This newspaper cannot give me enough space to recite every mistake made by the Eagles on Sunday afternoon. They’d had to publish a special section.
So I’ll list just a fraction of the blunders leading to a 23-21 loss to the Vikings at The Linc:
Jay Ajayi fumbling at the Minnesota five-yard line. Nelson Agholor getting called – twice – for pre-snap formation penalties. Wendell Smallwood dropping a potential second-quarter touchdown pass at the Vikings’ three-yard-line.
I’m just getting started. With all due respect to the purple-and-gold, they didn’t maraud into South Philly Sunday and exact revenge for January’s NFC title game. Instead, the Eagles rolled out the footballs and then tripped over them for three hours. Death by a thousand self-inflicted paper cuts.
And not for the first time, of course. The hallmark of this season is that the team that looked so smart during its run to the Super Bowl now plays inefficient, boneheaded, flag-riddled football. You’ve seen it in all five games.
Lane Johnson moving the wrong way on a fake blitz, leading to a strip-sack of Carson Wentz. Jordan Matthews running out of bounds and cutting short a play when the two-minute warning would have stopped the clock anyway. Jalen Mills biting on every stop-and-go.
Ahh, Jalen Mills. No player epitomizes the Birds’ current ineptitude like the neon-haired cornerback, who combines incompetence with an obnoxiousness that dares the refs to throw a flag for taunting.
Mills’ moment of glory came in the third quarter after – and stop me if you’ve heard this before – Adam Thielen beat him on a double move for 68 yards. Two plays later, Mills actually defended a pass, spurring him to start yapping in Thielen’s facemask.
Fletcher Cox sensed Mills’ stupidity was about to earn a penalty. So he shoved his teammate towards the Eagles sideline. Rather than listen to wisdom, Mills shoved back and jawed some more. And continued barking on the sidelines, even as team leader Chris Long explained why ranting like an over-hungry three-year-old wasn’t helping the cause.
It was a bad look for the team on national TV.
Jason Peters’ pre-snap jump. Smallwood’s failure to pick up an obvious pass rusher. Coach Doug Pederson’s red-flag challenge of a fourth-quarter Vikings reception that was so clearly inbounds.
The coaching staff warrants the most scrutiny. The worse Mills plays, the more fervently defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz insists on starting him. And Pederson said after Sunday’s loss he’s baffled by his offense’s slow starts – one first-quarter touchdown in five games. I’d suggest he examine his own pass-happy play calling.
The good news is the Eagles play in the NFL’s weakest division, where a 2-3 start doesn’t foretell doom. They have all six division games to play. Of course, winning the NFC East at 9-7 means they go on the road for the playoffs. We all remember how huge that home-field advantage was last winter.
Forget playoff talk for now. The Eagles play again on Thursday night, busing to the Meadowlands to challenge Eli Manning and the Giants. Normally, that’s a great cure-all (the Eagles have won 16 of the last 20 matchups), but currently, the only team they’re consistently beating is themselves.
“These things need to get fixed,” Pederson said Monday morning on Angelo Cataldi’s WIP radio show. “It’s like a glaring pimple on the end of your nose. . . It has to get eliminated.”
A look in the mirror, distasteful as it may be, is the best way to start.