‘It’s a lot of things’: Philadelphia Eagles players say offensive line play must improve
Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs, 2017 NFL Week 2
KANSAS CITY — Just like they did last week, opposing pass rushers streamed time and again toward Carson Wentz on Sunday, forcing the 24-year-old face of the Philadelphia Eagles to dip and duck and dodge all afternoon long.
In Week 1, Wentz and the Birds made enough plays to escape with a win, staving off concerns temporarily. But not this time. Not in Arrowhead Stadium, not against the reigning AFC West champion Chiefs.
The Eagles dropped a back-and-forth battle against Kansas City, 27-20, and players couldn’t tuck the protection struggles into the back of their minds Sunday the way they could after a season-opening win in Washington. Several Eagles linemen said they were in position to pull off the type of upset in Kansas City that would reverberate across the league — if only they could have generated an offensive rhythm.
That goal proved unobtainable with Wentz scrambling and coach Doug Pederson abandoning the run.
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By the end of the game, the Chiefs had sacked Wentz six times, the most the second-year quarterback has gone down in his NFL career. Left guard Isaac Seumalo had a shot to block four of the rushers who sacked his signal-caller Sunday, and after the game, he took ownership of his role in the floundering offense.
“It’s a lot of things,” Seumalo said of the offensive line’s poor play. “First and foremost, I gotta play better. There’s no doubt about it.”
Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones accounted for three sacks Sunday, while Justin Houston, Dee Ford and former Eagle Bennie Logan all had one. The lapses came from multiple spots on the offensive line, even though the Birds return four of five starters from last year’s starting group (the lone new starter is Seumalo, a 2016 third-round pick, and Pederson said in his postgame news conference he wouldn’t consider benching the former Oregon State star).
Right tackle Lane Johnson said he’d need to watch the film to figure out what went wrong, but he did concede that the offense’s disconnectedness cost Philly an opportunity to win.
Tight end Zach Ertz, one of Wentz’s closest friends on the team, said players didn’t do enough to support or protect the quarterback.
“You don’t want your franchise to take a hit, period,” Ertz said. “If he’s taking one, that’s too many. We got to do a better job of protecting him and we gotta do a better job of getting open, so he doesn’t have to sit back in the pocket.”
Philadelphia Eagles Lane Johnson talks to reporters after loss to Chiefs
Aside from the sacks, Wentz’s numbers weren’t shabby. He completed 25 of 46 passes for 333 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, while running for 55 yards on four carries. But Philly’s offense often found itself stuck in third-and-long situations because of early down sacks and a lack of a running game.
Pederson called just 13 run plays to 56 passes (that includes Wentz’s 46 attempts, 4 carries and six sacks), and Birds running backs combined to rush for a measly 52 yards on 13 carries. LeGarrette Blount, who started last week, didn’t register a single rushing attempt, which flummoxed pundits and left Eagles players in the locker room to answer questions about the unusual scenario.
Blount brushed it off, saying the game simply unfolded in an odd manner.
Eagles linemen said they were surprised but not disgruntled by the lopsided pass-run ratio in a game that was tight until Kansas City pulled ahead midway through the fourth quarter.
“I wish we would have ran the ball more, but, hey, we didn’t,” right guard Brandon Brooks said. “And it was the time of the game where we needed to sling it around. So, we’ll do whatever [Pederson] calls, and we got to get it done, run or pass.”
Sunday, the Eagles’ line didn’t get it done. Perhaps the only player to defend the group was Wentz, the straight-laced offensive leader with a habit of picking his words carefully.
“First off all, that’s a good defense. That’s a good D-line,” Wentz said. “Second of all, I got to go watch the tape. I thought the O-line, I thought they played well. I don’t know what the numbers were, but a number of the sacks, I was holding onto the ball for a while.”
It’s true that Wentz was reluctant to throw at times Sunday, and he was far from stellar in his decision-making. But everyone else — from the linemen to Pederson — made comments that refuted Wentz’s point about the line playing well.
The Birds, many players said, needed more production from the experienced group up front.
“It’s tough,” Johnson said. “I think if we ran the ball better, executed better, we could have won this game. The Chiefs are a good football team, but I felt like, ‘Hey, we’re out there with them.’ So, we just got to get our offense functioning on all cylinders.”