PEDERSON ANGERS EAGLES FANS WITH FOURTH QUARTER SURRENDER
The Eagles season finale Sunday night was meaningless in every sense of the word.
Preseason games have had more impact. All this game accomplished was to hand the Washington Football Team the NFC East and a first round home game against Tom Brady and the talented Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The final score was 20-14, Washington. Canton will not be calling for the film of this charade of an NFL contest.
After the game, a guy apparently associated with the Football Team, tried to hand out what looked like NFC East Champion baseball hats to Washington players. Most players looked the box, walked away and headed to the locker room. There was no popping champagne bottles in the locker room for sure.
As bad as it was, there were four points of interest for Eagles fans with regards to the season finale played at a damp, empty Lincoln Financial Field Sunday night.
It was the final game for Jim Schwartz as the Birds defensive coordinator. The veteran assistant coach is seen as the scapegoat for the Eagles 4-11-1 season event though the Birds fielded one of the worst offenses on the NFL, even after rookie Jalen Hurts was inserted as the starting quarterback over struggling Carson Wentz.
The Eagles defense, depleted with injuries again, still played hard and played well enough for the Eagles to win.
With the score 17-14 at the end of the third quarter, the Eagles pulled rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts, who was 7 of 20 for 72 yards and an interception. Even though he left the game with with a quarterback rating of 25.4, he did score both touchdowns for the Eagles.
Carson Wentz had been deactivated, so Hurts was still best option to win the game.
In came five-year backup (four with the Eagles) Nate Sudfeld.
The former Indiana signal caller was 5 of 12 for 32 yards with an interception. He lost a fumble and was sacked twice. Sudfeld finished with a quarterback rating of 14.6.
Head coach Doug Pederson swore after the game he wasn't tanking the game to land the No. 6 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. He was flat out asked if he was really trying to win the game.
“Yes, I was coaching to win,” Pederson said after the game via video conference. “Yes, that was my decision, solely. Nate has obviously been here for four years and I felt that he deserved an opportunity to get some snaps. Listen, if there's anyone out there that thinks that I'm not trying to win the game – (Zach) Ertz is out there, Brandon Graham is out there, Darius Slay is out there. All our top guys are still on the field at the end. So, we were going to win the game.”
Pederson was asked again about pulling his quarterback when his team was only down three in the beginning of the fourth quarter. Did he really believe fans watching didn't believe he wasn't trying to do something in terms of tanking the game and help the team's draft status?
“Pretty simple,” the coach said. “I wanted to get -- the plan this week was to get Nate some time. I felt like it was the time to get him in the game.”
That's how the defensive coordinator who helped the Eagles win a Super Bowl walked off the field Sunday.
One of the greatest defensive players to ever wear an Eagles uniform, defensive end Brandon Graham, needed two sacks to reach the red-letter total of ten for a season. The 11-year veteran, selected to his first Pro Bowl in 2020, has never reach that milestone.
Graham finished the game with just one tackle. The Eagles as a team sacked Alex Smith three times. Bu the obvious Comeback Player of the Year was 22 of 32 for 162 yards, two touchdown passes and two interceptions.
Graham didn't talk about not getting 10 sacks but did echo the party line that Eagles were trying to beat Washington and Sudfeld could have been the answer.
“Always happy when a guy gets the opportunity to go out there,” Graham said Monday. “I knew, Nate was going to be playing in this game. Normally, we get to see him preseason games and stuff like that we had the luxury of doing it but I was happy to see Nate in there. But that's just the way that Doug and the team wanted to win. They want to win for sure.
"I mean, we went out there. All week we were saying how we want to go out there and win the game and make sure that we don't let them celebrate on our watch, especially as a defense. Especially because we knew Jim Schwartz, this was his last game with us, and it was just tough to not send him off the right way.”
The Eagles want to see if Hurts can handle the starting quarterback position if the team parts ways with Carson Wentz, who struggled mightily all year. The former second overall pick in 2016 out of North Dakota State was benched at the half of the game against Green Bay on December 6.
The score was 17-14 at the half. Would Hurts break out of his second half slumps? The defense did its part to start the second half forcing a three-and-out on the Football Team's first possession.
The Birds started their first drive of the third quarter at their own 28-yard line. Three-and-out.
After a Marcus Epps at the Washington 15-yard, the closest Hurts could get to the end zone was the five...seven cracks altogether and ...nothing.
So far Jalen Hurts' second half swoons are more than a trend. Your defense hands you the ball at the opponent's 15-yard line and you come away with zero....Z-E-R-O.
In his first four starts, Hurts has scored just 13 total points in the second half...six quarters...now seven quarters.
On going for it on fourth down from the four-yard line, down three, Pederson was apparently giving Hurts a chance to punch in a touchdown his defense basically handed him.
His rookie signal caller came up short.
When asked what the biggest difference between college and NFL football. Hurts made a pitch for the extra work pro players get.
On the biggest differences between the NFL and collegiate levels:
“You get those four preseason games,” Hurts said. “Great competitors every Sunday. I think regardless of who we’re playing, who we’re going out there and battling with, it all comes down to what you do and how you execute. Having the right mentality, going out there executing and being consistent. Everybody being willing to learn from their mistakes and apply them moving forward and go play ball. I think this is a situation where we’re all not satisfied with how [this season] ended up, but it’s a ‘so what now’ mentality and that’s what I have. We’re going to be stronger from it. We’re going to work our tails off, I’m going to work my tail off and the sun will shine real soon.” *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii