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November 17, 2019

Handing out 10 awards from the Eagles-Patriots game

Before the Philadelphia Eagles even suited up against the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon, there weren't a whole lot of people who gave them a great chance of beating the defending champs. And win they didn't, as they fell by the final score of 17-10. The opportunity was certainly there, but a familiar theme of leaving plays on the field arose once again.

As always, we hand out 10 awards.

1) The 'No Room For Error' Award: Carson Wentz

Wentz did not have his best game, as you all saw. He missed a few plays that he usually makes, notably a misfire on a rare target to Mack Hollins, who got open down the sideline on a nice stop-and-go move, as well a ball he left short to an open Zach Ertz on a key third down late in the game. And then there was his fumble, a throwback to the days when putting the ball on the ground was an issue of his.

There were plays to be made, and Wentz didn't make the most of them. 

With that disclaimer out of the way, the reality is that Wentz faces a burden that other quarterbacks around the league don't. The Eagles' offense is predicated on long, difficult drives because a complete lack of team speed makes chunk plays tough to come by. On some rare occasions, they can sustain those impossibly long drives, like they did on their 16-play, 95-yard journey in the first half that ate up over nine minutes of clock.

More often than not, however, there's going to be something that derails a drive when you're forced to play that style of offense, whether it be a penalty, a missed block, a drop, or in Wentz's case against the Pats, the occasional errant throw.

As such, the onus is on Wentz to make play after play after play on each individual drive to slowly matriculate the ball down the field like it's 1960's football.

If he's not perfect or close enough to it, drives stall and punts fly. Playing quarterback for this team, as constructed, is extremely difficult, and Wentz has the unenviable task of standing at the podium after games and praising teammates that don't deserve it.

2) The 'Choke Job' Award: Nelson Agholor

Against the Falcons Week 2, Agholor had a deep ball thrown to him that may as well have just been handed to him on a pillow. He couldn't bring it in, and yada yada yada, the Eagles lost. Against the Lions the next week, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside had a drop that likely would have beaten the Lions.

Welp, add another one to the list!

Facing a zero blitz on 4th and 10, Wentz had to get rid of the ball earlier than he would have liked, and he threw a tear drop pass to a good spot in the back of the end zone where he gave Agholor a chance to make a play. However, as he has done many times over this year, Agholor could not track it, as he overran the pass and made the catch far more difficult than it had to be. Predictably, he did not make the play, and the game was essentially over.

A different view of that play:


Agholor went from a bust his first two seasons, to a legitimate contributor for one season in 2017, to a quick trip back to Bustville. He has to go this offseason. If I'm Howie Roseman, there's no bargain price -- not even the league minimum -- that would tempt me to bring him back.

3) The 'No Plays Made' Award: The rest of the Eagles' skill players

For those of you who get to watch other games around the league, you'll often see wide receivers making great plays for their quarterback. It just never happens in Philadelphia in 2019. Seriously, never.

  1. Dallas Goedert dropped Wentz's best pass of the day, a laser into a small window that hit Goedert in the hands.
  2. Jordan Matthews had a chance to make a play on a very good back shoulder throw by Wentz, but he couldn't come down with it.
  3. And then obviously, the Agholor play noted above.

Those three plays ended drives. Again, can somebody make a play?

4) The 'Uh Oh' Award: Lane Johnson

Johnson was carted off the field with a head injury, and, uh, Wentz's protection did not fare so well thereafter.

That was an in-game tweet, so the yardage totals improved, but the fact that the Eagles surrendered five sacks doesn't change.

In Carson Wentz games, the Eagles are 25-13 when Lane Johnson starts, 3-9 when he doesn't. If he is unable to return to the lineup by next Sunday, Halapoulivaati Vaitai will be tasked with trying to slow down Seahawks LDE Jadeveon Clowney. Remember that name from this offseason? 

Speaking of which, go ahead and get your jealousy of the Seahawks ready for next Sunday.


5) The 'Gold Star' Award: Jim Schwartz

The oft-criticized defensive coordinator had an outstanding game plan for the Patriots, which was executed well by his defense. The Patriots only had 298 total net yards, and a paltry 4.2 yards per play. He kept the Patriots from making big plays down the field, and was able to dial up blitzes in the right spots. Factoring in the quality of the opponent, this was the defense's finest performance of the season, by far, and it was wasted by the offense.

6) The 'Silver Lining' Award: The Eagles' pass rush

On the stat sheet, you'll see that the Eagles only had one sack, but they harassed Tom Brady all evening with relentless pressure, causing him to throw more incompletions in the first half than he ever has in his career.

Impressive. The pass rush, at one point this season a major concern, has become a weapon, perhaps even providing a glimmer of hope for the rest of the season.

7) The 'Not Horrible Anymore' Award: The Secondary

Certainly Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, and Avonte Maddox were going to provide a boost when they returned from their injuries, but it felt unlikely that they would be able to completely turn the secondary around. But that's what they have done, as they have been much, much better than the likes of Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, and Craig James.

Brace for what I'm about to suggest -- Mills in particular is playing himself into a decent contract.

8) The 'Missing You' Award: Jordan Howard

The absence of Howard proved to be a big loss, as the dropoff from Howard to Boston Scott running between the tackles was kind of a big deal. This was a defense that the Eagles might have been able to run the ball on, but without Howard in the lineup, they struggled getting those hard-earned yards that help soften the defense and open up opportunities in the passing game. 

Howard's best argument for a new deal with the Eagles may very well be this game.

9) The 'FIX THIS, ALREADY, NFL' Award: The laughable "forward progress stopped" call

When Malcolm Jenkins ripped the ball away from Patriots tight end Matt LaCosse with 4:24 left in the third quarter, the Eagles recovered, and after Vinny Curry's recovery, would have had the ball inside the Patriots' 30 yard line.

You be the judge whether the ball is moving before LaCosse's knee is down.

It's close. In my view, had that been called a fumble on the field, it would have stood. Had it been called a non-fumble on the field, likewise, it would have stood.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, incompetent NFL officiating deemed that LaCosse's forward progress had been stopped before the fumble, lol, and therefore this play wasn't reviewable. Unreal.

10) The 'Undoing the Bye Luck' Award: The Eagles' place in the NFC East

After a bye week in which the Eagles benefited from many of the results around the rest of the NFC, most notably a loss by the Cowboys at home to the Vikings, the Eagles gave that game right back, as the Cowboys held on against the Matthew Stafford-less Lions. Most expected the Eagles' and Cowboys' results today, but nevertheless, the Birds are once again a game behind Dallas in the NFC East, with the Cowboys currently owning a head-to-head tie-breaker.

 NFC EastRecord Division GB 
 Cowboys6-4 4-0 
 Eagles5-5 1-1 
 Giants2-8 1-2 
 Washington1-9 0-3 

The Cowboys will head to New England to take on the Pats next week. The Eagles need the Pats' defense to play as well against Dallas as they did today, and they need Brady and his offense to wake up.

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