Grieving Las Vegas
Sloppy Eagles Humbled By Raiders
Sunday’s game for the Eagles was supposed to represent their best chance to get back on track after proving to be outclassed for much of the first six weeks of their schedule, a slate that included games against the last two Super Bowl champions and three different quarterbacks who’ve won MVP.
But instead of showing improvement against a good, but hardly elite, Raiders team, the Eagles regressed and buckled badly, and now it’s worth wondering if Nick Sirianni’s team has enough to turn its season around even against as the schedule lightens.
The Eagles fumbled possession twice and offered little resistance on defense to Derek Carr and a Raiders offense that rolled up almost 450 yards even without injured Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller. The Raiders held the ball for longer than 30 minutes Sunday as the Eagles left Las Vegas with a 33-22 loss in their first trip to Allegiant Stadium.
The game was tied at 7-7 in the second quarter but the Raiders (5-2) scored touchdowns on four of their next five possessions to build a 23-point lead in the third quarter before the Eagles, as they’ve done often, scraped up some garbage-time yards and points to narrow the score.
The Eagles (2-5), who have already lost three straight games at one point this year, have now lost two straight games with another road trip up next. They face the winless Lions on Sunday in Detroit. A loss in Detroit could be very problematic for this new coaching staff.
Onto the observations:
1. The Raiders essentially executed whenever they wanted, and that’s because Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon once again elected to play safeties deep, keep the action underneath and shelve the pressure schemes. We’ve already seen what happens in those situations, but this game was like none other. The Eagles were so soft and predictable that Carr marched the Raiders offense downfield with ease, almost never having to face a third down. The Raiders converted three third downs on their opening possession and then didn’t see another third down until their second possession of the third quarter. Think about that! The Raiders ran 37 consecutive plays in the span without seeing a single third-down scenario. That’s almost unheard of.
2. Gannon clearly though some tweaks at linebacker would help his struggling defense. He was incorrect. Despite playing more T.J. Edwards, who’s more of a downhill linebacker, the Eagles had no answer for the Las Vegas running game or short passing game. Josh Jacobs, who came into the game averaging fewer than 4 yards per run, ran for 29 yards on six carries (almost 5 yards per carry) with an 8-yard touchdown run before leaving with a chest injury. Kenyan Drake just stepped right in and added a rushing touchdown to go along with 69 yards on 14 carries, almost 5 yards per tote. The Raiders ran for 119 yards.
3. Without seeing much pressure, Carr had a field day picking apart the Eagles’ zone. The best way to avoid the’ interior pressure tandem of Javon Hargrave and Fletcher Cox is to simply take three- and five-step drops, and get rid of the ball quickly. Quarterbacks aren’t having trouble finding the bubble, perhaps because Eagles safeties are often lined up roughly 10 miles from scrimmage. Carr completed over 90 percent of his passes – 90 percent! – by peppering the field with throws to Waller’s replacement, Foster Moreau, and slot receiver Hunter Renfrow, a tandem that combined for 15 receptions and 118 yards.
4. Gannon has a decision to make from here on out: continue to play this soft, Cover 2 defense and believe his linebackers will eventually improve, or he can actually make an adjustment. The idea that teams will eventually struggle to march downfield on long drives without committing bad penalties or trying turning the ball over just isn’t working, mainly because Gannon’s defense doesn’t do enough to force the offense into difficult down-and-distance scenarios or create takeaways. Sure, Carr got picked off on the first drive, but that was it. It’s getting to the point where the even TV color commentators are stunned by Gannon’s unbending approach. FOX’s Jonathan Vilma, a former linebacker, was practically begging Gannon to bring pressure on Carr. If Gannon chooses to be stubborn and keep jogging out the same defensive concept week after week, it’s going to get ugly for him in Philadelphia. It already is. For someone who was considered one of the league’s rising stars among defensive coaches, he needs to show he deserves that reputation.
5. While we’re on the subject of coaches, Sirianni’s decision-making also comes into question. Yes, he showed an adjustment by running the ball before Sanders went out, but he also accepted a third-down penalty that gave the Raiders a 3d-and-15 that they converted instead of forcing a fourth down, in which they probably would’ve punted. The Raiders ended up turning the ball over, but that’s not going to happen every time. You can also question the decision to onside kick to start the second half. Not just because it didn’t work, but because the Eagles were already down by 10. Did he go through the risk-reward situation? Giving the Raiders half the field when they’ve already moved the ball with ease probably wasn’t the best idea. His offense also looked sloppy, even after extra time to prepare. The Eagles looked like they were playing on short rest.
6. Finally! It only took until Week 7, but Sirianni finally showed a willingness to establish the run, and to go under center. Who’d a thought Miles Sanders would run five times for 25 yards on the opening possession, helping the Eagles take a 7-0 lead on a Jalen Hurts crosser to Kenneth Gainwell for 13 yards, and six times for 30 yards. Of course, nice things can’t happen for the Eagles as Sanders was carted off the field and his replacement, Gainwell, fumbled possession to Las Vegas right before halftime. But back to Sanders usage. By going under center, the Eagles established somewhat of a downhill presence early with their run game and set up play action, which could’ve bee a nice foundation, but losing Sanders and getting dominated in time of possession for the next two quarters rendered the run game moot.
7. Ball placement was an issue for Hurts again. He was a hair off on a few early throws to DeVonta Smith, but it was enough to make a big difference. A low throw to Smith off an RPO on first down put the Eagles in 2nd-and-long on their second possession. He also threw slightly behind Smith on a 2nd-and-9 slant in the second. This is consistent with what we’ve seen from Hurts for seven weeks. He’s not wildly inaccurate, but in a timing-and-rhythm based offense, pinpoint accuracy are essential to moving the chains. You could argue Smith could’ve done a better job corralling the ball, but he’s a rookie who’s already being asked to carry a major workload. Hurts’ completion percentage has been under 60 percent for three straight games and fell to 61.2 for the season. It would be a lot worse if not for the 77.1 mark against Atlanta in the opener.
8. So much for Dallas Goedert becoming a major factor into the game plan. The newly minted No. 1 tight end caught a 25-yard pass on the opening drive, and didn’t do much again until later in the game, when the Raiders had already built a big lead. Goedert should’ve been the perfect weapon against a Cover 3, especially at the seams. His 25-yarder came down the left seam. But the inability to get him involved isn’t much different than the lack of involvement for Sanders over the first six weeks. He finished with three catches for 70 yards. Naturally, former Eagles tight end Zach Ertz caught a 47-yard touchdown in his Cardinals debut.
9. Raiders defensive ends Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue were just too much for Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson, and that’s somewhat troubling. Ngakoue is one of the league’s fiercest speed rushers. Crosby has tremendous speed-to-power rushes. Both of them collapsed the pocket and got into Hurts’ vision lanes or forced him on the run or got their hands on his passes at scrimmage. They were all over him. Mailata and Johnson need to be better, but Crosby and Ngakoue are also one of the league’s best pass-rushing duos.
10. There’s just one game left until the Nov. 2 trade deadline. You have to wonder if this latest loss will force Howie Roseman to rethink keeping some veterans who aren’t producing much right now. This team needs so much help on defense that Roseman can’t lose by acquiring more picks, especially if he thinks he’s going to need to swap some picks for a quarterback.
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.