Carson Wentz knows the deal: He isn't playing as well as he knows he can. The offense isn't performing at its peak. The slow starts lead to deficits and then a furious last-quarter catch-up. It isn't the ideal formula to win football games in the NFL, and with a Sunday game at the 8-3 Packers, it certainly isn't the way the Eagles want to have the 60 minutes play out at Lambeau Field.
"We're going to have to execute. I say it every week and it kind of sounds cliché and we say it over and over, but we've got to execute better. We've got to come out and play faster early in games and try and strike early and change the momentum a little bit," Wentz told me late in the week.
The Eagles have scored nine points total in the first half of the last three games, all losses after the bye week. Scoring early, a trademark during the 2017 Super Bowl season, has been a challenge since. What's happening in 2020? Wentz has some ideas.
"Sometimes the other team comes out and plays something different than what we're expecting and we've got to make adjustments early. That's part of football," Wentz said. "We have to come out confident and really execute our assignments better. It's been a big point of emphasis for us."
The offense hasn't performed as expected this year, as we all know. There are a myriad of reasons for that, but the bottom line is the bottom line and the Eagles are seeking solutions. One could come in the form of the playcalling front, as Head Coach Doug Pederson acknowledged that "everything is on the table" and that the Eagles' "collaborative" process to put together a game plan is a smooth one, but the results just haven't been there. So, Pederson has allowed for, in recent games, playcalling duties to be shared, if only a little.
"It hasn't been a lot," he said. "I have to look at a lot of different things. We're struggling as an offense and I look at myself first and foremost. It's my decision if I decide to do it again this week. I am currently the playcaller. You make it sound like I gave it up completely and that's not the case. I'm still the playcaller. If I'm going to be part of the solution to our offensive woes, then I'm going to be part of the solution and whatever that takes, whatever that looks like, whether it be elements of the plan, calling plays, whatever it might be in game. But ultimately these are my decisions as we move forward.
"It is something I have to dig deep and soul search a little bit because I love doing it, don't get me wrong. It's a lot of fun. It gives you a lot of joy and excitement when you do it and you do it well."
What all of this means for Sunday remains to be seen. The Eagles rank 29th in the league in first-half points per game, averaging 8.5 points per outing. The Eagles, yes, have been playing from behind for much of the season. That throws the pregame plan out of whack quickly and harshly.
"I think for me, for the O-line, for any player, really, when you feel that success early, I think it just does something for your brain and your mind and your confidence," Wentz said. "It really gives you that momentum going forward. We've done it before and we've seen it carry through throughout games and there have obviously been too many times that that hasn't happened, so we're trying to find that."
The Eagles have tried using tempo to get things rolling early. They've come out throwing the football. They're tried running early. Too often this season, a penalty, a giveaway, or just not executing a play has stunted a drive.
Against a Green Bay team that scores points by the bunches, the Eagles can't allow any opportunities to go by. Perhaps if Zach Ertz returns to the lineup, the Eagles will get a boost. Another change along the offensive line doesn't help – the Eagles will have their 11th starting combination in 12 games – but Jack Driscoll knows his way around the right tackle position and the rookie is going to have a chance to show what he can do.
The next chapter in this unforeseen season starts on Sunday afternoon as the Eagles look to shock the NFL on the hallowed grounds of Lambeau Field.