Simply Offensive: Birds Offense Dormant In Loss To Giants
First place in the NFC East was sure fine while it lasted.
Actually, it wasn’t.
There was nothing especially impressive about the two-game win streak the Eagles took into their bye, and there surely wasn’t much to admire about their effort coming out, as the Eagles took a painful 27-17 loss Sunday to the emerging Giants at MetLife Stadium.
Fixing the offense was supposed to be Doug Pederson’s objective during a soul-searching bye week, but even without a turnover for the first time this season, Pederson’s offense somehow looked worse. The Eagles didn’t covert a single third down and tied for their second-fewest points this year.
The Eagles (3-5-1) have still yet to score 30 points in a game this season and have totaled just 32 offensive points in their last two games. The Giants (3-7), meanwhile, have awoke from the dead with consecutive wins, both against NFC East opponents, improving to 3-2 in the division.
The Eagles are 2-2 in the division, technically still in first, but they shouldn’t be feeling confident given the turn their schedule is about to take.
Let’s go with the observations
1. Two weeks. Two weeks Pederson and the Eagles had to look deep within themselves and come up with a better game plan. They also had Miles Sanders, Jason Peters Dallas Goedert, Jalen Reagor and Travis Fulgham on the field together for the first time this season, and this is the best they could muster? No third-down conversions and one passing play longer than 16 yards. How was third-string tight end Richard Rodgers the team’s leading receiver? It’s unfathomable. You know who’s asking these questions? Jeffrey Lurie, the guy who enabled an offseason of sweeping changes to the offensive coaching staff, including the additions of several “ideas” guys. Lurie has to be beside himself right now.
2. Wentz didn’t turn the ball over for the first time this year. He also took another pounding behind an offensive line that wasn’t what the Eagles hoped it would be coming out of the bye. And a sudden issue with snaps were problematic. But although Wentz didn’t throw a pick and didn’t fumble, he left several passes high, as he’s done often this year and throughout his career. He under-threw Jalen Reagor on what could have been a decent sideline gain in the second half and missed Goedert on a third down in the fourth. Wentz’s inability to deliver with accuracy factored into that hideous third-down clip. So much for the theory that all the Eagles needed was a turnover-free game to win. It’s hard to avoid the concept of regression. Wentz’s 208 yards were his third-fewest passing yards in a game this season. His 123 two week against Dallas were his fewest. So in the past two weeks, respectively, Wentz has put forth two of his three lowest passing yards totals of the season.
3. Remember all that cool pre-snap motion the Eagles showed against Dallas, which helped boost their run game and add some overall spice to the playbook? The coaches must have decided during the bye week that pre-snap motion was just way too innovative for them, because there was very little against the Giants outside of some Reagor motion here and there. How could the staff go two weeks and decide to come out of the bye with the same vanilla schemes from the first half? Hard to believe with all the speed and moveable pieces they had on the field that they couldn’t have shown the Giants some different looks.
4. Maybe the offensive line injuries are one reason Pederson doesn’t incorporate more misdirection and motion into the playbook, although that’s really just an excuse. Either way, the Eagles really need Isaac Seumalo back, as Nate Herbig became the latest to exit with an injury, clearing the way for Sua Opeta to get in at left guard. The guard combo of Opeta and Matt Pryor just isn’t good enough and struggled against an improving Giants defensive front, with Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson each causing disruption up front.
5. Adam Caplan and I have been discussing concerns about the linebacker group, which had appeared to be more stable with Alex Singleton and T.J. Edwards as the main nickel linebackers. But we kept mentioning that the Giants (first time around) and Cowboys weren’t functional enough offensively to really test the Eagles at the linebacker level. But in the past few weeks the Giants have found their ground game, and they took aim right at the middle of the Eagles’ defense. The zone read touchdown once again exploited Jim Schwartz’s group, which has struggled all season with misdirection and zone read, and Giants running backs picked up 87 yards, in addition to the 64 yards and read-opion touchdown that Daniel Jones added.
6. I thought there would be more of a concerted effort to get Jalen Hurts more involved in the offense, but no such luck. Hurts got in a few times and finished with minus-1 rushing yards. He had trouble handling a snap – before Miles Sanders bailed him out by scooping the loose ball – and got tripped up on an ineffective and routine zone read. There just doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason for when Pederson gets Hurts into the game and how he uses him. I thought continued offensive pitfalls would tempt Pederson to give Hurts an entire series, just to shake things up, but that also didn’t happen.
7. Same issue of stagnancy with Alshon Jeffery. He played a smattering of snaps, was overthrown once, and didn’t contribute much other than taking snaps away from someone else. He finished with one target and no receptions. The overall stagnancy of the passing game even impacted Travis Fulgham, who was a non-factor for pretty much the entire game. Wentz threw behind him on a key third down in the fourth quarter. Fulgham had one catch for 8 yards. It’s imperative that Pederson and Wentz keep Fuglham involved and targeted. He’s a young kid who’s never experienced this level of success. They can’t let him draft away as teams look to take Fulgham out.
8. How much uglier would this game have been if not for Sanders, who averaged 6.0 yards per carry and racked up rushing 85 yards and 10 more receiving yards. It was probably Sanders’ most consistent effort this season, as he didn’t have any runs of more than 14 yards but still averaged 6 yards per carry, which is impressive. What’s unimpressive is that there weren’t many attempts to get Sanders the ball in the passing game, where he can be a mismatch. Again, two weeks to prepare.
9. You’d think the Eagles would’ve played a more discipline game coming out the bye. But they were flagged 11 times for 74 yards, many of the offensive penalties putting Wentz and the offense behind the sticks. In the fourth, a holding on T.J. Edwards negated a Vinny Curry sack. Soon after came a hands-to-the-face penalty on Alex Singleton. The Giants kicked a field goal on the drive that pushed their lead to 10, which basically sealed the win.
10. The schedule only gets more difficult from here. At 3-5-1, the Eagles enter a slate of five consecutive games against teams currently above .500, starting Sunday in Cleveland against the Browns (6-3), followed by the Seahawks, Packers, Saints and Cardinals. With the exception of the Browns, all these teams can put points on the board. Hard to think the Eagles can navigate this treacherous part of their schedule without some luck or a major, sudden improvement on offense.
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.