Nobody said a win has to be pretty, the Eagles have made that much clear over the last two weeks. Here’s four takeaways from the sloppy win over Dallas:
1. Eagles win ugly, 23-9, but it doesn’t matter what it looks like right now
Should the Birds have blown out the worst team in football? Probably, but a win is a win and that’s my bigger focus—head into the bye week with the division lead, get healthy, tweak what you can, and hope to turn the corner in the second half of the season.
Before I detail some of the more specific takeaways from this ugly win, it’s important to maintain sight of the bigger picture—the Eagles are actually cruising to a playoff spot, and they have two months (8 games) to figure it out. It doesn’t matter what your record is if you make the playoffs, all that matters is if you’re playing your best football by season’s end. The Eagles might look like a mess now, but they have the luxury of time to get healthy and right before the playoffs, and that’s where our focus should be.
2. The good, the bad, and the ugly
The good? Defense…
This fan base will criticize Schwartz and his defense any chance they get, so it was good to see them leave no room for criticism on this night. Detractors will argue that this is what they were supposed to do against Dallas, but you can’t please everyone. 3.4 yards per play, 2 fumbles, 4 sacks, and keeping the Cowboy offense from ever crossing the 30-yard line is as good as it gets.
The bad? Doug Pederson…
Doug has had worse efforts, but I can’t remember the last time I was impressed by his play-calling. Between occasionally abandoning the run game, consistently putting Wentz in adverse situations, and over-aggressiveness on fourth-down, Doug is often his own worst enemy.
He needs to take a hard look at his football team and realize that at this moment they‘re better served getting the ball out of Wentz’s hands fast, keeping the defense on their heels with a committed running game, and playing the field position game. I’m all for the pass-happy and aggressive ethos of Doug’s offense, but sometimes your tendencies as a coach need to adapt to your roster, and that’s a lesson Doug is clearly in the process of learning.
The ugly? Turnovers (Wentz)…
I refuse to dwell on Wentz’s interceptions, as both balls could’ve just as easily fallen incomplete, and both were harmless in the sense that Dallas never reaped a short field off of them. What continues to be more concerning are his fumbles and holding onto the ball too long. Wentz’s fumble problem is well-known at this point, and I don’t see any reason to expect this habit to stop.
A big reason why we’re seeing him hold the ball longer than he has in years past (though it’s always been an issue) has to do with lack of talent around him (and coaching) but that shouldn’t absolve Wentz; more so, plenty of QBs are pressured like Carson is and don’t lose the football at the rate he does. At a certain point quarterbacking is just about protecting the football, and his seeming inability to make that a priority should be the main concern here.
3. Of course four turnovers and four sacks are bad, but otherwise this wasn’t an exceptionally notable Wentz performance—this is more or less what
we’ve I’ve come to expect from him
I can’t help but zig where everyone else is zagging, and I can already hear the collective groans, “did you even watch the game?” …I did… This season (and for most of the past two) I’ve seen Wentz fail to anticipate open receivers, completely miss open receivers, and force the ball into coverage—the holy trinity of mistakes—and according to my unscientific count, tonight wasn’t really all that bad when you consider the 15 mph crosswinds.
I understand saying “Wentz wasn’t really that bad when you consider *insert excuse here*” isn’t a rousing endorsement, but my lack of impulsivity over this performance is more virtue of the fact that I’ve come to expect these flaws from Wentz by now—I’ve had him pegged as average to above-average at best for a while, and the evidence has mounted in favor of that. This wasn’t some markedly bad performance, this is just who Carson is.
The sack (and fumble) he took on fourth down early in the second quarter was one example of the sort of pre-snap misreads that have plagued Wentz all season long—he just doesn’t know where his eyes should be once the ball is snapped—but outside of that sort of mistake this was actually one of Carson’s cleaner games in terms of accuracy. Point to the turnovers, point to the low yardage total, but none of that trumps the fact that he was ultimately able to lead us to a win (no matter how meager).
I’ll defend Wentz on this night, even if it’s only because I think the fan base is late to the party on his obvious struggles.
4. At 3-4-1 and the NFC East lead heading into the bye, the Eagles are right where they need to be
I’ll close the roundup with the same tone I opened with—a win is a win in the NFL, and an abysmal night from what has been a bottom five offense in the league shouldn’t alter that. The Eagles position hasn’t changed; with the NFC East basically falling into their lap they have ample time to get healthy and right on offense before it really matters. So long as they’re playing their best football at the end of the season their record and how these early wins look are irrelevant—the Birds know that better than anyone.