PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 02: Philadelphia Eagles fans watch the closing minutes of the Eagles 24-23 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Lincoln Financial Field on October 2, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
A season that began with Super Bowl aspirations has quickly devolved into a calamity in four weeks, and the reasons for failure thus far are plentiful. The Eagles find themselves in a 1-3 hole with two tough road games coming up. It's make or break time for this team, and the season is hanging in the balance. Here's a quick look at Sunday's gut-wrenching loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
HOW 'BOUT THOSE EAGLES!!! Right? Overrated and soft is no way to go through an NFL season, but the Philadelphia Eagles are doing just that. A 1-3 record, punctuated by three straight blown fourth quarter leads, is the result. There's lots of star power on this team, but very little chemistry and cohesion. The good news: Andy Reid has taken the blame, vowed to make the necessary adjustments, and is committed to getting this thing fixed. Whew, I was really worried there for a second. If he can fix a lack of heart, we should be fine. If not... well, prepare yourselves, because this clusterfuck of suck is only getting started.
1. Jason Babin. Recorded another three sacks (including a forced fumble) and now has a whopping seven on the season, which leads the league. At least that signing has worked out thus far. Things haven't been all good with Babin, though... he's a liability against the run. In fact, teams run right at him. Cutting down on the penalties would be nice, too.
2. Michael Vick. Can't blame this one on him. Vick had a career day in terms of passing yardage, and that bruised right hand didn't appear to hinder him at all. He made a number of "holy shit" plays (see: touchdown pass to Clay Harbor) but also left a bunch out on the field -- the two underthrown deep balls to DeSean Jackson, one of which was intercepted, come to mind. Nonetheless, Vick certainly played well enough to win. He didn't get any help when it came to play-calling, though, especially in the second half. Hey, our quarterback has been banged up the past few weeks and we have a three-score lead. Oh, I've got it! Let's have him drop back and pass more than ever before! BRILLIANT. Isn't it? I mean, why would you hand the ball off to LeSean McCoy? I wouldn't want to give the ball to my best player, either. I'm not naive enough to think feeding Shady in the second half would have meant automatic success, but with a 17-point lead, why can't the Eagles just try it? You can't run the ball once and then abandon it because the play didn't go for a big gain. Take four yards here, three yards there. Accept the fact that there are going to be negative plays. But stick with it and there will be a payoff.
3. DeSean Jackson. Had his first good game since Week 1. This is what you get from DeSean. He's as electrifying a talent as there is in the league, but he doesn't have the skill set to consistently dominate. The guy disappears for stretches and is more playmaker than wide receiver, if that makes sense. That's why it's going to be so difficult for the Eagles to assess Jackson's value in a contract negotiation.
1. Red zone offense/short yardage. Same shit, different season. This offense can't score touchdowns when it gets inside the 20. It also can't gain a yard when it needs to (but racking up 513 doesn't seem to be much of an issue). Trent Dilfer will tell you it's because the unit lacks "knock back." Just say they're soft, Trent. It's more scathing. It's also nothing new. Maybe Charmin can be the official sponsor of the Eagles? The high-octane offense is all style and no substance, while the defense offers hardly any resistance and gets ripped to shreds like, well, toilet paper. Sounds like a match made in heaven, and one hell of a marketing opportunity for both parties.
I was going to address Ronnie Brown's incomprehensibly idiotic brain fart of a decision at the goal line, but that was before it was revealed the call was a run-pass option. A gimmick play. At the 1-yard line. On third down. Because this team lacks the ability to line up and get one yard the conventional way. That's Andy Reid in a nutshell.
2. Defense/Juan Castillo. I guess I was wrong not to question the Castillo hiring when it was made. Then again, what can you expect when your linebackers and safeties are all backup quality? Certainly not for the defense to be strong in the middle. When someone like me, a pissant amateur observer/blogger/know-nothing, can identify such a glaring problem early on and the coaches and front office can't or just choose to ignore it... well, that's really, really bad. Inexcusably bad. Unforgivably bad. Because if I can see it, something tells me so can other teams. Oh, hey, what do you know, opponents ARE lining up and running the ball right down this defense's throat. And they're doing so with embarrassing ease. Case in point: The 49ers made no secret of the fact that they were going to run the ball in order to bleed the final minutes off the clock. They did just that, and the Eagles defense was powerless to stop them. Things are seemingly about to get worse, too, because the next two games are on the road and against teams that rank fifth (Bills) and sixth (Redskins) in the league in rushing.
The 49ers had the WORST OFFENSE IN THE LEAGUE going into Sunday's game. For the first two quarters, that held true. Then, inexplicably, the Eagles defense gave up 289 yards in the second half. Coming in, the Niners were averaging 214 yards per game. Alex Smith ended up having arguably the best day of his CAREER. It was also the 49ers' best offensive performance -- yardage-wise -- in SEVEN YEARS. And they made it look easy. Are you kidding me? What an unmitigated disaster. You know what the Eagles looked like in those final two quarters? A team that thought it had already won the game. Sure enough, that was the case; I'm just happy Cullen Jenkins, who knows what it takes to win a Super Bowl, exposed that hubris to the public. You can't convince me the players in that locker room didn't buy into all the hype and didn't start to smell themselves a little bit. Maybe they expected opponents to capitulate at the mere sight of the big, bad Dream Team. Instead, opponents have seen right through the facade, and they've defecated all over it. By the way, if you're keeping track, the Eagles have now been outscored 36-7 in the fourth quarter this season (and those seven points came against the Rams). There are 60 minutes in each game, and this team doesn't play all of them.
3. Heart. Who's got it? Not the Eagles. A team is typically a reflection of its head coach... this squad is arrogant, soft, overrated, and folds under pressure. Fitting, really. There are fundamental, persistent problems that neither the head coach nor franchise is willing to recognize, and that kind of stubborness will ultimately be both's undoing.
4. Injuries. Ah, you were wondering what else could go wrong? Well, both Trent Cole and Jason Peters are out at least a few games with a calf strain and hamstring strain, respectively, while Antonio Dixon, the team's best run-stopping defensive lineman, has been lost for the season with a torn triceps. Oh, happy day.
5. Alex Henery. Mama said there'd be days like this, but you just can't miss field goals of 33 and 39 yards in the fourth quarter. Sorry, rookie.
6. Jeremy Maclin. Protect the damn football. That killer fumble at the end was just one of two or three he could have had, given the way he was carelessly carrying the ball at times.
Stat of the game: Nine carries for LeSean McCoy. NINE! What's the excuse this time? The Eagles had a three-possession lead in the second half, so it can't be that Marty/Andy was calling pass plays to get back in the game. Shady had four rushing attempts in the second half. FOUR! Most starting running backs get at least that many carries on a single drive, and that's when their team isn't even up by three scores. Doesn't Andy always talk about passing to get the lead and running to protect it? Isn't that his retort to the people, like me, who bitch and moan that he doesn't run the ball enough? I get it, the Niners have one of the league's best run defenses. But you know what's the best way to give an opponent life when they're otherwise down and out? By throwing passes, going three and out, and stopping the clock. The Eagles can't close out games because the offense is not physical enough to grind out tough yards on the ground and break the opposing defense's will. They play pussy football, and nobody fears them. Period.
I don't have any answers. I don't even have anymore suggestions. I'm just tired of seeing (and saying) the same shit time after time, year after year. But, remember, this is one of the Gold Standard franchises in the NFL, and THEY'RE SMARTER THAN YOU ARE! And you know something? I hope they are, otherwise this thing is going to get ugly. Extremely ugly. And people are going to lose their jobs. All that's left for me to wonder is, if everything goes to hell, who gets the blame this time around? It couldn't finally be Andy... could it?