McMullen’s Quick Hits: Eagles ‘Tank’ in Cincinnati
(973espn.com) - When Doug Pederson mentioned the word “tanking” earlier in the week, it seemed a bit out of place but maybe the Eagles first-year head coach has a better beat on his locker room than we think.
Philadelphia was waxed in Cincinnati on Sunday as a moribund offense teamed up with a defense that was cannon fodder for Andy Dalton in what turned out to be a 32-14 Bengals victory.
Without two of his top weapons, receiver Jordan Matthews (ankle) and running back Ryan Mathews (knee), on a unit virtually devoid of playmakers to begin with, Carson Wentz continued his dreadful stretch of play, completing 36 of 60 -- yes 60 passes -- for 308 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions.
And most of that production came long after the game was decided as the Bengals built a 29-0 advantage before Wentz found Zach Ertz for a 13-yard score with 2 ½ minutes left to go in the third quarter.
A 2-yard Darren Sproles run with just under seven minutes left in the game cut the lead even more but a Vontaze Burfict pick of Wentz ended any hopes of a miracle.
The running game was again a nonentity after falling behind by so much with rookie Wendell Smallwood leading the way with eight carries for 19 yards.
Fellow freshman Paul Turner paced the receivers with six catches for 80 yards while Ertz had nine for 79 and the TD. Nelson Agholor, in his return to the lineup, had four catches for 23 yards.
The Eagles have now lost seven of nine games after a 3-0 start, are 1-6 on the road this season, and remain winless as a franchise in Cincinnati.
How bad has it been for the Eagles early in games on the road?
Philadelphia has now been outscored in the first quarter by a mind-blowing 58-9 margin while away from Lincoln Financial Field.
All those holes early had Philadelphia dropping a rookie QB with few consistent skill-position players far too much and that is becoming evident on a weekly basis.
It should be no surprise that the Eagles offense struggled without the law firm of Matthews and Mathews, being whitewashed in the first half for the first time in 23 games.
The Eagles committed four false starts in the first 30 minutes and Cincinnati dropped three would-be Carson Wentz interceptions.
Wentz is clearly regressing at this point and was pressing, not a surprise considering his best receiver on the field was named Paul Turner. The rookie completed just eight of his 18 pass attempts for 67 yards and a 54.6 passer rating in the first half while struggling with his decision-making and accuracy yet again. In fact, the downtick in pinpoint throws is getting alarming at this point as he penchant for being wild high down the middle of the football field.
The volume increased in the garbage time of the second half but taking anything seriously about those numbers is fool’s gold. Wentz was picked three times and the Bengals dropped the three more so this easily could have been a historically poor performance.
Agholor was back on the field after being given a mental-health day against Green Bay on Monday and you saw the same player return, a terribly limited receiver who is better suited to be a fourth or fifth option on the average NFL team despite his first-round pedigree.
As bad as the Eagles offense was, the defense may have been even more disappointing because they have more horses and were eaten alive by Dalton. The Red Rifle particularly abused Nolan Carroll and Rodney McLeod early and when the wheels came off, he was gouging the entire secondary.
Dalton finished the game 23 of 31 for 332 yards with two TDs and a 130.0 passer rating despite being without All-Pro receiver A.J. Green and backfield threat Gio Bernard.
Dalton is a solid and underrated player but he isn't Aaron Rodgers so the struggled today was unacceptable.
MISSING IN ACTION
Much has been made about the lack of sack numbers for the Eagles in recent games and that lack of production continued in Cincy as Jim Schwartz’s D failed to get to Dalton even once.
When the game was decided in the first half, Marcus Smith was the only rusher to register a QB hit as Dalton was rarely hurried and never sped up or taken off his spots.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen