De­spite losses, Pederson op­ti­mistic

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

There would be no Mir­a­cle of the Mead­ow­lands fin­ish. What fol­lowed was one of the most bru­tal and cursed late-game pos­ses­sions in the mod­ern his­tory of the Ea­gles.

PHILADEL­PHIA >> The last se­ries of the loss to the New York Giants Sun­day is the story of where the Ea­gles’ sea­son is go­ing.

For proof, let’s re­turn to MetLife Sta­dium, burst­ing with emo­tion af­ter Jor­dan Hicks made the con­tin­gent of vis­it­ing Ea­gles fans be­lieve in a come­back with a div­ing in­ter­cep­tion and re­turn to the 34-yard line of the Giants with 1:48 re­main­ing in a five­point game.

You couldn’t ask much more of your de­fense, yet there would be no Mir­a­cle of the Mead­ow­lands fin­ish. What fol­lowed was one of the most bru­tal and cursed lategame pos­ses­sions in the mod­ern his­tory of the Ea­gles.

On first down Wentz threw a 17-yard pass over the mid­dle to Nel­son Agholor. TV an­a­lyst Troy Aik­man ques­tioned the route as Agholor stepped in front of tight end Zach Ertz, who may have been the in­tended re­ceiver. Typ­i­cally, you don’t want re­ceivers that close to each other.

On the next set of downs, the Giants came with a blitz on first down and Wentz threw to­ward Agholor, who had sin­gle cov­er­age on the out­side. Agholor was un­aware of the blitz and that he was the hot read. He didn’t break off his route. In­com­plete.

On sec­ond down Wentz was pres­sured again. Some­how the Ea­gles didn’t an­tic­i­pate it. Wentz threw low for Dar­ren Spro­les. In­com­plete.

On third-and-10 from the 17, Wentz couldn’t get out of the way of a Giants jail­break. His screen pass wasn’t high enough to Spro­les and should have been in­ter­cepted by Ja­son Pierre-Paul. Wentz ap­pealed to ref­eree Billy Vi­novich af­ter get­ting rapped on the hel­met by a pass rusher. Vi­novich shook his head, no.

On fourth-and-10 from the 17, Vi­novich stopped play be­cause of a play-clock mal­func­tion. It was re­set to 10 sec­onds. Rather than rush the of­fense to snap in 10 sec­onds, Doug Pederson called his last time­out.

When the Ea­gles lined up, they had the right play called. The Giants brought pres­sure. Jor­dan Matthews got a step on his man run­ning a slot fade in an­tic­i­pa­tion of a throw to his left shoul­der in the end zone. Wentz threw out­side to the other shoul­der. Matthews barely got a paw on it.

Four passes, all in­com­plete, and at no time did the Ea­gles in­spire the kind of faith that they were go­ing to get into the end zone. It’s the sign of a team that’s lost four of its last five games, a team that’s blown op­por­tu­ni­ties to take care of busi­ness on late pos­ses­sions in each of those set­backs.

At his Mon­day post­mortem, Pederson said Matthews can look for the ball sooner and Wentz can give Matthews a bet­ter chance to make the play.

“I know in Car­son’s case, I don’t want to speak for him but I know af­ter the game he was very down about that last whole se­ries about some of the de­ci­sions and throws he made,” Pederson said. “He

makes that play in prac­tice 99 out of 100 times. Those two guys are on the same page with that par­tic­u­lar route. We’ve seen it. The Cleve­land game, the touch­down, it’s the same route and he makes that play. These are just things that we are con­tin­u­ing to work through. We’re ob­vi­ously headed in the right di­rec­tion and we’re go­ing to make more of those down the stretch.”

You have to ad­mire Pederson’s op­ti­mism. Matthews scored on the above play in the opener, some seven games ago. The Ea­gles (4-4) are headed south.

The Falcons and quar­ter­back Matt Ryan, who are 3-1 on the road and next on the Birds sched­ule, haven’t been gift-wrap­ping late game op­por­tu­ni­ties this sea­son. The Falcons (6-3) some­how are one-point un­der­dogs for the game at the Linc Sun­day.

“At the end of the day, it just comes down to, you know, as pro­fes­sional ath­letes, we just

make a play,” Pederson said. “Some­one just make a play. And that’s what we’ve got to find out, who is go­ing to be that guy? And, you know, as we build, and as we grow, those are things that we’ll fig­ure out and get bet­ter at.”

“As we build” is the op­er­a­tive phrase. Pederson might as well have said trust the process. He calls it build­ing but the Ea­gles are re­build­ing. The Giants are the eas­i­est foe left on the sched­ule.

“We’re ob­vi­ously build­ing some­thing here,” Pederson said. “But when you look at these games that we’ve been in at the end, the en­cour­ag­ing thing is that we re­ally should have won those games. The Detroit game, we had the lead. Dal­las, we had the lead. And then yes­ter­day, we had op­por­tu­ni­ties late in the game, to take the lead ... or win the foot­ball game. So, these are all things that, as we build this thing, we’re go­ing to win these games down the stretch as we go.”

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