another TD, Sanders now has five catches of at least 30 yards in the last four games. All Eagles WRs during the same span of no catches of 30 yards. This is a kid who had two career games at Penn State with 30 yards. He’s got soft hands, he’s a matchup nightmare, he finds space in traffic after the catch, and you can see how much trust Wentz has in him. It’s terrific that he’s come so far, but when your No. 1 deep threat is a rookie running back who never caught the ball before … you’re in trouble.
7. I expected more from the Eagles’ defensive line Sunday. That was a real makeshift offensive line the Vikings had Sunday, and then they lost left tackle Riley Reiff early. Still, the Eagles really weren’t able to control the line of scrimmage. They only got to Cousins once and really didn’t generate much pressure. I didn’t expect 10 sacks like last week, but I expected them to compete at a higher level than this.
8. The Vikings' receivers catch the ball. It’s a simple concept, but they make easy catches, they make tough catches, they make impossible catches. Diggs is a former fourth-round pick, and Adam Thielen was undrafted. They make plays that make their quarterback look good. Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor both had decent games Sunday, but we’re just not seeing that next-level play from the Eagles’ wide outs, and we haven’t since opening day.
9. Darren Sproles is hurt again. DeSean Jackson's been out a month. Jason Peters is now dealing with another injury — we don’t know how serious. We talked about this all preseason. The Eagles brought the third-oldest roster into the season, and it’s just a reality that older guys get hurt more than younger guys. That’s a big part of where the Eagles are right now.
10. Remember a few days ago when Zach Brown called Cousins the weak link on the Vikings’ offense? That was four TD passes ago.
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