Despite losses, Pederson optimistic
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.”