Philadelphia Eagles News

Lawlor: A Rough Day For The Eagles

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For the first time under Doug Pederson, the Eagles played a bad game. The offense struggled and never scored a touchdown. The defense did score a touchdown, but gave up 230 rushing yards and 27 points. This was not a good performance by the guys in green.

This was a division game and the Eagles had a chance to show how they would respond to the loss to the Lions. Obviously this is not the answer anyone was looking for. Losing is one thing, but getting outplayed is very disappointing. 

A lot of the focus will be on the Eagles' offensive line. Halapoulivaati Vaitai started at right tackle in place of the suspended Lane Johnson. This was Vaitai's first NFL game and it showed. The rookie struggled with edge rusher Ryan Kerrigan, who is talented enough to give anyone fits. Dealing with a rookie starter on the line is tough by itself, but the issue was compounded as the overall line played its poorest game of the year.

I don't know what happened. Brandon Brooks was coming off his best game of the year. Allen Barbre has played well all year long. Jason Peters is Jason Peters. Jason Kelce had a solid game last week. Maybe the guys tried to do too much, knowing a rookie was in the lineup. You do have to give some credit to Washington. Their front seven played their best game of the year by far. The coaches will study the tape and try to figure out how they can correct the issues. The offensive line has been a pleasant surprise this season, but that wasn't the case on Sunday.

Some people saw Vaitai get beat for multiple sacks and assumed the coaches didn't help him out. That's not the case at all. Pederson and the offensive staff did what they could to help Vaitai. They kept tight ends in to help him block. They had running backs chip block. They even had a wide receiver chip block on one play. When Vaitai got some help, he was fine. The problem is that you can't help a guy all game long.

When on his own, Vaitai was shaky. He did get better as the game went along. No matter who you are, it takes time to adjust to the speed of the game. Vaitai was beaten to the inside several times. That is a major no-no. That gives the rusher the shortest, easiest route to the quarterback. It also takes away the quarterback's ability to step up in the pocket. You can bet the coaches will focus this week on securing the inside.

It would be very easy to get down on this team after a poor showing like Sunday, but I still feel good about them. The team got significantly outplayed, but still found a way to stay in the game right up until the end. That doesn't always happen. Pederson has talked about this being a resilient team. They never quit on Sunday. They kept grinding away and made plays here and there. Just think back to the Steelers game. The Eagles built a 20-3 lead in that game. Instead of letting Pittsburgh stick around, the Eagles took things up another notch and just overwhelmed them.

Pro football is a marathon sport, in terms of the season and individual games themselves. A team can start 4-0 and miss the playoffs. A team can start 1-5 and make the playoffs. The NFL judges you on what happens over the course of 16 games. As for games, they are 60 minutes. You can get off to a hot start and lose or a slow start and win. Tough teams don't get too up or down in a game or in the season. You try to stay focused and just keep grinding away. The Eagles did that on Sunday and it gave them a chance to tie late in a game where they shouldn't have been close.

This team has three wins by 14 or more points and two losses by a total of eight points. That tells me this team can be very good at times and even when they aren't, there is a toughness about them that will let them stay in games. You can win some ugly games that way. The Eagles have lost ugly games the last two weeks. They showed they can fall behind and come back to tie the game or even take a lead. The next step is for them to show they can win a game like that. The preference for Pederson, and all of us, is that the team starts playing better football and doesn't fall behind 14-0. That's just not a winning formula.

It was encouraging to see Carson Wentz dealing with the pressure of a road division game and a two-touchdown deficit and still doing whatever he could to keep the team in the game. He didn't turn the ball over, despite being under a lot of pressure. He got sacked and hit, but kept getting up, dusting himself off and then getting right back in the huddle. You could see that gunslinger side of him.

The Eagles were down 10 points with just under 10 minutes to go. Wentz led the offense down the field to the Washington 10-yard line. They actually got down to the 5-yard line, but a penalty on Brooks moved them back. On third down Wentz read the blitz and got the ball out quickly to Zach Ertz. The pass was high by a matter of inches, but should have been caught. Ertz didn't make the play. The kid did his part on that drive, but the veteran players let him down.

The beautiful part of all that is after the game it was Wentz taking the blame. He might be a rookie in many ways , but Wentz gets it. There are times when he seems to be 23 going on 35. He knows that taking blame for the play will make his teammates love him and play even harder for him. Key players on good teams take the blame. They don't point the finger, unless it is at the guy in the mirror.

The Eagles have a lot to fix from Sunday's game. The line has to figure out why they struggled so much with missed assignments as well as making poor blocks. Instead of helping the new guy out, they made life worse. The defense has to really study the tapes to figure out what went wrong. Why weren't defensive linemen getting better penetration? Why were some players n the wrong gaps? Why were missed tackles an issue?

There were some positives. Wentz hit Jordan Mathews for a gain of 54 yards. That's the longest play for Wentz so far and he made it look easy. Fellow rookie Wendell Smallwood returned a kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown. Malcolm Jenkins continued his strong season by picking off a pass and running it back 64 yards for a touchdown. Like Vaitai, rookie Jalen Mills struggled early, but got better as the game went along.

That said, there is no sugarcoating Sunday's loss. They can't undo that game. They just have to put it behind them and move on. There is an even tougher test this week with the undefeated Vikings coming to town. You can bet that Pederson and his players can't wait to get back on the field so they can get a shot at redemption.

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