Philadelphia Eagles

Ravens 27, Eagles 26: Roob's 10 observations

Ravens 27, Eagles 26: Roob's 10 observations

BALTIMORE – The Eagles’ four-game losing streak is over!

(It’s now a five-game losing streak.)

Another day, another loss for the reeling Eagles, who have now lost five straight and nine of their last 11 games after a 3-0 start.

They made it close. They made it competitive. They gave John Harbaugh’s Ravens a battle before a potential game-winning two-point conversion with 0:04 on the clock failed and gave the Ravens a 27-26 win (see Instant Replay)

But ultimately, it was just another loss for us to chat about in today's 10 Instant Observations.

1. We’ll start with Carson Wentz. Here’s what I like best about the rookie QB. No matter what’s come before, no matter how ugly his stats are, no matter how bad he’s been, something clicks when he’s got the football in his hands in the fourth quarter of a close game. He just gets that look in his eye. His performance in the fourth quarter Sunday in what seemed to be a lost cause was monumental. He’s got no wide receivers. He’s got an offensive line patched together. But he put the Eagles in a position to win a game they really had no business being in. Joe Flacco’s interception helped. But really, something happens with Wentz when the game is in the balance. He's shown this before. The Eagles have to get him some help, for crying out loud. But he’s definitely a gamer (see breakdown of Wentz's day).

2. It’s really, really hard to win football games unless you make big plays on offense and prevent big plays on defense. And the Eagles are among the worst in the league at both of those. And we saw it again Sunday. The Ravens had four plays over 30 yards — a 39-yard run by Michael Campanaro that set up a first-quarter field goal, a 34-yard TD pass from Flacco to Steve Smith Sr. as the first half ended, a 44-yard run by Terrance West on the first play of the second half and Flacco’s 54-yard pass to Mike Wallace in the fourth quarter. So far this year, the Eagles have just 11 offensive plays of 30 yards and they’ve allowed 30. Think about those numbers for a moment and how out of whack they are. The Eagles are among the worst in the NFL in both producing big plays and preventing them. Is it the players? Is it the scheme? Is it the play-calling? The answer is yes. All of the above. Against the Ravens, they almost overcame the absence of big plays on offense and the inability to stop big plays. But in the long run, nobody ever does. 

3. The Eagles really have to figure out what’s happening with Wentz in the first quarter. His one interception Sunday was another difficult-to-understand pass directly to the opposing defender on the Eagles’ first offensive drive. Wentz has 13 interceptions this year and six of them are not only in the first quarter but also in the first 10 minutes of the first quarter. He has just one first-quarter TD and that was on the first drive of his career — opening the Browns game. In the second, third and fourth quarters combined, Wentz has 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions. In the first he has one TD and six INTs. Something is wrong. He’s either too amped up, he’s seeing things that he’s not expecting or he’s just not focused as the game begins. Whatever the issue, the Eagles need to identify it and solve it. Because the Eagles keep digging themselves early holes, and they just don’t have the firepower to dig out of early holes. Imagine if Wentz could start a game the way he finishes? With that great rhythm and confidence, this would be a different team.

4. Was nice to see Doug Pederson stick with the running game for a change. On a windy, rainy day, it made sense to try and establish the run — even against the Ravens’ No. 1-ranked run defense. And even without Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood — who are hurt and were inactive — and with Kenjon Barner leaving the game with a hamstring injury in the second quarter — the Eagles hammered it on the ground. Mathews ran very tough and had a huge day, and with three backs down, undrafted rookie free agent Byron Marshall gave the Eagles a lift in his first NFL game with a couple nice runs. The only way you’re going to go into Baltimore and compete with a team like the Ravens on a day like Sunday is if you are balanced, and it was nice to see Pederson figure that out. Now he has to do it consistently. I understand it’s a passing league. But all you’re doing if you throw all the time is giving the defense a heads up about what’s coming next and putting a young quarterback at risk.

5. Speaking of Mathews, when he’s healthy and gets the a generous number of carries, he’s a beast. We haven’t seen this Ryan Mathews all that much, but his 128 rushing yards Sunday are the most by an Eagle in more than two years — since Shady’s last big game in an Eagles uniform, a 159-yard performance in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day of 2014. Mathews got 20 carries for only the third time as an Eagle, and he’s averaged 104 yards in those three games. He runs violently, doesn’t he? No wonder he gets banged up all the time. If you can stay in the game and be able to use Mathews late, he’s just a tough matchup because he wears you down. His 128 yards Sunday were the most by an opposing back against the Ravens in Baltimore in six years — since Peyton Hillis of the Browns had 144 in 2010. If Mathews could ever stay healthy, he’d be something.

6. Important to mention the Eagles’ special teams and just how remarkable they are. Not just in this game, but all year. And really ever since Dave Fipp got here with Chip Kelly in 2013. The Eagles don't have a great offense or defense, but special teams is as good as anybody's. The cover teams really helped the Eagles control field position throughout the afternoon, giving the Ravens long fields that they really couldn’t do a whole lot with. Factor in Caleb Sturgis making four more field goals in a row, new long snapper Rick Lovato handling his duties capably, Donnie Jones doing his thing, Chris Maragos making about a thousand tackles on punt and kickoff coverage, and Dave Fipp and Co. once again put on a special teams show that not only kept the Eagles in the game, but had to impress another elite special teams coach, the head coach on the other sideline.

7. I understand what Doug Pederson was trying to do on that crucial fourth down, with the jet sweep to Nelson Agholor (see big plays and hot takes). Try to get the kid’s confidence up with a big conversion. Let him make a play. But Agholor stepped out of bounds as Eric Weddle was bearing down on him. He basically tackled himself. You’ve been running the ball with authority all day and it’s 4th-and-2. That’s not the time, it’s not the place, it’s not the play, it’s not the guy.

8. Last week, the Redskins hammered the ball between the tackles all week, then scored the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter on something completely different – a pitch to Chris Thompson. It went for 25 yards and a TD. Fast forward to Sunday. The Ravens ran the ball up the middle all day and then … early in the fourth quarter, they ran an almost identical play, a pitch to the left to Kenneth Dixon. The Eagles said the Thompson TD surprised them, and it sure looked like they were surprised when the Ravens ran the same play in a similar situation in the fourth quarter because Dixon had an easy path to the end zone for what turned out to be the game-winning TD. Rodney McLeod in particular looked lost on the play. You know that old saying, “Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice shame on you?” Yep. That.

9. I love Pederson’s decision to go for two. That’s your best chance to win the football game, right there. I didn’t like the play call. I’d like to see a run over the top — the Ravens hadn’t stopped the Eagles on the ground all day — or Wentz rolling out with a run-pass option.

10A. Let’s chat about wide receivers. This is what the Eagles got from theirs Sunday: Jordan Matthews (6-for-27), Dorial Green-Beckham (1-for-11), Agholor (1-for-9), Bryce Treggs (no catches), Paul Turner (inactive). That’s 47 yards for all the Eagles’ receivers. I don’t even know what to say anymore. Turner has 80 yards against the Bengals and is the only Eagle with an offensive play of 30 or more yards in the last five weeks and he’s inactive. I hate to beat a dead horse, but this group is awful.

10B. Just want to add one thing about Caleb Sturgis, who was on the brink of release early last year after a disastrous Eagles debut, has become one of the steadiest kickers in Eagles history. Sturgis was 4-for-4 Sunday in bad conditions, and although only one of the kicks was longer than 34 yards — a 45-yarder in the first quarter — he was out there dealing with a new long snapper and some pretty lousy rainy, windy conditions. Sturgis is now 32 for 37 this year, good for 87 percent. Two more field goals gives him the most in Eagles history. It’s a sad statement on the Eagles’ offense in the red zone that he’s attempted so many. But at least the Eagles have found themselves a kicker.

NFL Notes: Aaron Hernandez had severe CTE; daughter sues NFL, Patriots

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NFL Notes: Aaron Hernandez had severe CTE; daughter sues NFL, Patriots

BOSTON -- Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez had a severe case of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, his lawyer said on Thursday in announcing a lawsuit against the NFL and the team for hiding the true dangers of the sport.

Dr. Ann McKee, the director of the CTE Center at Boston University, said Hernandez had Stage 3 (out of 4) of the disease, which can cause violent mood swings, depression and other cognitive disorders.

"We're told it was the most severe case they had ever seen for someone of Aaron's age," attorney Jose Baez said.

Hernandez killed himself in April in the prison cell where he was serving a life-without-parole sentence for murder. Baez said Hernandez had shown signs of memory loss, impulsivity and aggression that could be attributed to CTE (see full story).

Jets: Williams limited with bone bruise in wrist
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams was limited at practice with a wrist injury that he says is a bone bruise.

Williams was originally injured during the preseason, and says Thursday that his wrist is bothering him at times. It doesn't appear that the injury will keep him out of the Jets' home opener Sunday against Miami, but Williams might have to play through it.

Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson sat out practice for the second straight day with a sore shoulder. He said Wednesday that it wasn't a big deal, and coach Todd Bowles says the Jets will see how it feels as the week goes along.

Starting right guard Brian Winters (abdomen) and tight ends Jordan Leggett (knee) and Eric Tomlinson (elbow) also didn't practice. Fourth-year backup Dakota Dozier would start if Winters is unable to play (see full story).

Packers: Perry latest key player to go down with injury
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The banged-up Green Bay Packers have lost another key player to injury with outside linebacker Nick Perry scheduled to have hand surgery.

Coach Mike McCarthy says he doesn't know how much time Perry will miss. He was off to a good start as the bookend to fellow edge rusher Clay Matthews with 1 sacks.

The Packers' first-round draft pick in 2012, Perry had a breakout 2016 last season with 11 sacks in 14 games.

The loss of Perry places added importance on the return of Ahmad Brooks, who was a full participant in practice on Wednesday after missing the Week 2 loss at Atlanta because of a concussion (see full story).

Broncos: Miller baffled by low hit from Cowboys receiver
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Von Miller says he's baffled by Cowboys wide receiver Noah Brown's low hit on him Sunday.

The Broncos linebacker pushed through Brown's block on the game's second snap and Brown got up and dived at Miller's knees as Denver's star chased down Ezekiel Elliott on a hand-off from Dak Prescott.

Miller shook off the hit to have a monster game in Denver's 42-17 win , but he has dealt with soreness in his left knee this week.

"My stance is as a player I've always tried to take care of my players on my football team and opponents as well, whether it's the quarterbacks, receivers, the running backs. So, when it's the other way around, it's just baffling," Miller said Thursday after returning to practice full-time following a limited practice Wednesday.

"But you can't really spend too much time on it," Miller added. "Everybody's situation in the National Football League is different. Everybody doesn't have the same outlook that I have and some of my comrades in the National Football League (have). Everybody doesn't see it that way. Everybody doesn't play the game like I play the game. You've got to respect that."

Earlier in the week, Broncos coach Vance Joseph declined to criticize the Cowboys wide receiver for his low hit, saying, "I saw it. It wasn't called. I'm OK with it."

Miller shook off the low hit and finished the afternoon with two sacks, five quarterback hits, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup.

Chris Long: Putting 'my money where my mouth is' with donation of game checks

Chris Long: Putting 'my money where my mouth is' with donation of game checks

Whether it was his passionate defense of Colin Kaepernick, his show of support for Malcolm Jenkins' raised fist by draping his arm around his teammate during the national anthem or his strong words about racism and violence in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, Chris Long has been extraordinarily outspoken since he joined the Eagles.

Now he's more than outspoken.

"I had a few people that were like, 'Hey, these gestures are great but why don’t you guys get out there in your communities?'" Long said.

So he is.

Long announced via his Twitter account earlier this week that he plans to donate his first six game checks from this year's salary — more than $350,000 — to create two scholarships for students in Charlottesville.

At his locker on Wednesday, he explained what led to the remarkably generous gesture.

"My wife and I have been investing in scholarships in my hometown for a while," Long said. "I'm interested in education, always have been, and … the best way I can give back to something I love is take it out of my game check, because what I love doing is playing football.

"I could [fund the scholarship] another way, but just taking it out of my game check makes it real easy for me to realize why I’m coming to work every day. It’s been a blessing."

Long, 32, is in his 10th NFL season and first with the Eagles. He's the son of Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long, who graduated from Villanova in 1981.

Chris Long had his first sack as an Eagle Sunday against the Chiefs. He now has 59½ in his career.

"I’ve been lucky," Long said. "I’ve made a lot of money in my career, so it’s not like I’m scrapping check to check. This isn’t a hero thing. It’s nothing like that. It’s honestly just that I want to put my money where my mouth is.

"It’s something we’ve done before, but we’re upping the ante this time."

Long signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Eagles this offseason after winning a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots last year, the first time he's ever played for a team with a winning record.

His 2017 base salary is $1 million, which means each of his 17 game checks equal $58,823. Six game checks equal $352,941.

Long said being able to donate that kind of money makes the game more meaningful for him.

“It for certain does," he said. "It means a lot to go out and play football every Sunday. To be honest, I would play games for free. The thing I wouldn’t do for free is sit in meetings and do practice every day.

"Honestly, it’s a joy no matter what. But just knowing that the game checks are going to that makes it more special for me. You know, 10th year, you don’t know how long you’ll be able to do this, so your platform is really important and meaningful now. You don’t know how meaningful it’ll be in a year or two.”

Long said he's not done yet, either.

His foundation — the Chris Long Foundation — has more charity work in store in the coming weeks.

"My foundation is going to launch another campaign this year that’s going to be similar that’s hopefully going to have some fan involvement," Long said.

"It’s going to be broader reaching than just a couple kids getting scholarships, so I’m excited about that."