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By Connor Donald, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
After playing for the tie against Cincinnati and then getting beat by poor defense and Chase Claypool in Pittsburgh last week, the Eagles face the MVP Lamar Jackson and one of the top defenses in the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens. The Eagles enter still very much in shot of the NFC East, but another beat down of negative media attention met them this past week as rumours about Howie Roseman’s control of draft picks and who plays on game day came to light. So, here we go!
The first half was ugly. The offensive line looked bad with Matt Pryor and Lane Johnson joining the injuries and missing on the offensive line. Doug Pederson started with some stagnant playcalling and Wentz did not look good. The defense may have given up 17 points, but they looked good and made some good stops. It is difficult for a defense to do it all as the Eagles offense didn’t even have positive yardage until over five minutes into the second quarter. Ultimately, the Eagles were shut out 17-0 in the first half despite a brief surge to end the first half thanks to Jalen Hurts and the most creative play calling we have seen from Pederson all year.
The Eagles opened up the third quarter forcing a three and out on the Ravens first possession. Miles Sanders then blew away for a 74 yard run and fumbled, but thankfully JJ Arcega-Whiteside did something positive for the Eagles by recovering the fumble in the end zone to secure the touchdown. The Eagles defense then allowed Lamar Jackson to sneak in on a 37 yard run into the end zone. The Eagles began a strong offensive push to end the third quarter and leading into the fourth quarter.
The Eagles ended up marching 81 yards and twelve plays and finished with a Jason Croom touchdown reception. Yes, Jason Croom, the third TE that has been protected over the last couple weeks from the practice squad. The successful two point convert to Greg Ward Jr. gave the Eagles a glimmer of hope at 24-14 early in the fourth quarter. The Ravens responded with a field goal to go up 27-14 and then a failed fourth down attempt by the Eagles led to another field goal by Justin Tucker to put the game out of reach at 30-14. But oh wait, a 75 yard, 11 play drive was capped with a Travis Fulgham touchdown to put the game within eight points with less than four minutes left. However, despite all the theatrics and the comeback Wentz’s one yard run was successful, but Pederson’s two point conversion play call was a failure, just as bad as the first. Finally closing the door on a resilient comeback by the Eagles, despite the positives there remain many concerns.
The offensive line was not good! And that is likely putting it nicely. Miles Sanders broke out a big run for the second week in a row in what was the best play by the offensive line. Although Matt Pryor was the worst pass protector heading into week six and you would think his loss wouldn’t be so sorely missed, well I for one will say I missed Matt Pryor because Jamon Brown was not good at RG. Calais Campbell feasted with a monster stat line (3 sacks, 4 TFL and 4 QB Hits). The offensive line also continues to not look the same without Lane Johnson. Without Lane Johnson the team remains well below .500 and shows the importance he has for this team especially from a leadership perspective. Hopefully he will be able to return after the Giants game, I would assume they give him the added rest on a short week and get him back at better health against the Cowboys. Jason Kelce is now the senior leader and he made some nice plays and has done his best to lead this offensive line into battle!
We are going to call it the Jalen Hurts affect. The Eagles offense was not looking good for the majority of the first half until Jalen Hurts came in and busted off a big run. Jalen Hurts is a body that must be accounted for and the Baltimore Ravens found that out in the second quarter and he seems to have had an impact going forward on what the Ravens defense did whenever he was on the field. Hurts finished with a line of (2 rushes for 23 yards), but his importance to this offense can’t be understated by a stat line. Nor is this a calling for Carson Wentz job, it proves Hurts can have a role and will have a role for the rest of the year as some of the best offense has come thanks to his field presence.
The play calling from Pederson is frustrating and seems to be concerning and a point of criticism every week, but one thing you got to love is the continued emergence of Travis Fulgham who caught six of ten targets for 75 yards and a touchdown. Zach Ertz played better this week then the last two weeks, but did only catch four of his ten targets for 33 yards. Zach Ertz disappearing act over the last three weeks remains frustrating and concerning and one can only hope his injury isn’t serious that he suffered today and that Goedert is able to return very soon and help Ertz draw some attention away from him.
The secondary certainly deserves praise this week as the Ravens receivers, including Marquise Brown, were kept fairly silent. The main damage was done in the middle of the field and in the slot where the Eagles continue to be exploited, whether missed tackles or poor coverage by linebackers, they have proven to be the reason the Eagles defense cannot maintain for a full 60 minutes. Marquise Brown was held to four receptions for 57 yards. The large amount of passing damage was done via the middle of the field with Nick Boyle (3 rec., 33 yards) and Devin Duvernay (3 rec., 31 yards). Mark Andrews was only targeted four times and caught two passes for 21 yards. The Ravens rushing attack, largely Lamar Jackson, abused the Eagles in the open field with nine rushes for 108 yards and a touchdown. Despite a strong showing in defending the pass, the middle of the field remained a glaring weakness against the run this week and the front four seemingly failed to get enough pressure on Jackson.
Oh and would it be an Eagles game without talking about injuries. Zach Ertz went to the locker room late in the fourth quarter, seemingly with some issues with his ankle. Jack Driscoll left the game late in the fourth quarter as well after being rolled up on. Miles Sanders left the game in the third quarter and was later ruled out. Jalen Mills, among others who also spent time in the blue tent at some point during the game. Despite the likely return of Desean Jackson on Thursday night, this short week does not bode well for injuries this week and their ability to play. We can only hope none of these injuries are serious.
One thing you can try to knock, but will have a hard time respectfully doing it, is their resiliency! I have certainly given Wentz, Schwartz and Pederson their fair share of hate and rightfully so in certain circumstances, but they are the leaders of these wars. The refs were on our side for penalties, 12 penalties for 132 yards versus our three penalties for 20 yards. However, the analytics just weren’t there seemingly for Pederson or they just were not properly used. He went for a two point convert early trying to run it in with Wentz and got stuffed and put us behind that additional score we needed late. So when it came time to go for two again he went to the air twice with Ward and Arcega-Whiteside. Then, when it mattered most and he went for two, he turned back to trying to get Wentz to do it with his feet and failed, miserably, frustratingly and so many other words I’m sure Eagles fans want to use.
The Eagles move to 1-4-1 with two big games coming up divisionally against the Giants on Thursday and the Cowboys the week after. Pederson started the game out too slow from a play calling perspective and made two cringeworthy two point conversion attempts, the first and the last one, which very well were likely our demise. Schwartz and his defense made multiple stops and held the Ravens to less yards then the Eagles got despite the painfully slow start from Pederson, Wentz and the offense. Yes they gave up 30 points for the third time this year, but they were also on the field for 36 minutes to the Ravens defenses 23 minutes. Time of possession is important and this was too much in favour of the Ravens.
We have a short week to digest this heart wrenching game, but needless to say the Eagles have never needed wins more than the next two weeks. See you Thursday night after the Eagles face the Giants.