Sunday’s defeat in San Diego was nothing out of the ordinary for the Philadelphia Eagles. If Andy Reid is being chased out of town, it must be Thanksgiving time. All is well in Philadelphia!
I’ve replayed Sunday’s game multiple times in my head, and on my television. As I mentioned yesterday, some losses are tougher to swallow then others. Sunday’s loss was the first that left me incapacitated for the next 15 hours since the NFC Championship. (Yes, there is absolutely a correlation. In fact, the game was nearly identical.)
It’s fair to say the Eagle offense got off to a slow start, but by the 2nd quarter they found a groove and were nearly unstoppable. They moved the ball at will against the San Diego defense. Unfortunately, the Eagles’ first three drives into the red zone completely stalled. I am not going to give too much credit to the Charger defense here. The Eagles were mostly to blame.
On their first trip, the Eagles gave the ball to fullback Leonard Weaver with no luck on 1st down. Then they tried to throw it in on second. On 3rd down, they gave the ball to third string back, Eldra Buckley, who was also denied the endzone. I totally support giving the run game two attempts to get the ball across the goal line. However, why was Brian Westbrook not given an opportunity? Westbrook has been one of the NFL’s most prolific scorers in recent years. He obviously has a knack for finding the end zone, and yet the Eagles didn’t even have him on the field. Mind boggling.
Their second trip was less bothersome as it was 1st and goal from the nine. It will be tough for the Eagles to convert on too many of these opportunities because of their lack of size at the receiver position. None of their receivers will come down with a jump ball and none of them are big enough to go across the middle, take a lick, and hang on to the ball. (TE Cornelius Ingram was supposed to fill this role quite nicely, but his injury during preseason left a void that the Eagles were unable to fill.) This is where the Eagles need to take advantage of McNabb’s athleticism. Naked bootlegs, QB draws, anything to get him moving which will in turn, put the defense on its heels. When the Eagles finally scored in the red zone on their final two attempts, it wasn’t because they did anything differently. Both called plays failed, but McNabb kept each play alive until the defense broke down. Once the defense faltered, finding the open receiver was easy because 11 sets of eyes were immediately focused on #5. Donovan McNabb is the Eagles’ most dangerous red zone threat at this point of the season. They have to use him like one and force the defense into mistakes.
The third failed red zone attempt was similar to the second. Too many bodies congested in a smaller area. The Eagles’ smaller receivers can’t use their speed as an advantage here. To become a more rounded team, the Eagles MUST develop an “in your face” running attack. They certainly have the horses up front to do so. The only question is, are there enough brains under the headsets to figure it out? Thus far, that answer is a resounding NO.
Despite the red zone struggles, I give this loss entirely to the defense. Injuries or not, their performance was dreadful. Missed tackles, stupid penalties, and thoughtless mistakes haunted the Eagles for a second consecutive game. To top it all off, the defense couldn’t get off the field in the 4th quarter…again.
Injuries at linebacker are beginning to show. The Eagles were run over on Sunday by one of the NFL’s worst rushing attacks. The Eagles somehow managed to make a decrepit LaDanian Tomlinson look as if he regained his 2005 form. There’s nothing more humiliating for a defense than not being able to stop the run. It’s more than football, it’s almost personal. When you’re getting run over, you’re simply getting beat mano a mano. The only thing more embarrassing, is failing to get a crucial stop when the game is on the line. For a unit that prides itself on being mean and physical, the Philadelphia defense is pretty lousy when push comes to shove. Identical to the 2008 NFC Championship game, the defense only needed to make one stop. On Sunday, they failed to get that stop…three different times.
Speaking of ineptitude, can we all agree that Asante Samuel is the most overrated player on the Eagles? How many missed tackles and blown coverages does he total each week? It’s ridiculous. Samuel was outsmarted by Philip Rivers on what was ultimately the game winning score. FOX commentators attempted to give Samuel the benefit of the doubt by asserting that he expected safety help over the top. Bull. Samuel wanted an interception and crashed the crossing routes assuming Rivers wouldn’t look deep. Well, Rivers looked deep and the only safety assistance Samuel had behind him was the security guard outside the end zone. It’s clear, Samuel covers like he tackles; eyes closed, guess and lunge.
As for the defensive miscues, rookie linebacker Moises Fokou was flagged for another stupid 15 yard penalty that led to the Chargers third touchdown of the day. Not to be outdone, newly signed cornerback, Ramzee Robinson, was called offside on a crucial 3rd and 2. The defense just stopped Darren Sproles in the backfield, which would have forced the Chargers to kick a field goal to go up 24-9. Instead, the Chargers were GIVEN the first down and scored on the subsequent play. How does a cornerback get called for offsides? I still haven’t figured that one out. Of course, I can’t forget Asanta Samuel not fighting through picks to stay on his man on 3rd and 2. The Eagles absolutely needed the stop here. Instead of fighting to stay on his man within the first down marker, Samuel chose to run 6 yards downfield around the traffic. Once again, Rivers found Samuel’s man and the Chargers got the first down. Game Over.
As an Eagles’ fan in the Andy Reid era, I’ve learned to tolerate several things; a 60-40 pass ratio, poor game management, and clearing of the throat every 9 seconds just to name a few. However, I can never tolerate embarrassing defensive performances. As miserable as the red zone offense was on Sunday, the defense lost the game. Somewhere, Jim Johnson is rolling over in his grave.
As we head into week 11, the Eagles’ 2009 season sits on a precipice. A win in Chicago and they’re back on track. If they lose, Maurice Speights’ knee injury just got a lot more serious.
One of the great things about the Jim Johnson era was that he was loved and appreciated while he was still around. What a mark he left on Philadelphia.