Just as the Eagles defense steps up, the offense falls apart


Sunday’s loss to the Patriots is bound to leave a sour taste in the mouth of fans, players, and coaches. The Eagles had every opportunity to win the game, but were unable to overcome the Patriots defense…or get out of their own way offensively. For the first time this season, the Defense was the unit dragging the Eagles back into the game moments after levels of hope started to dip. Jim Schwartz called a blinder of a game, only to be let down by the offensive side of things.

The Eagles held the Patriots to a 31% third-down conversion rate, 17 points (2nd lowest of the season), and 298 total yards. Tom Brady was held without a touchdown for just the second time this year and also forced a new career-high in incompletions. The defense was good…really good.

On the offensive side of things, an explosive first half quickly burned out. Whether it was due to missing names like Jordan Howard and Alshon Jeffery, injuries to players like Lane Johnson, or even a combination of a multitude of things, this wasn’t good enough.

“It’s hard to say right now.” Carson Wentz said of the offense after the game. “We’ll go back and watch the tape as we always say. They had a really good plan. They always do. That’s a really good defense, so hats off to them. They did a great job taking away some things we wanted to do. It’s frustrating because we came out pretty hot. We didn’t convert the first drive, but got three points and then went down and scored, and that was it. That was it for our offense. Hats off to them, they played a great defensive game, but we have to be better.”

After gaining 84 yards in the first quarter and draining the clock for fun in the second, the Eagles were unable to get anything going. The Patriots didn’t seem to change things up much at halftime, but neither did the Eagles. Wentz continued to try and force the ball down the ‘big-play’ barrel, while his receivers let him down on the throws that actually found their intended target.

One player that was expected to have a greater role was Miles Sanders. With Jordan Howard out against a defense that gives up 4.7 yards per carry, this had his name written all over it…until it didn’t. Sanders averaged 3.5 yards per carry on 11 attempts and caught 2 passes for 9 yards, which is a stark contrast to the production we’d seen in recent weeks.

“I believe I noticed that every time I would go out, they started putting safeties on me instead.” Sanders explained in the locker room. “Even when I would go on swing routes or flats, the end tried to get a piece of me and with the back over top. They tried to make it real difficult for me.”

As for Zach Ertz, he led the Eagles in receiving with 94-yards. He kind of had to, with nobody else making any kind of impact until it was too late. Jordan Matthews had his return stifled by Gilmore and McCourty, who forced JMatt into catching just one of six passes thrown his way, and Nelson Agholor struggled mightily….again.

“I think we kind of beat ourselves at times.” Ertz said. “Obviously we had penalties and it was probably one of our worst third-down performances of the season. We just weren’t efficient on third-down against a really good third-down defense. We came into the game with a lot of confidence on our third-down performance and we just didn’t execute, and we had penalties. They are a good defense. It’s tough to go 90 yards at times against them. We did it once, but we just couldn’t do it again.”

It doesn’t matter who’s responsible or how it happened. The Eagles defense put on such a dominant display against the Patriots offense and were let down in every feasible aspect on the other side of the ball. Fingers will be pointed at the quarterback, his receivers, and his coordinator, but if the Birds’ can’t tighten up before Seattle, the pressure to win-out in what should be a slightly easier run-in to the end of the season will really begin to mount.

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports