Missed chances: A departure from the Philadelphia Eagles’ positivity train

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Philadelphia Eagles
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Groh-ing pains

Through three-quarters Doug Pederson had the Eagles offense running like the well oiled mean green machine that it was last season. There was creativity and a healthy amount of pre-snap motion to confuse the Panthers D. Carson was lighting up the stat sheet with the help of the vacuum tandem that is Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery.

Dallas Goedert slipped into the mix with a few grabs including a touchdown and Nelson Agholor showcased his ballroom dancing skills with a slick double spin move.

There was still a deficiency of run plays, but Wendell Smallwood displayed busts of ability and Josh Adams even got a taste with a few gutsy rushes.

I’m slowly coming to the realization that Corey Clement may not be the back of the future that many had hoped he could become. Without two other legitimate backs for the defense to worry about, it appears much easier to contain Clement.

Nonetheless, Carson was on Cloud 9 for three-quarters. At one point he completed 15 straight passes. He had two touchdowns and seemed as if he could do no wrong. That all changed in the Birds offensive possession following the Panthers first touchdown.

On second-and-eleven from the 50-yard line, Wentz was rushed by linebacker Luke Kuechly and nearly taken to the ground before flicking the ball off towards Goedert and appearing to escape the sack. The referees called the play a sack on the field and though the play was reviewed, it stood. It was a close play, but it ultimately left the Birds with an unmanageable third-and-18.

They failed to convert and after the Panthers scored to make it a three-point game, the Birds offense went three and out. Fast forward through the aforementioned defensive collapse and the Birds had the ball at their own 30 with just over a minute left.

On the first play of the drive, the Eagles boldly threw the home run ball and Alshon Jeffery drew a 48-yard pass interference penalty. A smart play by James Bradberry minimized the damage on what could have been a 70-yard game winning bomb via Wentz.

With the ball spotted at the Eagles 30, Wentz displayed a minute of concerning judgment. I’ll probably catch heat for placing any bit of blame on the kid who went 30/37, but we can’t baby him, folks. Sure we can rag on Nick Foles all day and blame him for the lack of offensive function in the first few games, but we don’t dare speak negatively about Carson.

Well on first-and-10 from the 30, he badly misses Ertz throwing an errant pass into the arms of Eric Reid for what appeared to a game-ending interception. In targeting Ertz, Wentz failed to spot an open Dallas Goedert streaking toward the end zone. With all the focus on Ertz, Goedert could’ve taken it in for the touchdown.

Luckily the ball touched the ground and the ruling was overturned. With this fortunate second life, Smallwood ran a solid eight-yard pickup down the middle.

Only needing two yards to move the chains and give the Birds a fresh set of downs, Wentz opted to throw towards a double covered Jeffery in the end zone and somehow doge another near game-ending interception in and out of the arms of Mike Adams.

Had Wentz not forced a ball into double coverage trying to be the game-winning hero and instead looked for his check down, he would’ve seen a wide open (and I mean wide open) Smallwood just past the first down marker. Dump the ball off and Small goes out-of-bounds with, at worst, about 30 seconds left inside the red zone and no need to use a timeout. At best Smallwood could’ve tacked on additional yardage and possibly stretched out for the game-winning touchdown.

Instead, it all came down to fourth-and-two, with all of the marbles on the table. The offense, whether it be Doug Pederson or offensive coordinator Mike Groh who made the ultimate call, opted to go with a five-wide look that included no additional pass protection for Wentz and only one tight end.

If you haven’t caught on, I have an immense belief in Dallas Goedert as a weapon to pick up the scraps while teams focus on Ertz and Jeffery. Not only that, he is an outstanding blocker and could have provided Wentz with enough time to find the wide open Jeffrey in the middle of the field for the first down to keep the drive alive.

Instead, the window closed before it was ever open, Wentz fumbled and the Carolina Panthers were on the way to the largest fourth-quarter comeback in franchise history.

I harp on Wentz for just a short moment but it ultimately comes down to poor play calling and the inability to step on an opponents throat and put them away when you have a double-digit lead. The offense was electric through three-quarters and much of that was thanks to the aerial attack, but at some point, you need to run the ball.

With an 11 point lead, the Eagles offense ran the ball one time. On their last drive of desperation with the clock ticking to under one minute. For crying out loud, run the ball and eat up some of the clock throughout the thirteen other minutes of that final quarter. Give Smallwood a chance to pick up some yardage on first and second downs so you’re left with a manageable third down at worst and possibly a first down instead of third-and-long.

You need to eat up as much clock as possible when your opponent is going nearly 70 yards in under a minute for their game-winning score. We should be eternally grateful that the Panthers gave the Birds enough time for a final drive, even if it ended with our hearts sinking through the floor.