Eagles-Panthers, The Day After
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Frustrations are mounting within the Eagles locker room.
Now seven games deep, the we’re-this-close optimism that the new-look Eagles carried with them like a security blanket has all but unraveled, replaced by a level of bewilderment at their inability to put an end to the dysfunction – particularly on offense.
“Mistakes. I don’t know what the reason is. We’ve had mistakes across the board,” said Jason Kelce. “Offensive line…everybody takes turns. I shouldn’t be making mistakes at this point in my career. I should be on top of my stuff, and it’s just, it’s getting old real quick.
“Offensive line, receivers, running backs, quarterbacks. Everybody is taking their turn. Penalties, turnovers, drops, whatever it is throughout the first half of this season, it’s really killed us on offense.”
“It’s like musical chairs,” added Lane Johnson.
It’s a borderline epidemic at this point, hitting everyone on the offensive side of the ball from trusted veterans to high draft picks. The receivers unofficially had seven drops Sunday night, including a pair by promising second-round pick Jordan Matthews, who continues to struggle with his primary job – catching the football. One player having an off night can be managed but it wasn’t just Matthews, but Zach Ertz and Josh Huff and Darren Sproles and Miles Austin failing to reel in passes as well.
Similarly, the offensive line’s woes are not confined to backups like Matt Tobin and Dennis Kelly, but extend to Kelce and Johnson. The unit cannot afford untimely penalties and miscues from its expected stalwarts, particularly when operating without All-Pro Jason Peters.
And it’s not isolated to the offensive side alone. Byron Maxwell’s effort on Mike Tolbert’s two-yard touchdown catch was unacceptable, as was Caleb Sturgis’ boot out of bounds on a kickoff to shorten the Panthers’ field.
Once again, individual misfires had a cumulative effect, tilting the scales in favor of the opponent. The Eagles limp into the bye week with a 3-4 record as a result, and now have two weeks to think about another opportunity lost.
“It should [sting]. Hopefully it lights a fire under some people,” said Malcolm Jenkins. “And hopefully guys take this opportunity, this time off to one get healthy and two really evaluate themselves. Because we’re at the halfway point of our season and everything is in our control. We’re sitting in a decent spot but there’s things that we have to get better at if we really want to do something this year.”
Are there people who need to have a fire lit under them?
“I would say so,” he replied. “I wouldn’t say it was on any individual, but I think you look at it throughout the game there is always a play here or a play there, or a mental error here, and we just need guys to be able to lock in for an entire game and make the plays that they’re supposed to make for the team — not for themselves, not for whatever, but the team needs guys to make these plays. And I’m included in that. Nobody is above that. And I think over the next couple weeks, guys really need to take a hard look at what they bring to the table and what they need to get better at.”
The rush defense had been a source of strength for this team through six games. The Eagles ranked second in the NFL in opponents yards/rush (3.5 avg.) coming in and hadn’t allowed an individual 100-yard rusher in 18 straight.
Sunday night was a different story. Jonathan Stewart racked up 125 yards on the ground and Carolina rushed for 204 yards on 33 carries (6.2 avg.) as a team. Seventy-nine of those yards were accrued on just two plays — a 36-yarder from Stewart on the opening drive, and Ted Ginn‘s 43-yard reverse — both of which led to touchdowns. On both plays, the Eagles lost contain.
“Credit goes to [the Panthers]. I don’t want to take anything away from them, but we have to be where we’re supposed to be,” said Billy Davis.
Mychal Kendricks was among the culprits on the Stewart run. As the shot below shows, he got sucked into the middle of the field and was sealed off by Michael Oher, allowing the counter run to hit big.
“He should have been outside,” said Davis. “There’s no blame to individual guys. We had a couple plays where we weren’t where we were supposed to be.”
On the reverse, it was Marcus Smith that got caught. Spelling Brandon Graham on the series, the former first-round pick did not stay home, allowing Ginn to get the corner.
“We had a guy out there that had to force. Came running over to the other side, he got his eyes in a bad spot and they outflanked us. They can’t out-flank you on reverses.”
“Marcus had the force on that play. And then the guy that was supposed to block Marcus — because Marcus came down — climbed for the corner. One blocker got two of us and that’s how big plays happen.”
People asking about Jordan Matthews hand injury-I’m told he suffered a ligament sprain, not a break, 3 wks back, shouldn’t be big factor now
— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) October 26, 2015
Could be partly to blame for his struggles.
The miss from 50 was my fault. I rushed the snap before Donnie & @CalebSturgis1 were ready. Kills me to let them 2 down. You 2 played well. — Jon Dorenbos (@JonDorenbos) October 26, 2015
Jon Dorenbos takes responsibility for Caleb Sturgis’ lone miss of the night.
That was a hell of an INT @SNFonNBC — Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) October 26, 2015
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. reacting to Malcolm Jenkins’ pick.
Ryan Mathews only got 1 carry after 63 yd TD run to start 2nd half… DeMarco Murray got 10 carries for just 30 yds second half. #Eagles — John Clark CSN (@JClarkCSN) October 26, 2015
Ryan Mathews leads the NFL with a 6.1 rushing average. He ranks 38th with 56 carries.
— Reuben Frank (@RoobCSN) October 26, 2015
Chip Kelly is going to need to come up with better rationale for this workload split than “Duce is in charge of rotating the backs.”
“The one thing that has been good for us is we have been doing no huddle for about almost two seasons now and I think we have gotten a knack, gotten used to it.”
— Ron Rivera, on his team’s ability to handle Kelly’s tempo attack.
“I think maybe a spasm in his back. I don’t think anything too serious but we’ll know more tomorrow.”
— Lane Johnson on Jason Peters, who left in the first half with a lower back injury.
“It pisses me off, we do get some yards and then we go down there and kick a field goal instead of making the conversions, getting down there and scoring touchdowns. I think that’s what hurt us.”
— Johnson on going 0-for-2 in the red zone.
“We’re three and four. That’s where we are. I don’t know where we line up in our division. Every year it feels like it comes down to the last game. We’ve just got to continue to play ball.”
— DeMarco Murray on state of the team heading into the bye.
“Trade him in for another dad.”
— A Panther fan on his way into the stadium, talking to young boy whose father was rocking an Eagles jersey. As usual, the Philly representation was strong on the road.
DeMarco Murray received 23 more snaps than Ryan Mathews…Mathews totaled 121 total yards despite being on the field for just 16 plays…Josh Huff led all receivers in time played. He had two receptions for five yards on five targets.
Not a good night for Marcus Smith, who was on the field for just three plays — including the big Ginn reverse…Jordan Hicks did not leave the field. He stayed in as the lone inside linebacker on some passing downs despite being paired with the athletic Mychal Kendricks rather than DeMeco Ryans this week.