Ped­er­son’s lustrous start turns dull after sec­ond straight loss

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Bob Grotz bgrotz@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @BobGrotz on Twit­ter

PHILADEL­PHIA >> Doug Ped­er­son looked like he in­vented in-game ad­just­ments dur­ing a 3-0 start for his Ea­gles team.

Run game not work­ing? No wor­ries, we’ll deal with it at the half.

Op­po­nent won’t go away? We’ll crush them with our fourth-an­done plays.

Pass pro­tec­tion is­sues? No, but thanks for ask­ing.

De­fen­sive prob­lems? You’re kid­ding me, right?

Ev­ery­thing the Ea­gles’ head coach tried was gold. The third quar­ters were off the charts. The Ea­gles outscored the op­po­si­tion, 53-3, in those frames en­ter­ing their NFC East show­down Sun­day with the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins. Bill Belichick doesn’t do that kind of work.

This time, how­ever, the Ea­gles got off to their usual slug­gish start and the sec­ond quar­ter mor­phed into the third quar­ter, the fourth quar­ter and fi­nally a 27-20 loss to the Red­skins that touched off alarms.

Not only did the Ea­gles fail to ad­just, there was a strate­gic lapse by Ped­er­son. The mini-melt­down oc­curred when he called time in­stead of sim­ply punt­ing with 1:58 left, Car­son Wentz hav­ing been sacked on con­sec­u­tive plays leav­ing the Ea­gles in fourth-and-24 from their own 40-yard line.

Wentz and his team­mates wanted a shot at it. In hind­sight it would have been bet­ter if they ran a play. In­stead, Ped­er­son fi­nally took the time­out with 1:44 to go be­fore punt­ing and that’s the last time the Ea­gles had the ball, as the Red­skins ran out the clock. Not Coach’s finest mo­ment.

“I wanted to save the time,” said Ped­er­son, who fig­ured he’d get the ball back with a chance to score with 49 sec­onds left. “We had dis­cussed it prior to the play.”

It was a day of mis­takes for Ped­er­son and his play­ers, who com­mit­ted 13 penal­ties for 114 yards, a chunk of them costly.

For starters, Ea­gles rookie Halapouli­vaati Vaitai doesn’t look like he should be the starter at right tackle with Lane John­son sus­pended for nine more games. Vaitai can’t de­fend a bull-rush. Ryan Ker­ri­gan drove Big V into Car­son Wentz for a cou­ple of sav­age first-half sacks.

Wentz was look­ing over his shoul­der most of the day be­cause of the pass rush, of­fen­sive play­ers con­firmed. That was partly why there was no rhythm of­fen­sively much of the day, the Red­skins fin­ish­ing with five sacks.

Ped­er­son said noth­ing to sug­gest Vaitai’s on the job

learn­ing would end.

“He’s a war­rior,” Ped­er­son said. “We felt like he set­tled into the game as the game wore on. We were help­ing him as the game wore on, as well.”

Stick with Vaitai? Not a great idea. The Ea­gles take on the best de­fense in foot­ball next week in the Min­nesota Vik­ings.

The help the Ea­gles gave Vaitai in the form of chip blocks by backs and tight ends hurt al­most as much as it helped, for it im­pacted pass routes. It’s time to re­think mov­ing Allen Bar­bre to right tackle and plug­ging some­one else into his left guard spot.

If there was good news, it was that Wentz played just three plays in the sec­ond quar­ter, be­cause we can­not in good con­scious count his first-half killing kneel-down as a real play. That kept the rookie passer whole long enough to at least take a look at what went wrong in the first two quar­ters dur­ing the in­ter­mis­sion.

Wentz com­pleted 3-of-8 passes for 28 yards with three sacks in a first half where the Ea­gles were out­gained, 285-41, in to­tal yardage.

The Ea­gles trailed by only 21-14 be­cause Wen­dell Small­wood took a kick­off to the house and Mal­colm Jenk­ins went 64 yards with a pick-six.

It didn’t help when Wentz was un­able to get on the field for the first 6:20 of the sec­ond half,

Kirk Cousins and the Red­skins march­ing down the field for a field goal that put them up 24-14. The Skins al­ways seemed to be a field goal ahead of the Birds.

“I think it was just tough for us to get in the groove to­day,” Wentz said. “It didn’t feel like we were in sync very well, es­pe­cially in the first half. The flow of the game was weird, We had the three straight de­fen­sive drives with the kick re­turn and the pick-six. We never re­ally got into a rhythm of­fen­sively.”

De­fen­sively the Ea­gles rarely got off the field. The Red­skins rolled up 439 yards and 67 plays to 239 yards and 48 plays for the Birds. Run­ning back Matt Jones gashed them for 135 yards and a TD.

“We didn’t fix the mis­takes in the sec­ond half,” Jenk­ins said. “They still ran the ball. We tried to pres­sure them. We couldn’t cover early. When we played zone we couldn’t get a rush on him.”

The Ea­gles didn’t get a three-and-out on de­fense un­til the fourth quar­ter. By then it ba­si­cally was over ex­cept for the math.

“We didn’t de­serve this one,” Jenk­ins said. “It gets no eas­ier go­ing for­ward. At some point we have look at this film crit­i­cally, stop the bleed­ing in those ar­eas and get back to the next op­por­tu­nity.

“Every­body is kind of tak­ing turns blow­ing their as­sign­ment or get­ting beat, or tak­ing penal­ties.”

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