Grayson’s Grades: Eagles at Ravens
BALTIMORE - The Philadelphia Eagles arrived in Baltimore with a five-million-to-one odds of making it into the playoffs. Yes, they had a chance. But they are now officially eliminated from playoff contention following a 27-26 loss to the Ravens.
The Eagles found a way to run the ball well against the number one run defense in the entire league despite losing two of their top three running backs to injury a week ago.
Credit the players with selling Doug Pederson on the decision to go for the win on a two-point conversion attempt; however, Wentz' pass fell incomplete and the Eagles suffer another loss. The football gods have not smiled upon the Eagles in a very long time. The ball does not seem to bounce their way when they need it the most.
The Eagles fall to 5-9 having lost nine of their last eleven games.
Here is the latest report card:
Nigel Bradham - Bradham appeared to play one of his more physical games. He was meeting the ball carrier at the point of attack and aggressive with his hands in trying to force a fumble. He recorded a sack and forced Joe Flacco to fumble the ball in this game. He also burst through a hole and stopped a run for a loss in the second quarter. Bradham finished tied for the team lead in tackles with six. He also added a sack, a tackle for a loss, a quarterback hit and a forced fumble.
Fletcher Cox - Cox continued his solid play of late. He fought through an apparent hold to earn a sack on third down ending a Ravens possession. Cox also dove and attacked a loose ball to win the battle on the ground and come up with a fumble recovery. He caused the Ravens some problems and finished with two tackles, a sack, a tackle for a loss, a quarterback hit and a fumble recovery. Not a bad day for him at all.
Jordan Hicks - Hicks had a really good game. His biggest contribution was an interception inside the red zone ending Baltimore's attempt to put the game away and giving the Eagles life near midfield after a solid return. He did a great job of sitting down and reading Flacco's eyes to reach up and make the pick. Hicks continues to be the Eagles best linebacker and shows why he is one of their key young pieces to build around defensively moving forward. Hicks finished with five tackles, a tackle for a loss, a pass successfully defended and an interception.
Caleb Sturgis - Sturgis has to be one of the most valuable players on this team. I know, crazy to think a field goal kicker would be in position for that award, but he has been virtually automatic and made some difficult kicks. Sturgis made four field goals in this game, some of them into a difficult wind. His 4-for-4 day included makes from 45 yards, 34 yards, 29 yards and 27 yards out. When the offense stalls out, he has done a good job of making sure they at least salvage some points out of the drive.
Ryan Mathews - Mathews had a great game and put up excellent results against the top rushing defense in the league. He carried the ball 20 times for 128 yards adding a touchdown and a two-point conversion. Mathews ran physically today taking hits and continuing to move the pile a bit. He also hit holes well and got to the second level of the defense. His longest run was 19 yards, but he had six carries of ten yards or more. He was aggressive in his approach and followed the blocks of his line. It was a solid performance, which begs a huge question of why he was not on the field for the two-point conversion attempt that would have given the Eagles the win.
Zach Ertz - Ertz the receiver did a solid job in this game. He caught six passes for 80 yards. His biggest reception showed great awareness of where he was on the field. It occurred on the final drive of the game when he extended himself along the sideline keeping both feet in bounds. That was a 24-yard gain putting the Eagles inside the red zone. Ertz the blocker left a little to be desired. He missed a block on the Nelson Agholor jet sweep on fourth-and-two that caused Agholor to bounce it outside and backwards before cutting it upfield. It remains Ertz' biggest weakness. He continues to be one of Wentz' favorite targets in the passing game.
Offensive Line - The offensive line deserves a ton of credit for paving the way on the ground. The Eagles rushed for 169 yards against the top run defense in the league. They did this with their fifth different starting right tackle. Isaac Seumalo was barely noticed out there, which is a great indicator he did a good job. Jason Kelce got out in front of some sweeps to help make a few blocks. The line could have done a little better job protecting Wentz. He was hit five times and flushed out of the pocket countless other times. Jason Peters, Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Isaac Seumalo deserve a solid tip of the cap.
Carson Wentz - Wentz continues to take steps forward as the season winds down. I like that he took the next step in basically completing a late fourth quarter comeback. When Wentz made the decision to try and run it in himself, you just knew he was not going to be denied. However, he is still throwing off his back foot on occasion. That was the direct reason his first pass attempt was picked off. Wentz is still sailing a couple of passes high, which is a sure way to live dangerously if you are a quarterback. He clearly needs to fine-tune his mechanics in the offseason. Wentz' numbers were not great in this game. He completed 22 of 42 passes for 170 yards and one interception. Wentz also carried the ball four times for eight yards and a touchdown. In crunch time, Wentz is leading the team into scoring position and in this case into the endzone. However, he struggles to hit the smaller passing windows in the red zone and that must be improved. It is easy to put that on him, but in reality his receivers need to do a better job of giving him slightly bigger windows to hit. Also of note, Wentz fumbled a snap and dove on it preserving the possession. He also fumbled a ball out of bounds while trying to escape some pressure.
Jalen Mills - Mills did a good job in coverage multiple times in this game. He closed on his receiver to break up passes. He also did a great job of taking the inside position on a downfield pass that fell incomplete. Mills was supposed to have over the top help on the late first half touchdown by Steve Smith, but Jaylen Watkins was late on his responsibility. I blame Watkins for that touchdown, not Mills. He was not without blame though. Mills was draped all over a Baltimore receiver and called for a pass interference on the touchdown drive just before halftime extending that possession. He finished with two tackles and a pass successfully defended.
Doug Pederson - Pederson once again made some questionable decisions. I am going to start with the positives. I agree with his decision to go for two both times in this game. In the first half, the wind had just picked up and a 33-yard extra point attempt was by no means automatic. I also agree with the decision to go for two at the end of the game and get the win. Now for the negatives. While I agree with the decision, I do not understand why Ryan Mathews (128 rush yards) was not on the field. I get that running it in from two yards out may have been difficult, but having him on the field at least makes the defense account for the possibility of the run. I think having Byron Marshall, a practice squad player last week, was a direct tell to the defense that you are definitely passing it. I also strongly question the fourth down run play by Nelson Agholor in the fourth quarter. He is definitely not the guy you ask to get two yards on the ground. Go with Bryce Treggs who has a little more speed if you must. Still, I would have continued to ask Mathews to get it done in that situation.
Jaylen Watkins - Watkins had a difficult day. He was clearly the one to blame for the late first half touchdown to Steve Smith. Watkins had over-the-top help with Jalen Mills underneath. The Ravens had no timeouts and that route went vertical along the sideline. He has to know the situation and shade towards the sideline there. Watkins was late to arrive paving the way for the touchdown reception. Later in the game, Watkins took a horrible angle on a crossing pattern to Mike Wallace that put the Ravens inside the Red Zone. Watkins has to be better in those situations or he will find himself quickly picked on by the opponent when he comes into the game.
Nelson Agholor - Agholor had another poor game. He was targeted four times and finished with just one reception. He had a clear drop that hit him right in the hands. Agholor also had another one go through his hands, albeit on a diving attempt with a defender right in front of him. While Agholor should not have been giving the ball on a jet sweep in a fourth and two situation, he did and retreated stringing it out toward the sideline before turning it upfield and stepping out of bounds short of the first down marker. Agholor has to know the situation and cut it right upfield at the corner of the offensive line to move the chains. In my opinion, that play was a microcosm of his season to date. It has been a difficult one full of adversity. He has managed just 34 receptions and 318 yards in 13 games due to one game missed when he was a healthy inactive.
Rodney McLeod - McLeod took a horrible angle on the Ravens' fourth quarter touchdown by Kenneth Dixon. McLeod looked to be able to attack Dixon around the eight-yard line. Instead he rode him to the corner of the endzone and hit him just short of the goal line. McLeod told me after the game he lost his feel for where he was on the field and was trying to prevent the cutback. He admitted he made a mistake, but it does not take away the significance of that mistake. Other than that, he appeared to play a decent game with no additional major mistakes. McLeod finished with five tackles.