Way too early in promis­ing sesaon to spread panic

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - Jack McCaf­fery Colum­nist

PHILADEL­PHIA >> The Ea­gles won three games and al­most ev­ery in­di­vid­ual, player-of-the-week, player-of-the­month, player-ofthe-mo­ment prize.

The Ea­gles lost two games and most of their fans’ con­fi­dence, their swag­ger and their com­mand of the NFC East.

They’ve been de­clared spe­cial, even, on one level, by de­cree of the pres­i­dent.

They’ve been de­clared de­cay­ing, and given their last two games, with rea­son. So … what are they? “We have some things,” Doug Ped­er­son said, “that we have to clean up.”

It could be that sim­ple, even amid the panic, even amid the up­roar, even amid the usual. It could that the Ea­gles just lost two road games, each time with the ball, late in the fourth quar-

ter, within a touch­down or closer. It could be that they were a lit­tle over-val­ued after their 3-0 start and a lot un­der-ap­pre­ci­ated dur­ing their 0-2 slide.

And it could be that they are ex­actly what their W-to-L ra­tio re­veals: A team with a .600 win­ning per­cent­age.

Some­thing wrong with that?

“I was 1-5 a year ago and went on a 10-straight deal,” Ped­er­son said Sun­day, after a 27-20 loss in Wash­ing­ton, of his sit­u­a­tion last sea­son as the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in Kansas City. “I’ve seen it on both ends. It is my job to make sure these guys are ready to go men­tally and phys­i­cally, so we can be ready for the next week­end.

“Short-term mem­ory. You watch the tape and make the nec­es­sary cor­rec­tions and move on from it.”

Ped­er­son watched the tape and de­cided Mon­day it wasn’t nec­es­sary to change his right tackle, even though rookie Halapouli­vaati Vaitai was abused by the Red­skins in his first start as the re­place­ment for the sus­pended Lane John­son. That’s his choice. If that’s what he thought he saw on film, that Vaitai wasn’t as hor­ri­fy­ing as it seemed, then he was right to draw that con­clu­sion, even if it will be un­pop­u­lar. He was right to make it be­cause un­like so many oth­ers, a head coach can’t re­act only to the last 10 sec­onds of high­lights.

Car­son Wentz was un­der pres­sure for most of the game Sun­day. Vaitai was the ma­jor rea­son. But if Ped­er­son’s feel is ac­cu­rate, Vaitai will be bet­ter and so will Wentz when the Min­nesota Vik­ings visit this week­end for the Birds’ first Linc game in 28 days. Though the Vik­ings are un­beaten and will be bounc­ing out of their bye week, they are only slight fa­vorites. That is an early hint that the panic about the Birds is not univer­sal.

There are prob­lems, which is why Ped­er­son has promised a cleanup. The of­fen­sive line has to set­tle after the loss of John­son. The wide-nine de­fense, which didn’t work the first time it was dragged across Pat­ti­son Ave., needs the at­ten­tion of Jim Schwartz. Ped­er­son must set­tle on a fea­ture run­ning back. Zach Ertz has to pro­duce, although there has been enough info leak­ing since Sun­day that the sun was in his eyes as he dropped a pass in FedEx Field.

And Wentz, too, has to re­cover from the Red­skins’ at­tack, to trust his re­ceivers, his arm, his coach and his legs, avoid­ing sacks.

“I’ve got to get the ball out,” the quar­ter­back said. “I’ve got to get the ball out. I can’t take those sacks. That’s def­i­nitely on me.

“We will go back and watch the tape, but I don’t think by any means we are do­ing too much. I think we have a lot of smart guys that are on the same page with what we are do­ing. We just have to get out there and start ex­e­cut­ing.”

They ex­e­cuted against the Steel­ers, win­ning eas­ily. They ex­e­cuted in Chicago, win­ning on the road on a Mon­day night. They can ex­e­cute again. That’s not the tune of the week, though. That one says the Birds’ 3-0 start was a tease, a mi­rage.

Maybe the Ea­gles will not com­man­deer all the awards. Maybe they are less than wor­thy of a White House shout-out. Maybe they are not 31 points bet­ter than Pitts­burgh.

But they have had a full train­ing camp, four pre­sea­son games, five reg­u­lar-sea­son games and six weeks to show that they have the abil­ity to suc­ceed. That’s some­thing that shoudn’t be lost to a short-term mem­ory.

NICK WASS — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ea­gles quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz (11) got this throw away be­fore tak­ing a sack Sun­day, but was taken down on far too many other plays for the Birds to suc­ceed. Mon­day he took a lot of that blame, and is con­fi­dent things will be dif­fer­ent Sun­day against Min­nesota.

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