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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Eagles can’t run away from mistakes

Posted by Eric Fisher On September 17

There were some positives that could be taken away from the Eagles’ 27-20 loss to the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Eagles never quit, nearly erasing a 14-point Chiefs lead in the final 8 seconds. The defensive line was ferocious for the second straight week. And the secondary did an admirable job against the Chiefs’ receivers despite suffering a pair of injuries.

But moral victories don’t fly in Philadelphia. A loss is still a loss, so there will be an emphasis on the mistakes.

The crucial mistake was a fourth-quarter interception thrown by Wentz with the score tied, 13-13. The screen pass hit linebacker Justin Houston’s helmet. The football popped high in the air and was then caught by defensive end Chris Jones, who was tackled at the Eagles 31-yard line.

“It was a screen play,” Wentz said. “Obviously, it was a bad throw.”

Five plays after the interception – and two after a tremendous third-down scramble by quarterback Alex Smith for a first down that avoided a long field goal attempt – the Chiefs took the lead on a shovel pass from Smith to tight end Travis Kelce for a 15-yard touchdown with 6:25 remaining.

After the Eagles went three-and-out, the Chiefs used a 36-yard pass to Chris Conley down the right sideline to set up the Kareem Hunt show. Although the Eagles kept the rookie running back under wraps for most of the game, holding him to 7 yards rushing during the first half, Hunt gained 4, 3 and 12 yards on successive plays before fighting off defensive tackle Beau Allen to reach across the goal line for a 2-yard touchdown that increased the Chiefs’ lead to 27-13 with just 2:14 remaining in regulation.

But the Eagles didn’t pack their bags and go home. Wentz engineered a drive that ended with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor, who made his only catch of the game, with 8 seconds remaining. Trey Burton recovered the ensuing onside kick, giving the Eagles a last-gasp opportunity with 5 seconds remaining. But Wentz’s pass was tipped out of the back of the end zone, leaving the Eagles to figure out what went wrong.

Eagles abandon the run

One aspect of the game that clearly didn’t go right was the balance between the run and the pass. The Eagles only called 13 running plays. By contrast Wentz completed 25 of 46 passes and scrambled for yardage on four other plays. That’s more than a 3:1 ratio of pass plays to running plays.

“That’s not a balance for success,” said Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, who almost made Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, his mentor, seem like a 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust guy.

The question is why the Eagles didn’t run the ball more often.

Wentz said, “I’m not overly concerned about the running game,” and attributed the lack of carries to “the flow of the game.”

LeGarrette Blount, whose one carry was wiped out by a penalty and didn’t see much playing time, agreed with Wentz, saying, “It’s just how the game went. I can’t argue with how the game went.”

If Wentz and Blount are referring to the score, that’s not a valid explanation. Not including scrambles by Wentz, the Eagles only ran the ball five times during the second half. Until the Chiefs’ touchdown with 6:25 remaining, however, the Eagles’ biggest deficit was three points. That hardly justifies pulling the plug on the running game.

Darren Sproles carried 10 times for 48 yards, so it wasn’t as if the running game was terrible. And while it was nice to see Sproles play a larger role in the game plan, that doesn’t explain the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Blount, who carried 14 times for 46 yards in the season opener against the Redskins.

When asked if he can remember ever not getting a carry during a game, Blount said, “not off the top of my head. No.”

Blount, who caught one pass for zero yards, diplomatically answered the barrage of questions from reporters. When asked about his role next week against the Giants, Blount said, “You’ve got ask Doug (Pederson).”

Those counting on Pederson to shed light on the reason behind the lack of commitment to the running game were disappointed.

“(The running game) is an area we have to address,” Pederson said. “It’s an area we have to fix. Obviously, I’m not too happy with the way we ran the ball the first two weeks. When you play good teams with good defenses, you have to be able to run the ball.”

Pederson’s explanation doesn’t explain why the Eagles abandoned the run. It’s not as if the passing game was lighting up the scoreboard.

Struggling to score

The Eagles didn’t reach the end zone until there was 4:08 left in the third quarter. Wentz connected with Alshon Jeffery (7 receptions for 92 yards) for a 17-yard touchdown pass, his first as an Eagle. What shouldn’t be lost is that the touchdown pass was set up by back-to-back runs by Wendell Smallwood (for 8 yards) and Sproles (for 3 yards and a first down.

The run can be used to set up the pass, but it won’t be effective if opposing defenses don’t have to pay attention to the running game. Wentz was sacked six times, but the offensive line, with the exception of left guard Isaac Seumalo, played fairly well against the Chiefs’ tough front-seven.

If Wentz continues to throw passes at his current rate, he will exceed the 607 passes he threw last season. He also will be more frequently exposed to getting hit, which is certainly not in Wentz’s nor the Eagles’ best interests.

“Offensively, we have to address our needs,” Pederson said. “And that starts with me, the play-caller.”

Defense excels

The lack of commitment to the running game took away from what was otherwise an encouraging performance. The defense, highlighted by the excellent play of linebacker Mychal Kendricks, pressured Smith throughout the game. That helped out the secondary, which lost safety Rodney McLeod and cornerback Jaylen Watkins to hamstring injuries during the first half. Pressed into action, third-round pick Rasul Butler did a good job in his first NFL game.

Safety Corey Graham also played fairly well, although he couldn’t fill the lane fast enough on Kareem Hunt’s 53-yard touchdown run with 1:20 remaining in the third quarter. Hunt’s touchdown run, which came just 2:48 after Jeffery’s touchdown and gained 1 more yard than the Eagles’ running backs gained in the entire game, put the Chiefs back in the lead, 13-10. But Jake Elliott, making his NFL debut drilled a 40-yard field goal to tie the game with 11:57 remaining.

Costly mistakes

Elliott, signed to replace injured kicker Caleb Sturgis, missed a 30-yard field goal just before halftime, so his roster spot might not be safe.

Another mistake was a fumble by Sproles on a punt return late in the first half. That set up a 39-yard field goal by Cairo Santos, which gave the Chiefs a 6-3 lead 17 seconds before halftime.

In a bit of foreshadowing for the end of the second half, the Eagles almost scored in the final 17 seconds. A long pass from Wentz down the left sideline bounced off the extended right arm of cornerback Terrance Mitchell, and tight end Zach Ertz alertly caught the ball and raced down to the 12-yard line for a 53-yard gain. But that play was negated by Elliott’s missed field goal.

Despite their mistakes, the Eagles battled back to coming within one play of tying the game. That’s an encouraging sign.

But that can’t erase the justified concern over the lack of balance in the Eagles offense.

Only one man can fix that problem.

In honor of Reid, let’s simply say, “Doug, time’s yours.”

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