Roob's observations after Eagles battle back, let it slip late in wild, injury-filled loss to Falcons

Roob's observations after Eagles battle back, let it slip late in wild, injury-filled loss to Falcons


ATLANTA — What just happened???

Between the rash of injuries, the crazy rallies, the big plays and near misses, lousy Carson Wentz and then great Carson Wentz, this was one bizarre game. But the bottom line is the Eagles weren't good enough. This was a winnable game and they gave it away.

Let's take a look with 10 instant observations off the Eagles' 24-20 loss Sunday to the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

1. Remember when we said the Eagles were playing with fire getting off to all these slow starts? Against the Redskins, you can get away with it. Against the Falcons on the road? Nope. The Eagles were terrible early and even though they did briefly take the lead late in the fourth quarter, the slow start killed them again. They’ve scored touchdowns in two of their last 12 first quarters. They’ve been outscored 30-13 in the first half this year. They’ve gone five straight road games without a first quarter touchdown. They made it interesting. But interesting doesn't win football games. They have to find a way to start fast. It caught up with them Sunday night.

2. What to make of Wentz's performance? Really, the same as the team in general. He was brutal in the first half and fantastic in the second half. Rallied the Eagles to the lead with some vintage Wentz plays. In the end, it wasn’t enough. He was clearly dealing with something physical in the first half — it looked like sore ribs — but the bottom line is he needs to be great from the start of the game, and we’ve been saying it for two years now. He’s a gamer. He bounced back huge in the second half. He nearly pulled off two rallies in the final few minutes. None of it matters because he just can't get going early.

First half: 6-for-16, 47 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 6.2 passer rating
Second half: 18-for-26, 177 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 101 passer rating

3. Nelson Agholor’s performance kind of epitomizes the Eagles’ inconsistency. He has to catch that deep ball just before the two-minute warning. That’s a certain touchdown. Then he somehow hauls in a wild 44-yard jump ball to put the Eagles in position to at least have a chance to win in the final seconds. He also had two early drops and even though he finished with over 100 yards, these are mistakes an elite team just can’t make. With DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery out, the Eagles needed Agholor to be great, and he had some great moments but too many disappointing ones.

4. It was encouraging to see the defense pick off three passes, something the Eagles hadn’t done in nearly two years. In fact, last year they only had one game with two interceptions, and they only had four INTs through six weeks. When your offense is down two receivers — three for a bit — and a tight end and running back, and the O-line is struggling, somebody has to raise their level, and Sidney Jones, Ronald Darby and Nate Gerry all picked off Matt Ryan. It's only the 10th time in 176 career games he’s thrown three INTs. For Darby, it wasn’t really enough to offset a terrible game trying to cover Calvin Ridley, but those were all huge plays and kept the Eagles in the game when there were a lot of reasons they shouldn’t have been in the game.

5. There was some uncharacteristically conservative play-calling from Doug Pederson — letting the clock run out before the two-minute warning in the first half, running plays on two 2nd-and-2s and a 2nd-and-3. Normally, I’d really question that, but considering who he had and who he didn’t have, it really did make sense. Pederson's DNA is to be aggressive, but this is part of what makes him a great coach, the ability to sense the situation and adjust. 

6. I really thought the Eagles would be able to come in here and hammer the football on the ground. And Pederson tried early, but it just didn’t happen. Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard combined for 18 carries for 46 yards — 2.6 yards a pop. So, the final run-pass ratio was 41 called passes, 19 called runs, and that’s just a little too out of whack. The Eagles should be able to run the ball better than this. And Darren Sproles, who got too many touches last week, had zero on offense Sunday night, which mystifies me as much as when he got 16 against the Redskins.

7. Overall, this was not a good night for the offensive line. They got going a little bit late but overall they allowed too much pressure and really didn’t take command of the line of scrimmage in a matchup where I thought they could. And no excuses. This group is healthy. The Eagles need to lean on that O-line, and they couldn’t Sunday night.

8. Mack Hollins hadn’t caught a pass since the Atlanta playoff game in 2017. I give that kid so much credit. He came up huge when the Eagles really needed him, and that 17-yard catch on the crazy Wentz scramble in the fourth quarter was an incredible play by Wentz but it was also really good stuff from Hollins. He was targeted seven times and caught five passes for 50 yards. I thought he was in danger of getting cut in favor of Greg Ward. He showed Sunday night he belongs.

9. I know a lot of people had this one marked down as a loss, so it’s easy to say, “Hey, the Lions are coming to town, they’ll be 2-1.” But nothing is guaranteed. And this game was winnable. You just can’t give games away. The big plays are killing them on defense and the inconsistency is killing them on offense. This team through two weeks has shown flashes of greatness but they haven’t been able to sustain them. The challenge for Pederson is to find a way to jump on teams and put them away. Until that happens, they won’t be an elite team.

10. The Eagles face some tough personnel decisions here depending on how badly Jeffery and Jackson are hurt. These don’t look like IR injuries, but it sure seems like they’re going to need some healthy receivers. Greg Ward is on the practice squad and so is a kid named Marcus Green. But to add someone you have to cut someone or IR someone. Very tough situation. They’ve gone from great depth at the position to no depth. 

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LeSean McCoy; Derek Barnett vs. Mike Mamula in Roob's Random Points

LeSean McCoy; Derek Barnett vs. Mike Mamula in Roob's Random Points

Going deep into the Eagles' slow starts, my all-time top-5 Eagles defensive ends, the latest on Shady and lots more in this weekend's edition of Roob's 10 Random Eagles Points! 

1. The Cowboys are more banged up than the Eagles, the Cowboys have lost three in a row, the Cowboys just lost to the Jets, and it's time for the Eagles to start fast, finish strong, play smart and not just lay claim to first place in the NFC East but reassert themselves as one of the better teams in the NFC. A win over the Cowboys wouldn't lock anything up with nine games to go, but the Eagles have lost three straight to the Cowboys, they're 8-13 in the last 21 meetings (although they didn't play the starters in the 2017 season-ender), they haven't swept their biggest rival since 2011. They've never beaten a Cowboys team with Ezekiel Elliott. It's time to show up. It's time to stop making excuses. It's time to stop complaining about the officials and injuries and go into JerryWorld and win a football game.

2. I don't know if there's a non-QB in the NFL who's more important to his team's success than Ezekiel Elliott. When he rushes for at least 70 yards, the Cowboys are 31-8. When he rushes for less than 70 yards, they're 1-9. The Eagles? They have the No. 2 run defense in the NFL, and nobody has rushed for 70 yards against them this year. This is the first time they've gone six straight games without allowing a back to gain 70 yards since the last two games of 2002 and the first five of 2003. The Eagles will need every bit of that run defense Sunday, but if they can limit Elliott — who's averaged 116 yards and 5.4 yards per carry in four games against the Eagles — they have a terrific chance to bring a win back from North Texas.

3. Nelson Agholor is 12th among wide receivers in 2019 salary ($9.4 million) and 56th in yards (230).

4. I'm convinced one of the reasons for the Eagles' first-quarter struggles is that Pederson isn't being aggressive enough early in games. Take a look:

• The Eagles are running the ball on 57 percent of their first-quarter plays, 34 percent in the second quarter, 43 percent in the third and 41 percent in the fourth. And they have 17 offensive points in the first quarter, 51 in the second, 46 in the third and 33 in the fourth. 

• On first down in the first quarter, they've run on 18 of 31 plays. The only regular QB in the league who's thrown less often in the first quarter is Jameis Winston. 

• The Eagles run the ball the second-most of any team in the NFL in the first quarter, and they're one of the lowest-scoring first-quarter teams in the league. No way this is a coincidence.

5. My all-time Eagles top-5 defensive ends: 1. Reggie, 2. Clyde, 3. Trent Cole, 4. Hugh Douglas, 5. Brandon Graham.

6. After Mack Hollins had a productive 9-for-112 against the Falcons and Lions, I thought, "OK, I was wrong about Mack. He's not bad!" Since then, he's played 108 snaps over three games and has one 13-yard catch. In his career, Hollins has gotten 10 or more offensive snaps 16 times. He's had fewer than 15 yards in 11 of those 16 games. And still, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside can't get on the field? 

7. Derek Barnett hasn't been awful, but the Eagles need more than he's giving them. Barnett has two sacks this year — one in the Jets embarrassment — and has made headlines more for his penalties and fines than his play on the field. This is Year 3 for the first-round pick, and he was hurt much of last season, but for the sake of comparison, Mike Mamula had 11½ sacks in his first 27 games. Barnett has 9½. The Eagles are relying heavily on Barnett to create pressure, and it's not happening enough.

8. I need to see Josh Sweat and Daeshon Hall get at least 20 snaps each. 

9. Brian Westbrook had five 30-yard catches in his first 50 career games. Miles Sanders has five in his first six games.

10. LeSean McCoy apparently has plenty left in the tank. All he had to do was get out of Buffalo. The Eagles' all-time leading rusher is 2nd in the NFL at 5.4 yards per carry (behind only Ravens QB Lamar Jackson) playing for Andy Reid in Kansas City. His 4.5 career average is 7th-highest in NFL history among backs with 10,000 yards. And he now has an incredible 48 career games with 10 or more carries and 5.0 yards per rush. Only Barry Sanders (64), Frank Gore (57), Walter Payton (56), Jim Brown (55) and Adrian Peterson (50) have had more.

NFL Week 7 schedule: Derrick Gunn's 5 games to watch

USA Today Images/Joe Nicholson

NFL Week 7 schedule: Derrick Gunn's 5 games to watch

Here are Derrick Gunn's five matchups to watch for Week 7 of the NFL season.

Vikings at Lions (Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX)

The Vikings' offense bread and butter is supposed to be their ground game, but against the Eagles it was bombs away. Meanwhile, the Lions' defense plays hit or miss. At some points of the game, it's really good, but at others it's really bad, which is the primary reason why the Lions have given up 414 yards per game. Detroit is also playing with a huge chip on its shoulders after getting jobbed by the refs in Green Bay. The Vikings have too much firepower for Detroit to counter — Minnesota will silence the Lions' roar.

Texans at Colts (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS) 

In their last two games (wins over the Falcons and Chiefs), the Texans have been a scoring machine, racking up a total of 84 points. Houston's offense can explode at any given moment, with 397 yards per game. Their run defense (88 yards allowed) will be a huge test for the Colts' rushing attack (fourth in yards per game with 142). The Colts are coming off a bye will have the heart of their defense back in linebacker Darius Leonard, who missed the last three weeks because he was in concussion protocol returns. For me, the difference is the QB play — Deshaun Watson vs. Jacoby Brissett. The Texans will prove to be to road tough in Indy.

Raiders at Packers (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS) 

Jon Gruden's well-rested squad hits the road to confront Aaron Rodgers and the mystique of Lambeau Field. Oakland riding a two-game winning streak and is only a half-game out of first place in the AFC West. After a referee-aided win over Detroit, Green Bay is in control of the NFC North. Rodgers is still waiting for his favorite target Davante Adams to return and is slinging it to a bunch of receivers you’ve never heard of, but so far it’s been working. Grudens' attempt to raid Lambeau for a win will fall short.

Saints at Bears (Sunday, 4:25 p.m., FOX) 

What a story the Saints have been in Drew Brees' absence. They win low-scoring affairs and they win shootouts, and Teddy Bridgewater has been a big reason why. In the five games he’s played, he’s completed 69.4 percent of his passes, with seven touchdowns and two interceptions. The Saints' defense is fast and relentless. Speaking of defenses Chicago has one of the best in the business, but they will now be without DT Akiem Hicks, who has been placed on IR with an elbow injury. QB Mitchell Trubisky is finally back at practice this week after healing up from a shoulder injury, but it's not certain if he’s playing on Sunday. Trubisky gives the Bears a better chance against New Orleans, but I’m marching with the Saints' hot streak.

Ravens at Seahawks (Sunday, 4:25 p.m., FOX) 

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson has been a fantasy football dream: 1,507 yards  passing, 11 touchdown passes, 460 yards rushing and two rushing TDs. This past Sunday vs the Benglas, Jackson became the first QB in the Super Bowl era to pass for at least 200 yards and run for 150 in a single game. Then there’s this guy named Russell Wilson who’s playing at an MVP level, with 14 TD passes and no picks. The run game will be vital for both teams in this one. The Ravens are first in the league in rushing at 205.0 per game, and Seattle averages 131. This is the first meeting between these two on the West Coast since 2011. This could be the game of the day, and the day should belong to the Seahawks.

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