PHILADELPHIA — Jason Kelce has a simple philosophy when it comes to the big picture for an Eagles team facing an 0-2 hole for the first time since 2015: He just doesn’t pay attention to it.
“I try not to look at it big picture,” Kelce said on a Zoom call Sunday. “Obviously, very frustrating to be 0-2, but it’s on to next week. I think it’s only going to stop when we start winning games. I don’t think it really behooves you to look too far past our next opponent, which is the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Everybody’s just got to try, watch the tape, get better, improve as an individual, collectively as a team, find out what you can do to help us take care of this. Obviously, really frustrating to be 0-2, but this is the spot we put ourselves in, so what’s next? What’s next is the Cincinnati Bengals, and we got to be ready to play them and try and get this thing back on track.”
Still, it’s hard to ignore the big picture for a team that had designs on a deep playoff run and another shot at a Super Bowl. The Eagles lost the Rams, 37-19, at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. They allowed three touchdowns on Los Angeles’ first three drives. Neither side of the ball could come up with key plays in the second half.
The concerns for the 2020 Eagles are legitimate. The last time the Eagles started the season 0-2 and made the playoffs was in 2003. Since 1990, 247 teams started the season 0-2. Only 30 of them made the playoffs — that’s 12.6% — and only three won Super Bowls. Another lost a Super Bowl.
There’s an uphill climb over the next 14 weeks in South Philly.
“We’re obviously frustrated,” quarterback Carson Wentz said. “You never want to start 0-2. Last week, the way we lost to Washington and starting 0-1, obviously not what we want and how we expect to finish ballgames, and then today, coming out behind again. Not where you want to be, but we know there’s enough things through two games offensively speaking that we can put on the tape and now, all right, we’re right there. We’re just missing some things. We’re right there. Don’t panic. We’ll be OK. And I’ve always had all the confidence in the world in our defense. Things happen. But we’re not panicking. We’re excited to get back on.”
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The Eagles’ struggles can’t be pinned on one side of the ball. In the 27-17 loss at the Washington Football Team to open the season, the offense went stagnant in the second half. Against the Rams, the defense had no answer for an offense it had handled before, and Los Angeles scored touchdowns on each of its first three possessions in building a 21-3 lead.
Still, special teams forced a turnover to set up an Eagles touchdown right before halftime. Before that, defensive end Brandon Graham sacked Rams quarterback Jared Goff to push Los Angeles out of field goal range.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles strung together an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a Wentz quarterback sneak to cut the Rams lead to 21-9 in the second quarter. It appeared the Eagles were starting to gather themselves, and they went into halftime down 21-16.
But the Rams outscored them 16-3 in the second half, with the back-breaker coming on a three-play, 75-yard drive that came after a Jake Elliott field goal cut the Eagles deficit to 24-19 early in the fourth quarter.
Los Angeles tight end Tyler Higbee beat Philadelphia linebacker Nathan Gerry easily for a 28-yard touchdown catch, his third of the day.
“We just have to look ourselves in the mirror and figure out what we’re doing,” safety Rodney McLeod said. “We need to give a little bit more of ourselves, whatever that looks like individually and then collectively, we just have to put a complete game together, particularly on defense. I can’t speak on what goes on the other side of the ball, but defensively, we need to do our part. We need to play stingy defense.”
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Over the past three seasons, the Eagles have rallied at various points. In 2017, Wentz tore his ACL against the Rams in Los Angeles. Nick Foles stepped in for the magical run to Super Bowl LII. Two years ago, the Eagles had to win five of their final six games and get help to make the playoffs as a wild-card, where they advanced on a “double-doink” miss in Chicago.
And last year, the Eagles had to win four straight in December to clinch a mediocre NFC East.
But the Eagles won their season openers in both of those years, and while there were shaky September moments, there were still victories to build off of. Sure, it’s a long season, but there are still only 16 games. And at this point, there are 14 left, and the Eagles are already down two.
“I’m excited actually because when a lot of adversity hit, a lot of people definitely give up on you, but that’s not this team,” Graham said. “We still gonna fight, and we still got a lot of greatness ahead of us, but we believe, and that’s all that matter. We gonna make sure we get it right.”
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The Eagles are not panicking, Wentz said again. The sky is not falling. But there’s a rocky landscape out ahead of the Eagles. The team faces the winless Bengals next week, which features the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft in quarterback Joe Burrow. They have been stiff competition early this season.
After that, there’s a trip to the West Coast to face the 49ers, a trip to western Pennsylvania to face the Steelers and a home game against the Ravens. Things could look dire by the time Halloween rolls around.
But the Eagles maintain that they have time. In the big picture — if they choose to look at it — they can see themselves getting to where they want to be. But at 0-2, the margin for error is shrinking, even just two weeks into the 2020 season.
“It’s very frustrating,” running back Miles Sanders said. “I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t. But it’s a blessing that it’s a long season. We got hella opportunities week-by-week just to get better and get some Ws on the left hand of that column.”
Daniel Gallen covers the Philadelphia Eagles for PennLive. He can be reached at [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Follow PennLive’s Philadelphia Eagles coverage on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.