Doug Pederson gave the Eagles T-shirts in the offseason that read “Everything Matters.” This was a response to an up-and-down, post-Super Bowl 2018, which ended in the team having to go on the road for the playoffs, where it lost to the Saints after beating the Bears.
Three games into the 2019 season, the T-shirts don’t seem to be helping.
The Eagles have seemed the more talented team in every game, yet they have one win, that coming after they stumbled their way to a 17-0 deficit. They have trailed by at least 10 points each time they’ve played, mostly because of turnovers, penalties, and other egregious mistakes, such as letting the Detroit Lions return a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in what turned out to be a three-point loss.
Injuries have been a big part of the struggles, but really, this is not a careful, meticulous, “Everything Matters” type of team.
“We need to do the little things better,” defensive end Derek Barnett said Sunday. Barnett hasn’t recorded a sack in 2019.
“If we just do the right things … we're standing here maybe 2-1 at least, or maybe 3-0,” Pederson said Monday, when asked about making personnel changes. He said injuries were “honestly … not what’s keeping us from winning these last two games.”
So, why aren’t they doing the right things?
“I talk a lot about ‘hold your focus.’ This game comes down to one-play-at-a-time mentality, and you have to be engaged on that play, maximum effort, maximum concentration,” Pederson said. “Sometimes when fatigue might set in or maybe you’re dealing with a nagging injury or something like that, it just draws from your attention.
“And when I say to the team that everything matters, everything matters, and it comes down to your attention to detail during the week, how we prepare, how the coaches prepare, the players, how they study, there are a lot of factors that can go into that. And then I tell the guys a lot, ‘Listen, when the play comes your way or when the ball comes your way, make that play. Make that play.’ That sounds easy, but obviously it's extremely hard when both sides are going a hundred miles an hour.”
It's unlikely there is another NFL team that has lost the last two weeks with a receiver dropping what likely would have been the game-winning touchdown pass inside the final two minutes. But that is what the Eagles have done, and now, off back-to-back NFC losses, they head to 3-0 Green Bay and Lambeau Field.
Pederson said Monday he was optimistic about getting wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (calf) back for Green Bay, and the team listed Jeffery as a partial participant in a hypothetical Monday practice. Jeffery did not practice last week. The Eagles added corner Ronald Darby (hamstring) to their injury list Sunday, and he would seem extremely unlikely to play against the Packers, though Pederson said he was awaiting the results of tests. The NFL Network said Darby’s MRI showed he would miss a few weeks.
When a reporter asks a coach how an inexperienced player fared in a particular situation, the answer often given is that “the game didn’t look too big” for the player in question. So far, the game does indeed look too big for the replacements the Eagles are playing at wide receiver for Jeffery and DeSean Jackson (abdomen), and at defensive tackle for Malik Jackson (foot), and Timmy Jernigan (also foot).
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, a second-round rookie, has played 130 offensive snaps the past two weeks and has caught two passes, for 14 yards. He showed up on the estimated injury report Monday with a heel problem that would have kept him from practicing, the Eagles said.
Nelson Agholor, making $9,387,000 in the final year of his rookie deal, has dropped critical passes in both games and he lost a fumble Sunday that led to a Detroit field goal. Mack Hollins has played 144 snaps in the last two games. He had a crucial final-seconds drop and two offensive pass interference penalties Sunday, and didn’t catch a pass in the final 21 minutes.
Hassan Ridgeway and Akeem Spence played opposite Fletcher Cox at defensive tackle and did nothing to make the Lions stop double-teaming Cox, who remains in a sort of preseasonish just-back-from-injury mode and labors to be effective even when he isn’t double-teamed.
Pederson did not want to belabor Sunday’s mistakes in his Monday presser, because he has to get ready for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. He said he wouldn’t even watch tape of the 27-24 loss to Detroit.
Asked if there were “teaching points” to be taken from the Eagles’ seven drops against Detroit, Pederson said: “Teaching points? Catch the ball.”
Not a great day for Dallas Goedert, who sat out the first half and probably should have just rested his ailing calf all day. The touchdown pass drop, everyone saw. He also gave up a sack to Christian Jones.
Zach Ertz, double-covered, didn’t catch a pass in the final 20 minutes of playing time.
The only penalties the Eagles took were the three offensive pass interference calls – which Doug Pederson on Monday said he agreed with – and the block-in-the-back on Malcolm Jenkins after Jenkins blocked the late field goal. No holding, no false starts, no encroachment, no defensive pass interference. They did a lot of things well, except for the part about catching and holding the ball.
Green Bay is 3-0 despite being outgained by its opponents (985 yards to 860) and converting just nine of 36 third downs. The Packers have intercepted four passes and Aaron Rodgers has not thrown a pick, in 93 pass attempts. They have racked up a dozen sacks and they are outscoring opponents 21-3 in the first quarter, so they play from ahead. Remember playing from ahead? That was fun.
The Eagles have run 33 more plays than their opponents, through three games. They’ve used those 33 extra snaps to compile all of 43 more yards than the opposition. (Yeah, they miss DeSean Jackson.)
Detroit’s J.D. McKissick went 44 yards with his only carry of the game, the first snap after Miles Sanders’ lost fumble in the second quarter. The other Lions rushed 27 times for 42 yards.
Matt Stafford threw to Kenny Golladay eight times Sunday, completing two passes, for 17 yards.
That you could lose on a day when Carson Wentz made two more tackles than Fletcher Cox?
On second thought, yeah, losing in that situation makes pretty good sense.
Aaron Rodgers was on an 11-0-1 streak at Lambeau Field, regular season and playoffs, until the Packers lost at home to Arizona last Dec. 2. Head coach Mike McCarthy was fired after the game. Green Bay, which then also lost to the Lions at Lambeau in Week 17, is 2-0 at home this season under new coach Matt LaFleur.
The Eagles’ running game was better against Detroit than it was in the first two outings, 30 carries for 127 yards, but just 26 for 94 if you subtract Carson’s Wentz’s 33 yards on four carries.
The Eagles have one of the league’s most highly regarded offensive lines, and the addition of running backs Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders was supposed to make this a solid point of strength. It isn’t, even if you disregard Sanders’ fumbling issues Sunday.
Sanders has 34 carries for 106 yards, Howard 25 for 99, Darren Sproles 11 for 51, after carrying nine times for 47 yards in the opener.
Fans would probably appreciate the run game rounding into form Thursday at Green Bay, since stopping the run is one thing the stingy Packers defense does not do well – opponents are gaining an average of 131 rushing yards, against a defense that has allowed just 35 points and one passing touchdown in three games.
The Eagles ran it really well on their first touchdown drive Sunday, using Halapoulivaati Vaitai as an extra tight end. They gained 28 yards on five runs, before Wentz took off for 19 yards, setting up Howard’s 1-yard touchdown run, on which he scored untouched.
But left tackle Jason Peters then left the game with what Doug Pederson described Monday as “a little nausea,” and four snaps later, replacement Andre Dillard suffered a right knee injury (though apparently he is OK for Green Bay). Vaitai had to play left tackle. Peters came back for the second half, but the Eagles never tried the same power package again.