LANDOVER, Md. (AP)Carson Wentz came out firing before an undermanned offensive line couldn’t protect him from a relentless rush.
Pressured consistently and pummeled often, Wentz threw two costly interceptions after tossing a pair of touchdown passes and made a couple of errant throws in the fourth quarter of Philadelphia’s 27-17 loss to Washington on Sunday.
”I put our defense in a bad spot a couple occasions,” Wentz said. ”I gotta be better. I’ll own that.”
Already missing three-time Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks after he tore an Achilles tendon, the Eagles found out before the game that three-time Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson couldn’t play because of an ankle injury that required surgery last month. That forced rookie Jack Driscoll to start in his place and 2019 undrafted free agent Nate Herbig made his first career start at right guard. Driscoll sustained an undisclosed injury in the second half and was replaced at right tackle by Jordan Mailata, also making his NFL debut.
”It was a very up-and-down performance for the offensive line, very poor in the run game,” center Jason Kelce said. ”We gotta be better upfront. No excuses. I don’t think anybody, in particular, individually played a terrible game. Everybody had their chances to screw this one up, myself included.”
The Eagles reshuffled their line last week, moving nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters back to his normal position one week after 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard suffered a season-ending biceps injury. Versatile Matt Pryor had been playing at left tackle in training camp and he ended up not starting at any spot.
The instability up front put Philadelphia in a difficult spot against a team featuring four recent first-round picks on the defensive line plus Ryan Kerrigan, who led the way with two sacks and recovered a fumble.
”Anytime you disrupt your offensive line and lose some continuity, it’s going to affect you a little bit,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. ”Our guys don’t let the changes bother them. We still have to go execute and play. This front was a really good test for our guys, valuable experience. You don’t want to move too many parts upfront, but we take pride in getting our guys prepared and go play.”
The Eagles also were missing starting running back Miles Sanders. His absence was a major reason they couldn’t get the run game going, finishing with 57 yards on 17 carries.
Up 17-0 in the second quarter, the Eagles had a first down at their 28 with only 1:44 left in the half. Instead of running the ball and working the clock, they were aggressive. Wentz’s pass for Jalen Reagor was underthrown and picked by Fabian Moreau at the Philadelphia 45. Dwayne Haskins then connected on four straight passes after starting 3 of 12. He hit Logan Thomas for a 6-yard TD toss to cut the deficit to 17-7. That gave Washington momentum going into halftime.
It appeared Reagor could’ve made a stronger play for the ball and possibly break it up. Pederson said he didn’t have a good view on it, but he didn’t regret trying to score more points in that spot instead of running the ball.
”Instinct is just to continue to keep the gas pedal down and continue to put pressure on,” he said. ”That’s been my mind-set.”
Jimmy Moreland stepped in front of Wentz’s pass to rookie John Hightower in the third quarter and returned it 32 yards to the Eagles 20. Peyton Barber ran in for a score that cut it to 17-14. Like Reagor, it seemed Hightower could’ve been more aggressive trying to break up the play. Pederson said he needed to see the replay before commenting.
Watching the game film and breaking down all the mistakes won’t be pleasant this week.
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