The message Doug Pederson wanted to impart, he said, was that the Eagles aren’t as far away from being a really good team as their 38-20 debacle of a loss Sunday in Minnesota might have indicated, and that he has confidence and faith in his 3-3 team’s ability to bounce back this week at Dallas.
That message might have gotten drowned out by the reaction to the words Pederson chose during his weekly Monday morning radio appearance on 94WIP, Pederson saying: “We’re going down to Dallas and our guys are gonna be ready to play. We’re gonna win that football game and when we do, we’re in first place in the NFC East.”
This was interpreted as Pederson guaranteeing a victory this coming Sunday night, in a showdown between two bitter rivals who entered the season viewed as top NFC contenders, and are now struggling.
“I also said that on the outside, people really think the sky is falling and everything is just crumbling,” Pederson said during his weekly Monday noon news conference. “We’re tied for first place in the NFC East. We have a great opportunity against a great football team on Sunday night to attempt to win a football game. … You put the tape [of the Minnesota loss] on this morning and you watch it, and we’re just missing on a couple little detail things. … There’s enough good, positive that came out of this game, from that standpoint, to continue to get better. We’re going to continue to improve.”
Later in his news conference, Pederson reiterated: “When I say we’re close, we’re close, in a lot of areas. We’re playing some young guys in some spots. They’re getting better every week, and we’re going to continue to work, and we’re going to get better.”
Pederson said the Cowboys, who started out 3-0 but lost their third in a row Sunday at the Jets, are “reeling like we are. They’re going to come out and play hard. They always have; they beat us twice last year. We’ve got a lot of things stacked against us going down there.
“But as the head football coach, I’m going to stand here and show confidence in our football team, because that’s what I have.”
Asked specifically if he felt he had guaranteed a victory, Pederson said: “Never said that. I never said ‘guarantee a win.’ I’d never do that.”
Pressed for further explanation of why he said “we’re gonna win that football game,” Pederson said: “I’m not going to stand up here, or go on record as saying, ‘We’re going to go down there and TRY to win a game.’ … It just doesn’t show confidence. I want to show confidence in our players.
“I promise you [Cowboys coach] Jason Garrett is going to say the same thing with his team, that they are going to win the football game, as well,” Pederson said.
Saying that to your team and saying it on the radio are quite different, as Pederson knows.
Dallas was missing both its starting offensive tackles, Tyron Smith (high ankle sprain) and La’el Collins (knee) in its loss at the Jets. Wideout Amari Cooper left the game very early with a quad strain, and starting corners Anthony Brown and Byron Jones left with hamstring problems. Who can get healthy by Sunday night will be a big issue for both teams.
One of Carson Wentz’s best moments Sunday was his fourth-and-15 conversion on a pass to Zach Ertz, in the fourth quarter. It was made moot when Ertz lost a fumble on the next play.
Brandon Graham’s sack of Kirk Cousins, the Eagles’ only sack of the day, came with Graham rushing from the inside, as has been the case on all four of his sacks this season. It forced the Vikings’ first punt, after they scored on their first four possessions. Graham beat left guard Pat Elflein. Overall, the Eagles’ pass-rush pressure was underwhelming, a week after the 10-sack jubilee against the Jets.
One thing leads to another: Nelson Agholor seemed to be pushed down by Trae Waynes on a second-quarter deep ball but did not get a pass interference call. Dallas Goedert dropped the ensuing third-and-2 pass. The Eagles went for it on fourth-and-2, and Alshon Jeffery couldn’t make a catch. The Vikings took over and immediately scored on a 51-yard strike to Stefon Diggs, giving them a 24-3 lead.
After the Eagles got back to within 24-20 with 6 minutes and 19 seconds remaining in the third quarter, it took Minnesota just nine plays to drive 75 yards for an 11-yard Diggs touchdown that made it a two-score game for good. The Vikings never faced a third down in the series, Cousins going 6-for-6 for 56 yards. The next Eagles series featured the third-and-4 that turned into third-and-9 by a delay-of-game penalty, followed by a sack of Wentz because Jordan Howard got confused in blitz pickup.
Pederson said that given the defense’s inability to stop the opposition from scoring on its first possession (five scores in six games) he will reconsider his practice of deferring to the second half if he wins the opening coin toss. “I think it might behoove us to make a change and then take the ball,” he said. “Put our offense out there and try to generate points early in the game and not fall behind. I think that’s all part of trying to start fast.”
That having only one receiver on your roster qualify for the NFL’s top 50 in catch percentage (Alshon Jeffery, 49th, 24 catches, 36 targets) six games into the season could turn out to be an offensive impediment?
In his last 109 snaps, over three games, Mack Hollins has one catch, for 13 yards. Drafted at least partly for his special teams value, he no longer plays special teams, because he gets so much work in the offense.
Andre Dillard’s 47 snaps in relief of Jason Peters Sunday could have been better, as Dillard acknowledged afterward.
Dillard gave up his first NFL sack, to Danielle Hunter, in the fourth quarter. Pro Football Focus had Dillard down for nine of the 17 pressures it felt Carson Wentz faced. Nine was the most accrued by anyone in Week 6.
This was a really tough situation, on the road against a pair of elite D-ends, Hunter and Everson Griffen. The Eagles’ first-round rookie left tackle was thrown into the action abruptly.
“There were times where Andre looked really good, and then there were times when he got a little off-balance,” Doug Pederson said Monday. “We have to do some technique work with him still. … Just a young player in that atmosphere, but I thought overall he did some really good things.”
Pederson indicated that Peters, 37, who left with a knee injury after playing 18 snaps, and linebacker Nigel Bradham (ankle) were “a little more day to day” than some of the more seriously injured Eagles. He spoke of sending results of tests off for second opinions.
“We’ll have to see where Jason is at later in the week, but Andre will be fully prepared, fully ready to go if we have to go that route,” Pederson said. Dillard gets some first-team practice reps every week.