PHILADELPHIA -- The sky is not falling, Eagles coach Doug Pederson noted Wednesday, and the sun continues to rise over Philadelphia.
That was his way of putting the Philadelphia Eagles' uneven start to the season in proper perspective following a loss to the Tennessee Titans, and to assure both his team and the city that no panic had crept inside the organizational walls.
It will be harder to put a happy spin on the state of affairs this week. There are sure to be higher levels of concern following a 23-21 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, which dropped the Eagles to 2-3 on the season -- and there should be. The Eagles have already matched their loss total from all of last season and have not come close to rediscovering their Super Bowl form, particularly on offense.
"Yeah, I'm concerned. I'm concerned, for sure," said tight end Zach Ertz, who finished with 10 catches for 110 yards with a touchdown. "This is not where I thought we would be."
"Frustrated? Yes. Concerned? No," added Carson Wentz. "We have veteran guys on this team, guys that have been through it all, that know how to win, and I think we can get this thing going."
There were multiple plays that proved critical to the outcome -- the highly questionable, touchdown-drive-sustaining, roughing-the-passer call on Michael Bennett at the end of the first half comes to mind, as does the third-quarter Jay Ajayi fumble near the goal line. But Minnesota's fumble return for a touchdown in the second quarter was representative of a larger issue for the 2018 Eagles.
On first-and-10 from the Minnesota 31-yard line, defensive end Stephen Weatherly cleanly beat tackle Lane Johnson and dislodged the ball from Wentz. Linval Joseph, at 330 pounds, scooped it up and rumbled 64 yards for the touchdown.
Weatherly entered with one career sack in three NFL seasons. Johnson is widely regarded as the best right tackle in the game. Last year, that play doesn't happen. But Johnson is not playing up to his abilities, and he is far from alone.
"As far as offensive line, and me personally, I have to pick my game up. I'll bite the bullet on this one," Johnson said.
"The sack I gave up, I thought a blitz was coming off the edge, I over-set and let the end come under. Little stuff. This game is such a fine razor's edge, and that's the way it is. There are no excuses."
The Eagles have scored fewer than 24 points in each of their first five games. This comes a year after they scored 24-plus points in 12 games last season, tied for the most in the NFL.
Call it a Super Bowl hangover. Call it the results of a coaching "brain drain," with Frank Reich and John DeFilippo now in Indianapolis and Minnesota, respectively. However it's labeled, there's no doubt this team lacks the same juice it had a season ago. To this point of the season, anyway.
"I think the level of execution last year was just higher than it is right now," Ertz said. "We can't keep saying that we're just going to turn on a switch like last year. It's a different team, different locker room, different players. You can't just rinse and repeat in the NFL from one year to the next."
Pederson can get up to the lectern this week and reiterate his position: that his Eagles still control their own destiny and that things can turn quickly for them, beginning Thursday night at the New York Giants. He can say that Wentz is just now rounding into form, that the offense started showing a little life late and that there is plenty of runway left to straighten things out. And he'd be pretty much right.
The sky is not falling, and the sun will come up tomorrow. But at this rate, it won't be long until the clouds roll in.
"Moving forward, as dire of a situation as it is, we've still got a lot of football left," Johnson said. "We're in a mess. We're going to keep scratching and clawing and try to get our way out of it."