It felt like the Saints playoff game. The Eagles were up 7-0 and a couple plays from taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter when Brandon Brooks blew out his Achilles. The Eagles didn’t score again.
This time, the Eagles had taken a 10-0 lead over the Patriots early in the second quarter, and this time it was Lane Johnson, and it was a concussion. But the result was the same. Once again, the Eagles didn’t score.
The Eagles’ offense was utterly ineffective Sunday once Johnson, the Eagles’ two-time Pro Bowl right tackle, left the game after the Eagles’ second-quarter touchdown drive.
That 10-0 lead with Johnson turned into a 17-10 loss without him (see Roob's observations). And while there were plenty of other factors, his absence was glaring.
First three drives? Ten points and 147 yards.
Last nine drives? No points and 108 yards.
“There’s no excuse, we’ve got to be better as an offense,” Brooks said. “But you just don’t replace a Lane Johnson.”
Johnson was carted off the field after getting hurt, which is unusual with a concussion. It might not necessarily be a sign of how serious this particular head injury is, but it certainly wasn't encouraging.
Head coach Doug Pederson said after the game he didn’t have an update on Johnson’s status or the severity of the injury.
“Lane’s impact on our team is well documented,” said Jordan Matthews, who’s been with Johnson most of the last six years. “Obviously, we want him to take his time and make sure he’s OK, but it goes without saying that we need that guy out there when we’re trying to move the ball as an offense.”
Big V — Halapoulivaati Vaitai — played the rest of the game at right tackle ahead of Andre Dillard, the promising rookie first-round pick who played so well at left tackle the last three games with Jason Peters out.
Vaitai was a starting left tackle in a Super Bowl championship, but he’s no Lane Johnson.
Brooks said there wasn’t anything schematically the Eagles weren’t able to do once Johnson left the game.
They did the same thing. They just didn’t do it very well.
“I wouldn’t say there’s anything because he went out that we tried to scheme up differently as far as blocking and stuff,” he said. “We just have to do a better job.”
Johnson’s absence was really felt in the running game.
The Eagles ran 10 times for 47 yards with Johnson on the field, 4.7 yards a pop.
They were 11-for-34 without Johnson, 3.1 yards a pop.
That was a huge part of their game plan but it just wasn't effective after Johnson got hurt.
“Shoot, next man up,” Brooks said. “You’ve got a 100 percent chance of getting hurt. Same thing with me when I tore my Achilles. We’re always fortunate until we’re not. That’s the biggest thing. Got to pray that it’s nothing serious, that he can heal up and come back soon, but that’s just ball, man.”
On the first six drives after Johnson left the game, the Eagles netted 21 yards of offense. They moved the ball a little better late but still didn’t score.
It was just a pathetic all-around effort.
“Obviously, losing Lane probably was a factor,” Zach Ertz said. “I think we were up 10-0 when he went out. And he’s the best right tackle in the league, arguably the best tackle in the league, period, But (you) can never blame it on injuries.”
If Johnson misses time, the Eagles could keep Big V at right tackle or get Dillard some work there and hope Peters can stay healthy.
Either way, it’s a huge blow to an offense that’s already missing DeSean Jackson, Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, Darren Sproles, Alshon Jeffery.
“Nothing against Big V, but Lane’s one of the best in the game, one of the best at what he does,” Matthews said. "His focus and attention to detail but his grit too is like all-elite to me. When he’s not there we obviously miss him, but hey next man up. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us, nobody’s going to say, ‘Aww, dang, Lane’s not in, so let’s take it easy on them.’ Everybody’s trying to win games, it’s November football, so we’ve got to have next man up. Big V’s going to play well for us and we have to try to find a way to win.”
Pederson was asked if Johnson’s exit changed anything as far as the way the Eagles were able to operate:
“It didn’t change anything,” he said. “No.”
It clearly did, though. It changed everything.
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