When you lose because the team is young or banged up, it’s no fun. But it’s forgivable.
When you lose because your young, banged-up team plays dumb and is coached even dumber – well, those games make you lay awake in anger.
And Monday was a sleepless night in Philadelphia.
The Eagles 27-13 loss to Green Bay not only drowned another season of playoff hopes down the well of disappointment, it also marked one more game where lack of discipline and commonsense did this team in.
Start, of course, with the coach. The sins of Doug Pederson were many Monday night – from wasting his last challenge for a net two yards in the third quarter to quickly abandoning an effective running game.
In the end, the coach called 44 passing plays and just 14 runs. Remind you of anyone? Slap a push broom red mustache and 75 pounds on Pederson Monday night and you’d be looking at Andy Reid at his most perplexing.
The defining moment came with the Eagles down 14-10, but driving the ball at the start of the third quarter. Rookie Wendell Smallwood ripped off 22 yards in three straight carries with QB Carson Wentz playing under center. And then, suddenly, Pederson shifted to shotgun.
The offensive line, which had been pushing back the Packers on the run, couldn’t handle the pass rush. On first down, Wentz was clobbered by Julius Peppers. On second down, under pressure, he threw an interception into traffic. Fans at the stadium could have driven home right then – the game was over.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz seemed as baffled as Pederson most of the night, but at least his embarrassment came at the hands of future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers.
And the fogginess proved contagious to the players. Rip the officiating if you like (and there were bad calls), but the Eagles created their own mess through lack of discipline. Dorial Green-Beckham wiped out a 41-yard screen pass for blocking while the pass was in the air. That’s a high school mistake.
Brandon Graham had another drive-extending offsides call. Bennie Logan was the 12th man on the field during a punt. And Fletcher Cox took his third roughing-the-passer penalty of the season which, for the third time, led to an opposition TD.
Cox deserves extra attention on today’s roll call of sinners. For reasons that remain unclear, he went from having an All-Pro September to being a slug on the field in November. He’s got no sacks in the last six games. Monday night’s stat sheet credited him with just one half-tackle. This against a Green Bay team missing both its starting center and right guard.
Cox was considered a nucleus player when the Eagles extended him last off-season. He sure has not played like one.
And now, with the Eagles out of the playoff hunt, the rest of the season is devoted to seeing who deserves to be part of things in 2017. At least judging off the last few games, that list seems shockingly short.
- It’s tough to evaluate rookie Carson Wentz in a game where just three of the 10 men on the field with him were projected to be playing those positions at the season’s start. The kid made some great throws and a few foolish ones. He ran the ball the best we’ve seen him thus far. If I have one on-going concern, it’s his tendency to sail passes downfield.
- Cornerback Nolan Carroll took a hard shot to the head in the third quarter. He appeared wobbly, but stayed in. Both before and after that hit, however, Carroll played his worst game as an Eagle — as Rodgers picked on him and he missed tackles after completions. For what feels like the 84th straight year, the Eagles will enter the off-season looking for two new cornerbacks.
- Speaking of missed tackles, did you notice Jaylen Watkins deliberately shy away from Aaron Ripkowski as the Packers fullback bowled into the end zone to make it 24-13? Not what you want from a young safety. Brian Dawkins, who was in the stadium for Monday’s Hall of Fame ceremony, must have upchucked watching that.
- Give some credit to Allen Barbre, playing out of position at right tackle. On those few plays where the Eagles ran, he created holes. And he had the hit of the night, pancaking Clay Mathews on an early end-around.
- Saddest of all possible words: “There’s a flag back at the line of scrimmage.”
- Without Jordan Matthews (sprained ankle) and Nelson Agholor (tender psyche) the Eagles needed someone to step up at wide receiver. Green-Beckham did – at least on the first drive, when he had four catches. Then he seemed to disappear from the game plan until the fourth quarter. I’m not sure how to assess fault for that among Green-Beckham, Pederson and Wentz.
- The Eagles pass rush has disappeared after starting the season so strongly. Just six sacks in the last five games, and facing some porous offensive lines. Cox gets some blame, but more should go to defensive ends Vinny Curry and Connor Barwin. Too many highly paid players have become non-factors on the defensive line.
- Give a nod to Caleb Sturgis, who hit his fifth straight 50 yarder Monday night and has been excellent all season. And when I’m singling out the kicker for praise in a loss, it means I must have come to the end of the column.