McMullen: A ‘Good’ Loss in Atlanta
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - There's an old Yiddish saying “Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht” which translated means: "Man plans and God laughs," a nod to the uncertainty of life.
Doug Pederson got hit squarely in the mouth with that philosophy on Sunday night in Atlanta when the game plan he and his coaches worked on the entire week was quickly tossed into the trash starting in pre-game warmups when Dallas Goedert aggravated a calf injury that limited his work in training camp.
From there it was the coach's top receivers, Alshon Jeffery (calf) and DeSean Jackson (groin) leaving after a handful of plays. By the time it was over the walking wounded also included Tim Jernigan (foot), who was in a walking boot, and Corey Clement (shoulder) wearing a sling.
Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz fought through big hits that may or may not have injured their ribs and Wentz, Jason Kelce, Nelson Agholor and Sidney Jones all were checked for concussions in what was a brutal, physical game.
Maybe the biggest disconnect between fans and the NFL is understanding regular-season mode when it comes to game preparation. It’s a very compartmentalized process geared toward the next opponent and getting the first-team ready. Generally, you aren’t worrying about contingencies with presumed healthy players.
Tom Moore, the 80-year-old offensive consultant in Tampa Bay who is perhaps best known for being Peyton Manning's offensive coordinator in Indianapolis, explained this in a humorous way many years ago when Jon Gruden, in his role as an analyst, asked why not give the backup QB a few more reps in practice just in case?
"Fellas, if 18 goes down we're f@#$%^, and we don't practice f@#$%^," Moore quipped.
In Pederson's case, he admitted to NBC10 after the game that the original game plan was heavy on 12 personnel (two tight ends) and had to essentially be scrapped at kickoff when Goedert tweaked his calf.
A simple switch to 11 personnel is not that big of a deal because that's Pederson's default setting anyway but when Jeffery and Jackson are essentially replaced with Mack Hollins and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, that's an issue not only because those players aren't as good at this stage of their careers but they spent the week mimicking Julio Jones in practice, not working on chemistry with Wentz.
Numerous times it was clear that Wentz and Hollins, particularly, weren't on the same page early and people seem to want to skip steps with Arcega-Whiteside, who has tremendous potential but still needs plenty of work.
Channeling Moore, when 88, 17 and 10 went down in Atlanta, the Eagles were F@#$%^.
The fact Philadelphia was in it until the final seconds and likely a Nelson Agholor drop away from winning the game is a tribute to the playmaking ability of Wentz and the constant pressure Pederson puts on the opposition with his aggressiveness.
"These guys are hurting, obviously, with the hard work and preparation that they do during the week and what they put in,” Pederson said after the 24-20 setback. “I just told them that I was proud of them, and I also told them that this is going to really unite this football team through all the adversity that we faced tonight with this game. ... We battled. It was in our hands at the end to win, and again, we came up short but they’ll be better for it.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen