After prepping for Sunday’s game against the Redskins by losing to Miami (2-9) and needing overtime to get past the New York Giants (2-10), one would think that motivation or focus wouldn’t have been a problem against Washington (3-10). But one would have been mistaken.
The Eagles again came out without a great deal of passion or urgency and trailed the Redskins 14-10 at the half, and found themselves behind in the final minutes after failing to protect a fourth-quarter lead.
Tackles were missed, assignments went awry, there were too many penalties, and it was simply a game, particularly in the first half, in which they seemed to be a quart low on motivation.
Forget the any-given-Sunday clichés, the Eagles know better than any team that every opponent is dangerous when they play poorly. So, how to explain appearing to take the Redskins lightly?
The only explanation that makes sense is that they knew the game probably didn’t matter one way or the other. With the showdown against Dallas coming next Sunday, which, barring something weird, is the game that will determine the division championship, all these tune-ups are likely meaningless. Armed with that knowledge, it was hard to them to impart meaning. At least, that’s the best excuse you can give them.
Sure, they were playing the game without knowing how the Cowboys would fare on Sunday against the Rams, and that should have added some juice, but it certainly didn’t add much.
Almost less worrisome than the physical failings is what all that says about the team’s mental makeup. Coming in with a losing record and figuring they are good enough to flip a switch once the “meaningful” games arrive is not a recipe for success.
Assuming he is reasonably healthy – and nothing on an injury report has suggested otherwise – the inconsistency of Carson Wentz this season is baffling.
He can alternately deliver great passes and very poor ones, sometimes on consecutive plays. Against the Redskins, he was often off-target, either throwing behind receivers, or over the wrong shoulder, or at someone’s feet. Then, as he did on the third-quarter touchdown pass to Miles Sanders – a laser that threaded between two Washington defenders before finding Sanders in the corner of the end zone – Wentz can deliver a pass of incredible precision.
This is not an opinion backed up by analytics, or breaking down every game situation, but the eyeball test concludes that Wentz does some of his best work on the run, or when moved out of the pocket either by design or necessity. That was the case with the touchdown to Sanders.
If Wentz is better as an improviser than a pocket passer going steadily through his reads, that probably means a couple of things might be in play. The first is that Wentz, known as a studious quarterback, is capable of over-thinking things (and taking too long to make a decision) when he is in the pocket. The second is that the coaching staff has done a poor job of creating an offense to take advantage of his strengths.
Obviously, Wentz has an injury history that would make one think twice about devising a scheme that puts him more at risk, but the quarterback gets crushed regularly in the pocket, so it’s also a matter of where the greatest risk is found.