Good morning, Eagles fans, and I’m sorry your Thanksgiving week had to start off with that soul-crushing, 17-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Those fictional West Coast birds are now 9-2, as the Philly ones fell below .500 to 5-6. Just about the only thing the Eagles have to be thankful for on the field this week is their defense, which once again excelled while the offense did next to nothing. The game included five turnovers, dozens of awful passes from Carson Wentz, a depleted offensive line, and Greg Ward, who suddenly went from practice-squad player to the Eagles’ most productive wide receiver. It also had one of the saddest renditions of “Fly, Eagles Fly” I’ve ever heard. Speaking of flying, the Eagles head to Miami next weekend to take on the 2-9 Dolphins, who fell to the Browns yesterday.
— Erin McCarthy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Somehow this banged-up, offensively-lackluster squad is still just one game behind its divisional rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, who lost to the New England Patriots, 13-9, yesterday. Don’t bet on a playoff spot just yet. Given how the Eagles’ offense has performed in recent games, it’s hard to imagine them winning five straight games, regardless of opponent.
But, if everything goes right for them over the next three weeks (read: if their offense starts working and/or every injured player comes back better than he was pre-injury), the home matchup against Dallas three days before Christmas could actually mean something. I know, this is almost as hard to believe as the fact that the Eagles lost by only eight points yesterday.
Aside from the Eagles, the Cowboys still have the 8-3 Bills, the 5-6 Bears, the 6-4 Rams, and the 2-9 Redskins on their schedule. While the Eagles have the 2-9 Dolphins, the 2-9 Redskins, and the 2-9 Giants twice. (For what it’s worth, the Giants played the Bears close Sunday, but ended up losing, 19-14, and extending their losing streak to seven games.)
A few weeks ago, we’d all be saying four of the five final games were easily winnable ones for the Eagles (in fact, my colleague Bob Ford did say that in his column from the Eagles’ Nov. 3 win over the Bears). But the last two weeks, the Eagles have looked more than just overmatched by two of the league’s top teams. They’ve looked utterly defeated, long before the games end, and against New England and Seattle squads that weren’t playing their best football.
But as of now the NFC East is within reach, at least on paper.
And of course, also judging by the players’ common refrain in the Lincoln Financial Field locker room after the game. They said all the right things, making no excuses, pointing no fingers, and vowing to shore up problem areas in this final five-game stretch.
Tight end Zach Ertz, who had 12 catches for 91 yards and a garbage-time touchdown, acknowledged the Cowboys-Patriots game in passing, but said the Eagles couldn’t look too far ahead, not with the pressing issues they’re facing.
He was candid about an offense that was without five starters (Jordan Howard, Lane Johnson, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, and Brandon Brooks) for most of the game, and said the group’s issues go beyond injuries.
“The whole offense isn’t playing well right now,” Ertz said. “Obviously, Carson puts a lot of pressure on himself. He’s probably disappointed in this game. We all are.”
“We’ve just got to find ways to make plays around him, make his job easier," he added. “It’s frustrating, obviously this isn’t exactly where we thought we would be. … Every person on offense could play better right now.”
Veteran defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said the team just needs a win. As a defense, does it ever get frustrating to play so well for much of the game, to sack the typically-elusive Russell Wilson six times, only to have opportunities squandered by the offense?
Cox wouldn’t place blame.
“The biggest thing is if we get a win, y’all aren’t asking me any of these questions,” Cox told reporters. “We’ve got to go on the road and get a win to turn things around. I think the guys will come in hungry next week."
Eagles fans have heard these messages before, though. For the players, now comes the hard part: transferring that intangible “hunger” into game-day execution, for five straight weeks.
Hi Erin, Max from Pittsburgh here. I’m not an Eagles fan but I was wondering why Miles didn’t get more carries? — @Maxwell_724 via Twitter
Hey there, Max. Thanks for writing in. Miles Sanders actually had an OK day, especially compared with the rest of the foundering offense. The rookie averaged 5.3 yards per carry, and finished the game with 12 totes for 63 yards (plus three catches for 23 yards).
But he still isn’t as dependable as the injured Jordan Howard when it comes to downhill running. He was also part of that fumbled third-down handoff in the third quarter, which can partly be blamed on play calling. I don’t think he got any fewer carries than he deserved, especially given the struggles on the depleted offensive line.