Eagles-Giants Postgame: Too Many Rookie Mistakes
Well, the Eagles lost yet another game they should have won, due to their two rookies.
Rookie QB Carson Wentz threw 2 INTs in his first 3 passes of the game and rookie head coach Doug Pederson passed up two easy FGs on failed 4th down attempts, in a game that the Eagles lost by 5 points, 28-23. It was a horribly frustrating performance by the entire team that leaves the Eagles with a 4-4 record and in last place in the NFC East.
The game was lost early when the Giants converted both Wentz INTs into TDs in the 1st quarter. The first TD was a 26-yard reception by Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. on a slant route, when CB Leodis McKelvin was beaten almost immediately off the line and safety Rodney McLeod took a bad angle on Beckham. Then, Roger Lewis scored a 26-yard TD when safety Jaylen Watkins ran into McKelvin and Lewis was left wide open in the endzone for the score. To be fair, McKelvin was beaten even before he ran into Watkins, but it led the announcers to reference the Keystone Cops, which is never a good thing. At this point, it looked like the Eagles pass defense would be unable to cover any Giants receivers all game. The truth is that it was mostly just McKelvin. More on that later.
The Eagles managed to cut the Giants lead to 14-10 on a Caleb Sturgis FG and a Ryan Mathews (who?) 8-yard TD run. The thing to note about the Sturgis FG in the 1st quarter is that the Giants clearly ran into the kicker, knocking him to the ground, and a flag was not thrown on the play. It doesn't matter that the player inadvertently rolled into the kicker. The kicker was knocked down and that is a penalty every time.....except here. It would have given the Eagles a first down and the possibility to score a TD, which obviously would have been a huge difference in the game.
The Mathews TD run was only 1 of 5 carries Mathews had the entire game. Pederson can try to keep denying it, but obviously the coach doesn't trust Mathews not to fumble and Darren Sproles (13 carries for 57 yards) is now the lead back on the Eagles. Sproles won't last the whole season with this workload, so Mathews is going to have to be given another chance this season.
Meanwhile, McKelvin continued to get beat every time the Giants threw his way. Giants QB Eli Manning found Victor Cruz open down the sideline against McKelvin for a 46-yard completion on a drive that ended with a 1-yard TD catch by Beckham against, you guessed it, McKelvin. So to this point in the game, McKelvin had allowed 4 catches for 99 yards and 3 TDs. Luckily, I wasn't the only one who noticed this, as defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz pulled McKelvin from the game at that point and replaced him with rookie CB Jalen Mills. Too bad it was too late.
Down 21-10, the Eagles needed a spark and it's no surprise that Sproles was the one to provide it. His 66-yard punt return to the Giants 15 yard line gave the Eagles some hope of getting back into the game. Unfortunately, Pederson passed on his second chance at a FG to pull within one score and, instead, Sproles got stuffed in the middle of the line on 4th & 1 at the Giants 6 yard line. To throw even more salt in the wound, when Pederson did try to kick a FG, the Eagles let Jason Pierre-Paul get his hand on a Sturgis attempt for a block. The Giants returned it to the Eagles 47 yard line, but the defense actually didn't let up a TD after this turnover. That's probably because McKelvin was on the bench and no longer letting Giants receivers run right by him.
The Giants had a 21-10 lead at halftime, but honestly it looked so much worse than that due to the ugly start. They allowed Manning to throw 3 first half TD passes, but did manage to hold the Giants to 11 yards rushing. That's not exactly a major accomplishment against the worst running team in the entire NFL, but it was something. And Wentz did rebound from his horrible start to stop throwing INTs on every other throw. But they were still down at the half to a team they should have been beating.
The Eagles took the second half kickoff and marched right down the field to score a Kenjon Barner 3-yard TD, to cut the score to 21-17. Unfortunately, the pass defense that has looked good so far this season, let the team down again, when safety Malcolm Jenkins gave up a 32-yard TD catch to Sterling Shepard, even though Jenkins was flagged for holding. I mean, if you're going to hold, at least do it well enough so the guy doesn't still catch a TD pass, Malcolm. Maybe his arm was tired from holding up his fist during his stupid pregame protest during the National Anthem. Anyway, the defense couldn't even get that right and the Giants went back to holding a two score lead, 28-17.
Sturgis added a couple more 4th quarter FGs to get to the final score of 28-23, but there was still some excitement left in the game and plenty of chances for the Eagles to win the game. Unfortunately, the rookie QB and the rookie head coach continued to make mistakes.
With the Eagles down 28-20, Nolan Carroll ripped the ball from Beckham's hands for a nice INT at the Philadelphia 40 yard line. Wentz and the offense couldn't capitalize and they went 3 & out. Pederson went for it on 4th down again late in the 4th quarter and this time Wentz actually found Jordan Matthews (6 catches for 88 yards) for a 25-yard completion on 4th & 9 from the NY 46. Unfortunately, later in that same drive, Wentz threw high to Dorial Green-Beckham on what would have been a sure TD and the Eagles had to settle for the last of Sturgis' FGs with 3:51 left in the game.
Who was most to blame for another Eagles loss?
Since Manning is one of the most overrated QBs in the history of the game simply because he plays for the New York team (that plays in New Jersey), his mistakes nearly handed the Eagles the game in spite of their own shortcomings.
With the Giants trying to run out the clock and facing a 3rd down, Manning had a pass tipped at the line by DE Connor Barwin and intercepted by LB Jordan Hicks at the NY 29 yard line with 1:48 to play. It's just too bad that Pederson was out-coached yet again by NY defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who blitzed Wentz relentlessly and the Eagles couldn't capitalize on the turnover by Manning (22 for 36, 257 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs). It was so bad that Pederson called timeout before the Eagles final offensive play on 4th down, even though the clock had already stopped. Guess he learned that one form Andy Reid. Anyway, Wentz's pass on 4th & 10 fell incomplete in the endzone and the Giants were able to kneel down to drain the remaining seconds off the clock. There would be no Miracle at the Meadowlands, Part 4 on this day.
Miracle of the Meadowlands
The only bright spots for the Eagles are that Darren Sproles is holding up well in spite of the increased work-load and is by far the biggest weapon on the team. Pederson decided to actually include the TEs in the offensive gameplan for the first time this season and Zach Ertz responded with 8 catches for 97 yards. Heck, even 3rd -string TE Trey Burton caught 3 passes for 55 yards. And the Eagles finally activated rookie WR Bryce Treggs and the speedster responded with 2 catches for 69 yards, including a 58-yard reception. The Eagles desperately need a deep threat and Treggs looks capable of providing that dimension to this stagnant offense.
That's where the positives end.
Sure, Wentz threw for 364 yards on 27-for-47 passing, but he also threw those 2 killer INTs early in the game, that set the tone and he failed to throw a TD. The Eagles were only 2 for 6 in the redzone and Pederson's over-aggressive nature in going for it on 4th downs meant they passed up on 2 FGs in a game they lost by 5 points. Do the math. The defense also had a rough game, as they gave up 3 TDs of at least 26 yards. Several of those TDs were to wide-open receivers and McKelvin proved that his best position is probably sitting on the bench. He really has turned out to be a free agent bust, unless he is hiding an injury. Also, the team that came into this game among the league leaders in sacks only got to Manning once and hardly pressured him much throughout the game.
There was plenty of blame to go around the Eagles locker room for this loss, but I feel that most of the blame gets laid at the feet of the two rookies. Wentz dug the team an early 14-0 hole (with an assist from McKelvin) that they couldn't overcome. And Pederson over-compensated for last week, when he seemed to not be aggressive enough in failing to put the Cowboys away late in the game. Being aggressive and showing confidence in the offense is one thing, but Pederson was just plain dumb in passing up points early in a close game.
There will be those who say that the picks were just rookie mistakes by Wentz and that's probably true. He played much better after his first three passes. But his two INTs were just plain ugly and inexcusable. As for the growing pains from the rookie head coach, those might be more concerning. Two weeks in a row now, Pederson has made mistakes that led directly to Eagles losses. That's the kind of thing that gets coaches fired. Well, they get fired in places with better ownership, which isn't what the Eagles have in Jeffrey Lurie. Dammit, now I'm really depressed.
NFC East Standings
New York Giants
The loss is especially damaging because the Eagles are now 4-4, with a 0-3 record in the division. Any hopes of making the playoffs were probably snuffed out with this loss. The only hope for the future is that the rookie QB and the rookie head coach learn from this and stop making all these rookie mistakes. Or at least one of them does and the other gets fired for incompetence. I mean, it's not like any other coach in the NFL could possibly be worse than what Pederson has shown so far in his rookie season as a head coach, right?