For­get about re­build­ing... Ped­er­son fac­ing a ‘must’ win

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - Bob Grotz Colum­nist

Two weeks ago, we couldn’t wait for Sam Brad­ford to set foot in the Linc.

The Ea­gles rolled into the bye with a 3-0 record that val­i­dated na­tion­ally scru­ti­nized de­ci­sions to move up and draft Car­son Wentz, and trade Brad­ford to the Vik­ings for a first round pick and change.

The Ea­gles sure looked like they had this fig­ured out from the be­gin­ning. And Brad­ford was one of their chief crit­ics. Play me or trade me? You just knew the TV types would flex the game. And you knew the Ea­gles were go­ing to open a can of whoop-you-know-what on Brad­ford.

Two losses later, the game still is at 1 o’clock and you couldn’t have picked a worse week­end for it.

Brad­ford and the Vik­ings are 5-0. They’re com­ing off their

bye. (And, psssst, think Sam knows the Ea­gles’ plays bet­ter than a lot of the young play­ers do. Wasn’t he Chase Daniel’s next-door neigh­bor?)

It’s a shame we can’t resched­ule this game for late De­cem­ber, when Ea­gles right of­fen­sive tackle Lane John­son re­turns from his sus­pen­sion. Maybe even a Tues­day night af­ter a snow­storm, like the last time the Ea­gles and Vik­ings played in Philly.

Amid all this noise, you don’t want to be Doug Ped­er­son this week.

It’s hard not to em­pathize with Coach Doug while he diplo­mat­i­cally tries to ex­plain what’s re­ally hap­pened to a crew of me­dia who be­lieve the stuff they tweet is true be­cause, you know, it was on Twit­ter.

How on earth could the Ea­gles’ de­fense give up 230 rush­ing yards to the Red­skins? Did you no­tice that Ben­nie Lo­gan got hurt, that Fletcher Cox was play­ing hurt and that the safeties were play­ing deeper than nor­mal be­cause the Ea­gles’ best cor­ner­back was scratched due to in­jury?

The Ea­gles won their first three games eas­ily with the of­fense rack­ing up points and first downs while not turn­ing the ball over. Con­trol­ling the clock not only kept the op­po­si­tion off the field, it kept the de­fense fresh, en­abling co­or­di­na­tor Jim Schwartz to play down­hill be­cause of fa­vor­able field po­si­tion. Only once in those first three games did the op­po­si­tion start in Ea­gles ter­ri­tory. And that was at the 48-yard line.

The Ea­gles led the league in time of pos­ses­sion en­ter­ing the bye. The Dal­las Cow­boys are the top dog in that cat­e­gory now.

In the loss to Wash­ing­ton the Philly de­fense couldn’t get off the field largely be­cause those above is­sues winded them. The de­fense was on the field for 67 plays. The Red­skins had to play de­fense on just 48 snaps.

Even when the Ea­gles got points in the first half the de­fense was right back out there as the touch­downs came on a kick­off re­turn by Wen­dell Small­wood and a pick-6 by Mal­colm Jenk­ins.

The Vik­ings are sixth in time of pos­ses­sion. Brad­ford was tear­ing it up be­fore the bye, as he’d com­pleted 70.4 per­cent of his passes with 6 touch­downs, no in­ter­cep­tions and a 109.8 passer rat­ing.

The Vik­ings also have is­sues on their of­fen­sive line as they’re play­ing not one but two backup tack­les.

Ped­er­son took a lot of heat for his de­ci­sion to start rookie Hal Vaitai, who was phys­i­cally shred­ded in his NFL de­but at right tackle against the Red­skins. Vaitai was bull­rushed into Wentz twice on the first se­ries.

Ped­er­son’s film re­view in­di­cated it wasn’t as bad as first thought — not the early-game fail­ures, but the game as a whole for Vaitai.

What was Ped­er­son sup­posed to say? That Big V had stage fright? That he thought of­fen­sive line coach Jeff Stout­land had Vaitai ready to play, but that didn’t turn out to be the case?

Was Ped­er­son sup­posed to say, “I just coach the guys that Howie Rose­man and his team give me, OK? You need to talk to them.”

The Ea­gles knew John­son was go­ing to be sus­pended. The only real ques­tion is why it took him eight hours to de­fend him­self in front of an ar­bi­tra­tor. Had John­son checked with the Ea­gles trainer, he wouldn’t have put that banned sub­stance in his body. But we di­gress.

Part of Ped­er­son’s job is to take the bul­lets just as his role model, Andy Reid, did back in the day.

What Ped­er­son has right now is a foot­ball team with a young, tal­ented quar­ter­back and not enough tal­ent im­me­di­ately around him to scare the op­po­si­tion. As poorly as the Ea­gles ex­e­cuted the past two weeks, amass­ing 27 penal­ties, Wentz had the ball and a chance to win or tie both of those games. The Ea­gles didn’t sud­denly be­come bad. They lost the last two games by a to­tal of 8 points.

Add those penal­ties to the in­abil­ity of the Ea­gles to win bat­tles on both sides of the line, partly due to in­jury, partly be­cause of tal­ent de­fi­ciency, fac­tor in the dif­fi­cult sched­ule and the doubt that’s crept into the coach­ing staff, and that Brad­ford guy com­ing to town and you’ve got a must-win, play­off-type game for Ped­er­son.

Stop with the ar­gu­ment that all along this was sup­posed to be a re­build­ing sea­son, and that’s what it’s be­come. This isn’t a re­build­ing year for Jenk­ins, Cox or Wentz.

Two weeks ago, the Ea­gles were on their way to the roundup.

All they need to get back in the race is a sig­na­ture win over Brad­ford.

To con­tact Bob Grotz, email bgrotz@21stcen­tu­ry­media.com; fol­low him on Twit­ter @bob­grotz

CHRIS SZAGOLA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Af­ter a sur­pris­ing 3-0 start gave the Ea­gles’ fan base rea­son to be­lieve in the new coach, Doug Ped­er­son has been left to ex­plain two con­sec­u­tive losses. And now old friend Sam Brad­ford and the un­beaten Vik­ings are com­ing to town.

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