It was certainly a tale of two halves for the Eagles in their Week 6 loss to Baltimore – a futile offensive performance in the first two quarters was saved by a tenacious rebound in the final stanza of the game, and a similar type of output on the defensive side of the ball.
Let's start with the former. The offensive line had huge issues with Baltimore's defensive front. Carson Wentz took some brutally violent shots in this game as a passer, including a handful of sacks, none of which were of the "soft" variety. Wentz's toughness and resiliency stood out the most to me, and that manifested itself in multiple ways, whether it was tough throws against the blitz, his blocking on the perimeter, or this 40-yard run in the fourth quarter.
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I mentioned Wentz's ability to make throws under pressure, and this throw was one that stood out in that regard. The Baltimore defense led the entire league in blitzing coming into the game. But not only that, they also led the league in Cover 0 pressure. That means they sent all-out blitzes more than anyone in football. That showed up multiple times in this game.
On Cover 0 blitzes, the offense can't block everyone. The defense will always have one more than the line can block, so the quarterback has got to beat the blitz, either with his arm or with his legs. Carson did that on this play – with three defenders in his face – letting his receiver go up and make a play. Travis Fulgham came up with the touchdown reception late to pull the Eagles within one score.
Wentz's remarkable toughness and ability to fight through adversity really, really impressed me in this game. He does everything he can to will this offense to success in multiple ways against two of the best defenses in the league over the last two weeks.
The troubles in the trenches also led to issues in the running game as well. Outside of one long run by Miles Sanders, the Eagles struggled to run the football in a traditional sense. The one player who, in a non-traditional sense, gave them a spark? Backup quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Hurts has been used as a runner, a passer, a receiver, and as a decoy so far in his young Eagles career. He's only appeared in a handful of snaps a game, but about half of those snaps have resulted in either first downs or touchdowns. Would that efficiency be the same in a larger sample size? Unlikely. But there's no denying that, as Head Coach Doug Pederson said on Sunday, Hurts' presence has a "calming effect" on the defense. Opposing defensive coordinators have to dial back their aggression and be more conservative with the versatile offensive weapon on the field. The Eagles will likely need to lean on Hurts in the near future as even more of a complementary piece with the injuries to Sanders, tight end Zach Ertz, along with the pre-existing ailments on that side of the ball.
The most explosive play of the day came with Hurts on the field, as Sanders took off on a 74-yard sprint down the left sideline before coughing up the ball in the end zone, where J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was able to pounce on the ball for his first score of the year.
Arcega-Whiteside, Jason Kelce, and Sanders showed outstanding effort on the play. The presence of Hurts in the backfield created a favorable block for Kelce at the second level. Arcega-Whiteside was also heavily involved in two of the Eagles' successful two-point conversions.
Why did Coach Pederson go for two while the team was in comeback mode? It ultimately comes down to this. The Eagles scored four touchdowns in this game. If they just kick the extra point every time, they score, at best, 28 points. Instead, they went for two each time, converting twice. That gave them 28 points, but the difference is that on the last touchdown at the end of the game, a two-point conversion ties the game. They would not have been in that position had they not converted two-of-three two-point plays earlier in the game. That's why – in this scenario – it made sense to keep going for two. That gave them the best chance to win the game.
As far as that final play, Pederson said on Monday that, looking back, he would have liked to call a timeout. The overall execution on the play was not up to par. It was clearly not executed the way it was designed, and it resulted in a negative play.
One individual player who I was excited to see in this game was left tackle Jordan Mailata. And he didn't disappoint. The veteran of exactly three NFL games more than held his own against a formidable front, once again. It wasn't perfect, but he did some really nice things against the Ravens. Mailata showed power in the run game and, most of all, a mean streak. That's the question some analysts have had with him since Day 1. Does he have that mentality to play in the trenches? Well, I think they can be thrown out now. This play best exemplifies that.
Mailata is a large, powerful man and a truly unique athlete. Guys with those physical tools don't grow on trees, and what he's shown through three games is a truly great sign for him moving forward.
While I'm on the topic of young players, let's talk about John Hightower. The rookie had a really tough (and by "tough," I mean heartbreaking) drop on the first third down of the game, a perfectly thrown deep ball by Wentz. Did that send him to the tank? No. I liked seeing how he responded.
There's no question that the drop on the first drive was tough to swallow, but I liked seeing Hightower come up with the 50-yard grab, on a similar type of catch, late in the game, showing that he can fight through the adversity and come through late. Not only that, but I think it's a good sign as well to see Wentz show the faith in him to go back to him and let the rookie make a play.
Defensively, the task in this game was to stop quarterback Lamar Jackson, and the Eagles did not do it well enough. The reigning MVP ran for over 100 yards, but that yardage came in the form of designed runs and option plays. An area where I thought the Eagles were really impressive was limiting Jackson as a scrambler. That required a full-team effort, and here's a trio of sacks where you could see how the coverage and the front helped get Jackson to the ground.
As Ike Reese detailed this past week on Eagles Game Plan, a certain mixture of both aggressiveness and discipline would be needed from the defensive line in order to corral Jackson. I thought they did that in the passing game. In the run game, that scheme is going to open things up for them. You're not going to completely shut them down. They got him loose on a couple of really well-designed runs that gashed the defense, including the long touchdown run in the third quarter.
Who stood out to me on defense? Linebacker Alex Singleton, defensive end Josh Sweat, and defensive tackles Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson.
The Eagles' defense struggled to get off the field on third down early in this game, and that cost them points, but after that, I thought they really tightened up and did a lot of good things. A lot of guys played, particularly young guys, and despite the fact that they gave up 30 points, I came away feeling fairly good about how those guys performed.
Both sides of the ball have plays they'd like to have back from Sunday afternoon, but lucky for the Eagles, they have a short week to turn around and get back on the field this Thursday night.
Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominatedEagles Game Planshow which can be seen every gameday during the season on NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is also the host of two Eagles-related podcasts,Eagle Eye in the Sky, which examines the team from an X's and O's angle each and every week as well as theJourney to the Draft podcast, which covers college football and the NFL Draft all year round. Fran also authors the Eagle Eye in the Sky column, which runs four times a week during the football season to serve as a recap for the previous game and to preview the upcoming matchup. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging, and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices, and opponents.