For three quarters, things were going so well.
For three quarters, Eagles fans were watching the team they remember so fondly from last year…you know, the team that got off to a big lead and won so easily.
For most of this season, it seemed that the Eagles were in a funk. But in last week’s Giants game, and for three quarters of the Carolina game, Philadelphia looked like it had finally ate the snickers bar and become “themselves” again.
And then it all unraveled before you could say “Piccadilly Circus”.
In one of the most bizarre quarters of football I ever recall, Carolina scored 21 unanswered points in a 21-17 Eagles defeat that left most of the 69,000 plus fans who had ventured to the Linc on an unseasonably chilly and windy day, understandably despondent and confused.
Perhaps the Eagles were thinking ahead to visiting Big Ben, Windsor Castle and the London Eye, instead of keeping an eye on Panthers wide receivers Devin Funchess & ex-Eagle Torrey Smith, who torched the Birds for a combined 10 catches for 123 yards and one touchdown?
Perhaps defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz started reading the London Underground “tube” map, thinking it was his defense’s play calling sheet? That would explain why his defense seemed like it was underground and stuck in a tub for the whole 4th quarter.
But the Eagles offense is not without its share of blame either. Just as the defense, which had played so well for three quarters, completely fell apart, the offense, which had done the same for most of the contest, decided to match the defense’s 4th quarter ineptitude.
The same Eagles offense which managed 19 first downs through the first three quarters only managed two in the final 15 minutes, and Carson Wentz’s decision to throw to a double covered Alshon Jeffery instead of opting for a short pass to a wide open Wendell Smallwood on 3rd & 2 on the Eagles final drive sealed the game.
Wentz’s stats for the day were simply amazing – 30 for 37 passing for 310 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. But his numbers masked that he, just like the rest of the team, were abysmal when it came to closing out the game.
The Eagles now sit at 3-4 and are a defensive stop on 4th & 10 against Carolina and 4th & 15 against the Titans, respectively, from being 5-2 instead. But as ex-Giants coach Bill Parcells once said, “You are what your record says you are”. And the Eagles are simply average at this point.
The Birds travel to London this week to try to erase the bad taste that still permeates after a bad loss to Carolina. And while the Eagles 4th quarter collapse did deflate my London trip balloon somewhat, it will be the first time that the Birds will play a regular season game overseas, which will make it all the more exciting for their fans who travel almost as well as Steelers fans.
The Eagles opponent for their inaugural international game will be the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have played a home game in London every year since 2013. The Jags made it to the AFC Championship last season, and were a quarter away from facing the Eagles in last year’s Super Bowl.
Since starting the season 3-1, however, the Jags have lost three straight and have been outscored 90-28 during their losing streak. They benched their quarterback, Blake Bortles, during last week’s 20-7 loss and replaced him with journeyman Cody Kessler, though Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone did state that Bortles would start against the Eagles on Sunday.
Before the season, I saw this as a loss for the Eagles, with the thought that facing a good Jacksonville team that was used to playing annually in the U.K would be a tough task for the Birds. But the Jags have turned to pussycats as of late, and this is a great opportunity for Philadelphia to forget about the Carolina game and right the ship heading into their bye.
A win would put the Eagles at 4-4, which is not where the defending Super Bowl champions expected to be at this point. And while there is still half of a season remaining to be played, the schedule only gets tougher from here, with road games against the Rams & Saints still looming.
Luckily, the NFC East is weak this year, which still gives the team a chance at a division title and a first round home playoff game. But we should forget about any hopes for a first round bye and home field advantage in the playoffs at this point.
While we were looking forward to drinking Chimay when the season started, we may have to settle for Coors Light.
But regardless of the Eagles record, I plan to enjoy my time in the U.K with the “Birds & the Brits”. Eagles win 24-17.
Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week (all games on Sunday and in EST unless noted otherwise):
Dolphins at Texans 8:20 PM FOX/NFL Network (Thurs)
Ravens at Panthers 1:00 PM CBS
Buccaneers at Bengals 1:00 PM FOX
Packers at Rams 4:25 PM FOX
Saints at Vikings 8:20 PM NBC