The Eagles came into Sunday’s game ranked 13thin opponent rush average (4.1). But in the previous five games, only the Baltimore Ravens had given up fewer yards per carry than the Eagles (3.2).
Redskins, who rushed for 230 yards against the Eagles in Week 6, only had 107 Sunday. But 47 of them came on two long scoring runs. It’s the first time this season the Eagles have given up more than one rushing touchdown in a game.
The first was a 22-yard touchdown run by rookie Robert Kelley in the second quarter that put the Redskins up, 7-6. The second was a 25-yard scoring run by Chris Thompson with 1:53 left in the game that put the Redskins in front for good.
Kelley’s TD came on a run up the middle that took advantage of the Eagles’ lack of defensive line depth. Right guard Brandon Scherff slanted across and took out backup tackle Destiny Vaeao. Tight end Vernon Davis easily stood up end Marcus Smith, which allowed Kelley to get to the second level.
If everyone had been where they were supposed to be, Kelley should’ve been stopped after a seven- or eight-yard gain. But they weren’t.
Middle linebacker Jordan Hicks appeared to read the play wrong and was out of his gap, leaving a huge hole for Kelley, who then bounced outside around cornerback Nolan Carroll and raced into the end zone.
Safety Rodney McLeod didn’t lay a hand on him until he was at the one-yard line.
Thompson’s fourth-quarter run was the real killer. It came right after the Eagles had taken a 22-21 lead on Caleb Sturgis’ third field goal of the game with 4:59 left.
It was a misdirection toss play to the left off a fake jet sweep to the right by DeSean Jackson. Right end Vinny Curry actually got penetration and was able to get a hand on Thompson in the backfield before he headed for the corner, but was unable to make a play.
Neither of the safeties were in position to make a play. Malcolm Jenkins had blitzed from the other side, and Rodney McLeod bit on the fake jet sweep. Cornerback Nolan Carroll, who was in man coverage on Jackson, followed him across the formation when he went in motion. Linebackers Hicks and Nigel Bradham got stuck in traffic.
The only player left to stop Thompson after he turned the corner was cornerback Jalen Mills. But the Redskins running back had left tackle Trent Williams as an escort. He easily disposed of Mills, leaving a clear path to the end zone for Thompson.
The Eagles have given up 10 run plays of 20 yards or more this season. That’s the fifth most in the league.
RED ZONE STRUGGLES
The Eagles converted just one of four red-zone opportunities into a touchdown. Even worse, they scored just three points off their other three trips inside the Washington 20.
They drove 77 yards down to the Washington 3 on their second possession of the game, only to come up empty when Carson Wentz’s pass for tight end Zach Ertz was picked off by safety Deshazor Everett. Remarkably, it was Wentz’s first red-zone interception of the season in 71 attempts.
In the second quarter, they drove to the Washington 13 and were going to go for it on a fourth-and-three when right tackle Jason Peters was flagged for his ninth false start penalty of the season. That forced the Eagles to settle for a Caleb Sturgis field goal.Their final failed red-zone trip came on their last possession of the game. After the Redskins took a five-point lead on Thompson’s touchdown, they drove from their own 25 to the Washington 14, only to come up empty. Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan beat backup right tackle Matt Tobin around the edge and forced a Wentz fumble. The interception and the fumble were the Eagles’ first two red-zone turnovers this season.
The Eagles came into the game ranked 19th in the league in red zone offense (53.7%). But they had been better lately. They were 5-for-5 in the red zone in the previous three games after converting just 7 of 18 trips into touchdowns in the five games before that.
The Eagles have given up 50 pass plays of 20 yards or more this season, including three more on Sunday, which actually was an improvement over the six they gave up last week to the Bengals and the five they gave up in each of the previous two games to the Packers and the Seahawks.
That total ties them with Oakland for the most in the league. The difference is Oakland has an offense that can offset that kind of defensive generosity. The Eagles don’t.
It was another tough day for cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll and Jalen Mills. McKelvin had five pass break-ups and played the Redskins’ receivers tough. But it’s feast-or-famine with him. He also gave up an 80-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson. To his credit, he redeemed himself a little later when he jumped a lazy route by Jackson and scored on a 29-yard interception return.
Carroll and Mills let Jackson get open along the sideline for that 21-yard toe-tapper on a second-and-10. Mills gave up a costly 33-yard completion to slot receiver Jamison Crowder on a second-and-10 on what turned out to be the Redskins’ game-winning drive.
McKelvin, Carroll and Mills, a seventh-round rookie, all are tough, physical players. The problem is none of them are very fast.
They clearly were a big factor Sunday. For the second time in three weeks, right guard Brandon Brooks was a game-day scratch because of an unspecified illness. He was replaced by rookie Isaac Seumalo.
Then, midway through the third quarter, Allen Barbre, the Eagles’ third right tackle this season, injured his hamstring and was replaced by Matt Tobin. Tobin had his problems with Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. It was Tobin who allowed Kerrigan to get to Wentz for the red-zone sack and fumble that squashed a potential game-winning touchdown drive with 12 seconds left.
The Eagles also lost long-snapper Jon Dorenbos with a wrist injury in the third quarter and running back/punt returner Darren Sproles with a concussion early in the fourth quarter.
Without Dorenbos, the Eagles turned to emergency long-snapper Brent Celek on what would’ve been a 50-yard field attempt by Caleb Sturgis in the third quarter. But they never got the kick off. Celek’s snap was a little low and holder Donnie Jones wasn’t able to get it down.
A field goal there and the Eagles wouldn’t have needed a touchdown at the end to win.
NO BIG-PLAY GUY
The Eagles controlled the ball for 36 ½ minutes Sunday, which was their third highest time of possession of the season.
They outgained the Redskins, 383-334. They had eight more first downs than Washington (24-16). They converted a season-high 50 percent of their third-down opportunities.
And they scored 16 offensive points.
Because they’re getting pretty much nothing from their outside receivers, the Eagles are playing the football equivalent of station-to-station baseball.
They have had just six pass plays this season of 30 yards or more. That’s the second fewest in the NFL. Carson Wentz had 32 pass completions against the Redskins on Sunday. Just one of those 32 was longer than 16 yards.
In the seven games prior to Sunday, Wentz was just 8-for-35 with one touchdown and five interceptions on throws that traveled 20 yards or more in the air.
In their loss to Cincinnati last week, 62 of the Eagles’ 80 offensive plays were out of two- and three-tight end sets. On Sunday, it was 45 out of 76.
On their final drive, eight of the 10 plays they ran were with “12’’ personnel (1RB, 2TEs, 2WRs).
But what about the rookie QB?
Wentz outstanding in face of obstacles
by David Murphy, Daily News Columnist
Whenever it is that the story of the Carson Wentz era in Philadelphia is written, Sunday might be Chapter 1. The scene: a pale field, a low sky, a rookie dropping back through the penetrating cold. On the scoreboard: 21 seconds to go, five points to overcome. He’s marched them 61 yards in a minute and a half. Fourteen remain. They are one throw, one scramble, one something away. This is why they drafted him, for his unique ability to make this kind of play.
Except, if he makes it, it doesn’t make for much of a story. There is no quest to be had, no challenge to overcome. It does us no good for Chapter 1.
He doesn’t make it. Not this time, at least. And therein lies our point of departure. It’s not that he fails: It’s that he never gets a chance to succeed. The kid never sees it coming. By the time he arrives at the top of his drop, his fate is secured. A Pro Bowl defensive end beats a fourth string right tackle off the snap. The No. 2 overall pick crashes to the turf. The ball bounces free. From his spot on the ground, all he can do is watch. For a couple of seconds, the football lingers on the turf, just out of reach.
And yet, this was one that everybody should circle. Save it to the DVR and store it away. They say there are no moral victories, and they are probably correct, but in a season where wins and losses are secondary to the means through which they are achieved, the legacy of Sunday’s loss lies not in the penalties or injuries or turnovers, but in the mean game of quarterback the rookie signal-caller played.
Doug Pederson said it after the game, and he was correct. This was Wentz’s best performance yet, and, considering the circumstances, it isn’t really close. As he snapped his chin strap and jogged onto the field in the wake of a 25-yard touchdown run by Chris Thompson that gave the Redskins a 27-22 lead, the Eagles were playing without three of their four running backs, two of their top four pass-catchers, their No. 2 tight end, and three of their five Week 1 starters on the offensive line (along with their top backup). Yet they were in it to the end, with that final drive a microcosm:
A 16-yard completion to Jordan Matthews at the Eagles’ 45-yard line, a 16-yard bullet to Trey Burton in tight coverage at the Redskins’ 39-yard line, another strike to Matthews, this one for 12 yards and a first down at the 27 with 42 seconds remaining, on 3rd-and-10 a 13-yard completion to Zach Ertz at the 14. The previous three-plus quarters had featured much of the same, Wentz bobbing and weaving his way through the deteriorating situation up front, Lane Johnson suspended, Brandon Brooks scratched with an illness, Allen Barbre injured midgame. He finished with 32 completions in 46 attempts for 314 yards and a touchdown despite being sacked four times and pressured countless others.
“It’s crazy watching him now to really understand that he’s a rookie,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “All these situations he’s been put in and performed at a really high level, I see that only getting better as the game slows down for him.”
Coming off an abysmal outing in the Eagles’ blowout loss to Cincinnati, Wentz came out firing: a third-down strike on a crossing route while on the run, a bootleg scramble for a first down, a beautiful deep ball to Nelson Agholor that resulted in a 44-yard defensive-pass interference penalty, another third-down conversion to Mattehws. All of this on the Eagles’ first two drives.
“He shows me something every week,” Jenkins said. “He’s out there doing whatever he can to make plays, whether he’s extending the play with his feet, whether he’s diving, stepping out of sacks left and right. He’s a competitor, man. He’s been doing whatever he can within his ability to give us a chance to succeed. Today was no different.”
You watch Wentz in games like this and you can’t help but think that one day he’ll look back and marvel at how easy the game seems. Dak Prescott might be winning the first-year battle, but the Eagles sure look like they’re going to win the 10-year war: We might not know how Prescott would look if forced to play quarterback in a maelstrom like the one that engulfed Wentz against the Redskins, but it isn’t too hard to project what Wentz would look like behind the Cowboys’ offensive line. Give this guy time to drop five steps, give him a receiver who can go deep and keep his feet in bounds, give some semblance of a first-down running game, then see how that arm and those legs play.
“He came out and proved today why we drafted him,” Pederson said.
The end has yet to be written. But the story is well under way.
Inquiring minds want to know how The Philadelphia Inquirer sees it:
Wentz’s late fumble seals Eagles’ 4th straight loss
by Zach Berman, STAFF WRITER
By the time Carson Wentz sprawled on the grass after fumbling away the Eagles’ last hope for a victory Sunday, the Eagles were down to their fourth right tackle, third long snapper, second left and right guards, and only one running back.
A fragile season continued to crack in a 27-22 loss to the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field. There were untimely penalties, unforeseen absences, and an unsuccessful comeback attempt. Those have been problems throughout a season that can no longer end with a winning record now that the Eagles dropped to 5-8 and lost their fourth consecutive game.
The injury report swelled throughout the afternoon and players included Darren Sproles, who left for a concussion evaluation after a hit that enraged the Eagles sideline. It would have made for a resilient win if they scored on their final drive, when Wentz marched the Eagles 14 yards from the end zone in the final minute. But hope ended when Ryan Kerrigan beat reserve right tackle Matt Tobin around the edge and knocked the ball from Wentz’s grasp.
“We’re 14 yards away from winning,” left tackle Jason Peters said. “Then we wouldn’t even be bringing up the stuff that went wrong.”
After coach Doug Pederson questioned the effort of his team on Monday, the Eagles appeared more energized than any point in their losing streak. Wentz played what Pederson called the rookie’s “best game of the year” because of how he endured changes on the offensive line. He finished 36 of 42 for 314 yards with a touchdown, an interception, and a fumble. Both turnovers came in the red zone.
Right guard Brandon Brooks missed the game with an illness, forcing Isaac Seumalo into the lineup. Allen Barbre, who was the Eagles’ third right tackle to start this season, left the game with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Tobin.
The leading Eagles rusher was Ryan Mathews with 15 carries for 60 yards. He was the only running back remaining after Sproles and Wendell Smallwood exited the game. Five players left because of injuries, including three offensive starters.
“That’s the max effort,” Pederson said. “This team did an outstanding job today.<TH>… Any loss in this league is tough. The way the guys hung together and battled right to the end, it makes it tough.”
And although there was disappointment after the game, the way the Eagles performed compared to recent weeks was the reason safety Malcolm Jenkins said Sunday was “probably the least disappointing” of the close losses this season. Jenkins knew that when the Eagles look back at Sunday, they’ll bemoan “a couple of penalties or plays here or there.”
The first big mistake came in the first quarter. After taking a 3-0 lead on the opening drive, the Eagles could have extended their lead when they reached Washington’s 3-yard line. Wentz forced a third-down pass to tight end Zach Ertz that was intercepted by Deshazor Everett. Wentz called it a “miscommunication” with Ertz, but the Eagles were left with no points.
The next play that will bother the Eagles came early in the third quarter. They entered halftime with a 14-13 lead and forced a three-and-out to begin the half. Sproles returned the ensuing punt 72 yards for a touchdown, but a flag rested near where he caught the punt. Ertz was charged with an illegal block in the back, nullifying the touchdown.
“I feel terrible about it,” said Ertz, who led the Eagles with 10 catches for 112 yards.
After an Eagles punt, long snapper Jon Dorenbos left the game with a wrist injury. Two plays later, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins found former Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson for an 80-yard touchdown. Jackson raced past Leodis McKelvin just as he did against opposing cornerbacks when he played in Philadelphia.
The Eagles tried cutting Washington’s lead with a field-goal attempt on their next drive, but they didn’t have Dorenbos. Brent Celek sputtered a snap that kept the Eagles from even kicking the 50-yarder and gave Washington possession at its 46-yard line, leading to a Redskins touchdown.
McKelvin found redemption early in the fourth quarter when he returned a Cousins interception to cut the Eagles’ deficit to 21-19. The defense then forced a punt, with Sproles waiting for the return.
While camping under the ball, Sproles was pummeled to the ground by Everett. The hit injured Sproles and angered his teammates. A flag was thrown and a scuffle ensued, with Peters restraining himself from an ejection.
“That was a cheap shot,” Peters said.
The Eagles drove to Washington’s 23-yard line, when Pederson sent the field goal unit out to try to take the lead. Celek left with a stinger, forcing Trey Burton to become the long snapper. The snap was high, but Donnie Jones still placed it down and Caleb Sturgis nailed a 41-yard field goal to take the lead.
The defense could not hold a one-point lead. The Eagles allowed Washington to convert a fourth and 1, then watched Chris Thompson run for a 25-yard touchdown to take the 27-22 lead with 1 minute, 53 seconds remaining.
Wentz took the field for a chance at a game-winning drive. It was the fifth loss this season when Wentz had a chance to win or tie the game in the final minutes. He drove the Eagles 61 yards, looking every bit like the franchise quarterback. Then on second down, Wentz dropped back and looked left. He never saw Kerrigan coming around his blind side.
Kerrigan whisked away Tobin, who was playing with an injured knee, then dropped Wentz to the turf and knocked the ball from the quarterback’s grasp. The Redskins recovered, and the Eagles were left with another loss.
“Just a tough one,” Wentz said.
The Eagles had chances to win and overcome injuries. Instead, they head to Baltimore for next week’s meeting with the Ravens on a four-game losing streak with a crowded injury report and lamenting a few plays that swung the game.
“It’s tough — we’ve lost, four, five, maybe six, when we’re there at the end,” Peters said. “There’s a lot of games that got away from us.”