Blame Doug, not players, for Eagles loss to Miami

Joe Giglio
December 02, 2019 - 7:58 am

That was on the head coach.

Sunday’s ridiculous Eagles loss to the Dolphins wasn’t on the defense getting torched by Ryan Fitzpatrick, Zach Ertz drops, penalties, a missed field goal, Carson Wentz making physical and mental errors, or taking a poor opponent lightly. 

It was about Doug Pederson failing to see what was in front of him and acting more like an offensive coordinator than a head coach.

For most of this season, I’ve given Pederson a pass. Execution and overall talent level, not play calling or offensive design, was to blame for a mediocre outfit. After watching the Eagles rally in back-to-back seasons, Pederson has earned my trust. 

But Sunday’s overall plan of attack vs. one of the NFL’s worst teams was as bad as anything we’ve seen in four years of watching Pederson run the team.

The reason: Pederson forgot what he already knows. It’s one thing to be ignorant. It’s another to be stubborn and ignore reality. The 37-31 loss to Miami was the latter, and one every Eagles fan should be frustrated with as a once-promising season slips away.

When the Eagles won back-to-back games over Buffalo and Chicago, it felt like an identity had been established for how Pederson would get the most of a flawed team: Run the ball, shorten the clock, ask Wentz to manage games (as opposed to be the driving force), keep the defense off the field and fresh, and use the strength of the roster (offensive line) to bully opponents. 

The Eagles ran the ball 41 times vs. Buffalo, then stuffed it down Chicago’s throat 35 times the following week. Wins ensued as the defense found its footing, even as the passing game lacked bite.

Since? Pederson has called 146 pass plays and 61 running plays. Yes, they've been without Jordan Howard. Yes, the offensive line was in a shambles vs. the Seahawks. Reasons existed to get away from the run vs. New England and Seattle. Those reasons didn’t add up vs. Miami. 

I hate being “run the ball, Doug!” guy, but on Sunday afternoon, we were all that guy.

If you haven’t checked the box score because it hurts too much, here’s what your eyes probably recall: 46 to 19. That was the ratio of Wentz throws to rushing attempts on a day where the Eagles lost time of possession to a team that ranks 30th in the NFL in that metric.

Miami came into the day as one of the NFL’s worst run defenses, and had no answer for Miles Sanders (17 carries, 83 yards). As the game progressed, it was pretty clear that Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was in a zone, and the Eagles defense had little chance to stop wide receiver DeVante Parker (7 catches, 159 yards, 2 touchdowns). Instead of getting in a shootout on a hot day in South Florida, the Eagles could have taken the air out of the ball and shortened the game (something we’ve seen Pederson do during some of his best days). 

But Pederson continued to do what’s become the norm in a three-game losing streak: Default to the pass and ask a flawed aerial attack to win the game. The problem, of course, is that the Eagles don’t win when the game rests on Wentz’s shoulders. 

Sunday marked Wentz's 17th career came with 40-or-more attempts. The Eagles are now just 2-15 in those games, with one of the wins (Dec. 2017 vs. the Los Angeles Rams) coming with Wentz on the sidelines in the final quarter. In four seasons, Wentz has walked off the field victorious just once after a 40-plus attempt game. This season, the Eagles are 0-5 when Wentz attempts 40-or-more passes.

Pederson ignored the reality of his quarterback and current passing attack. He ignored running game success right in front of his face. He ignored how poorly his defense was faring. He ignored the formula he concocted earlier this season. He ignored the strength of his team. 

Let’s not pretend a few plays here or there lost a game to the Dolphins. If Pederson had thought of the game holistically (like a head coach should) instead of simply as a play caller, an embarrassing defeat doesn’t come down to a dropped pass, missed field goal or sack taken.

In a season of blame, 37-31 in Miami falls on the man in charge of everything on Sunday.​