In a 48-7 loss, it’s probably unfair to pinpoint just one play, but I can’t seem to get over this one.
We’re getting pretty late in the second quarter and the Eagles are still alive in this thing. Earlier in the quarter, Josh Adams ran in a 28-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 10 points (17-7). And then the Eagles’ defense got a quick (and rare) 3-and-out.
So now the Eagles have the ball back and they’re marching down the field, threatening to turn a 17-point deficit into a 3-point deficit. And they’re actually moving the ball. They’ve picked up two first downs to get the ball into Saints territory.
It’s 3rd-and-3 from the New Orleans 46-yard line. The one thing the Eagles can’t afford to do here is to take a sack. If they’re faced with a 4th-and-3, they at least have a decent shot to get it on fourth down. But, instead, Wentz gets sacked for a 10-yard loss to bring up 4th-and-13 and the Eagles punt the ball away.
“Yeah, it was just an eight-man protection, and we just missed on a call up front, so there was quick pressure in Carson's face, and he couldn't reload,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Zach (Ertz) was coming open in the middle of the field.”
On the ensuing possession, the Saints rip off an 84-yard touchdown drive to put them up 24-7 and the route is on.
So this 3rd-down play the Eagles ruined was huge. Let’s take a closer look:
At the snap, Pederson is right. The Saints have eight in the box with just one safety deep. This is going to give Zach Ertz plenty of space with a 1-on-1 matchup in the middle of the field. But remember, the Eagles need just three yards to get the first down. Is this the best way to get it?
That’s a pretty deep drop that takes a long time. Remember, the Eagles snapped the ball under center from the 46-yard line. Wentz dropped nine yards after a play-action look.
But as he plants his back leg at the Eagles’ 45-yard line, Ertz does have a ton of field in front of him in single coverage. It’s good coverage here, but the Eagles will be happy to give Ertz a chance to make a play.
The problem, of course, is that Sheldon Rankings ends up coming free and takes down Wentz for a sack. Ertz was starting to get open as Wentz gets brought down.
If the protection was better, Wentz might have delivered the ball to Ertz for a 10- or 15-yard gain and the Eagles move the chains and maybe make this a game. But you have to ask yourself if a long-developing play to pick up 10-15 yards is what the Eagles needed on 3rd-and-3 from inside enemy territory.
So how did Rankins come so free?
Well, you can see it better from this view. The Eagles, at the snap, look like they have good protection.
But then Stefen Wisniewski, who was in for Jason Kelce at center, seemed to let Rankins run free. Not sure exactly what happened here. Perhaps he expected a stunt and was passing Rankins off and the stunt never game. Near the end, a hip check from Wisniewski nearly throws Rankins off, but he was able to fight through it and get the sack.
At the very end of the video, you’ll see Wisniewski ask Seumalo what the heck happened. Maybe Seumalo was supposed to pick that man up. Either way, that confusion or blown assignment up front ruined the play.
Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh confirmed Tuesday that there was a “miscommunication with the protection.”
If this play works, it’s a big first down and the Eagles move the chains. But it’s fair to question the play call. This was a slow-developing play in a situation where they absolutely couldn’t afford to take a sack. If it’s 4th-and-3, you can bet the Eagles would have gone for it, but this failure took that opportunity away from them.
In a 48-7 game, there are plenty of things that went wrong. This is one that should be haunting the Eagles.
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