Eagles-Washington Day After: The Missing Ingredient

What the Eagles need to do to become a playoff contender next year.

Doug Pederson. (Jeff Fusco)

Doug Pederson. (Jeff Fusco)

It’s the difference between being a playoff contender and a playoff pretender. Most teams in the NFL can say they would have a few more wins if a play here or there went their way, but with 13 games in the books, the 2016 Philadelphia Eagles are still abysmal in one key area: close games.

The Birds are 0-5 in one-possession contests, which is why they’re 0-4 in NFC East matchups this season.

“We just got to learn as a team to finish football games [and] have that killer instinct that a lot of the great teams in the NFL have,” Zach Ertz said. “We were close so many times in the red zone. We just got to score. When we’re able to turn those long drives into touchdowns, we’re going to be a really good offense.”

The Eagles turned the ball over twice in the red zone in their 27-22 loss to Washington, as Carson Wentz threw an interception in the end zone in their first trip and fumbled the ball away in their last trip. Philadelphia outperformed Washington in most categories — including total yards (383 vs. 334), time of possession (36:28 vs. 23:22) and penalties (54 penalty yards vs. 86) — but coming up short in turnover differential (-1) and red zone offense (10 points in four visits) cost them the game.

That’s why Doug Pederson’s postgame message was short and sweet: We’re close. But we need to learn how to finish.

While the Eagles’ offense failed to score from 14 yards out with 26 seconds remaining in the game, the defense surrendered an 8-play, 77-yard touchdown drive on the previous series. It was the third time this season the Eagles had a late lead, before their defense gave up a game-tying or game-winning scoring drive with only a few minutes left in the fourth quarter.

“This is the NFL, so it always comes down to a few plays. Good teams make those plays. We made some more of them today, but we have to make a couple more to finish these games off,” Connor Barwin said. “We have a ways to go here, and we have to find a way to finish games and continue to try to improve and eliminate mistakes.”

Barwin added that the mistakes are “fixable,” noting how he feels the Eagles have already corrected some of their miscues they made earlier in the season. The Birds also fixed one of their issues from the previous week, or at least something their head coach thought was a problem.

While Fletcher Cox said nobody “should question the effort” of the team after their close loss to Washington, Pederson did exactly that last week. Players disagreed with Pederson’s assessment that “not everybody” played hard in the Eagles’ 32-14 loss to the Bengals, but they did agree on Sunday with their head coach, who was pleased with his team’s energy.

“That’s the max effort. This team responded,” Pederson said. “This team did an outstanding job today. We fought all the way to the end. There, at one point, I thought we were actually going to fight after that. This is a resilient group. I’m just honored to be leading those guys.”





Brent Celek on being the long snapper after Jon Dorenbos got hurt:

“When something like that happens, you just have to step up and do it. It was my job to step up and be the snapper. Obviously, I did not do a good job on that first one that was a field goal. I am a professional and I should get it done. … They use different balls too, which is weird. I didn’t realize that. … [Kicking balls] are slick. I don’t know why they do that, but it was real waxy.”

Trey Burton on being the long snapper on Caleb Sturgis’ 41-yard field goal after Celek got hurt:

“I practiced a little bit in college and then I did it a lot during training camp this year, but I haven’t done it since training camp.”

DeSean Jackson on not getting booed by Eagles fans:

“It’s interesting, [that’s the] first time ever. Who wants to get booed? Especially with all I’ve done and started my career, you definitely don’t want to get booed. But it’s always great to get support regardless of who it’s coming from. … I don’t know (if fans were trying to lure me back), shoot. We’ll see what happens. You never know how it’ll play out.”

Zach Ertz on playing his best game of the season after his effort was questioned last week:

“I don’t know if teammates felt that I let them down by any means, but I wanted to prove to them I wasn’t going to let them down ever again. Obviously, there was a lot of outside noise. I knew that; everybody knew that. I prayed a lot about it. I was just focused on being the best teammate I could today — being physical after the catch, being physical in the run game and hopefully I did that for them.”

Doug Pederson on Carson Wentz’s performance:

“We were down to our fourth right tackle at the end of the game with Matt [Tobin]. I thought Carson [had] probably his best game of the year, quite honestly, just the way he hung in there, battled the adversity with the changes up front. The guys worked hard for him, too. It was a great effort. We were down to one running back. I thought Ryan [Mathews] hung in there and did a good job as well. But Carson, overall, really did a nice job today.”

—Wentz on his interception:

“It was just more a little miscommunication. I was thinking one thing, Ertz was trying to get a little back shoulder I think. And we just weren’t on the same page. It was cover zero and the ball got out quick and they made a play.”



Player# of snaps% of snaps
Jason Kelce78100%
Jason Peters78100%
Isaac Seumalo78100%
Carson Wentz78100%
Stefen Wisniewski78100%
Jordan Matthews7697%
Nelson Agholor6887%
Zach Ertz6786%
Allen Barbre4760%
Ryan Mathews3950%
Trey Burton3747%
Matt Tobin3140%
Paul Turner3140%
Brent Celek3038%
Darren Sproles3038%
Wendell Smallwood912%
Bryce Treggs34%

*Allen Barbre (60 percent) injured a hamstring, so fourth-string right tackle Matt Tobin (40 percent) had to play a season-high 31 snaps. In 23 passing plays, Tobin allowed one quarterback hit and one sack (per Pro Football Focus), including the game-ending strip-sack with less than 30 seconds remaining.

*Jordan Matthews (97 percent) wasn’t limited by his ankle injury at all as he played a season-high 76 snaps, hauling in eight catches for 79 yards. Nelson Agholor (87 percent) was the only other receiver to play more than 40 percent of the snaps, with Doug Pederson using his tight ends more because Dorial Green-Beckham was injured. Paul Turner (40 percent) played 31 snaps, while Bryce Treggs (4 percent) was on the field just three times.

*While Zach Ertz (86 percent) has been getting the ball more recently, Trey Burton is the biggest beneficiary of Pederson relying more on the tight ends. Burton (47 percent) played 37 snaps, his second-highest total of the season, as he recorded career-highs in receptions (seven) and receiving yards (65).

*Ryan Mathews (50 percent) played a season-high 39 snaps after the only other two running backs who were active — Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles — left the game due to injury.


Player# of snaps% of snaps
Malcolm Jenkins48100%
Rodney McLeod48100%
Leodis McKelvin4798%
Nolan Carroll4798%
Nigel Bradham4798%
Jordan Hicks4696%
Jalen Mills4083%
Bennie Logan3471%
Fletcher Cox3471%
Brandon Graham3369%
Connor Barwin2552%
Beau Allen1531%
Vinny Curry1531%
Destiny Vaeao1327%
Marcus Smith1225%
Steven Means1123%
Mychal Kendricks817%
Stephen Tulloch36%
Jaylen Watkins24%

*Jalen Mills (83 percent) saw a big uptick in his number of snaps because he played nickel corner instead of Malcolm Jenkins (100 percent). With Jenkins remaining at safety instead of dropping down to the slot, Jaylen Watkins (4 percent) barely played.

*The Eagles activated nine defensive linemen, one more than they typically do, so the snaps were more evenly distributed than they normally are. Fletcher Cox (71 percent) and Bennie Logan (71 percent) played the most with 34 snaps each, while Brandon Graham (69 percent) played the most among defensive ends.

*Vinny Curry (31 percent) was on the field just 15 times, his lowest snap total of the season. Steven Means (23 percent), the defensive lineman who is typically inactive, played a season-high 11 snaps.