Monday, September 29, 2008

Mourning After: Eagles-Bears

Last year, the immortal Brian Griese, Cedric Benson, Brian Berrian and Moose Muhammad went 90 yards in the last two minutes to win on the road in Philadelphia. The loss was in the early season, and while mind-blowingly frustrating, didn't seem like it was a make-or-break game for the Eagles season.

Eventually, they missed the playoffs by a game (letting the Giants in), and well, the Bears game might have been the difference.

This isn't to say that last night's teeth-grating loss in Chicago will be the difference between the Birds and the post-season; there is, after all, 12 games left to play, and the schedule still seems relatively palatable. Win next week against Washington at home, and then in San Francisco, and you're sitting at 4-2 at the bye. One suspects that if they get to that point, they might not even be in last place in the division anymore, though it's hard to say. Last night's loss was the first time an NFC East team lost outside of its division this year.

Here are five more quick points to chew over as you ponder what might have been...

> Many people, by reflex, will question the Eagles head coaches for calling goal line plunges with three minutes left in the game. I don't, or at least, not particularly. The bigger issue was that the Eagles back-ups -- Max Jean-Gilles in for Shawn Andrews, Brent Celek in for LJ Smith, and Buckhalter, Booker and Hunt in for Westbrook -- just didn't do the job. Then, the defense didn't hold the Bears without a first down when it had to. You can blame that on coaching if you like, but it's also damming of the Eagle back-ups. This was a team failure in all aspects -- coaching, defense, offense and special teams.

> As for why you run it there, I think Reid was thinking in two ways. First, that he wanted to give some confidence to his offensive line to get the job done... especially as they had held the ball for almost all of the second half, and should really have been wearing the Bears down by then. Secondly, I suspect that he wasn't terribly thrilled by the idea of a holding penalty or pick from the 1 yard line. At least with the running play, failure meant that the Bears were at their 1, with a defense that could have gotten them a safety on the next play. Get that, and you have the ball down by 2, with a free kick and 2 minutes left. I'm fine with the play call; not so much with the execution.

> Lost in the loss, the continuing disappointment that is kicker David Akers. His 50 yard try wasn't close; his 47 yarder hit the pole and stayed out. Had either gone in, the Eagles are kicking a field goal and taking the lead with three minutes left. (Setting up, of course, a Devin Hester kickoff return that would have given the Bears great field position prior to their own game-winning drive. Fah.)

Akers hasn't been reliable from outside of 40 yards for some time, and when you are on the road without numerous starters, you really don't have the margin for error that a kicker who can't hit from distance eliminates. I get that they are comfortable with him, and it's nice to have a kicker who doesn't shy away from contact in coverage. But he's got to do better, or they've got to move on. This isn't a new problem.

> Readers of the blog will note my longtime and mostly unwavering support of Donovan McNabb. But... is anyone else kind of tired of the "number of fourth quarter comeback wins" graphic that every broadcast crew feels compelled to post in crunch time of every game?

Don's been the QB for 75 Eagles wins. Some of them, especially over the near-decade he's been playing here, are going to involve fourth-quarter comebacks. If you are going to give me the number, also give me the percentage.

> A common theme in both losses: the pass defense not showing up until the second half. Last night, this led to three Kyle Orton touchdown passes (a career high), all of them from distance, all of them to very open receivers. While things got buttoned down more in the second, it was more a factor of increased pressure than better coverage; Orton missed several wide-open targets on downs that would have made a huge difference in the game. When the Birds signed Assante Samuel, this was supposed to give them three exceptional cover corners in an era of football when, well, you need three. So far, not so much.

Oh, and a bonus... I'm not sure why Lorenzo Booker is in the NFL. Didn't we already have this player, but quicker and even less able to block in pass protection, in Ryan Moats? If the Eagles get into a situation where both Westbrook and Buckhalter are unavailable again, it won't go well for them. (And if they aren't thinking about re-staffing the position this morning, they should be.)

1 comment:

Tracer Bullet said...

I would have called a QB sneak at the goal line, but otherwise I agree. And since Jean-Giles doesn't have Andrews' speed, he better have some power. Buck got stuffed running behind almost 700 lbs of OL in Jackson and Jean-Giles, and that's not acceptable.

And the secondary?! Jesus H. Christ. Kyle Orton is a replacement level QB and he looked like Joe Montana last night. Looks like I'm going to have a lot more free time on Sundays this fall.

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