December 13, 2017
Something bad happened in the Philadelphia Eagles' win over the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday. As such, a faction of moronic fans are legally obligated to find a way to blame Doug Pederson for the badness.
Of course, I am referring to Carson Wentz's torn ACL, an injury that occurred when Wentz scrambled for a touchdown run that would have given the Eagles a 31-28 lead late in the third quarter, but was negated by a Lane Johnson penalty. Surely, Pederson would deserve blame for a Wentz injury if it occurred during a blowout, not a close game.
So what blame could possibly fall on Doug's shoulders here? Well, where there's a will there's a way. The following is a collection of "Blame Doug!" reactions to Wentz's injury.
The most common argument was that the Eagles did not run the ball as much as they should have, thus exposing Wentz to more potential hits. As PhillyVoice even noted in our five matchups to watch leading up to the game, the Rams have not been a good run defense most of this season. Here were their numbers before the Eagles-Rams matchup:
So, sure, running the ball, from a game plan perspective, made sense.
On the season, the Eagles are the seventh-most run heavy team in the NFL, as they run it on 45.7 percent of their plays. On Sunday, they ran 85 total plays, 32 of which were runs. In other words, they ran it on 37.6 percent of their plays. Certainly, they did not run it as much as they have in other games, but for good reason.
First, they were often behind on the scoreboard on Sunday. Prior to the Eagles' loss to the Seahawks the previous week, the Eagles had not had a competitive fourth quarter since Week 6 against the Carolina Panthers. It was blowout after blowout, in which the Eagles were simply running it a ton in the second half to bleed clock. Against the Rams, passing was a necessity to continue to score points, which they did, by the way. They scored 37 of them, not including Brandon Graham's late fumble return TD.
Secondly, and more importantly, hang in there with me here... THROWING IT WAS WORKING!!! The Eagles had 29 first downs, a big number. How big? Well, only six teams have had more than 29 first downs in a single game this season. They also controlled the clock for almost 40 minutes, keeping the Rams' potent offense off the field. Oh, and Wentz also threw for four TD passes and had a 100-plus QB rating when he left the game.
How dare Doug utilize his MVP candidate quarterback, who had his 'A game,' in a matchup with enormous NFC playoff implications!
In 2016, the Eagles went empty backfield against the Redskins on 1st and goal from the 4 yard line, and scored on a Wentz throw to Darren Sproles.
You know how many people said that that was dumb because they were putting Wentz at risk of an injury? Literally nobody, because it would have been asinine to do so.
Someone emailed me sarcastically saying, "Why make the defense even think for a second you might run the ball by having a back lined up behind Carson. Preposterous!"By that logic, no team should ever go empty backfield in any scenario ever. That point aside, the Eagles have scored touchdowns on 67.4 percent of their trips into the red zone this season, which is the best red zone efficiency in the NFL. It's safe to say that Doug Pederson knows how to call plays down there. When you go empty backfield, you spread the defense out, and there's a great chance you're going to get a favorable matchup somewhere. The idea is to quickly spot the mismatch, and get the ball out. Sometimes it's covered up well, and sometimes you score.
In this case the Rams had good coverage, and Wentz tried to run it in. Because it was first down, Wentz should have probably just thrown it away rather than run into a sure collision at the goal line. Earlier this season, Wentz was reprimanded for doing the same thing against the Carolina Panthers, on a play in which he was stopped short of scoring, so it's not as if the coaching staff would have preferred he dive in between two surging defenders to try to score.
Empty backfield or not, a Wentz scramble would be a possibility on literally any pass play. So should they just take passes out of the playbook completely?
It was the fourth quarter and the Eagles were losing. But sure, Doug should have handed it off the rest of the day to preserve Nick freaking Foles.
I agree he shouldn't have done that, if true.
Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski.
Like Jimmy on Facebook.
Like the new PhillyVoice Sports page on Facebook.