Sunday, January 14, 2007

End of the Line

The Eagles lost last night, ending their improbable 6-game winning streak and playoff run.

Before I dissect the loss and the problems it exposed, I want to start by saying that the Eagles deserve a lot of credit for responding the way they did to McNabb's injury. I did not even have a shred of hope that the team would rebound from a 5-6 record to win the NFC East and win a playoff game behind the backup QB. That they were able to accomplish this much is reflective of a lot of hard work and mental toughness from the players and the coaching staff.

But I'm not here to throw bouquets of praise at the Eagles. I need to vent about the frustration of the loss, and the flaws in this team.

  • Run defense? What run defense? You simply can't give up 200+ yards rushing in a game, especially in the playoffs. I wish I could narrow this down into one issue, but it seems like there are several. The DL seems unable to shed blocks and make a play at the line of scrimmage. The LBs rarely seem to be in the right spot, and when they are, they miss tackles. Brodrick Bunkley needs to get in shape, learn the defense, and get on the field. They badly need a run-stopping presence in the middle of that line. Additionally, the Eagles need possibly three new LBs. Gaither did a decent job at times this season, but last night had a poor game. I'm not sure if he's the answer in the future. Trotter's getting old, and Dhani Jones doesn't hold up well at the point of attack. Maybe Chris Gocong plays Sam next year, or maybe the Eagles need to revisit this area in free agency.
  • Poor third-down defense. On one TD drive alone, the Saints converted three third-and-seven (or longer) situations. Missed tackles were the biggest culprit, and it didn't help that the Saints completely anticipated the Eagles blizes and called the perfect plays to counteract them. Perhaps new LBs will help here as well - they seemed incapable of covering New Orleans' third-string TE all night.
  • Bad coaching decisions. A repeated theme, it seems. Andy Reid is a fantastic coach on the practice field and in the locker room. He is one of the very few coaches in the NFL who could have held this team together and turned them around this season. But he's a terrible game-day coach, and he cost his team the game last night. 3rd-and-1 from the 3, down by 6? Pass, loss of two yards, kicks the field goal. Obvious QB sneak situation, or hand it to Westbrook and let him go over the top again. Fourth-and-twelve from the Saints' 38? Andy punts. (The Saints march the ball 82 yards for a TD.) Fourth-and-fifteen with two minutes left, down by 3? Another punt. (The Eagles never got the ball back.) Also, you'll notice that in spite of the fact that the Saints were blitzing relentlessly, the Eagles consistently sent four and five receivers into the pattern and kept a minimum of players in to block.
  • Dropped passes. Don't understimate the importance of Westbrook's drop of a five-yard pass two plays before the infamous punt from the 38. If he catches that pass, at the very least Akers has a chance to kick a FG.

Overall, I'm proud to be an Eagles fan today. They did more than I could have hoped for after some really bad breaks. But I'm also frustrated to see an opportunity get away. You just never know if you'll be good (and lucky) enough to get back into this position, so you need to take advantage of the opportunities you have.

Oh well, back to Madden for me, where the three-time champion Eagles are looking for their 60th consecutive victory today.


At 11:36 AM, Blogger millhousethecat said...

4th and 15 and you punt the ball?

Really? With about two minutes to go and a running game that was destroying the Eagles, Reid made a terrible mistake not going for the 1st down.

At 1:34 PM, Blogger Sweet Tea said...


Perhaps my rambling didn't come across the right way, but I think it was a terrible mistake as well.


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