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Eagles Can’t Convert Late Against Giants, Fall to .500

Dig the hole. The 2016 Philadelphia Eagles are ready for their burial. The cause of death on the autopsy will read, “Rookie coach consistently found ways to lose games,” as the Eagles lost another stinker to the Giants 28-23 on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.

The worst part about the game is that it had all the trademarks of an Eagles loss this year. The Giants gift-wrapped the win for the Birds, but the coaching staff again decided a loss would be the better move.

Carson Wentz started out quite poor, with two ill-advised interceptions to safeties Landon Collins and Andrew Adams. Both turnovers led to immediate Giants touchdowns, two of four on the day for quarterback Eli Manning who finished with 257 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Suddenly after just six minutes of gameplay, the Eagles found themselves in a hole, down 14-0. It’s easy to blame these early interceptions for the loss, but there’s so much more to it.

The Eagles began their comeback on a Caleb Sturgis 34-yard field goal, but after the Eagles defense forced a Giants punt, the hilarity ensued. The first of many foolish play calls, a fourth down quarterback keeper that went for a loss, despite having a kicker that’s been as good as any in the league. Even still, the Giants failed to capitalize.

The Eagles got the ball back and after newcomer WR Bryce Treggs 58-yard catch (longest play from a WR this season), RB Ryan Matthews did the rest of the work. He walked in for an easy eight- yard touchdown to bring the lead to a manageable 14-10. It’s amazing that the longest play of the season from the receiving corps essentially came from a walk-on, after Treggs replaces Josh ‘Hollow Point’ Huff, who decided his stoner Rambo joyriding was more important than his job last week. Huff was signed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad on Monday.

A big play from WR Victor Cruz, a 46-yard bomb put the Giants in business again. Three plays later, Manning found Odell Beckham Jr. for his second touchdown of the day to go up 21-10.
A few possessions later, the Eagles found themselves again going for it on fourth down at the Giants’ six-yard line with goal line back RB Darren Sproles, who has many talents but goal line back is certainly not one of them. Coach Pederson spoke after the game, citing momentum as a primary reason for his baffling decisions. When a team loses by five points, and its coaching staff says no thanks to six points in a tough divisional road game, that team most certainly isn’t going to win the game. They eventually attempted a field goal try before half but it was blocked by DE Jason Pierre Paul.

“I think it’s a momentum thing,” Pederson said. “I get what you’re saying. Listen, it’s an opportunity for us offensively to score 7 points over 3. I truly believe in our defense and special teams. They showed up and made some great plays in those two phases of the game. If we don’t start the ball game the way we do, it’s different. It’s totally different. I’m going to continue to show confidence in our guys and believe in our guys.”

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

The start of the second half saw the Eagles come out firing, quickly working the ball down field and culminating in a three-yard touchdown run by RB Kenjon Barner. The Giants immediately responded with a long drive and an eventual 32-yard touchdown pass to WR Sterling Shepard, bringing the score to 28-17.

Sturgis field goals of 26 and 38 yards put the Eagles in striking distance, and even Eli Manning got in on the fun. The return of ‘Manning face’, a deer in headlights look Eli has been known for amongst Eagles fans was a welcome sight, after he threw an interception to Eagles LB Jordan Hicks at the Giants 34-yard line with 1:48 left to play.

With the ball deep in Giants territory, and yet another opportunity to seal a win, the Eagles failed, again. The play calling didn’t do Wentz any favors, but yet again in crunch time, the Eagles signal caller has looked more than mortal, like a rookie that’s a bit in over his head.

“I still don’t use that excuse,” Wentz said. “I mean, we’ve all got to learn from it, without a doubt, whether we’re rookies, whether we’re tenured vets, we’ve all got to learn from it. We’ve got to find way, like I keep saying, we’ve got to find ways to finish ball games and that’s what it comes down to in the fourth quarter. When we have chances to win at the end, we’ve got to do it.”

Wentz’ fourth down throw to Jordan Matthews could have been a better ball, but Matthews attempt at the game winning catch was nothing short of pathetic. While the ball was in the air, his adjustment to it was little league-esque.

“I think that the biggest thing that you learn is that same sense of urgency that you have to have at the end of the game,” Matthews said. “We have to come out with that. We have to come out with that same drive, that same attention to detail and that ‘got to have it mentality’. Like we have to make a play right now and a lot of times that comes when we are down or late in game, but then it is too late. We don’t need to keep putting ourselves in that position and then when we do, it has to be that same mentality. We just have to focus and execute and that is something that we really need to go back and look at and get better at.”

Matthews, to all his credit is an NFL receiver, just not a very good one. He’s certainly not a number one receiver in this league. He’d be a solid slot receiver on most teams with actual NFL talent on their roster. But at the end of the day, the Eagles roster is what it is – severely lacking talented playmakers. Simply put, they have none, outside of the ageless wonder that is Darren Sproles.

For the fourth time now, the Eagles have had the ball with a chance to win the game and they’ve come up short. They have a coach that values imaginary momentum over actual points, quarterback runs and screens over actual chain moving play calls, and doing the math instead of taking points on the road. They have a quarterback who’s a wild gunslinger. They have receivers that could all be cut tomorrow and people wouldn’t be surprised, save for Matthews. This team could have justifiably won all the games they’ve lost so far, something that won’t make the already crazy Eagles fans any crazier for sure. At the beginning of the season, predictions of a 6-10 or 7-9 season were reasonable. The three-game win streak changed things and had people penciling in a 10-6 record. The six or seven-win season looks way more likely.

A rare glimmer of good news befell the Eagles Sunday. The Vikings dropped another game in an overtime thriller loss to the Lions, making the Vikes’ first rounder they’re sending over for Bradford look better and better.

The Eagles now drop to 4-4 and remain winless in their division. With the Falcons, Seahawks and Packers all lined up next on the schedule, it’s easy to see this season continuing to spiral out of control. But hey, at least they’re working on their focus and execution.

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