Roob's 10 observations after Eagles lose an ugly one to Lions at home

Roob's 10 observations after Eagles lose an ugly one to Lions at home

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Another ugly loss, an ugly 1-2 record and a short week before a very tough game at Lambeau Field.

The Eagles are in trouble.

Are they good enough to fight their way out of it? We'll see, but the early signs aren't real encouraging.

Here are our 10 instant observations from another loss that shouldn't have been. Lions 27, Eagles 24.

1. I’d love to sit here and say it’s still early, it’s not time to panic, there’s a lot of football to be played. But I’m not sure you lose to the Lions at home and survive that. The Eagles are 1-2 with a game on Thursday night against the Packers in Green Bay, where the Packers have never lost on a Thursday night. After the Jets comes three straight road games — with Tom Brady and the Patriots and Russell Wilson and the Seahawks looming after that. The schedule is brutal, and when you have a team like the Lions at home, you can’t afford to give that one away. But that’s exactly what the Eagles did. Wasted opportunities. Fumbles. Dropped passes. The Lions were the better team, they were the better-coached team, and they deserved to win (see story).

2. These games just keep following the same pattern. Halftime deficit, desperate rally. Three weeks in a row now, the Eagles have trailed at halftime — 10-7 on opening day, 10-6 in Atlanta, 20-10 Sunday. They bounced back easily against the Redskins, rallied to take the lead against the Falcons, only to lose it, and outplayed the Lions in the second half Sunday, only to fall short once again at the end. This is the first time since 1982 the Eagles have trailed at halftime in each of their first three games, and I don’t care how exciting the games get at the end, you can't win this way. The Eagles did score a TD and FG on their first two drives, but the bottom line is they have yet to play a complete four-quarter game. This is on Doug Pederson. This team hasn't played 60 minutes yet. And that’s the biggest reason it's 1-2.

3. I know JJ Arcega-Whiteside is a rookie. I know he’s playing in only his third NFL game. Still. Catch the football. Carson Wentz put it right there. Catch the football (see story). It would have been a great catch, but this team desperately needed someone to be great and it just didn’t happen.

4. My biggest concern with this team before the season was pass pressure, and here we are three games in and the defense has two sacks — one by a tackle and one by a safety. This is the first time since sacks became an official stat in 1982 the Eagles have had just two after three games. Now, there’s more to pressuring a quarterback than getting sacks, but the pressure has been spotty as well. If you can’t pressure the QB, it’s really hard to win.

5. It was encouraging to see Miles Sanders come to life a little bit. He was never much of a receiver at Penn State, but he had receptions of 40 and 33 yards and was more productive as a runner than he has been, finishing 13 for 53 after another sluggish start. But he also fumbled twice, lost one, which led to a Detroit field goal. It was a problem at Penn State and it was a problem Sunday. And it’s a problem he has to solve because I don’t care how much talent a running back has, if you keep giving the other team the football, you’re not going to play (see story).

6. The Eagles weren’t terrible defensively. They gave up 20 points to a pretty high-powered offense and six of the points came on short fields. I thought the young corners, in particular, played really well against some high-powered receivers. But when the defense really had to shut down the Lions, it let ‘em go 75 yards in nine plays over the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth. With an offense missing all those guys, the defense had to win this game. It didn’t lose it, but it didn’t win it either (see report card).

7. Two weeks in a row now Nelson Agholor followed a costly play (60-yard TD drop last week, fumble this week) with a big-time play (43-yard catch last week, two TDs this week). I give the kid credit for his mental toughness, being able to stay up and stay ready and make a big play. But, man, he’s the only experienced receiver on the team right now. He’s got to find some consistency in his game.

8. Wentz's final numbers were pretty good — threw for 259 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. I’m not sure what else he could have done without three of his top five weapons. Those two drives at the end of the game with the Eagles down three were agonizing to watch. He didn’t make any plays, but I just didn’t see any plays out there for him to make, other than the final play to JJAW.

9. Mack Hollins followed his 5 for 50 with a 4 for 62, and for a guy who started the season as the Eagles’ fifth receiver and really not even a lock to make the roster, I’ll take that from him. He’s not a great receiver, but he’s shown up the last two weeks when a lot of people haven’t.

10. Finally … I never complain about the refs. But the non-call on Miles Killebrew’s facemask on Sanders was about as egregious a non-call as you’ll ever see. The NFL talks a lot about player safety and then every ref on the field misses a guy ripping a dude’s helmet off and cackling about it on the sideline? That’s just outrageous and inexcusable. That simply cannot happen.

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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

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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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DeSean Jackson is back, massive 2nd half and more in Roob's observations from Eagles' NFL Week 1 win

DeSean Jackson is back, massive 2nd half and more in Roob's observations from Eagles' NFL Week 1 win

BOX SCORE

A brutal start, a brilliant finish, a flawless quarterback and some huge plays by the oldest guys on the team.

It wasn't exactly the start we all expected, but the bottom line is a 32-27 win for the Eagles over the Redskins and a 1-0 start for the fourth straight year.

Let's get right to our 10 instant observations! 

1. It wasn’t a matter of if. It was a matter of when. Carson to DeSean. They’ve talked about it all summer. We’ve seen it at practice. Now it’s a real thing, and oh man, is it beautiful.

It didn’t happen on the first snap of the game like we all kind of were looking for, but it happened eventually and then it happened again, and when nothing else was working, there was Carson Wentz chucking the ball deep to DeSean Jackson.

This was the first time since Norm Snead hit Ben Hawkins twice deep against the Redskins in 1967 that an Eagle QB and WR have connected on two 50-yard TDs in the same game. Incredible.

Oh yeah, and it was the first game they ever played together. Get used to it.

2. If the price of Wentz not playing at all in the preseason was a sluggish first few series, it was worth it. Wentz threw for 41 yards on the Eagles’ first three drives and honestly, he looked terrible. Out of sorts. Uncomfortable in the pocket. Couldn’t get anything down the field.

That first long TD to Jackson seemed to relax him and from that point on it was vintage Wentz. From the fifth drive on? Wentz was almost perfect.

3. How about Wentz on third down? He was 11 for 12 for 197 yards and three touchdowns. That is flat-out brilliant. And a perfect 158.3 third-down passer rating. 

4. One of the hallmarks of Jim Schwartz’s defenses since he’s been here has been his ability to adjust and overcome poor starts, and it sure did that Sunday. His group looked overmatched, ill-prepared and just brutal on Washington’s first few drives. The Redskins piled up 17 points and 208 yards on their first three drives and looked unstoppable. Their next six drives? Three points and 49 yards. By then the game was over.

What changed? Really it just seemed like the Eagles calmed down. It started up front, where they finally began to generate some pressure on Case Keenum, but they also began covering and tackling a lot better as well. They seemed to stop pressing and just settled down and made plays.  

5. Jordan Howard had only two carries the first 53 minutes of the game, and I get that Doug Pederson and Mike Groh wanted to get Miles Sanders going, but Howard had a couple nice-looking six-yard runs on back-to-back snaps early in the second quarter when nothing else was working. And that was it until seven minutes left, when he picked up 29 big yards on three straight runs.

Sanders had a couple nice runs and a 21-yard TD called back, but Howard looked fast and powerful. He finished 6 for 44, and he needs more than six carries.

6. I loved that Pederson fourth down call early in the third quarter. That’s the Doug Pederson we saw in 2017. The Eagles were down 20-7 with a 4th-and-1 on their own 34-yard line. That takes some serious guts. That’s the deepest the Eagles have been in their own territory going for it on fourth down in 10 years before the fourth quarter. You fail there, you’re down two touchdowns and the Redskins are already in field goal range with a ton of momentum.

It’s probably not a coincidence that the Eagles absolutely dominated the game after that. That call seemed to really spark both sides of the ball.

7. Even when nothing else was working, the Eagles’ run defense was very good all day. You know the Redskins wanted to run the ball to set up the pass, but the Eagles really shut that down. Derrius Guice was 10 for 18, Chris Thompson 3 for 10 and Adrian Peterson inactive for some reason. The 'Skins finished 13 for 28 rushing. In the second half? They were 3 for minus-3.

The defensive tackle rotation with Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, Tim Jernigan and Hassan Ridgeway was very good, and the Eagles gang tackled really well. That was huge because it prevented the Redskins from ever really doing what they wanted to do.

8. Jackson and Darren Sproles both made a huge impact on this game, and they’re two of the oldest at their position in the NFL, and both deserve a ton of credit for everything they do in the background as far as conditioning and taking care of themselves. You can’t come out in the NFL as a 32-year-old wide receiver in your 12th season or a 36-year-old running back in your 15th season and play like this if you’re not completely committed.

We’ve all seen older guys sticking around a year or two too long to cash a few extra paychecks. Sure not the case with these two guys. It’s incredible, but they look as good as ever.

9. Pederson said just last week that he focused on fixing the Eagles’ first quarter issues “every day” during the offseason. And then the Eagles come out so sluggish. The Eagles scored an NFL-low 41 first quarter points last year and led after the first quarter of only four games.

The obvious thing to look at is how little the starters played in the preseason, but this has been a problem since last year began. The Eagles can get away with it against bad teams, and they did on Sunday. But they can’t keep digging that kind of hole for themselves week after week after week. You just can’t get away with it against better teams.

10. It’s not easy to win this way. The Eagles were getting booed off the field when it was 17-0 and again when it was 20-7 at halftime. They were in danger of losing at home to a lightly regarded NFC East rival. The Eagles came into Sunday 11-127 in franchise history when they trailed by 13 points at halftime. They had come back from 17-point deficits only 16 times in franchise history, just three times in the last 25 years.

But they stuck together. That’s all you can do in that situation. You can’t look at the scoreboard, you can’t look at the clock. You stay positive, you keep believing, you don’t question the coaches and you just keep fighting. You do that, anything is possible.

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