Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Repeat performance

Posted by Eric Fisher On October 7

The Eagles got off to a slow start.

The Eagles were plagued by ill-timed penalties and turnovers.

And cornerback Jalen Mills was beat for a long pass on a double move.

In other words, the Eagles keep repeating the same mistakes they’ve been making all season, which is why they came up on the short end of a 23-21 decision to the Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field.

“Guys are sick to their stomach,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “They hate this feeling. We’ve got to get it fixed quick.”

The Eagles (2-3) won’t have much time to fix their issues. They visit the Giants on Thursday (8:20 p.m.).

“It’s hard,” Pederson said. “It’s a short week.”

But quarterback Carson Wentz put a positive spin on the short week.

“The beautiful thing for us is it’s a fast turnaround,” Wentz said. “We can get that bad taste out of our mouths in a hurry.”

But that bad taste has been developing for five weeks now. The taste has gotten progressively worse as the Eagles have lost three times in their last four games, with defeats the past two Sundays against the Titans and Vikings.

“Losing sucks, especially for a team with the talent we have,” defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said.

Cox and Wentz both mentioned that the Eagles are a better team than the way they’ve performed this season. Last season’s Super Bowl victory indicates that they are correct. If they keep making the same mistakes, however, those self-inflicted wounds will become the identity of this season’s team.

The Vikings’ victory was a bit of revenge for the Vikings’ embarrassing 38-7 loss in last season’s NFC Championship Game at Lincoln Financial Field. But, for the Eagles, Sunday’s loss wasn’t about last season. It was about this season, a season that could slip away from them the next few weeks against the Giants, Panthers and Jaguars (in London) if they don’t get their issues resolved.

“We’ve got to take a real hard look in the mirror,” Wentz said.

It’s the same old song

There were several sequences against the Vikings that typified the Eagles’ problems. They opened the second half with a nice drive, featuring a running game that Pederson seemed to forget about during the first half, that reached the Vikings 6. But Jay Ajayi fumbled – apparently without being touched by a defender – and the Vikings recovered. On their first play from scrimmage, Mills bit on a double move, as he has all season, and Kirk Cousins connected on a 68-yard pass down the right sideline to Adam Thielen, who became the first player in NFL history to compile at least 100 receiving yards in the first five games of a season.

In those two plays, the Eagles went from being on the verge of scoring and cutting their deficit to one touchdown to the Vikings being in field goal range. The defense held tough in the red zone, something that has been a constant for most of the past two seasons (except last week against the Titans) and held the Vikings to a field goal midway through the third quarter.

The Eagles only had three points at that juncture. This highlights the slow starts the offense has been having.

But the Eagles have been resilient. After falling 17 points behind the Vikings, they kicked a field goal with 2:57 remaining in the third quarter, and then pulled within 20-12 on a nice 12-yard lob from Wentz to Wendell Smallwood with 12:05 remaining in the fourth quarter. Surprisingly, Pederson called for a 2-point conversion, and Smallwood broke a tackle and dived to the pylon to cut the deficit to 20-14.

Squandered opportunities

The Eagles received a huge break when Cousins’ swing pass was dropped by running back Roc Thomas. Linebacker Nigel Bradham realized the pass was backward, and alertly jumped on the football at the Vikings 30.

All of a sudden, despite being outplayed for most of the game, the Eagles were in position to take the lead. There were 10 minutes left.

But, as has happened far too often this season, the Eagles took a step backward. On first down, a receiver covered up the tight end along the line of scrimmage, resulting in the Eagles’ second illegal formation of the game for the same violation.

“There’s no excuse for that,” Pederson said. “It’s a mental error, and we can’t do that.”

The Eagles got the 5 yards back on a Vikings offside penalty on second down, but Wentz was sacked on the next play. He got rid of the ball, but he was called for intentional grounding. Wentz found Alshon Jeffery near the first down marker on third-and-20, but Jeffery couldn’t hold onto the football when safety Harrison Smith popped him in the back.

A golden opportunity to take the lead was wasted.

The Eagles also wasted a scoring opportunity during the first half. On third-and-3 from the 12, Wentz saw that Smallwood, lined up to the left at wide receiver was wide open. But Smallwood dropped the pass, forcing the Birds to settle for a field goal and a 3-3 tie.

A turning point occurred late in the first half when defensive lineman Michael Bennett was called for roughing the passer for hitting Cousins at the knees and ankle while sacking him. But this wasn’t an undisciplined penalty. Replays indicated that it was a weak call. Instead of third-and-long near the Eagles 30, the Vikings had a first down at the 11. Two plays later, on a perfect pass from Cousins (30 of 37, 301 yards, TD) to Thielen, the Vikings had a 17-3 lead 21 seconds before halftime.

“We’ve just got to line up for the next play,” Cox said. “We can only control what we can control.”

Protection lacking

Another problem for the Eagles has been protecting Wentz (24 of 35 for 311 yards, 2 TDs). With the score tied at 3-3, and shortly after Vikings kicker Dan Bailey missed his second field goal of the first half, both Jason Peters and Lane Johnson were beaten by a pass rush on the same play. Johnson’s man, Stephen Weatherly, got there first, causing the ball to pop out of Wentz’s hand.

The ball floated right to 329-pound defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who rumbled 64 yards for a touchdown. Isaac Seumalo, starting at left guard in place of Stefen Wisniewski, was slow to react. Otherwise, he may have been able to tackle Joseph almost before he started.

On the ensuing possession, Peters and tight end Zach Ertz were whistled for false start penalties. After Ertz’s false start on third down, boos could be heard from the frustrated fans.

And they’re not the only ones who are frustrated.

“Frustrated? Yes,” Wentz said. “Concerned? No.”

At this point, though, nobody should fault those who are concerned at seeing the Eagles make the same mistakes week after week.

“We can’t (commit) self-inflicted (wounds) and hope to win,” Pederson said. “Championship teams don’t do that.”

The longer they continue to make the same mistakes, however, the less they Eagles look like the championship team they were eight months ago.

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