For the first three weeks of the season, the Eagles and their fans were on a honeymoon of sorts.
Jetting off to a tropical destination together (Aruba, Puerta Vallarta, Hawaii, name your favorite spot here), their days were spent enjoying the heat of the sun, cool ocean breezes, and sipping margaritas poolside, while their nights were filled with scrumptious dinners, dancing all night, and “other” activities which I cannot mention in a PG rated blog.
But unfortunately the honeymoon is now over, and the credit card bill has come due.
On top of that, the wife is not happy that her new hubby snores at night, and the hubby is not pleased that his wife expects him to go shopping with her on Sunday afternoons while the NFL games are on.
Such is the new “reality” of the Eagles and their fans after the last two weeks have both resulted in losses, leading to the thought that maybe this love fest isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
The Birds, to their credit, were still in a position to win, both against the Lions and the Redskins with 2:00 minutes left in the 4th quarter. But consecutive weeks of the offense and defense (minus a Malcolm Jenkins touchdown for an interception) sleep walking through the first half made their 2nd half all the more laborious.
The glass half-empty crowd would say that the 3-0 start was based on teams not knowing rookie coach Doug Pederson’s and rookie quarterback Carson Wentz’s tendencies. But with enough film out there for teams to “hack” into the Eagles schemes (sorry Wikileaks – no credit for you or Vladimir Putin on this one), their “trade secrets” are now out on the open market for other teams to exploit.
But while that may be the case, the glass half full crowd recognizes that all is not lost. Football is a chess game of sorts, and the ability to change your tendencies after your opponent has changed theirs is what makes the good teams successful for so long. Even someone like Bill Belichick, who’s major success has come from having Tom Brady as his starting quarterback (and playing unfair to some extent), is a master at putting the right people in the right places to succeed.
But before I turn my blog into a leadership management course, their is still the matter of the football game being played on the field, and most notably, in the trenches. The Eagles failed in both respects last week, as their offensive & defensive lines seemed to be outmatched or simply out-muscled all day.
The suspension of Lane Johnson, who wins the NFL’s “Stupid Man of the Year” award for 2016, led to rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai having to fill in at right tackle. And while Vaitai struggled mightily in the 1st half against a veteran defensive lineman like Ryan Kerrigan, I thought he settled down somewhat in the 2nd half. In this game, there was enough blame to go around all over the line.
The defense, which had been a strength of the Eagles during their 3-0 start, also seemed to look lost and just physically over matched at the line of scrimmage. The upside is that after giving up three touchdowns in consecutive weeks in the first half, the defense seemed to adjust and gave up a total of only nine points during the 2nd half. The downside is that putting their offense in a hole by halftime isn’t a trend that winning teams seem to want to replicate.
Some of the blame for last Sunday must also fall on Golden Boy Wentz, who had his worst game of the year in my opinion. Initially, I thought his tendency to hold onto the ball for too long (especially during his last drive) was his only negative, but upon further review, there were many instances when Wentz had tight end Zach Ertz open for a first down, but instead seemed to be looking downfield and not noticing that one of his best pass catching options were open. If a few of those throws are made to Wentz, the Eagles would have extended drives at various phases of the game, possibly leading to more points and eventually, a win.
So where do we go from here? The Eagles are at a crossroads of sorts, and face what is certainly a murderous schedule coming up, with none of their next six opponents holding a losing record currently.
The first of those is the Vikings, who come into the Linc on Sunday at 5-0 and are the only undefeated team left in the league. Minnesota’s defense has been carrying them so far, but their offense leaves much to be desired, ranked 30th in yards gained and 32nd in rushing yards.
Sam Bradford has been the best “game manager” that the Vikings could have asked for, but even he can be rattled when pressured, in which case you’ll get a goofy “Keanu Reeves/deer in headlights” look from him.
The Eagles offense may struggle to put up points, but there is no reason the Birds defense can’t stop Minnesota’s offense as well. Then again, we said that about the Redskins, and look what happened.
This is a game that the Birds need more than the Vikings do, or the wolves will certainly be howling before Halloween. The Birds settle down, Halapoulivaati Vaitai & Carson Wentz settle down, and the Eagles win a tough fought defensive contest, 23-9.
Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week (all times in EST and on Sunday unless noted otherwise):
Vikings at EAGLES 1:00 PM FOX – Game of the Week
Patriots at Steelers 4:25 PM CBS
Texans at Broncos 4:25 PM CBS