The Philadelphia Eagles’ 2020 season couldn’t have started on much more of a sour note.
A team with divisional title and postseason aspirations blew a 17-0 lead to lose its opener — and to an opponent many expected to win between two and four games this season in the Washington Football Team.
With a three-possession advantage against a defensive line that was dominating the trenches, the Eagles gave Washington every opportunity to get back in the game — sending out a frazzled Wentz to throw a pair of game-changing interceptions that turned the tide on Sunday afternoon.
Talk about being put in a position to fail.
Wentz went started his day completing 12-of-15 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns in what looked like a cakewalk for the defending NFC East champions.
But head coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Mike Groh kept calling for pass plays rather than eat up clock, keep it moving, and see Washington out.
It allowed Washington to dial up its pass rush as the playcalling came too predictable, and Wentz completed just 12 of his last 27 passes for 94 yards.
Those 27 attempts are far too much for a quarterback whose team is up 17 points.
Meanwhile, the running game was a non-factor, as Pederson called upon his backs just 17 times compared to Wentz’s 42 pass attempts.
Yet the Eagles head coach said things in the backfield had to shape up.
“We didn’t do our best in the run game. That’s an area we have to clean up and make the necessary corrections. Listen, I don’t necessarily know in-game if we are throwing or running. I just know that we are going to execute the play called and do our best to try to score.”
With Miles Sanders unavailable due to injury, there seemed to be little confidence with the backs the Eagles had left. However, Boston Scott averaged nearly four yards per carry on his nine rushing attempts. Surely that’s a good enough trend to keep feeding him while trying to put Washington away.
Maybe it’s the playcalling that needs to be better.
Wentz provided Washington with life inside the final two minutes of the first half when he was picked off by Fabian Moreau. The hosts followed it up with a touchdown just 57 seconds later.
In their second possession of the third quarter, after forcing a quick Washington three-and-out, a risky quick hook was nabbed by Jimmy Moreland. Just over two minutes later, the Eagles’ lead was down to three and the collapse was on.
Pederson kept calling pass plays and Washington kept putting up sacks — eight of them on the day, as Wentz was left running for his life throughout the afternoon.
Any semblance of a running game helps neutralize that, or at least keep the opposing defense honest.
Pederson and Groh’s inability to identify that — even with a lackluster group of backs — is one of the major reasons why the Eagles are 0-1.