For the second time in three weeks, the Eagles' offensive line had plenty of blame to go around.
The group surrendered three sacks in Sunday’s 23-23 tie against the Cincinnati Bengals, with two squarely on the shoulders of veteran left tackle Jason Peters. Lane Johnson had a false start early in the overtime period and left guard Nate Herbig had a holding penalty that killed the drive two plays later. The cherry on top was Matt Pryor’s false start just before Jake Elliott got a chance at a game-winning 59-yard field goal.
The offensive front appeared to be stabilizing from the eight-sack nightmare in the season opener after holding the Rams' defensive front in check last week. At home on Sunday, the sacks, combined with penalties, cost the Eagles on several occasions.
Peters, 38, surrendered two sacks to Bengals defensive end Carl Lawson, who forced a Carson Wentz fumble recovered by Jason Kelce in the second quarter. Lawson got to Wentz a third time, but it was nullified by a penalty.
Johnson gave up a sack, too, although it could be attributed to good coverage by the Bengals secondary more than Cincinnati defensive end Sam Hubbard’s beating Johnson.
Pryor’s mental mistake was the most costly. The field goal unit was lined up for a 59-yard try with 19 seconds left in the overtime period when Pryor jumped for a false start. The penalty meant the attempt would be from 64 yards, but coach Doug Pederson elected to punt instead.
“I told [the players] in the locker room after the game that we weren’t a very smart football team today,” Pederson said. “Eleven penalties, came at crucial times. ... We’re just not a smart football team right now, and that’s on me.”
On the drive before Pryor’s costly mistake, Herbig had one of his own. Herbig, who moved from right guard to left guard because of an injury to Isaac Seumalo last Sunday, was called for a holding penalty that took the Eagles from the Cincinnati 42 to their own 42 on a second down. It’s worth noting Peters allowed pressure, but Herbig’s hold on Bengals defensive tackle D.J. Reader was the drive-killer.
The Eagles responded with two incompletions and had to punt instead of having a chance at a field goal.
“It’s frustrating when you have a chance to kick the field goal and even with our drives offensively, a couple times we felt like we were in field goal range and we had plays and then we had penalties and things just kept backing us up,” Wentz said. “The fight was there, the effort was there from guys, we just have to be smarter and play cleaner. I have to be better as well. It was a frustrating way to end the game, for sure.”
Pryor was making his first start this season because Seumalo’s injury required Herbig to move to left guard. Through three games, the Eagles have started three different versions of their offensive line.
“It’s definitely always difficult, it’s always a challenge,” Wentz said. “In a week it’s one thing, in a game, it’s even tougher. But none of those things are excuses. Guys prepare and guys are ready to go, that’s why we’re all here.”