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Carson Wentz, Eagles start fast, then get buried in deflating loss to Washington

Martin Frank
Delaware News Journal

LANDOVER, Md. – It wasn't the coronavirus pandemic that did in the Eagles. Rather, it was the injury pandemic.

The Eagles seemed to have everything going their way, racing out to a 17-point lead in the first half against the Washington Football Team.

But the warning signs for a team missing its top running back and a decimated offensive and defensive line quickly became evident. The Eagles never scored again in their 27-17 loss Sunday in an empty FedEx Field.

There was plenty of blame to go around, beginning with Carson Wentz, who was sacked eight times, threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. The running attack was nonexistent without running back Miles Sanders or right tackle Lane Johnson.

Instead of hearing the roar of the crowd, Wentz heard the roar of the Washington defensive linemen, led by Ryan Kerrigan, who had two sacks, along with rookie Chase Young, who had 1.5.

No wonder Wentz channeled his inner Andy Reid after the game.

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"I gotta be better," he said. "I gotta clean up the interceptions. I put our defense in a bad spot on a couple of occasions. We definitely lost the momentum and we didn’t make the plays we needed to make. I gotta be better. It starts with me. I gotta protect the ball and lead these guys better."

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) in action against the Washington Football Team in an NFL game, Sunday, September 13, 2020 in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Daniel Kucin Jr.)

The Eagles gained 126 yards in the first quarter and had a 17-0 lead midway through the second. They had just 139 over the last three quarters. Wentz, meanwhile, started out 14 of 18 for 182 yards after connecting for a 34-yard touchdown to tight end Dallas Goedert with 6:54 left in the first half.

He went 10-for-24 for 88 yards and 2 interceptions the rest of the way.

"It was very frustrating walking off that field knowing the momentum we had and how we felt early in that game," Wentz said. "It kind of spiraled out of control."

Both of Wentz's interceptions set Washington up inside Eagles' territory, and both led to touchdowns. 

"I think us as a defense, (defensive coordinator Jim) Schwartz always preaches that we gotta be firemen at times," safety Jalen Mills said. "The offense is not going to be perfect. We’re not going to be perfect … We gotta limit those touchdowns to at least three points."

Still, the Eagles had a chance, down by a touchdown with about five minutes to go. On third and 3 from the Eagles' 42, Wentz overthrew DeSean Jackson on a deep ball after Jackson had gotten behind his defender. Wentz called that "a miscommunication."

On fourth down, tight end Zach Ertz dropped Wentz's pass over the middle. Wentz said he didn't have a good throwing angle on the ball, which Ertz had to reach for. But it hit off his hands and bounced away.

Washington Football Team defensive end Ryan Kerrigan (91) takes down Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) during a match against the Philadelphia Eagles in an NFL game, Sunday, September 13, 2020 in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Daniel Kucin Jr.)

"Definitely a frustrating point in the game when we needed to stay on the field. We needed to go down and score," Wentz said. "We had D-Jack, we had Ertz, and I thought we were in the right place going with the balls, and I just didn’t make the plays."

It was quite a difference from the start of the game, when Wentz could make the plays.

After all, the Eagles went 62 yards on six plays on their opening drive, with Wentz hitting Goedert for 16 yards and Jackson for 19 yards before capping the drive with a 5-yard TD pass to Ertz.

Facing a third and 22 from the Eagles' 23 on the Eagles' next series, Wentz went deep to rookie Jalen Reagor, who got behind Washington's defense and hauled in the pass for 55 yards.

But Wentz was sacked three times on that drive, and the Eagles had to settle for a field goal and a 10-0 lead.

Washington Football Team defensive end Chase Young (99) congratulates Washington Football Team center Chase Roullier (73) against the Philadelphia Eagles in an NFL game, Sunday, September 13, 2020 in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Daniel Kucin Jr.)

Still, the Eagles were in control after Wentz's 34-yard TD to Goedert with 6:54 left in the half.

"The way we started the game is exactly how we thought we could attack against this team," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. "Just come out, play tempo football, and this is something our offense is good at."

As for what happened afterwards: "I have to look at the film," Pederson said.

Wentz tried a sideline pass to Reagor with 1:37 left in the first half that Fabian Moreau intercepted. That led to Dwayne Haskins' 6-yard TD pass to Logan Thomas. Wentz tried another sideline pass to rookie John Hightower in the third quarter that Jimmy Moreland intercepted and returned to the Eagles' 20.

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That, too, resulted in a touchdown.

Before long, Washington was in control.

"I think everybody kind of had their chances to screw this one up, myself included," center Jason Kelce said. "I could’ve played better and I think everybody across the board had their moments where they could’ve got the job done better."

Quiet day for DeSean

It seemed rather odd that Jackson, the Eagles' speed receiver, wasn't on the field as often as expected.

After catching the one pass for 19 yards on the Eagles' first drive, Jackson sat out decent stretches of the game. He caught a 27-yard pass late in the third quarter. He finished with the 2 catches on 7 targets for 46 yards.

Why no Pryor as Mailata makes NFL debut?

Over the last two weeks of practice leading up to the opener, Matt Pryor was with the first team at left tackle and again at right tackle.

But when Johnson was ruled out, it was rookie Jack Driscoll who started at right tackle. Pryor, who played in three games at right guard last season, didn't start there, either. That was Nate Herbig.

Pryor didn't even get in when Driscoll left in the third quarter with an injury. That was Jordan Mailata, the Australian rugby player who had never played organized football until the Eagles drafted him in the seventh round of the 2018 draft.

"We make these decisions based on quite a few factors," Pederson said. "We felt that (Herbig) had a good week of practice."

Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, center, celebrates his touchdown with teammates center Jason Kelce (62) and during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Football Team Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Al Drago)

Injuries on the D-line

It wasn't any better at defensive end as the Eagles were without their top three. Derek Barnett (hamstring) was ruled out before the game. Vinny Curry left in the third quarter with a hamstring injury. He had to be helped off the field. And Brandon Graham left with a concussion.

The Eagles went with Josh Sweat and Genard Avery at defensive end. Defensive tackle Malik Jackson also played there at times.

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.