In the week leading up to a game I like to scope out writers who follow that particular opponent, because those that focus on just one team tend to be far more knowledgeable about that squad than the more well known national writers that are splitting their attention between 32 teams – a nearly impossible task for effective and accurate analysis. To a lesser extent I also like to compare and contrast how they viewed the game to what I observed, to read their breakdowns and balance that against the opinions and editorials of writers in New England that I respect and follow.
With that in mind I would like to share how some writers in Philadelphia broke down yesterday’s 38-20 victory at Lincoln Financial Field. There is a whole lot more than what i have included below, so I highly encourage you to click the links in order to see the full articles, and many others at the Philly newspapers. Though Philadelphia fans have earned a bad rap over the years, the amount of coverage they receive shows that if nothing else they are extremely passionate about their sports teams.
Player of the game: Tom Brady was 24 of 34 passing for 361 yards and three touchdowns. He was roughed up early, but using smarts and experience bought time for his receivers and put his passes on point to finish with a 134.6 quarterback rating. He even ran for 28 yards. Brady showed exactly why he, and the Patriots, are elite.
Most misleading statistic: Vince Young threw for exactly 400 yards. But his team lost by more than two touchdowns, and it would have been worse if not for a late score when the Patriots were practically packing their bags for a trip home. It wasn’t his fault that the Eagles lost, but the big stat didn’t have much meaning in the end.
Reid didn’t have his starting quarterback, Michael Vick, who missed his second straight game with broken ribs. He didn’t have his best receiver, Jeremy Maclin, who was on the shelf with shoulder and hamstring issues.
What he did have was McCoy, who entered the must-win game as the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,019 yards It seemed logical to assume that Reid would put the ball in McCoy’s belly a lot yesterday, not only because the Patriots weren’t all that good at stopping the run (they were allowing 4.3 yards per carry), but because it was a good way to keep the ball out of the hands of Tom Brady and the Patriots’ dangerous offense.
Makes sense, but not to the pass-happy Reid, who gave the ball to McCoy just six times in the first half and 10 times the entire game, electing instead to have Vick’s replacement, Vince Young, try and match Brady pass completion for pass completion. Good luck with that.
The front four was OK. They got pressure early. But as the game went on, Tom Brady just consistently had answers. He scrambled for big chunks of yardage. He avoided pressure, got out of the pocket and found receivers downfield. And he got rid of the ball quickly.
The secondary was another story. There was confusion, miscommunication and blown assignments all game long. The injury factor is a bit overblown if you ask me. Nnamdi Asomugha was limited, but other than that, the Eagles were healthy back there. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie didn’t play, but just last week, everyone was of the opinion that Joselio Hanson was better than him anyway.
On a 3rd-and-2 in the first quarter, Jamar Chaney, Keenan Clayton and Nate Allen were discussing/gesturing as Brady snapped the ball. The Eagles were called for 12 men on the field, and the Patriots got a first down.
Later on the drive, on 3rd-and-1, the Eagles called a timeout because of a personnel issue. After the timeout, Derek Landri jumped offsides, giving the Patriots another first down.
It was that type of game, and it’s been that type of year for Juan Castillo’s group. Re-watching the game, I really felt like Brady could have completed 60 percent of his passes with a blindfold on.
When DeSean Jackson dropped what should have been a 49-yard touchdown bomb, it neatly summed up his day and the 2011 Eagles as a whole.
The Eagles were trailing by 31-13 late in the third quarter. Jackson, who sees himself as a leader and a playmaker, got behind New England’s defense. Vince Young lofted a pass that dropped into Jackson’s hands in the end zone.
Only Jackson didn’t finish the job, as has been the case for so many members of this disappointing team. A pretty design that seemed like it would work resulted in an incompletion, boos, and failure where success seemed possible. Before long, Jackson was sent to the bench to watch his teammates close out a 38-20 humiliation.
If there were a next time, the Patriots would win that one, too. And a next time after that. And a next time after that. The Eagles, regardless of their protestations, are a done football team, and once New England punched back from a 10-0 deficit, the Eagles packed it in mentally and physically.
On Sunday, they were that worst of NFL combinations: stupid and soft.
They committed idiotic penalties, missed blocking assignments and fouled up coverages just as if they had already checked out on the season. They whiffed on tackles, didn’t work to extend plays, and their receivers – particularly DeSean Jackson – developed a bad case of the short arms.
Jackson had a particularly horrendous game in that regard and, after he dropped a long pass in the end zone because there were some defenders in the area, Reid benched him. If you want to gauge exactly how angry Reid was, he didn’t protect Jackson in the postgame interview session. Reid could have said that he decided to rest Jackson for the remainder of the evening because the Patriots were out of reach and Jackson suffered a slight foot injury at the end of the Giants game a week ago. Given the chance to say nothing, Reid almost always takes it. Not this time.
It’s not that the Eagles have committed a ton of penalties this season. They went into the game with 65 penalties, tied for 13th-worst in the NFL.
It’s that a significant number of the flags they have drawn have come at inopportune times. A perfect example of that deficiency came on the Patriots’ first touchdown drive.
New England converted four third downs on the series, but two were gift-wrapped by the Eagles. Linebacker Brian Rolle was caught on the field and whistled for being the 12th player, and later, defensive tackle Derek Landri jumped offside on third and 1.
The Eagles ended with 10 penalties for 60 yards. The Patriots, on the other hand, had just three penalties for 20 yards.
Maybe that’s why the Pats are 8-3 and the Eagles 4-7.
It was not the worst loss of Andy Reid’s tenure or even the Eagles’ miserable season. It was merely the most revealing.
At Reid’s zenith, the Eagles faced the New England Patriots in a Super Bowl. They lost, but they were competitive with what was inarguably the league’s most dominant team.
Now, at Reid’s nadir, the Eagles lost to the Patriots again. No shame in that. But to lose by 38-20 (thanks to a cheap late touchdown, the score wasn’t as lopsided as the game), to not be capable of competing with Bill Belichick’s team – there is plenty of shame in that.
To go one full calendar year with exactly two wins (against eight losses) in Lincoln Financial Field, there is plenty more shame in that.
To lock in another year of steady regression – from NFC runner-up in 2008, to 11-5 in 2009, to 10-6 last year to no better than 9-7 this year – there is plenty of shame in that.
Eagles fans felt it. Sunday’s debacle was marked by harsh booing as the team left for the locker room at halftime and when it returned for the start of the third quarter. A brief chant of “Fire Andy” filled the air at one point. When Juqua Parker’s taped message – “Everybody make some noise!” – was inexplicably played on the big screens early in the fourth quarter of a rout, the fans responded with another volley of jeers.
And they left. En masse. Most of the fourth quarter was played without Tom Brady, whose work was done; without DeSean Jackson, who completed the journey from fan favorite to full-fledged pariah, and without all but a few of the 69,144 who paid to watch this game.
In the 17 years that I’ve been in Philadelphia, I’ve seen Eagles fans leave a game early when the cause seemed to be lost, but I don’t ever recall them starting a mass exodus with more than 6 minutes left in the third quarter.
That’s what happened when Vince Young lobbed a pass out of the end zone on a fourth-and-goal attempt from the 2 to tight end Brent Celek.
The Patriots led, 31-13. The fans decided they had seen enough.
By the time the final seconds ticked away, Lurie, if even he bothered to stay in his luxury suite, may as well have been alone in the shattered husk of what has always been a vibrant arena of unbridled passion – be it positive or negative energy.
That should frighten Lurie.
Eagles fans have been accused of a lot of things. Apathy has never been one of them.
The Pats didn’t just beat the Eagles, after spotting the home team a 10-0, first-quarter lead, they toyed with Reid and his offensive line coach-turned-defensive coordinator, Juan Castillo. Any chance the defenseless Birds might have had to try to win a shootout was extinguished by an erratic Young, a butterfingered DeSean Jackson, who dropped two sure touchdown passes before being benched in the fourth quarter, and the decision of Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg that they really didn’t need to put the ball in the hands of LeSean McCoy all that much, with injured Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin missing from the offense and Jackson missing in action.
One person who might have expected more than 10 carries (for 31 yards) from McCoy was defensive line coach Jim Washburn. Mornhinweg and Washburn exchanged words, Comcast SportsNet first reported and a source close to the situation subsequently confirmed to the Daily News. The source witnessed the two coaches arguing as they headed toward the field for the second half, but the genesis of their dispute might have been the pass-happy second quarter, which saw Washburn’s line sent onto the field again and again with scant rest or chance to adjust.
Around the Internet: