The Eagles are doing things that a good team doesn't do, that a team that aspires to be good cannot do, and that a team that just won a Super Bowl should not do. They are committing unforced penalties at the worst times. They are squandering opportunities to score touchdowns that would give them a lead or win them a game outright. They did these things last week, in an overtime loss in Nashville to the Titans, and they did them again Sunday, in a 23-21 loss to the Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field. They are 2-3, and they are 2-3 on merit.
There will be much complaining and moaning and gnashing of teeth Monday morning around here over a roughing-the-passer penalty against the Eagles' Michael Bennett, an infraction that led to the Vikings touchdown and epitomized the ridiculous length to which the NFL and its officials have gone to protect the league's quarterbacks. It was a bad call. Full stop. But it was not the reason the Eagles lost Sunday. They lost because their offensive line often couldn't protect Carson Wentz. They lost because, sometimes when their offensive line did protect Wentz, he held the ball too long. They lost because, for once, Jim Schwartz's defense had a less-than-stellar performance on its home field. They lost because Jalen Mills still can't handle a stop-and-go route from an opposing wide receiver, and the Vikings' Adam Thielen burned him on one for a 68-yard reception that set up a field goal, the game's decisive points.
They lost because they were missing some key players: Derek Barnett, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement. They lost because Wentz doesn't look as sharp this season as he did last season, before he tore two ligaments in his left knee. They lost because they had the Vikings hand them possession at the Minnesota 30-yard line with 10 minutes left in regulation, on a Kirk Cousins lateral that resulted in a fumble, and the Eagles not only did not score, but they went backward 15 yards.
In a league with as much parity as the modern NFL, these shortcomings and mistakes separate a good team – or a great team, as the Eagles were last season – from a mediocre or poor one. That's what the Eagles are now. They're mediocre. They head to the Meadowlands this Thursday, to play the 1-4 Giants, aspiring to remain one.
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