Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I love it when a plan comes together

I've killed Big Red numerous times for being one of the worst game managers in the NFL. I've killed him for being inflexible, for failing to help his offensive line, and for putting too much pressure on a young QB. So it's only fair to give him credit for the game he called on Sunday.

It truly was a thing of beauty. There was a clear plan aimed at the Falcons' best pass-rusher, John Abraham, to throw him off-balance and slow down his attacking style. They targeted him with misdirection runs, rollouts, and chips from multiple players. There was a good mix of run and pass and a concerted effort to throw the ball downfield. The result was that the patchwork OL gave up only a single sack, and the offensive moved the ball up and down the field. It was a gameplan designed perfectly, and executed well, and the final result was a 31-17 victory against a 4-1 team.

And it came at a perfect time, lifting the Eagles record to 4-2 before two sure Tennessee and home against the Colts.

The Eagles are 0-3 against Jeff Fisher's Titans since Andy Reid took over, and only 5-6 the week before the bye (I thought this was much worse - they were 3-6 at one point before winning the last two seasons.) The Eagles have never matched up well against this team, and were actually embarrassed by them the last time they played. Even if Vince Young is hurt, I don't give the Birds much chance.

And then after the bye, the Colts come to town - and Peyton Manning is also undefeated against the Birds. Sean McDermott couldn't shut down powerhouses like Shaun Hill and Alex Smith, so he doesn't have a chance in this matchup against Manning.

But for now, I'll enjoy the glow - tied for the first in the NFC East, and the best record in the conference. I'm just too realistic to expect it to last.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Adventures in Coaching

In the offseason, Andy Reid told us that Moise Fokou looked impressive, that he was expecting a big leap between years one and two, and that the Eagles had finally found a "physical player" at SAM who used his long arms to fend off blockers.

Two days into training camp, Fokou had lost his job to 220lb Akeem Jordan, who's never been confused for a physical player. Fokou was eventually demoted to third-string SAM, spent some time at DE, and seemed to barely make the roster.

After Akeem Jordan spent most of the Washington game on his back, being run over by linemen, tight ends, and fullbacks...the Eagles presented us with a new answer to an old problem: Moise Fokou.

It seemed to work, at least for a week. The Eagles did an excellent job against Frank Gore, holding one of the league's best backs to just 52 yards on 18 carries. Which begs the question...what the hell was Big Red doing in the first place, demoting a guy who is a necessary cog in the run defense?

In other defensive news, it's starting to look like Sean McDermott is overmatched as a defensive coodinator. The Eagles continue to be burned on poorly-designed, poorly-timed blitzes, as the opposing offenses know exactly what's coming and how to counter it. On third-and-21 - a distance the 49ers hadn't converted since 1997 - the Eagles blitzed a corner while leaving a DE in coverage. The Niners rolled protection away from the blitz, and Brandon Graham wasn't able to stay with a WR in coverage (duh), leading to a long completion and a first down. The Niners completed at least three other first downs against a safety blitz, and would have had a touchdown on a fourth occasion if Nate Allen hadn't tipped the ball. Meanwhile, Bradley has been put into a bad position numerous times, lining up over the center to 'sugar' a blitz...only to have to turn and run down the seam with a talented TE. This was exploited by GB, Washington, and now the 49ers. Since Bradley's only played in three games, that means opposing teams are 3-for-3 in defeating this play.

Meanwhile, Andy continues to be clueless on fourth down. On 4th-and-9 from the SF33, the Eagles punted to the 18, netting a glorious 15 yards. If the Eagles go for it, they'll only convert about 20% of the time, but so what? Is giving up that 20% chance for a score really worth 15 yards? On another 4th-and-1 situation from the SF35, he did go for it (nice!) but called a terrible play. On the third 4th-and-2 from the SF34, Andy tried a field goal, which naturally failed. Instead of coaching by feel, he needs to rely on numbers instead. Just go for it all three times.

The Eagles were exceptionally lucky, recovering four out of five fumbles in the game...regardless of 'hustle' or 'wanting it' or whatever, recovering fumbles is a 50/50 proposition. So to get four out of five is unusually fortunate. The good luck offset the bad coaching just enough to get a win, but obviously this won't happen every week.