‘Have I ever told you the definition of insanity? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.’
If there was one word to summarize this season so far, it would be complacency. This was supposed to be the week that the ship moves in the right direction. The week in which it all finally comes together. The offense is the healthiest it’s looked since week one and despite a lack of defensive depth, the group are coming off a dominant showing against New York. The scary part was, for three quarters it absolutely was.
Carson Wentz and the Eagles jumped out of the gate and quickly sprinted to a solid ead, while the Panthers were left wondering what they need to do to get past this brick wall in front of them. Carson Wentz started the day completing 13/16 passes for 198 yards and one touchdown, surgically picking apart the Panthers, while Newton completed 1/5 attempts and had more rushing yards than passing through the opening half of play. Victory, it seemed was in grasp.
The Eagles then ran a 17-play, 94-yard drive, that ran 9:22 off the clock and ended in a touchdown during the third quarter. Kermit was sipping his tea and it all seemed sunny in Philadelphia once more.
But then, something happened. After stifling the Panthers with complete and total ease, the Eagles seemed to let off the gas a little bit. Players were dancing prior to the fourth quarter and it seemed as though the Eagles were in complete control. Out of nowhere, the Eagles defense shape-shifted.
Instead of playing closer to the line of scrimmage and disrupting routes, Jim Schwartz appeared to revert back to his ‘bend but don’t break mentality.’ Normally, this would probably be okay, but the Eagles are without a lot of interior pass-rushing talent. Ngata was sidelined and alongside Fletcher Cox is a combination of undrafted free agents. So, do the math.
If the Eagles pass-rushers are supremely less likely to harass the quarterback and said quarterback now has a huge window to throw in, what’s going to happen?
Chunk. Plays. And. Lots. Of. Them.
The Eagles gave up a touchdown very quickly, but meh, no sweat…right? It’s not like at 17-6 the Panthers were still a threat.
So, Doug Pederson sends his offense out onto the field and runs the most conservative, predictable offensive drive possible. Luke Kuechly had a field day, the passes behind the line of scrimmage on screens and swings were all too easy to blow up for the Panthers defense and when Wentz was forced to attack deeper, the coverage dictated an incompletion.
After seeing what had happened previously, Schwartz was surely going to go back to his winning blueprint, right?
On the first five drives of the game, the Panthers totaled 106 yards and five punts. Their final three all ended in touchdowns.
Very quickly, this game went from safe and certain to absolute carnage. The defense crumbled as it has so many times in weeks past and most notably as it did against the Titans not too long ago. Key stops on third and fourth down were now eradicated and replaced by trips, missed tackles and the most conservative play calling possible. The Eagles sat back and let the Panther come at them over and over until it was too late.
On the final drive of the game, it was clear the oxygen was sucked out of the team’s lungs. Carson Wentz looked timid in the pocket and threw to dangerous passes that should’ve been intercepted.
All of the positives displayed in the first half were wiped out because the same errors that plague this team over and over were OPTIONALLY inserted back into the realm of possibility.
At some point, this has to come back to coaches, both positional and coordinators. It’s the same flaws each and every week and the Eagles continue to shoot themselves in the foot. Good teams make opponents pay for their mistakes and that’s exactly what the Panthers did.
There’s an old saying that goes ‘If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Well, ‘IT’ was working perfectly fine until the Eagles decided to attack it with a Hammer.
andatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports