LANDOVER: The Eagles season-opening game against the Washington Football Team was a tale of two halves.
It's usually better to get the bad half out the way, but that was not the case for the Birds Sunday at an empty FedEx Field as the visitors dropped a 27-17 verdict to Washington who are 1-0 in this most unusual 2020 season.
“Today's game was kind of the tale of two halves,” head coach Doug Pederson said after the game. “First half, we stayed positive on first down. Second half, we found ourselves in a lot of second long's and against good defenses good fronts like this, you got to stay out of the second long. Screens are definitely a part of it and again it's an area that we got to get better in.”
The Eagles jumped out to a 17-0 lead with 6:54 left in the first half. It looked like the Eagles, despite a slew of injuries to key players, were going to cruise to an easy win as most observers predicted. But the Football Team reeled off 27 straight points, sacked Carson Wentz eight times, picked him off twice and harassed the former MVP candidate into fumbling twice, losing one of them.
Before training camp, the Eagles had already lost All Pro left guard Brandon Brooks for the season from an Achilles injury, then right after training camp opened, last year's first round draft pick Andre Dillard was lost entire 2020 season due to a biceps injury.Then the Birds found out right before game-time that equally
All Pro tackle Lane Johnson could not play.Even as Carson Wentz and the offense built its 17-0 lead, there were signs the offensive line was in trouble, and so was Wentz.
The first drive, the Eagles offense, with rookie Jack Driscoll starting at right tackle in place of Johnson and second-year offensive lineman Nate Herbig at right guard, rolled down the field like a hot knife through butter.
The Eagles drove 62 yards on six plays that was capped off with a five-yard pass from Wentz to Zach Ertz for a 7-0 lead. After Washington went three-and out, Wentz led the Eagles on a 11-play, 76-yard drive that stalled at the Washington 20-yard line.
Jake Elliott connected on a 38-yard field goal to give the Birds a 10-0 lead.
On the drive Wentz was sacked twice with veteran Ryan Kerrigan and rookie Chase Young getting to the quarterback.The Eagles would make it 17-0 in the second quarter on a 34-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dallas Goedert.
But Wentz was sacked two more times and the running game, without second-year standout running back Miles Sanders able to play due to a hamstring injury, was ineffective.
With just 1:44 left in the first half and the Eagles starting a drive at their own 28-yard line, Wentz threw a short pass to rookie wide out Jalen Reagor that was picked off by Fabian Moreau at the Eagles 45.
Five plays later Dwayne Haskins hit tight end Logan Thomas and it's 17-7.The Eagles recorded 202 yards of total offense in the first half and just 125 yards of offense and zero points in the second half.
Wentz agreed with his coach that this game had two very different segments and the second one did not bode well for the Birds.
“Kind of a tale of two halves really,” Wentz said. “I have to be better. I know that we came out offensively feeling good. I moved the ball right downfield, put up points, got ahead in the game. I have to clean up the interceptions. I put our defense in a bad spot on a couple of occasions, and, it was just, we've definitely lost some momentum and we didn't make plays we needed to make and better. It starts with me. I have to protect the ball and leave these guys better and all that.”
Two interceptions, two fumbles, one lost. Wentz actually had a third interception that was called back after a defensive penalty on former Temple standout defense tackle Matt Ioannidis.
Certainly getting sacked eight times, getting hit 14 times can cause any quarterback to make mistakes he wouldn't normally make.
The coach talked about Wentz and the sacks.
“Well, I think it's something that first and foremost can't happen,” Pederson said. “I'd say it's a little of both. Sacks don't always go on the quarterback or the O-line, protection from running backs are included in that, tight ends are included in that and the receivers just getting open. There's a lot that goes in, I have to look at the tape obviously to make real clear determination on that but, ultimately that cannot happen.”
The Football Team's four second half scores came on drives that all started in Eagles territory. Kerrigan, after Sunday's has 92 career passed Dexter Manley (91.0) as the franchise leader in official sacks (since 1982).
The 10-year veteran talked about the momentum change in the game that went their way. “Toward the end of the first half, we got in the end zone made it 17-7.” Kerrigan said. “At that point you could kind of sense we were just picking up pace and prepared to make plays. Fortunately, when we came out of after the half and get another stop. Offense scores again. At that point we are back in the game. We really just kept rolling there towards the end of the second and throughout the second half.”
Wentz finished 24 of 42 for 270 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Goedert finished with eight catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. Boston Scott led the Eagles on the ground with 35 yards on nine carries. Nate Gerry led the defense 10 total tackles, two for losses. The Eagles had five players share three sacks on Haskins.
The second-year quarterback finished 17 of 31 for 178 yards and a touchdown pass. He was not intercepted. Antonio Gibson led the Football Team with 36 yards on nine carries. Peyton Barber scored two rushing touchdowns for Washington.
Haskins--who gave a halftime speech in the locker room--talked about what lifted his team in the second half.
“Just probably just letting the plays come to us,” Haskins said. “A lot of the times when you’re down you’re going to try to make the big play when it’s not there. All you’re trying to do is win, but you go a little bit back to that sense in the first quarter. We were just trying to find the right read, put the ball in the running back’s hands. We said, ‘We’re going to find something to win this game.’ [Offensive Coordinator] Scott [Turner] did a great job with what he needed to do. We found a way to respond.” *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii
Note: Eagles Veteran defensive end Brandon Graham left the game in the second half which was described as a head injury. Monday, head coach Doug Pederson said Graham was in "protocol."