Eagles-Bengals Postgame: Bungle in the Jungle
Cincinnati has a jungle motif on the padding in front of the stands around the stadium. This is relevant because the Bengals mauled the visiting Philadelphia Eagles 32-14 on Sunday.
Honestly, I'm trying to remember an Eagles game where I saw less effort and execution from the team. I said this was going to be a tough game for even die-hard Eagles fans to watch, but this was even worse than I thought. The Eagles played about as bad as a team can play in all aspects of the game.
The Eagles offense couldn't get anything going against a bad defense. Their defense couldn't stop an offense without their top best weapons. The special teams had one nice return, but failed miserably on an onside kick attempt and missed a FG. They committed far too many penalties, as usual. And finally, the coaching was once again baffling, if not downright horrible. We're going to need a lot of yellow crime scene tape to go over this loss.
The Eagles got the ball first and went 3 and out. This is significant because the Bengals defense had allowed a score on the opening drive in every game this season until this one. It was a bad omen. It only got worse, as the Bengals scored on their first six drives of the game. If you think that sounds bad, let me make it worse. It was the first time Cincinnati had scored on their first six drives of a game in 117 games. The Eagles defense simply didn't show up for this game. That makes sense since defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz doesn't show up after games to answer for the short-comings of his defense until he is contractually required to do so by the NFL on Thursdays.
Luckily, the media and fans get to hear Doug Pederson explain how the team is "looking forward", "moving ahead", "making strides", "needs to improve this and that", etc. It makes me sick to think that the Eagles won't contend for years because GM Howie Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie won't pull the plug on Pederson for years and he is easily the worst coach in the entire NFL right now.
The Bengals scored a FG after Jaylen Watkins dropped an easy INT near the goal line that hit him in the numbers, to go up 3-0. They drove 81 yards on 8 plays to take a 10-0 lead on a 2-yard Jeremy Hill TD run in the first quarter. At this point, Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton had already thrown for 109 yards. Meanwhile Eagles QB Carson Wentz had more yards rushing (17) than passing (10). Yeah, it was going to be that kind of day.
The Eagles ran the ball on 3rd & 9 at the Cincinnati 32 yard line on what Pederson explained after the game was a run-pass option play. Unfortunately, center Jason Kelce snapped the ball too soon and Wentz was lucky just to catch the ball and give it to Sproles for a 1-yard loss. To put an exclamation point on that Keystone Cops routine, Caleb Sturgis clanked the ball off the upright on his FG attempt.
The Bengals added another FG and a TD on a 13-yard catch by TE Tyler Eiffert to make the score 19-0 at halftime. About the only thing that went right for the Eagles was that Cincinnati kicker Mike Nuggent missed the extra point. It was his 5th miss in his last 10 extra point tries.
As ugly as that score looked, it should have been so much worse. Even though Wentz was getting time to throw, he had three sure INTs dropped by the Bengals defensive backs. Each one was a bad read by Wentz or a bad overthrow. He has regressed badly as the season has gone on. He only completed 8 of 18 passes for 67 yards in the 1st half. Meanwhile, the running game wasn't generating anything positive either. Wendell Smallwodd led the Eagles with 19 yards rushing on 8 carries against a Cincinnati team that came into the game ranked 28th against the pass. There were also too many penalties by the offensive line, which is becoming a trend for this team. The defense couldn't even slow down the Bengals offense without WR A.J. Green or RB Giovani Bernard, as they scored on all four of their first half possessions. It was brutal.
The lone bright spot for the Eagles, and you had to squint really hard to see it, was WR Nelson Agholor. Now I'm putting things into perspective here when saying this was a positive. Agholor has been a complete bust of a first round draft pick and was benched last week for admitting that he had lost his confidence. But this week, he actually caught everything that was thrown to him. He only finished the game with 4 catches for 23 yards, but we're talking baby steps here.
Did I mention that this was the first time the Eagles had been shut out in the first half of a game in 23 games? Like I said, it was very bad. And the second half wasn't going to get any better.
The Bengals took the second half kickoff and drove right down the field to take a 26-0 lead on an 8-yard Brandon LaFell TD catch. Wentz threw an INT, as he was hit, to kill an actual drive by the Eagles. Then the Bengals made it 29-0 on a 26-yard Nuggent FG. That drive was extended when the Eagles got called for a helmet-to-helmet hit by Watkins on a third down play where two defenders had already wrapped up the Cincinnati WR short of the first down marker. It was as stupid as any other Eagles penalty this undisciplined team commits at the worst time throughout the season. That reflects poorly on the coach, but we are all getting a very clear picture of how bad Pederson really is with each and every game.
At this point, Cincinnati is looking to just run out the clock and secure the win. So of course, this is when the Eagles offense managed to pad their starts.
Wentz completed 36 of 60 passes for 308 yards, 1 TD and 3 INTs in the game. All of the yardage was on short check-down throws with the Bengals playing a prevent defense and all of the INTs were bad throws or bad reads by Wentz. The lone TD was to a wide open TE Zach Ertz (9 receptions for 79 yards, almost all in garbage time) on a blown coverage, on a 4th & 5 play from the Cincinnati 13 yard line. That made it 29-7 at the end of the 3rd quarter.
The Eagles D finally prevented the Bengals from scoring early in the 4th quarter. And that came from more of a great individual play than by anything the defense as a whole or Schwartz did. Bennie Logan hustled downfield to knock the ball out of the hands of backup RB Rex Burkhead after the RB had weaved his way through a few defenders to pick up a 1st down on a screen pass. Of course, Wentz turned around and threw a horrible INT to give the ball right back to Bengals. Then with the Bengals continuing to simply try to run out the clock the Eagles actually forced the Bengals to punt for the first time in the game. There were 13 minutes left in the game by the time that happened.
Who is most to blame for how bad these Eagles are?
The Eagles actually scored again to cut the score to 29-14 on a Sproles 2-yard TD run. The amazing part was that two plays before the TD, the Eagles converted another 4th & 5 play from the Cincinnati 13 yard line. That provided one of the few positives, as Agholor caught the pass to convert the 1st down.
The Eagles got another gift fumble when the Bengals got cute and threw a pass to a tackle. But Wentz threw his 3rd and final INT soon after that to end any delusions regarding a comeback. The Bengals tacked on a FG to get to the final score of 32-14 and even the most delusional of Eagles fans out there now know the season is over.
As I said, this was a total team effort by the Eagles. The team looked unprepared and played without a sense of urgency. That reflects poorly on both the coaching staff and the players. The Eagles allowed a 3-7-1 team to dominate them from start to finish in a game they had to win to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.
NFC East Standings
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I give Pederson most of the grief when discussing what went wrong as the losses have piled up over the weeks, but Schwartz and his defense were the main culprits in this loss. Allowing a team to score no their first six possessions of a game just doesn't happen in the NFL, yet that's exactly what the Eagles did. They allowed Dalton to complete 23 of 31 passes for 332 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs, for a 132.0 passer rating. And you got the feeling that he could have done a lot more if the Bengals hadn't jumped out to that big lead and decided to try to run out the clock. The Eagles did manage to hold the Bengals to only 80 yards rushing on 33 carries (2.4 yards per carry), but a lot of that was when the Eagles knew the Bengals were running the ball, so let's not give them too much credit.
Of course, Pederson deserves a good portion of the blame himself, for looking more and more like Andy Reid every week. A week after Pederson admitted that asking a struggling rookie QB to throw the ball 40 times was too much, he called an astounding 63 pass plays against the Bengals. Yes, the team got behind, but Pederson and the Eagles gave up on the running game almost immediately when it was not working in the first quarter. That was something that Andy Reid did constantly, to the detriment of the team. Pederson seems to have that same failing as a play-caller. Smallwood was the leading rusher with 19 yards and the Eagles only rushed for 53 yards as a team. Pederson only called 16 running plays all game, when you take into account that 3 Wentz runs were scrambles on passing plays. Pederson again admitted that 60 passes were too many for Wentz. Maybe next week he'll admit that 80 passes in a game are too many for Wentz.
Oh wait, I just saw another positive for the Eagles in the stat sheet for the game. Or maybe it's not such a good thing. Undrafted WR Paul Turner led the Eagles with 80 receiving yards on 6 catches. Yes, the majority of the catches and yards were against a prevent defense, but Turner looked to be open constantly, just like he was during the preseason. Maybe the Eagles have found a decent receiver among their collection of garbage. The problem is that Turner is just a possession receiver, which is all the Eagles seem to have. But at least he can catch the ball, which always seems to be such a problem with all of the high draft pick receivers that are on the roster. Turner needs to play more the rest of the season, to see if he can be a decent No. 4 WR in the future. Of course, that means he will most likely be deactivated the rest of the season by Pederson.
The Eagles are now 5-7 and have lost three games in a row. They would have to win all of their remaining games, against teams that all have a winning record, to even have a shot at the playoffs. Reality check: They aren't winning their four remaining games and they aren't making the playoffs. But that's OK.
The Eagles lost to a really bad Cincinnati Bengals team, but that just goes to prove that the Eagles are a really bad team, as well. It just took a little while to come back to reality after that 3-0 start. Hell, I'm not even sure the Eagles could beat the 0-12 Cleveland Browns with the way they are playing now. That's how bad they are.