Bounce Back Week

Posted: December 9th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 89 Comments »

Somehow Alexander the Great popped into my mind on Friday evening and I ended up reading some quotes attributed to him. I saw this and thought it fit the Eagles.

“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.”

Last week Doug Pederson played it safe. The team didn’t play well and lost the game. I don’t know that his conservative style had an affect on the players, but it is possible.

It will be interesting to see how Pederson handles things this week. Will he go back to being aggressive? Will he overreact and be really aggressive?

Pederson needs to get his team back on track, but he doesn’t want to go too far in the other direction. This is a critical game for the Eagles. Pederson has to find the right balance between being aggressive and being careful.

It would be wild to see him try to jump start things by opening the game with an onside kick. We haven’t seen that move in a long time. I don’t think he needs to do something extreme like that. Just an interesting thought.

Pederson has to be himself. He can’t start giving crazy speeches or doing things that are out of character. The players would see that as a sign of panic and it would hurt them. They need Pederson to be the guy he’s been all year.

Luckily, Pederson has been aggressive for almost the entire year. He’s gone for it on 4th downs. He’s gone for two. He’s thrown deep (or at least tried to) a decent amount. Pederson isn’t a conventional coach. He’s willing to take some chance.

The real key is for him to get his team’s mindset right this week. The Eagles were all over the place in Seattle. They need to relax and play good, aggressive football. Smart football.

Pederson said all he right things this week. He seemed relaxed and focused. If he’s any indication, the Eagles should play well on Sunday.

*****

We still don’t know if Zach Ertz will practice. He remains n the concussion protocol. Ertz did some light work on Friday, but the team will have to make a decision on him over the weekend. It would be great to have him as a weapon for Wentz and the offense, but the Eagles won’t rush him back.

*****

Kobe Bryant came in and talked to the Eagles today.

A lot of players are big Kobe fans so this was big for them. Kobe is a big Eagles fan so this was big for him.

I doubt his talk will have much impact, but that’s a cool story.

Unless…

*****

One thing we do know about Sunday…the crowd noise will be very different from Seattle.

Sounds like this could be a 50-50 type game or at least something close to that. Crowd noise was a factor in Seattle. Wentz and the offense won’t have to deal with the same type of situation this weekend. That should help quite a bit.

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Game Review – SEA 24, PHI 10

Posted: December 8th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 32 Comments »

Sunday sucked.

I sat around all day, nervously awaiting for Sunday Night Football. I wanted to see an Eagles win. I would have settled for losing a shootout or a tough, defensive struggle. Just give me something to feel good about. Instead, Seattle made a handful of key plays and the Eagles made mistake after mistake after mistake. The result was a frustrating 24-10 loss.

The 2004 Super Bowl team started 7-0. They went to Pittsburgh at midseason and lost 27-3. That team was completely dominated and physically manhandled. There were serious questions that arose from that game.

Sunday night’s loss was nothing like that. The Eagles out-gained the Seahawks by more than 100 yards. The Eagle were just as physical as the Seahawks. Carson Wentz took some big hits, but so did Russell Wilson.

Penalties, turnovers and other mistakes doomed the Eagles. The coaches didn’t have a great game. Officiating didn’t help matters, with the Eagles getting the worst of several key calls. Seattle won the game, but I don’t look at them as the superior team.

Re-watching the game was torture. What if Wentz hits Agholor in the 1st quarter? Eagles might have been up 7-3. What if Jeffrey doesn’t hold on the run play? That could drive could have have easily resulted in a TD.

The Wentz fumble was a whole case of What If’s. What if Lane Johnson has a slightly better block on Sheldon Richardson, who knocked the ball loose. What if Wentz protects the ball better before the hit? What if Torrey Smith recovered the ball, which was right there for him, in the end zone? We’ve got a 10-10 game and the Eagles have momentum.

Instead, Lucy moved the ball and Charlie Brown ended up on his butt, staring into the Seattle night.

COACHING

Doug Pederson has had a great year, but Sunday night was not his best showing. He was conservative early and many people are wondering why. He mentioned that the team didn’t have a great week of practice. The team wasn’t crisp early and my guess is that Pederson was playing it safe until he saw some life from his team. Going for it on 4th down makes total sense if you think your team will convert or that it is worth taking the chance because your defense will hold. If you have doubts about them, there is something to be said for playing it safe.

You can argue that being aggressive might have jolted the team and helped them to play with more confidence. It is also possible Seattle could have built a bigger lead faster. Pederson has known which buttons to push so far this year. He was very different on Sunday, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he was wrong.

The situation at the end of the half was just bizarre. Pederson had the offense on the field and it looked like they might go for it, but then there was a timeout and out came the punting unit.

The biggest mistake of the night was not challenging a “forward lateral”. Pederson did challenge a 3rd down spot and lost (he was right, but officials almost never reverse those calls) and that left him gunshy about burning a timeout and getting rejected. In his defense, the replays he saw weren’t obvious. The stadium doesn’t have the TV feed. And we don’t know what the guys in the booth saw. That was such a key play that he probably should have challenged no matter what. There were only 9-minutes left in the game and it was 17-10. That play came on 3rd down and extended a scoring drive. Take that away and the Eagles are getting the ball back and only needing one score to tie.

It is hard to judge the offensive gameplan because Wentz struggled so much. It sure looked like there were open players and some potentially big plays. The players just didn’t execute well, mainly Wentz.

Judging Jim Schwartz is hard because Wilson creates so much on the fly. You can be right with the ball and almost perfect with the execution and next thing you know Seattle has some big gain. Schwartz did make one big mistake. He blitzed on 3rd down and Wilson burned the Eagles for a long play. Rodney McLeod was covering their best WR all alone. I don’t need to tell you that favors them by just a smidge. I have no problem with blitzing, but the Eagles had been getting pressure with their front four. Schwartz should have just rushed four. That one hurt. 

PLAYERS

Carson Wentz had his worst game of the year. His numbers look okay…29-45-348 with a TD and an INT. He did not play well.

The biggest issue was errant throws. He had a chance to hit Agholor for a TD and just overthrew him. You can’t do that on the road against a good team. He had a chance to hit Agholor for a huge play later. This time the pass was complete and got 32 yards, but it was a bad throw and Agholor fell down after catching it. Should have been a huge gain. Zach Ertz was open over the middle a couple of times. One pass was too low to catch. Another required him to dive for the ball. Need to hit him on the move there. There were a lot of pass plays with a questionable read or bad throw. Rough night.

The other huge mistake came when Wentz tried to run for a TD. Got almost to the goal line and Richardson stripped the ball from him. That was a crushing moment. Settling for a FG would have been discouraging, but getting nothing was brutal. Real gut punch.

Wentz never looked quite right. I don’t know if he was nervous or some of the hits got to him. There was a sequence when the Eagles got inside the Red Zone. He dumped the ball for minimal gain to the outside on 1st down. Running play on 2nd. Another dump outside on 3rd. It was if he was playing to avoid making mistakes. Weird.

The crowd noise was a factor. It seemed like the Eagles snapped the ball with :01 left on a lot of plays. Wentz was clapping his hands furiously, trying to get the attention of Brooks, who would signal to Kelce to snap the ball. You can’t read the defense or think about the play if you spend the last 5 seconds of the play clock trying to get the ball snapped. That had to affect Wentz.

There were some good moments. He made an incredible throw to Agholor for a gain of 51 on the first play of the 4th quarter. Wentz was scrambling from pressure and started to stumble. He somehow got the ball off before falling. The pass was on the money and about 45 yards came via the air. That was a freakish play. A few plays later, Wentz avoided pressure and hit Agholor down the sideline for the TD. There was a play where Wentz spun from pressure took off running. He hit Jeffrey along the sideline with a bullet.

Wentz ran 6 times for 30 yards.  Read the rest of this entry »


Good Vibes

Posted: December 7th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 136 Comments »

As frustrating as it was to re-watch the Seattle game (at boy was it ever), it did feel good to come away knowing that the loss was on the Eagles. The team blew chance after chance. They should have easily scored 20 more points. The problem is that they just kept making mistakes at the worst time. The result was a 24-10 loss.

When you study a game and see that your team had no chance…that the other team just overwhelmed you, that makes things easy in a sense. You just weren’t good enough. You can accept that. Figuring out how to get better is the tricky part. Does that mean the current players developing over time or waiting until the offseason to get better players?

Carson Wentz played poorly in Seattle. Clearly the Eagles don’t need a new QB. They just need Wentz to play better. They need him to play to the level he’s played almost the whole year. That’s a good problem to have.

It is easy to get caught up in the result from Sunday night. Some people want to wipe out the previous 11 games (10-1) and act as if that was the whole season. This isn’t college football. That was just a bump in the road.

The Eagles are still good. Damn good.

Football Outsiders has the Eagles tied for first in Total DVOA and all the way down at second in Weighted DVOA. The Rams are first in both categories, making this week something they call the DVOA Bowl. #1 vs #2. Statistical glory awaits the winning team.

I’m not dismissing the Seattle loss as meaningless. That was a big test and the Eagles failed. But that’s okay if they learn from it, as I wrote for PE.com. Football in December and January is about playing tough teams and dealing with immense pressure. Things really matter. The Eagles got a taste of that on Sunday night. I hope they learned a lot from that loss.

Sunday is going to provide another tough test for the Eagles. The Rams are 9-3 and have a complete football team. They are good on offense, defense and STs. In some ways, they are going to be tougher than Seattle, but there is one huge difference.

Jared Goff isn’t Russell Wilson.

There were plays when the Eagles had two and three guys getting into the backfield, only to see Wilson spin away from pressure and and either complete a pass or just throw the ball away. The Eagles pass rush is one of the team’s big strengths and Wilson in some ways totally negated it. Beating the blocker and getting into the backfield was just the start of the play for the D-linemen. Finishing was nearly impossible.

Goff is a human being. You can hit him. You can sack him. The Eagles DL becomes much more of a factor, even though the Rams have a better OL than Seattle does. Pressure will directly affect the success of plays this week.

The Rams also love to run the ball. The Eagles stuff the run. That matters. Seattle doesn’t have a good running game so taking that away from them didn’t have the same impact as it would on a normal team.

The Rams are very good, but they are a much better matchup for the Eagles.

*****

The Eagles have had an interesting week. They’re out in California. They’ve done a lot of charity work and they’ve been practicing as well. This team already had great chemistry, but the extended road trip might have been a good thing for them. If it can help the players bond even more, that could have some impact on the field.

I’m really interested to see how this team responds on Sunday. I can’t guarantee they’ll win, but I find it hard to believe they would play poorly in back-to-back games.

_


Context Matters

Posted: December 5th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 118 Comments »

Let’s go inside the Eagles 10-2 record for a minute.

Wow, the Eagles must not be any good.

Or…context matters.

It isn’t just who you play, but when and where you play them.

The Eagles played 4 of their first 6 games on the road, including a trip to the West Coast and a road game on a short week (TNF in Carolina). That was a tough schedule no matter who you played. But let’s talk about the actual opponents.

  • The Skins were healthy and considered a potential playoff team when the season began. That was a good win.
  • The Chiefs looked like the best team in the NFL for the first 5 games of the year.
  • The Giants had Odell Beckham when the Eagles played them. He caught 2 TDs and both were great catches.
  • The Chargers had lost a pair of close games and also to the red hot Chiefs. Anyone who took a long look at the Chargers could see that was a good team.
  • Arizona still had playoff hopes in early October. They were 2-2 and Carson Palmer was playing at a high level.
  • The Panthers were 4-1. They’ve had a good overall season.
  • Washington was 3-2 coming into the rematch with the Eagles.
  • The Niners were a bad team with a rookie QB. No disputing that.
  • Denver was 3-4. They had lost 3 straight games, but still had the best defense in the league.
  • Dallas was 5-4 when the Eagles came to town. That game was huge for the Cowboys. Their season was on the line. They lost by 28. At home.
  • The Bears were a bad team with a rookie QB, part 2.
  • I think you have a good idea of who Seattle is.

That’s not an easy schedule. I realize there are no great wins in there. There hasn’t been a signature moment so far this year.

That’s okay.

The NFL is all about the postseason. You can only beat the teams on your schedule during the regular season. The key for me is that the Eagles have been blowing out mediocre or bad teams. If there were a bunch of one-possession games, I think questioning the Eagles would make a lot of sense. That just hasn’t been the case.

The Eagles will have some chances in the last month.

The Rams are one of the best teams in the league. After that is a rematch with the Giants. They’re a mess this year. The Eagles close with the Raiders and Cowboys, teams that might have winning records and will likely be fighting for their playoff lives.

We’ll see how things look in early January.

*****

The funny thing about all this schedule talk is how different it was back in August. If you watched Eagles broadcasts of the preseason games, Mike Mayock would go over the upcoming schedule. He and Scott Graham were struggling to come up with more than a handful of winnable games. I was hoping for 9-7 and those guys made it sound like the Eagles would need luck to get 7 wins.

They weren’t down on the Eagles so much as they were up on everyone else.

The only sure wins felt like the Chargers, Niners, Bears and Rams.

Let’s hope they were right about that last team.

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Big Picture

Posted: December 5th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 92 Comments »

The Eagles goal is to win the Super Bowl.

Let’s be perfectly clear on that. Going 15-1 would have been great, but that’s not the goal. The Panthers went 15-1 in 2015 and lost the Super Bowl. The Packers went 15-1 in 2011 and didn’t even reach the Super Bowl. Do you think those fans celebrate the 15-win seasons?

Look at recent Super Bowl winners.

2016 – NE – 14-2
2015 – DEN – 12-4
2014 – NE – 12-4
2013 – SEA – 13-3
2012 – BAL – 10-6
2011 – NYG – 9-7
2010 – GB – 10-6

Sunday night’s loss has nothing to do with the Eagles goal of winning the Super Bowl. It could affect playoff seeding, but recent years tell us that being the top seed doesn’t guarantee anything. Dallas was the top seed last year and lost their only playoff game. You’d rather be at home, but it is more important to play good football than to play at home.

The Eagles played poorly and lost on Sunday.

It would be great for the team to get hot again and finish the season 14-2, but the real key is playing good football. That doesn’t mean just winning. You want to avoid penalties and turnovers. You want to make plays. The QB must be smart and accurate. OL need to block well. Defenders need to cover and tackle. We’re talking about basic execution.

This team has the talent to play with anyone in the league. They are good enough to beat anyone, anywhere.

But they can’t beat good teams while playing bad football. Doug Pederson mentioned that he thought something looked off in practice last week. The players know they weren’t good enough and the loss got their attention.

Guard Brandon Brooks called the loss a “wake-up call.” Kelce went a little further, deeming it a “humbling point.” A good humbling point, he said. He didn’t go into specifics, but he noted that practice wasn’t up to snuff last week. Other players said the intensity was lacking Sunday night. Winning has come so easy to the Eagles lately, that perhaps they needed a reminder that it’s anything but.

The Eagles have done a lot of celebrating recently. This week would be a good time to focus more on details and less on dancing. That message applies to the whole team since everybody had a hand in that loss.

Carson Wentz missed throws. Jalen Mills missed tackles. Alshon Jeffrey blocked too long. Big V didn’t block enough.

The good thing about this team is that they’ve had great chemistry all year. There were mistakes all over the place in Seattle so no one should be doing any finger-pointing, unless it is to the guy in the mirror. These players have supported each other all season long and I expect that to be the case now as they face some adversity for the first time in a while.

If this loss truly gets everyone’s attention and helps the players to re-gain their focus, it could end up being a big help as the Eagles chase their goal.

You don’t win in the postseason because of record or talent or scheme. You have to out-play your opponent. The Eagles didn’t do that on Sunday night and they lost. I can’t wait to see how this team responds on Sunday when they play the Rams.

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