There’s a lot to work through regarding Sunday night’s frustrating, and potentially devastating, loss to the Dallas Cowboys, and we’ll do our best here at Eagles Frenzy to touch on it all. Of the number plays the Eagles would like to have back from this game, one in particular stands out and serves as a microcosm of a lot of what is ailing the Philadelphia Eagles.
With the Eagles trailing by seven and attempting to mount a game-tying drive, the team faced a third and two. This was the result.
WHAT A GAME. #eaglesvscowboys lived up to the hype with Dallas pulling out the 27-20 victory. Leighton Vander Esch was the story of the night, as Sean Lee’s replacement had his first career Pick and made this unbelievable game saving tackle 🔥 #SNF pic.twitter.com/l4D2ntIOKH
— Second Deck Sports (@2nddecksports) November 12, 2018
Where to start? Rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch beats not one but two Eagles’ blockers to blow up the play, turning a third and two into a fourth and seven that proved to be too much to overcome.
Let’s start with the play call itself. The design worked and if the Eagles executed the play it would have picked up the first down, and Vander Esch deserves credit for making a very good play. But why even call a play that gives the defense a chance to make a play that has such a negative result? Why not run all routes past the sticks so that a completion is a guaranteed first down? Instead, not only did you not pick up the first, but you also put yourself in a more difficult spot to try to pick it up on fourth down. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this from Doug Pederson. Heck, it’s not even the first time we’ve seen it from Pederson against the Cowboys. And it’s not the first time we’ve seen it backfire horribly.
Doug was masterful calling the plays a season ago but has left a lot to be desired in that department this year. He has made some head-scratching decisions throughout the season, and as evidenced by this play, doesn’t seem to be learning from his mistakes, adapting, or noting what is working and what isn’t.
Furthermore, why rely on Corey Clement to make a play in that situation? Clement deserves credit for his contributions during the Super Bowl run, but as offered very little this season. This seemed like a perfect situation to go to Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, or the sure-handed Alshon Jeffrey. It’s bizarre to not give one of those playmakers an opportunity on the biggest play of the game, arguably of the season.
Pederson has had some suspect moments this season, and this play epitomized the situation.
But the parallels don’t end there.
There’s absolutely no way you can let Vander Esch make that play, and it comes down to effort, will, focus, and execution. The game, and perhaps the season, was on the line and you had a two-on-one situation and still got beat. A hungry, focused team executes that play and picks up the first down. Right now, the Eagles don’t appear to be either of those things.
A final aspect of the play that is concerning, and is a part of both issues we discussed above, is mentality. In a situation that called for aggression and swagger, that called for going at the defense, the Eagles stayed in their own backfield attempting to finesse their way to a first down. The offense has gotten frustratingly horizontal, and the team’s failure to dictate the action is representative of the overall mentality of the team right now.
The Eagles have had a lot of problems this season, and every player from 53-1 is deserving of blame. While you can’t blame all 53 for this play, the call itself and the result encapsulates a lot of what is currently wrong with this team.