Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Hayes: Shorthanded Eagles no match for Packers

BY THE END, the attrition was almost comical. Both starting receivers were out. Two linemen: gone. The starting running back couldn't run.

By the end, the attrition was almost comical.

Both starting receivers were out. Two linemen: gone. The starting running back couldn't run.

The Eagles' only hope against the Best Quarterback Breathing was to somehow keep pace with the Pack. Aaron Rodgers has gotten lots of flak for leading his team to the brink of irrelevance, but the man entered on pace to throw 40 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. It wasn't his fault the Packers were losing.

Monday night, he was the biggest reason they won.

Rodgers torched the Eagles' mirage of a defense, completing 30 of 39 passes for 313 yards, two early touchdowns, no interceptions and no sacks. But that was predictable; OK, in fact, because the Wentz Wagon was going to get back on track . . . right? The Packers had allowed more than 30 points in each of the last four games, all losses.

It was the wrong place and wrong time for Eagles to host the porous Packers, who won, 27-13, and stayed relevant at 5-6.

Carson Wentz, equipped with two undrafted guys and a Tennessee bust, had no chance. He was 24-for-36, with 254 yards and an interception, and was sacked four times as his team's record dropped to mirror Rodgers'.

It was a small miracle that Wentz was even that productive.

Lay this at the feet of general manager Howie Roseman, perhaps. It was Roseman who failed to bolster the group of receivers, and Roseman who traded Dennis Kelly, a viable backup offensive lineman, for receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. It was Roseman who stuck with an injury-prone starting running back.

Still, by the third quarter, the Eagles had changed six offensive starters from the previous week. Paul Brown and Vince Lombardi couldn't have absorbed that degree of decimation.

"It's hard, especially with that many young players on offense," Eagles coach Doug Pederson acknowledged.

Only one change could be helped. Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor, crushed by the burden of expectations, was inactive. So was right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai and running back Ryan Mathews, both nursing short-term knee issues. Right guard Brandon Brooks was a late scratch, hospitalized with an illness.

Finally, No. 1 receiver Jordan Matthews left the game in the second quarter with a right ankle sprain, returned briefly in the third quarter, then left for good. The Eagles managed only two field goals after his departure.

"Obviously, it's tough to lose a guy like Jordan," said Wentz. "After that, we struggled to get into a rhythm."

Matthews has 59 catches for 686 yards, more than any two other receivers combined.

Bryce Treggs, undrafted and inactive for the first seven games, replaced Agholor. He caught one pass for 11 yards, perhaps channeling Agholor.

Paul Turner, undrafted and on the practice squad until eight days ago, replaced Matthews, after a fashion. He did not have a catch.

Fifth-round rookie Wendell Smallwood, who has had a fine season, replaced Ryan Mathews. He ran nine times for 37 yards.

Left guard Allen Barbre moved to right tackle for the first time in two years and for the eighth time in nine NFL seasons. He whiffed on a block and surrendered a hit that nearly sent Wentz's ribs through his spine, but played passably well.

Third-round rookie Isaac Seumalo, inactive for seven of the first 10 games, replaced Brooks. He was passable in his first start.

Veteran lineman Stefen Wisniewski replaced Barbre at left guard, with little remarkable accomplishment or damage.

"Overall, (the line) did pretty well," Pederson said. "Isaac has been playing in the last few games, just not starting. He's a sharp guy. We gave Allen experience at right tackle back in training camp."

Barbre got right tackle reps in training camp because the Eagles knew Lane Johnson eventually would serve a 10-game suspension. Monday night was Game 7. The Eagles are 2-5 without him. He is the best offensive player.

As such, once Johnson began to serve his suspension after a 3-1 start, the season seemed likely to disintegrate. The schedule was daunting even without massive attrition. Now, Pederson seems resigned to use the final five games as evaluation tools. Well, the final six, counting Monday night.

"It's great for those (young) guys to play," Pederson said. "You might look at wins and losses. I've got to look at the potential of the team."

By the end, a mediocre offensive line was rendered poor; an undermanned receiving corps rendered unmanned; and the four-headed running back committee was a bad knee and a broken rib (Darren Sproles, who played) from being whole.

By the end, a loss was inevitable.