Pederson’s lustrous start turns dull after second straight loss
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.”