A few defensive players did not like the play call on the Baltimore Ravens' touchdown at the end of the first half Sunday in the Eagles' 27-26 loss. Two days later, Jim Schwartz explained what the Eagles were thinking and what broke down.
"At halftime, I told those guys . . . 'Hey, blame me for that call,' " Schwartz said, "And the reason I said it was because I didn't want them to play conservative in the second half. Looking back, there are a lot of calls you would like to have back in the game. The call wasn't the issue there, it's the execution."
The Eagles were trying to force a difficult field goal for the Ravens or end the half. They had man-to-man coverage with the cornerbacks told to keep the wide receivers away from the sideline, and they had two safeties deep. Schwartz said the Eagles did not blitz. They sent a four-man rush, and the other two defenders who appeared to blitz were in coverage on eligible receivers who stayed in to block.
It looked as if Jalen Mills was beaten by Steve Smith in coverage, but Mills expected to have help from safety Jaylen Watkins. Watkins bit on a pump fake, leaving Mills exposed and allowing the Ravens to score a 34-yard touchdown.
"I never like to blame execution on a play," Schwartz said, "but I know [Watkins] would like to have that one back."
As for Mills' dislike of the play call? Schwartz joked that the Eagles have a new system to put the earpiece in Mills' ear so he can approve every call.
Every team plays Thursday night games, but that doesn't mean the players like it. The physical and mental toll is evident this week for the Eagles, who had a light practice Tuesday and need to rely on some of the preparation used for the Nov. 6 game against the Giants.
"Thursday night games aren't in the interest of the players. But there's money in it," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "And if it comes down to us and money, they're going to take the money. But we've got a job to do. We sign up to play 16 games, whatever day of the week those games fall on."
Count defensive end Connor Barwin among those who like the short week. He noted that it adds an extra bye weekend on the back end.
This is rookie quarterback Carson Wentz's first time playing a Thursday night game. Wentz said it helps that the Eagles played the Giants before, but the physical recovery is the challenge with such a short time between games. Also, Wentz relies on routine, and this disrupts that routine.
"I finally felt good about a routine and getting into that rhythm," Wentz said. "But at the same time, it's kind of exciting. It's exciting to be on national TV, to be on Thursday night. It's something new, something different. At this point of the year, it's kind of good to mix it up and change it. It's been a quick week, but it's been a good week."