Birds Roundup Week 6: Four takeaways from the loss to Baltimore

Another valiant late-game effort from the Eagles this week against the Ravens, but like last week, it wasn’t enough to get the W.

Truthfully, it’s hard for me to get overly mad about losing these close games to Super Bowl contenders considering the circumstances the Eagles find themselves in. Top three receivers out, best tight end out, four offensive lineman out, and by the end of the game there were two third string offensive lineman on the right side of the line and the Zach Ertz and Miles Sanders were both out of the game. These past two games shouldn’t have even been close if we’re being honest with ourselves.

But I still hate losing, and these close losses will have to turn into wins at some point this season if this team actually wants to win the NFC East.

It’s insane that we’re still even talking about a division title sitting at 1-4-1, but that’s the reality of the NFC East this year. These next three games against the Giants twice and Dallas will essentially decide the season.

But before we get into this three-game stretch, let’s get into some takeaways from this 30-28 loss to Baltimore on Sunday.

Wentz and the offense bounced back after a horrid start

You literally can’t start a game worse than how the Eagles started Sunday’s game offensively. Their first six drives of the game netted them -7 yards. Negative seven yards. I didn’t realize that was even possible. Each of the drives were three and outs with one of them ending in a turnover from Wentz.

But to Doug Pederson’s and Wentz’s credit, they fought back towards the end of the first half and were able to carry that momentum into the second. They outscored Baltimore 28-13 in the second half, falling just one two-point conversion short of tying the game.

Wentz’s stats weren’t the best at the end of the game, 21 for 40 for 213 yards and two touchdowns through the air. But you have to give him credit for making it close in the end. If Miles Sanders wouldn’t have dropped that touchdown at the end of the first half, or if John Hightower didn’t drop that bomb on the first drive, the outcome of the game could’ve been completely different.

Those are the type of plays good teams make, and right now this team isn’t very good. Maybe once they get some of their injured starters back they will be, but without them I can’t expect the Eagles to pull out close victories over Super Bowl contending teams.

Doug needs to commit to a Jalen Hurts package every week

I’m still not a huge fan of the Jalen Hurts pick, but it seems like every time he’s on the field the offense is productive. Defenses have to account for him every time he’s out there, and we saw on Sunday how it can open up things for other players. On Sanders’ 70-yard run, Hurts was on the field as a decoy, running in motion behind Wentz like he was going to get a reverse hand off. It made the Ravens defense hesitate and led to the first touchdown of the day for the Birds.

Given how many skill players are out of the lineup right now, there’s no reason Hurts shouldn’t see the field more. Pederson needs to install a package every week for Hurts, at least 15-20 plays. He was only out there for five plays on Sunday and still had a profound impact on the game. He needs to be used in the same fashion as Taysom Hill on the Saints.

Sean Payton sticks with his Hill packages even when they aren’t working because it forces the defense to be honest. Forcing the defense to key in on him consistently opens up the entire offense for New Orleans. Hurts has proven that he has the same effect on opposing defenses, so Pederson needs to find ways to get him on the field.

You spent a second round pick on the guy, he needs to be on the field for the pick to be justified at all.

Defense was able to contain the big plays, but Lamar Jackson still got his

Overall, I didn’t think the defense played terribly. None of the Ravens running backs had over 30 rushing yards, and Marquise Brown was the only pass catcher to go over 50 yards receiving. Heading into the game I was concerned that this defense would continue letting up big plays like they did against the Steelers, but they played disciplined throughout the game, with the exception of Lamar Jackson’s 37 yard TD run.

The defensive line got some pressure on Jackson, taking him down three times, and there were several times they forced Lamar to scramble and either throw it away or make an arrant throw. Jackson finished the game with just 186 yards passing and one touchdown.

What really killed the Eagles defense was Lamar’s rushing, as he went for over 100 yards on just nine carries. They key to stopping the Ravens attack is forcing Lamar to beat you with his arm, and there was never a point in this game where he had to do that. He played with a lead the entire game.

Some of that falls back on the offense who didn’t get a first down until half way through the second quarter, and gave them a short field early in the game on a Wentz fumble.

At the end of the day, giving up 30 points isn’t ideal at all, but it’s hard to blame the defense for this loss. They did force punts towards the end of the game when they needed to and put their offense in a position to win it in the end.

Let’s talk about that 2-point conversion attempt at the end of the game

I don’t hate going for two-point conversions. When it works, Doug looks like a genius. The game against the Niners is a perfect example. But when you try to run read option plays down there against a defense like the Ravens, when your offensive line is playing with third stringers, I have to question what the hell Doug was thinking.

The first time they tried to run the read option for a two-point play, Hurts was in the game along with Sanders, and it still got blown up. The next two two-point plays, Doug put the ball in Wentz’s hands and let him throw it in, and both times Wentz was able to find a wide open receiver in the end zone. So why not have a similar play drawn up for the final two-point conversion with the game on the line?

I can’t wrap my mind around trying a read option there with Wentz and Boston Scott. If it didn’t work with your more athletic quarterback and starting running back, what makes you think it was going to work with Wentz and the backup running back?

It was clearly a case of Doug overthinking the play and trying to completely outsmart the Ravens defense. The offense was struggling to run the ball all game, and Wentz was getting hot towards the end. There’s just no reason to think a read option play in that situation was going to work. Let your franchise quarterback tie the game with his arm. That’s what you’re paying him for. Not to run a read option in that situation.

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