The offense finally did some good things and the defense was garbage. And the Eagles now have one win in five games.
The good news is that Carson Wentz showed signs of life and Travis Fulgham looked like a budding star.
The bad news? Everything else.
Here are my 10 Instant Observations on the Eagles' 38-29 loss to the Steelers Sunday at Heinz Field.
1. The Eagles once again dug themselves too big a hole, and even a brilliant finish by Carson Wentz and a monster performance by Travis Fulgham weren't enough to dig out of this one. If the Eagles ever played a complete game they’d be pretty good. But you can’t fall 17 points behind the Steelers in Pittsburgh and expect to fight your way out of it, and that’s been the problem with this team. They can’t play 60 minutes. A terrible second half against Washington. A bad first half against the Rams. A brutal start against the Bengals. And they did it again Sunday in Pittsburgh. Bad start on both sides of the ball and it’s 31-14 Steelers before you know it. This team isn’t good enough to mess around for half a game before waking up, and that’s why they’re 1-3-1 after five games.
2. There was a lot to like about Wentz’s performance. The first interception should have been negated by a penalty, and he could have used some help from John Hightower on what should have been a 49-yard touchdown. The second interception was a desperation heave on a 4th-and-20 at the end of the game. Wentz threw two beautiful touchdown passes, rallied the Eagles back into the game, and engineered four TD drives. He took a beating and he kept popping up and fighting. The stats weren’t pretty, but this is the first time this year I feel pretty good about Wentz.
3. Travis Fulgham’s performance was seriously one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been doing this a while. This is a guy whose first CAREER catch was last week. And he comes out and doesn’t just catch 10 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown, he makes an assortment of leaping, diving, lunging catches for an offense in desperate need of a playmaker. He single-handedly made Wentz look sharper than he has all year. The Eagles have been trying for years to find a guy to do what Fulgham did Sunday. They’ve tried drafting guys, they’ve tried signing guys, and they found one released by two teams in the last six weeks. I don’t want to go overboard and say Fulgham is going to answer the Eagles’ long-running WR problems, but maybe he will. This wasn’t a fluke.
4. I get that Zach Ertz was interfered with on the Wentz interception, and it clearly should have been a penalty. But you know what? Finish the play and THEN complain about it. This is Ertz’s eighth season in the NFL, he’s got to know that. Maybe there’s nothing he could have done at that point to prevent an INT. Probably not. But it’s just a bad look when you’re waving your arms at the ref while a guy’s picking off a pass a few feet away.
5. Just a brutal performance by the defense. The defensive line barely pressured Ben Roethlisberger, who got rid of the ball quickly and flawlessly. He completed just under 80 percent of his passes with three TDs and no INTs, and nobody could cover rookie Chase Claypool, who scored four touchdowns. The Eagles just weren’t able to put up any resistance at all, and the Steelers scored on six of their nine possessions. I get that the Eagles are missing people, and it sure didn’t help when Darius Slay left the game. But this is hardly an explosive Steelers offense. They’re methodical and efficient. So to give up 38 points Sunday is truly alarming.
6. I don’t have a real problem with Doug letting Jake Elliott attempt that 57-yard field goal for the lead. He can make that kick. But it was a 4th-and-4, and the offense had some momentum, and if it were me I probably would have gone for it because there were still 3 ½ minutes left, and even if the Eagles had taken a 32-31 lead there I had no faith in the defense stopping the Steelers at the end.
7. Not a good day for John Hightower. On the final drive of the first half, he cost the Eagles a first down and lots of time by dancing around and failing to get out of bounds after a 9-yard-catch. Then he let a perfect 49-yard TD pass from Wentz sail right through his hands. That kind of stuff is going to land the rookie on the bench real quick once (if?) some of the injured WRs start coming back.
8. Miles Sanders’ 74-yard TD run only magnifies how ridiculous it was that Sanders wasn’t on the field at the end of the 49ers game. Sanders is a home run threat every time he touches the ball, so if you’re trying to put a game away, why wouldn’t you want the ball in your home run threat’s hands? Sanders really didn't have any room other than that one play and he only had six yards on his 10 other carries (plus another TD), so I'm not going to complain about him only getting 11 carries. But he's such a special talent and he needs the ball in his hands. He hasn't been a factor in the passing game like last year and considering the lack of weapons that really needs to change. He’s the Eagles’ best player.
9. The Eagles’ defense is so aggressive and that makes them susceptible to trick plays. Washington got them on a 20-yard Antonio Gibson run, the 49ers got them on Brandon Aiyuk’s 38-yard TD and then the Steelers got them Sunday on Ray-Ray McCloud’s 58-yard run. Three of the four longest runs against the Eagles this year have been on gadget plays by receivers. And until they figure out how to stop them, teams are going to keep doing it.
10. Finally, you’ll never see me complain about officiating, but the dude who called that defensive pass interference on Darius Slay in the first quarter needs seriously to be investigated. That’s as bad a pass interference call as you’ll ever see. And it was really, really late, so you know the guy wasn’t even sure about it. That’s 21 huge yards down to the 7-yard-line to set up the first Pittsburgh touchdown. It should have been 3rd-and-16 at the Eagles’ 28. Inexcusable. Really changed the course of the game.