While the ominous clouds that hovered over Paul Brown Stadium last Sunday foretold of the chilly rain that was to eventually began following the game, it could have easily been a harbinger of things to come for the Eagles.
The Birds reached their low point of the season on Sunday, losing to the Bengals, 32-14, in a game that wasn’t even as close as such a blowout score would indicate.
From the start, the team looked more like they were out to leisurely paddle down the Ohio River in a canoe as opposed to trying to win a football game and possibly saving their season. At one point in the 3rd quarter, they were down 29-0, before waking up and scoring 14 unanswered points to try and make a game out of it. But by then, it was too little, too late.
One would think that this was the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980’s that the Eagles were facing. Or the Patriots team that has won four Super Bowls with Tom Brady & Bill Belichick. But no, this was the lowly Bengals, a team that entered the game with a record of 3-7-1. This was the Bengals who haven’t won a playoff game since George H. Bush was President and Madonna’s “Justify My Love” was the #1 song in the country (Jan. 1991).
But being that we have now entered the period between Thanksgiving & Christmas known as the “season of giving”, the Birds defense, and especially their secondary, was in a giving mood all day, giving up chunks of yardage whenever Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton wanted to throw the football.
The loss to the Bengals only brought more questions in a season that has fallen faster than Santa coming down your chimney:
Has quarterback Carson Wentz just hit a rookie wall with no talent around him? Or is he just not that good?
Is rookie coach Doug Pederson just going through growing pains as a rookie coach? Or will his hiring be a royal pain in the Eagles side for years to come?
What happened to Jim Schwartz’s defense, which looked so good in the early part of the season? And why does he refuse to blitz when the pressure, or lack of it, from his front four just isn’t working?
Why was tight end Zach Ertz doing his best impression of ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov instead of blocking Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict when Carson Wentz was trying to scramble for a first down?
Unfortunately, there is nothing under the Eagles proverbial Christmas tree that will likely provide any answers to these and many other pertinent questions that inquiring minds want answered. For that, we may have to wait till the offseason…and what a cold, empty offseason it may turn out to be.
For a change, the few bright spots that came out of this game were actually from the wide receivers. Nelson Agholor, who has been fighting demons in his head all season long, actually caught everything that was thrown to him. Sure, he only caught four passes for 23 yards, but at this point, it’s all about “baby steps” for Agholor.
In addition, undrafted rookie receiver Paul Turner, who only caught everything thrown his way in the preseason, earning him a spot on the team’s practice squad, impressed in his 2nd game, hauling in six catches for 80 yards. But Turner’s success begs the question… if the guy is catching everything, why did it take an injury to Jordan Matthews to get him on the field?
With December upon us, the Eagles sit two games back of a wild card spot with four games to play in a tight, jumbled race. To get into the playoffs, they would need to win out, six geese a laying (as in losses from six other teams), two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. Much like the commercial, you may get that Lexus RX 350 for Christmas if you ask Santa nicely, but gifting you an Eagles postseason birth may be too difficult even for Old Saint Nick.
This Sunday, the Birds will try to right their ship when they face the Washington Redskins, which, ironically, are one of the six teams that are in front of them in the NFC wild card race.
This team needs a win more than Jill Stein needs a hobby, but it’s hard to determine whether they will actually get it or not. It wouldn’t surprise me if they came out, played hard and won, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if they lost out in what has become a frustrating season.
For that reason, I really don’t have a prediction, but for the Eagles sake, hopefully it’s the former. Otherwise, the faithful in the stands will become much more naughty than nice…
Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week (all times in EST and on Sunday unless noted otherwise):
Cowboys at Giants 8:30 PM NBC – Game of the Week
Raiders at Chiefs 8:25 PM NBC (Thurs)
Steelers at Bills 1:00 PM CBS
Seahawks at Packers 4:25 PM FOX
Ravens at Patriots 8:30 PM ESPN (Mon)