Five reasons the Eagles lost to Washington
The Eagles led by 17-0 and had the ball two minutes before halftime. What turned the game into a bad loss?
For the first time in the Doug Pederson era, the Eagles lost a season opener, blowing a 17-0 first-half lead, giving up eight sacks and turning the ball over three times in a stunning 27-17 loss.
What were the top five reasons for the collapse? Glad you asked:
The offensive line
The Eagles gave up eight sacks to Washington. That’s the most they’ve given up in a game in 13 years.
You have to go back to Sept. 30, 2007, when the Giants sacked Donovan McNabb 12 times in a 16-3 loss, to find a game in which an Eagles quarterback was sacked more. That was the game in which Osi Umenyiora turned Eagles left tackle Winston Justice into a turnstile, notching six of those 12 sacks.
You knew there were going to be problems Sunday. Washington’s line is its defensive strength. The Eagles' offensive line is a mess because of injuries. They started fourth-round rookie Jack Driscoll at right tackle and Nate Herbig and his three career snaps at right guard.
Driscoll and Herbig struggled, but there was plenty of blame to go around. Left guard Isaac Seumalo and running back Corey Clement failed to keep Ryan Kerrigan off Wentz on a fourth-quarter sack. Blitzers came through completely unblocked on a couple. Wentz should’ve gotten rid of the ball and didn’t on a few of the sacks.
The line also struggled in the run game. The Eagles averaged just 3.4 yards per carry overall and 2.1 on first down. Boston Scott had 35 yards on nine carries, but 13 of them came on a third-and-15 run when Washington was focused on not giving up a first down.
Even with pass rushers in his lap, Wentz played like an MVP candidate for much of the first half, completing 14 of his first 18 passes, including touchdown tosses to tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. He connected with rookie wide receiver Jalen Reagor on a picture-perfect 55-yard bomb.
But late in the first half, things started to go south for him. He threw behind Reagor on an out route, which allowed Washington cornerback Fabian Moreau to step up and pick it off. Washington turned the pick into a momentum-shifting touchdown.
Wentz completed just 10 of his last 24 passes and turned the ball over three times in the game’s final 32 minutes. He threw another interception early in the third quarter when he telegraphed a pass to his other rookie wideout, John Hightower. Washington cornerback Jimmy Moreland jumped the route and returned the interception to the Eagles' 20.
Wentz took a bad third-and-7 sack in the third quarter that turned what should have been, at worst, a very makeable 40-yard field goal try for Jake Elliott into a 53-yarder that came up a yard short.
Late in the third quarter, with the ball in Washington territory, Wentz threw behind an open Reagor on a second-and-4 pass and overthrew an open Greg Ward on a third-and-4 pass before getting sacked by unblocked linebacker Jon Bostic on fourth down.
Washington’s very favorable field position
None of Washington’s first six drives started beyond its own 27-yard line. Its average drive start on those six possessions was its own 23.8-yard line.
But six of its last nine possessions started on the Eagles' side of the 50. Washington scored on five of those six short fields.
In five games last year, Eagles opponents had four or more drives that started beyond their own 40. The Eagles lost all five of those games (to the Lions, Vikings, Cowboys, Patriots and Seahawks).
Wentz’s three turnovers — two interceptions and a lost fumble — were a big contributor to Washington’s favorable field position. Washington started at the Eagles' 45 and 20 after his two picks, and at the Eagles' 16 after his late-fourth-quarter fumble.
Then there were the Eagles' two unsuccessful fourth-down tries. They went for it on a fourth-and-4 at the Washington 45 late in the third quarter, and went for it again on a fourth-and-3 at their own 42 with 4½ minutes left and Washington ahead by seven.
The fourth-and-4 was the Bostic sack. He came on a delayed blitz up the middle, and there was no one to pick him up because running back Boston Scott had flared out to the left.
On the fourth-and-3 play, Ertz dropped a very catchable pass over the middle that would have given the Eagles a first down. Instead, Washington turned it into a Dustin Hopkins field goal that made it a two-score game.
FYI, the Eagles finished 29th in fourth-down success rate last season (33.3%) after finishing 10th in 2018 (60.9%) and third in 2017 (65.4%).
Logan freaking Thomas
Wide receiver Terry McLaurin was the Washington offensive player who most concerned Jim Schwartz heading into this game. Last year, McLaurin gutted the Eagles' secondary for 255 receiving yards and two touchdowns in their two meetings. He’s a big reason the Eagles traded for Darius Slay.
Slay did a solid job on McLaurin on Sunday, holding him to five catches for 61 yards.
The guy who ended up doing the most damage to Schwartz’s defense was tight end Logan Thomas. Thomas finished with just four catches for 37 yards, but one of those receptions was a momentum-shifting 6-yard touchdown pass from Dwayne Haskins late in the first half.
He also beat linebacker T.J. Edwards for a 19-yard completion late in the third quarter that set up a game-tying field goal by Hopkins.
Thomas’ touchdown catch was the result of a screwup by the Eagles' defense. They left him completely uncovered in the end zone. Safety Jalen Mills, who may or may not have been responsible for Thomas, came up and covered running back J.D. McKissic, who flared out to the left. Thomas ran straight into the end zone, and no one bothered to pick him up.
Second-half trouble on first down
First down wasn’t the Eagles' strength last year. They finished 15th in the league in average gain on first down (5.56) and finished tied for 21st in first-down rush average (4.0).
On Sunday, they battered Washington on first down in the first half, averaging 7.1 yards per first-down play. Wentz was 6-for-8 for 86 yards on first down. Both his touchdown passes came on first-down plays.
But the second half was a different story. The Eagles averaged just 3.7 yards per first-down play. Wentz completed just 6 of 12 first-down passes in the last 32 minutes of the game. Both of his interceptions were on first-down plays.
The Eagles' first-down woes created third-down problems. They converted 4 of 8 third-down opportunities in the first half. In the second half, they were 1 for 6. Their only third-down conversion came on Wentz’s bull rush on a third-and-2.
Without Miles Sanders, the Eagles averaged just 2.1 yards per carry on first down. Just three of their nine first-down rushing attempts gained more than three yards.