Stings and Hurts: Eagles Buried By Lamar Jackson, Ravens
1. Carson Wentz fought hard and seemed to have fewer off-the-mark throws than in past games but he and the Eagles’ offense never stood a chance. Wentz was once again working with very little around him. He didn’t throw an interception, but his first-half fumble was very costly, as the Ravens capitalized on the short field and went ahead 14-0 on the Gus Edwards 7-yard touchdown. Wentz was constantly in and out of the pocket, throwing while absorbing hits and often playing behind the sticks. Wentz was sacked six and hit a dozen other times. But he willed the team’s last two touchdowns, which he’s good at. Wentz always fights hard. He also didn’t throw an interception for the first time. Nobody’s happy about a loss, but this loss can’t be all on Wentz.
2. Lamar Jackson didn’t have an MVP type game, and the Ravens still managed to put 30 points on the board. For the first half, the Eagles did a nice job against the run and in keeping Jackson from going berserk on the ground, but the problem with the Eagles not scoring enough points is that, eventually, Jackson is going to make a back-breaking play. His 37-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-2 on the Ravens’ first possession of the third basically was that play. The Ravens were just 6 of 16 on third down (38 percent) – a big improvement for the Eagles’ defense – but scored touchdowns on both of their red-zone trips, an area that continues to haunt Jim Schwartz’s crew.
3. Give Doug Pederson some credit for his handiwork with Jalen Hurts, who spent most of the week replicating Lamar Jackson on the look team but made an impact on game day by providing a change of pace. On the same drive in the second half, Hurts picked up 23 yards on two direct-snap runs from the Wildcat formation, then caught a 3-yard pass from Wentz on another gadget. The trickery seemed to give the Eagles some momentum, as Wentz followed up with a 19-yard pass to Travis Fulghum and then a 13-yard catch by Greg Ward. Before that drive, the Eagles had minus-7 total yards on their six prior possessions. Sideline reporter Evan Washburn reported at halftime that Pederson planned to use Hurts more in the second half but Hurts didn’t see much action. He was on the field for both of the team’s fourth-quarter touchdowns but didn’t touch the ball.
4. People this week will call for Hurts to start or play more going forward because of the impact he had on the game, and because at 1-4-1, it’s standard operating procedure for fans to start calling for the backup. But people need to be realistic and honest. Sure, the gadgetry helped get the offense going late in the first half. But Hurts being on the field appeared to have very little impact on Miles Sanders’ 74-yard run in the third (that set up J.J. Arcega-Whiteside’s fumble recovery touchdown). The Eagles had that run well blocked and Sanders knifed through the hole with precision and sharp moves. Hurts’ pre-snap motion didn’t really force a major adjustment by the defense. Now having written that, I’m bracing for a week’s worth of “Hurts should be the QB” themes from fans and probably some in the media and sports-talk radio.
5. John Hightower remains an enigma who helps and hurts the team, often in the same game, sometimes on the same play. He can get open, for sure, but his reliability is 50-50. For the second straight week, the rookie from Boise State dropped a well-placed bomb from Wentz as he got wide open against blown coverage on the opening drive but dropped a well-thrown pass from Carson Wentz. He made up for it in the fourth, again getting wide open and this time catching the ball for a 50-yard gain. If he can clean up his hands and not make mental mistakes – like failing to get out of bounds in a 2-minute drill – he can be an asset to this offense.
6. Along with Hightower’s drop there were other missed opportunities everywhere, which always stand out in a 2-point loss. Sanders dropped an easy touchdown late in the second quarter after Doug Pederson had to dig deep into his bag of tricks to get his offense going. Maybe Wentz’s throw should have been to the corner of the end zone, which Sanders seemed to expect based on the way he looked over his shoulder before turning to the opposite shoulder, but the ball was put in his hands and he didn’t come down with it. The Eagles then couldn’t convert the easiest play in the game, a quarterback sneak, and on their final possession of the half, they were gifted a field goal attempt thanks to a roughing the passer call on a Hail Mary. But the usually reliable Jake Elliott missed a 52-yarder, leaving the Eagles without a point in the first half.
7. Miles Sanders went over 100 yards rushing, but most of that damage came on two runs – a gifted 26-yarder as the Ravens were in prevent defense at the end of the half and the big, 74-yarder that became a touchdown. But it was obvious that the issues generating an effective rushing attack were less about the offensive line or Sanders and more about Baltimore’s lack of respect for the Eagles’ downfield passing game. The Ravens loaded the box and dared Wentz to beat them deep, which Wentz tried to do at times, but that Hightower drop didn’t help his cause. The Eagles then hurt themselves with penalties that put them behind the sticks early in the game. Has anyone seen the Eagles’ screen game? Just wondering. It’s not a difficult play to execute, so I can’t imagine that the offensive line injuries make screens difficult to attempt at practice as opposed to wildcat and gadgetry they’re working on all week.
8. Jamon Brown doesn’t look like an upgrade over Matt Pryor from the start, which is surprising given his experience and that he’s been on the team since Week 1. Wentz was sacked on the first pass when Brown lets Calais Campbell get inside penetration for a 7-yard sack. Campbell finished with three sacks. Brown also added a false start that set the offense behind the sticks on the first play of the Eagles’ second possession. You can’t be behind the sticks against this Ravens defense and expect to function properly.
9. The Eagles have a short turnaround, which isn’t good because right tackle Jack Driscoll, cornerback Jalen Mills and tight end Zach Ertz each exited with injuries. Driscoll, a backup starting for Lane Johnson, was replaced by Brett Toth, who was just claimed off waivers the week before the Steelers game and who had never played in an NFL game. Toth might have to be the starter at right tackle Thursday night against the Giants. That’s a scary thought.
10. Travis Fulgham and Greg Ward both had some really nice plays as they continue to do their best to make up for the team’s lack of playmakers. Fulgham caught six balls for 75 yards and caught a touchdown for the third straight week. His jump-ball touchdown again illustrates his ability to make plays in contested-catch situations, which is not a trait usually seen in Eagles receivers over the past few years. Ward only caught two balls but made a heck of a catch along the right sideline matched up against Marlon Humphrey, keeping both feet inbounds as reeled in the 13-yarder.
Bonus Point: Imagine if Doug Pederson hadn’t gone for two on the team’s first touchdown, the Arcega-Whiteside fumble recovery. Then, the Eagles would’ve had 29 points after Wentz’s touchdown sneak and could’ve tied the game on a PAT. I like aggressive Pederson but I also think he needs to be selectively aggressive and have a better feel for when to go for two and when to take the points.
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.