Way too early in promising sesaon to spread panic
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.
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.