Wentz, Pederson need to fix Eagles

Eliot Shorr-Parks
September 16, 2019 - 8:35 am

The Eagles’ loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday night might have been in the 2019 season but it sure felt like a throwback to 2018.

Self-inflicted wounds. A slow start. Injuries. Good but not good enough. Enough reasons to be encouraged to overshadow some obvious flaws.

Close to a win, but ultimately, another close loss.

Losses that are quickly starting to pile up for head coach Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz. The excuses for them are starting to run thin. 

Individually you can try to rationalize most of them away. A bad showing by the defense against Carolina and Tennessee last season. A blown call against Dallas to start the game. A banged up secondary in New Orleans, and last night, injuries all over the offensive side of the ball. A long touchdown allowed to Julio Jones with the game on the line certainly played a role as well. 

Add them all up, however, and the harsh reality is that the Eagles are now 6-7 in the last 13 games that Pederson and Wentz have gone into together. For all of the praise the duo gets, and most of it deserved, that is a losing record in almost an entire season and a record that is starting to become a disturbing trend. 

While Wentz gets the headlines, it shouldn’t be looked over that Doug Pederson has now pretty consistently not had this team ready to play at the start of games. Take away the stellar 2017 season, and the Eagles’ offense was 24th in the NFL in points scored in the first quarter inn 2016, 31st in 2017 and is currently dead last after two weeks this season. They are one of only five teams yet to score a point in the first quarter. The 2017 is starting to look like the outlier, not the new norm when it comes to the team getting off to quick starts. 

The Eagles once again looked sloppy to start the game on Sunday night, netting only six points in the first half. Their six first-half drives resulted in only 80 total yards, with just as many drives ending in interceptions as field goals. As good as Pederson is as making adjustments during the game, dialing up the right play at the right time and managing his locker room, it is fair to say after over three seasons as head coach a real flaw of his might be getting his team ready for the start of games and scripting his initial 15 plays. 

His quarterback certainly didn’t do him any favors. 

Wentz was atrocious to start the game on Sunday, turning in some of the worst football of his career and some of the ugliest interceptions since his rookie season. His first interception was a very reckless throw, chucking the ball down the field with pressure in his face simply hoping for a miracle. His second was to nobody in particular and went right into the hands of the Falcons defender. Overall, Wentz was 6-for-16 for 47 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 6.2 in the first half of a prime-time, big game against a team that was projected by many to be a playoff team entering the season. His struggles on the road against quality opponents continued. 

There is no denying Wentz was spectacular in the fourth quarter, but we might be reaching the point in his career where there isn't much room for moral victories and close losses have to start becoming wins. 

Now two games into his fourth season in the NFL, Wentz is 8-13 in games decided by one possession or less. That isn’t a small sample size and a problem in a league where most games are one-possession games. All of the close losses aren’t on Wentz, but he certainly hasn’t had many moments where he strapped on his franchise-quarterback cape and saved the team despite extreme circumstances. In fact, going into Sunday night Wentz had a lower career quarterback rating in the fourth quarter than he did in the first, second or third.

In his career, when his team is either tied or trailing with less than four minutes to go, Wentz has eight touchdowns to seven interceptions. According to Pro Football Reference, Wentz has only four fourth-quarter comebacks in 42 career games. In the 13 games he played in 2017, you could point to the fact he was always ahead. You can’t for the other 29 games of his career. Outside of an impressive win in Carolina in 2017, there is an argument to be made Wentz is still looking for the signature, franchise-type win of his career. 

Yes, there is reason to be encouraged by what Wentz did in the fourth quarter. A dropped pass by Nelson Agholor certainly played a role in the outcome and might have netted Wentz that win, moment and drive he has been looking for. 

Overall, however, the duo of Pederson and Wentz need to find a way to start racking up some actual wins for the Eagles, not close losses blamed on everyone else. 

The poor starts have to start turning into big leads. Strong finishes that leave fans encouraged have to start actually ending in a victory. Great games and plays from Wentz’s can’t keep coming in losses. Game-winning drives have to actually win the game. Wins from the duo need to come not just when everything went right, but sometimes when everything went wrong. 

It is up to Pederson and Wentz to make sure that starts happening, or a 2019 season that started with very high expectations might end with the same bitter taste as the 2018 season did.

You can reach Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at esp@94wip.com!