The Eagles have lost back-to-back games for the first time since December of 2016, and they’ve lost a meaningful home game for the first time since December of 2016.
And that Super Bowl seems like a long, long time ago.
The Eagles bumbled their way to another loss Sunday, and once again it was filled with penalties, turnovers, mistakes and coaching misjudgments, all the things that last year’s team avoided. All the things this year’s team can’t stop doing.
So let’s break it down in Roob’s 10 observations off the Eagles’ 23-21 loss to the Vikings at the Linc.
1. This offense is a mess. No rhythm. No cohesion. No explosiveness. The offensive line has been brutal two straight games. Hard to believe it’s the same unit as last year plus a Hall of Famer. But to me the blame for the offense’s inconsistency goes squarely to Doug Pederson. It’s his job as play caller to get the offense into a rhythm, and the Eagles have three first-half touchdowns this year on 28 drives. That’s inexcusable. They have yet to score more than 23 points in a game, the first time in 20 years that’s happened the first five weeks of a season. Whether it’s not running the ball, terrible third-down calls, poor use of personnel or just not having the team ready at kickoff, it’s all contributed. It’s easy to blame Mike Groh, and I’m sure the Eagles do miss Frank Reich, but Pederson is the head coach. He calls the plays. He runs the team. This is on him.
2. I wonder if the Eagles are ready to start games. They just don’t seem to have the same energy, the same fire, the same passion early in games as they do late. I do know they can’t keep digging holes for themselves and trying to get out of them. The Eagles have been outscored 23-7 in the first quarter and 53-33 in the first half. Where’s their focus early? They outscored the Vikings 18-6 in the second half Sunday. Just like the Tampa game. Big rally falling short. This team is just not ready to play football at kickoff.
3. I really can’t ask for more from Carson Wentz. He’s been a little bit better each week, a little more comfortable, a little better with his recognition and timing, and for a guy who didn’t have a preseason, he’s really put together three very good performances. His court awareness in the pocket still has room for improvement, and he’s still holding the ball too long on occasion. But considering how weak protection has been, he’s been very tough and very good.
4. Let’s talk defense. The unit wasn’t awful Sunday. Held the Vikings to 16 points and just one touchdown. The Eagles had a couple really nice red-zone stops in the first half. But if you want to be a great defense, shut the Vikings down at the end of the game. Get a stop. The Vikings drove 55 yards in 11 plays over 6½ minutes and kicked a field goal to make it a two-possession game. The focus this week will be on how shaky the offense has been, but the defense has a piece of this as well.
5. I thought it made sense to bench Stefen Wisniewski for Isaac Seumalo because the coaches kept talking about how good Seumalo has looked in practice. Well you know what? He was worse. Way worse.
6. Gotta say I’ve been really impressed with Wendell Smallwood. For a guy who’s never been able to stay healthy and was really on the brink of getting cut this summer, he’s starting to really look like a playmaker. He had a bad drop on third down early Sunday, but he finished with 71 yards from scrimmage on just six touches, plus a two-point conversion run. Great story of persistence and determination. Smallwood’s been really good. Would like to see more of him.
7. What the heck was that challenge with 11 minutes left in the game? On Kirk Cousins’ 13-yard first-down pass to Stefon Diggs near midfield? He had both feet in by five feet. It’s unimaginable that somebody in the booth told Pederson to challenge that play. It wasn’t even close. He actually had three feet in bounds.
8. Zach Ertz has been really, really good. He had another 10-catch game, another 100-yard game Sunday, and his five-game numbers are ridiculous — 41 catches for 437 yards. But the Eagles need more than Ertz. Nobody else had 50 receiving yards Sunday, and Nelson Agholor has had only one game with 50 yards all year. Alshon Jeffery came off his big game in Tennessee with just 2 for 39 and a borderline drop on what would have been a big first down. The Eagles need more consistent weapons.
9. When Lane Johnson is struggling, you really have to wonder what the heck is going on. The last guy I ever worry about is Lane Johnson. He rarely has one bad game, but this is two in a row. He gave up a strip sack against the Titans last week and this time got steamrolled by Stephen Weatherly, the play in which Wentz’s fumble was returned 64 yards for a touchdown by 330-pound defensive tackle Linval Joseph. This whole offensive line is struggling. Jason Peters seems to be aging in front of our eyes. Jason Kelce doesn’t look 100 percent. Seumalo was worse than the guy he replaced. Johnson is generally so consistent, so solid. It’s shocking to see him struggle like this.
10. It’s been so long since the Eagles have been in this position. Nearly two years since they’ve lost back-to-back games or had a losing record. I’m really curious to see how they respond. I’m really curious if they can rebound. I didn’t see this coming. I liked the way Pederson handled the offseason and I liked the way this team worked at training camp. I honestly don’t know who this team is right now. I do know it’s not 2017 anymore. The Eagles are getting their opponent’s best every week, and they better adjust to that very quickly.