First, Carson Wentz got his BFF (best friend forever) Jordan Matthews, back on the team.
Next, he got his BCR (best current receiver) Alshon Jeffery, back from injury.
That combination was a lethal one last Sunday afternoon, as Jeffery returned to catch eight passes for 105 yards. And while Matthews only had one catch for 56 yards, it was for the game’s first touchdown that put the Eagles up 7-3 late in the 2nd quarter.
Add to that Zach Ertz’s ten catches for 112 yards, and the Eagles passing game had them up 17-3 halfway through the third quarter on a gorgeous sunny day in Nashville looking full of roses and rainbows.
Unfortunately, by the time the game ended, the city that is the home of the Country Music Hall of Fame had the Eagles singing only the blues, as Tennessee rallied for a 26-23 victory in overtime.
What was a comfortable 17-3 lead turned into a Titans 20-17 lead before the Birds woke up to tie the game with 16 seconds left. But on the play before, the Eagles, facing 3rd & 3 from the Titans 12, somehow chose to throw a fade pattern into the end zone that had no chance of being caught, which had me scratching my head. A better play call there might have given the team a chance to win with a touchdown in regulation.
But all that didn’t seem to matter when the Eagles got the ball first in overtime at their own 25 and, within five plays, already had a 1st down at the Titans 17-yard line. Surely, the defending Super Bowl champions would continue this drive with ease and take it in for a touchdown, ending this game once and for all?
But the Eagles lost two yards from that point forward, which meant that even though Jake Elliott’s 37-yard field goal sailed through the uprights with ease, the Titans still had a chance to tie or win the game.
What followed was disconcerting to say the least, as the Birds defense allowed Tennessee to convert not one, not two, but THREE 4th downs to keep their hopes alive and eventually seal the victory with a touchdown. The worst one was the first, as on 4th & 15 from their own 31, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota dropped back to pass and found a wide open Taywan Taylor out for a leisurely stroll 19 yards down the sideline. Mariota threw the ball his way and Taylor turned to his left to catch it without so much as an Eagle in the vicinity to disrupt him.
Last season, the Eagles would have stopped the Titans right there.
Last season, even after Tennessee had cut the Eagles lead to 17-10, this team would have found a way to counter with a score of their own, dashing any hopes the Titans would have had of making a game of it. But last season, the Eagles were an unknown who had never won a Super Bowl in their history.
A byproduct of being defending Super Bowl champs is that no one will take this team lightly on any given Sunday. Even the teams that range from downright putrid to slightly above mediocre (like the Titans) will play the Eagles as if it’s their Super Bowl, as witnessed by the fact that Titans fans (which only made up half of the stadium due to the large influx of Birds fans that made the trip to the Music City) celebrated as if they had actually won something after the game was over.
In the words of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, “Toto – I don’t think we’re in 2017 anymore.”
A 3-1 start would have put this team in a good position.
A 2-2 start is somewhat precarious, as the schedule is brutal, with trips to New Orleans and Los Angeles still on tap for the 2nd half of the season.
The Eagles got to the Super Bowl last year because of a nine game winning streak in which they did not lose a game for over two and a half months, which set them up with the #1 seed & homefield advantage in the playoffs. Travel on the road in the postseason to Minnesota, Atlanta, or L.A with your backup quarterback last season, and I don’t think the Birds are Super Bowl champions.
While it’s still early, the Rams are already 4-0 and hold a two game lead over Philadelphia for the top seed in the NFC. And while injuries can quickly change any team’s fortunes, the Eagles can’t afford any more bad losses.
This week’s opponent, the Minnesota Vikings, also had high hopes for 2018, especially after acquiring Kirk Cousins from the Redskins to be their starting quarterback. But they’ve also gotten off to a slow start with a 1-2-1 record, and cannot afford to fall back any further in the NFC “Frozen” division (that’s NFC North for those of you keeping tabs).
This Sunday would be a good time for the Eagles to start to right the ship. Problem is, Kirk Cousins knows the Eagles too well, having faced them twice a year over the last six years. However, playing at home before their home crowd, the Birds seem to do quite well under Doug Pederson, and should continue that trend this week.
Birds win 27-23, and hope prevails for a Super Bowl repeat…for at least one more week.
Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week (all games on Sunday & in EST unless noted otherwise):
Jaguars at Chiefs 1:00 PM CBS
Dolphins at Bengals 1:00 PM CBS
Redskins at Saints 8:15 PM ESPN (Mon)