McMullen’s Quick Hits: No Miracle for Eagles in Meadowlands
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ (973espn.com) - A third Miracle at the Meadowlands wasn’t in the offing as Jordan Hicks diving interception late in the fourth quarter went for naught as the Eagles came up just short in a 28-23 loss to the New York Giants.
It was Philadelphia’s fourth loss in five games as Carson Wentz again came up short while trying to finish a game, firing a fourth-down pass far past the outside shoulder of Jordan Matthews in the end zone.
After two egregious Wentz interceptions early put Philadelphia into a 14-0 hole, the Eagles' quarterback settled down a bit and started chipping away, eventually finishing 27 of 47 for 364 yards and a passer rating of just 64.5.
The deep ball and Zach Ertz were back in the Philadelphia offense as Bryce Treggs replaced the jettisoned Josh Huff to haul in a 58-yard reception for the Eagles, while the forgotten tight end caught all eight targets thrown his way for 97 yards.
The problem for the Eagles at the outset was Wentz giving Eli Manning short fields and a secondary which couldn’t hold its water against the Giants’ receiving trio of Odell Beckham Jr, Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard.
"It's a great feeling," OBJ said of the early lead. "...It's just great to see it happen. We get two picks and capitalize on it."
Manning finished the contest 22 for 36 for 257 yards with four TDs and two interceptions. OBJ caught four passes for 46 yards and two scores, while Shepard and Roger Lewis also found the end zone and Cruz had a big 46-yard gainer.
It’s hard to call something a must win that’s still technically in the first half of the season but if the Eagles wanted to remain relevant in the discussion for the NFC East title, this was their Waterloo.
A third straight division road loss and a three-game deficit in the loss column to the Dallas Cowboys, who routed Cleveland as expected Sunday, means Philadelphia is now looking at the wild-card route in the NFC.
Wentz was picked off twice in his first three pass attempts against the Giants and both were terrible throws with the rookie on the move and showing some very poor mechanics.
On the first miscue, Wentz rolled to the right and didn’t get his feet set as he sailed one far past Nelson Agholor, which Landon Collins, an ascending star picked. The second was Wentz air-mailing it well over the head of the 6-foot-5 Dorial Green-Beckham as Andrew Adams simple played center field.
"The thing with (Wentz), he probably doesn't let it bother him as much as maybe it bothers me on the sideline," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. "That's the beauty of this kid. He's so mature that way and we slowly climbed our way back."
The good news is that Wentz passed 300 yards for the second time this season and he and Nick Foles are the only Eagles rookies ever with multiple 300-yard passing games.
Wentz also surpassed Foles for the most passing yards in a season by an Eagles rookie with 1,890 and now owns the freshman franchise records in every major statistical category including attempts, completions, and touchdowns.
Treggs provided the Eagles with a deep threat they haven’t had the entire season and the 58-yard chunk set up Ryan Mathews’ 8-yard touchdown a couple plays later.
Treggs finished with two catches for 69 yards and the early success gave Pederson a reason to keep stretching the field and take some shots, something he hasn’t done recently.
For a comparison, in his 21 career games since being a first-round pick out of Southern Cal Nelson Agholor's career-high in receiving yards is 64.
BIG BALLS DOUG
After questioning himself for being a bit too conservative last week, Pederson went for it on fourth-and-short in field-goal range on two separate occasions and failed both times. One was a designed QB sweep and the other was a zone-read option, in which Wentz read Jason Pierre-Paul incorrectly. In general, you have to like the mentality behind going for it but when you lose a five-point game and leave two FGs out there, it’s always going to be questioned.
"I really felt good about how we were moving the football," Pederson said. "It was my decision, again, to stay aggressive on the field and stay aggressive with our team. It just came down to the way we were operating at the time."
The Eagles’ defense gave up the two quick touchdowns on short fields, which wasn’t necessarily its fault.
That said the secondary really struggled early with Leodis McKelvin giving way too much cushion to OBJ and then running into Jaylen Watkins on Lewis’ TD. After Leodis gave up his second TD to Beckham, Jim Schwartz went to rookie Jalen Mills to finish the first half as Philadelphia allowed 21 first-half points for the third time this season.
McKelvin rebounded a bit in the second half but the hill was just too large to climb.
IN NAME ONLY
It seems like every week Pederson claims that Mathews is his No. 1 back but when game day rolls around, it’s Darren Sproles getting the majority of the work. This time Sproles had 13 carries compared to Mathews’ five with Wendell Smallwood getting two and Kenjon Barner a short-yardage TD run. Sproles also has a 66-yard punt return he nearly took to the house.
The Giants tried to put this one away with the five-point lead on a 3rd-and-4 play with 1:55 left but as Manning went for backup tight end Will Tye for the win, Connor Barwin got his hand up and tipped the football to redirect it to a diving Hicks.
The brilliant diving INT gave Wentz and Co. a chance from the Giants’ 34-yard line.A quick hook up to Nelson Agholor got half of the yardage needed but the Eagles’ stalled right there with four straight incompletions, the last with Jordan Matthews having a step for an over-the-shoulder fade to the outside but the rookie was well off the mark.
"No worries," JPP said. "I knew the corners were going to get it done. ...We are just playing some great defense."
Hicks, though, continues to be a turnover machine and now eight takeaways (four INTs, four FRs) in 16 career games.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him t email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen