After a disappointing overtime loss on the road last week to the Tennessee Titans, the Philadelphia Eagles could not find their mojo in a must-win game, losing 23-21 to the Minnesota Vikings.
Unlike last year’s NFC championship game, where the Eagles won going away, this time the Vikings had Philly’s number. Minnesota’s offense was able to drive the ball up and down the field, while the defense got immense pressure on Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.
The Eagles showed slight improvements from their performance last week against the Titans, but it was not enough to secure a win. Philadelphia is now on a two-game losing streak and has to get ready to play the New York Giants on Thursday night.
Here are three takeaways from the Eagles’ first home loss of this season:
1. Poor pass protection rears its ugly head
Since being named the starter last month, quarterback Carson Wentz has not been given great protected by his offensive line. In the last two games, including Sunday’s game against the Vikings, Wentz has been sacked 12 times and fumbled three times.
Against the Titans last Sunday, Wentz was under immense heat and turned the football over in the fourth quarter, thanks to a missed assignment by right tackle Lane Johnson.
Johnson was beat this time by Vikings defensive end Stephen Weatherly and it ended with Wentz losing the ball again. This time, however, the ball landed in the hands of defensive tackle Linval Joseph for a 63-yard fumble return touchdown.
Heading into Sunday’s contest, Philly’s offensive line had given up 14 sacks with an adjusted sack percentage of 7.7, according to Football Outsiders.
This might sound like a repeated point from last week. But if the Eagles’ offensive line does not improve in pass protection, then you will not have a healthy Wentz when the games really matter in November and December.
2. Self-inflicted mistakes
Along with Wentz’s fumble that led to a Vikings’ score, the Eagles had numerous self-inflicted mistakes throughout the game. The first mistake happened late in the second quarter as defensive end Michael Bennett was called for a questionable roughing the passer penalty.
That penalty gave the Vikings an extra 12 yards and put them closer towards the red zone. From there, quarterback Kirk Cousins capitalized off of the Eagles’ mistake and found wide receiver Adam Thielen in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
Then the second self-inflicted mistake happened early in the third quarter. On the Eagles’ first offensive drive of the game, running back Jay Ajayi fumbled the ball inside the red zone.
It was a momentum killer as it appeared that the Eagles were going to get back into the game.
However, Cousins once again capitalized off of Philly’s mistake and hit Thielen for a 68-yard pitch and catch. Cornerback Jalen Mills got beat on a double move, which was a constant theme throughout the game.
The Eagles through the first five weeks of this season have not looked like the team from last year’s Super Bowl run. Hopefully, that changes because if not, they will not be making a return to the postseason.
3. Wentz, Smallwood stand out as offensive MVPs
For all the bad that happened in this game, the Eagles still had an opportunity to win. The two reasons why they had a chance was because of Wentz and running back Wendell Smallwood.
Despite not having solid protection from the offensive line, Wentz still did everything in his power to try to get the Eagles a win. Just like he showed in his debut, the young signal made sure to use his legs to pick yards and extends plays.
Wentz picked up 15 rushing yards, while also completing 68 percent of his passes for 311 yards and two touchdowns. On the Eagles’ first touchdown drive of the game, he threw for 50 yards and found Smallwood for a 12-yard touchdown reception.
Through the early part of the season, Smallwood has made his presence felt not only in the running game but also as a receiver.
In Sunday’s game, the former West Virginia University product had six touches for 71 total yards. Until Corey Clement and Darren Sproles are fully healthy, the Eagles have to keep on giving Smallwood the ball and try to commit to the run game.