By Connor Donald, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
After a disastrous, divisional loss last week to the New York Giants, the Eagles entered week 11 in yet another must win position against the Cleveland Browns with matchups against the Seahawks, Packers, Saints and Cardinals to come. With one of the healthiest Eagles rosters we have had all season, there are really no excuses. Or should be very few excuses.
The first half was dominated by the defenses as the weather became a contributing factor to limited offense, very limited offense. Zero points were scored by both offenses and the only score overall was an ugly, ugly pick six thrown by Carson Wentz on a play that absolutely should not have ended that way.
The second half started out looking ugly, but took an early turn in the Eagles favour with a Fletcher Cox swat sack, forcing a fumble that was recovered in the red zone, leading to an absolute dime by Carson Wentz to Richard Rodgers making it a 7-7 game. The tie was short lived as in typical Eagles defensive fashion, one big play by the Browns put them into field goal range, which Parkey would nail for the 10-7 Browns lead. The game continued back and forth for a short while, before a beautiful coffin punt buried the Eagles at the one and Carson Wentz awareness and the offensive line reared their ugly head allowing a safety to put the Browns up 12-7.
The early part of the fourth quarter remained back and forth, a periodic big play including a big grab by Richard Rodgers that put the Eagles in field goal range, which Jake Elliot would hit to make it a 12-10 game. Unfortunately, the Eagles run defense got hit by a train as Chubb burst off a 54 yard yard run, capped by a five yard touchdown run by Hunt up put the Eagles down by nine points with just over nine minutes to go. From there the game got no prettier as the Browns pounded the ball down the defenses throat and burnt down the clock putting an end to the game and capping another tough Eagles loss to swallow.
As with every week finding the best of an Eagles game is difficult, but there is an underrated and underappreciated piece that made himself the best part of the Eagles game this week. Miles Sanders has struggled to get the proper usage that he rightfully deserves to get from Doug Pederson. Miles Sanders finished with a line of 16 carries for 66 yards and three receptions for fifteen yards on five targets. His yards per carry topping out at yet another impressive 4.1 yards. Due to the game script becoming more negative in the fourth quarter he didn’t see much usage late, but Sanders needs to be used and abused by Pederson in this offense early and often.
The Eagles rushing defense was magnificent against a two headed monster that combined for over 200 yards last week in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, that was until early in the fourth quarter when Chubb burst off a 54 yard run, capped by a Hunt five yard touchdown run. The two combined on the ground to put up 55 yards on 21 carries and through the air put up ten yards on a single reception prior to those two runs. With the weather having such a hindrance on the air attack, this was still a positive to take away, because there were very few to take from this game. The combo of Chubb and Hunt finished with 33 carries for 125 yards and a touchdown plus a single reception for ten yards.
Alex Singleton had a strong game at the linebacker position, a week after TJ Edwards had himself a strong performance at linebacker. Singleton finished with a line of 12 tackles, one sack and a tackle for a loss. The young linebackers are flashing as Nate Gerry remains sidelined, which is a major positive for getting Gerry off the field when he does return, as he has been difficult to watch especially in coverage.
The offensive line has their moments each week that make you think, “they aren’t that bad, they will get out of this rut”, but then they string together a number of plays that make you realize that this isn’t a rut, this is the Eagles offensive line. Kelce played the second half banged up with some heavy machinery on his hurt elbow from the first half. Olivier Vernon feasted, largely matched up against Jason Peters, with an all impressive hat-trick, three, sacks on the day. Carson Wentz ended up sacked four times and hit ten times. Once the pressure numbers come out, they will ultimately paint an even grimmer picture for this offensive line as Carson Wentz had limited time to work with in the pocket and got tossed around all day long.
Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz connection is not there. They are clearly so far from the same page that one is the cover of a 300 page novel and the other is the back cover and it is affecting the Eagles offensively. Doug Pedersons play calling is so vanilla, that we might as well call it a blank, white piece of printer paper. He is doing nothing to open up the field, zero creativity in the passing game and just leaving Carson Wentz in the pocket to be eating alive by pass rushes. Pederson needs an offensive coordinator, plain and simple, nothing has been the same since Reich left for Indy and the passing game, rushing game coordinator is creating the narrative of too many voices in my personal opinion.
Carson Wentz yet again did not look good, passes overthrown, underthrown, in front of receivers, behind receivers plus of course an interception, which led to a pick six. The offensive line did him no justice, as they haven’t done all season, but Wentz is doing his weapons little justice when given the opportunity. Turnovers and awareness are major issues for Wentz that are not improving as the season wears on, which is not good considering he starts getting paid like our franchise quarterback next season.
Wentz and Pederson continue to struggle through an identity crisis and it is not good with such an enormous cap situation looming for the next two years, re-tooling will be very difficult. The last two weeks continue to point out the ugly weaknesses and issues that the Eagles have all over the field. Their inability to play a full sixty minutes on either side of the football, continue to expose the Eagles for what they are, the ugliest leaders of an even uglier NFC East and a team in crisis needing a major re-tooling. The next four weeks aren’t going to be any easier for the Eagles on their road to the NFC East and the frustration will rage forward for Eagles fans.