Another week, another painful loss for the Philadelphia Eagles. The four things that cost them against San Francisco were the offense, defense, special teams and Andy Reid.
If you think that sounds a little too general, not to mention that’s basically the entire team, you’d be correct. This was a total team loss in every phase of the game. It was a total organizational failure as well.
Let’s break down each generalization a little more in order for you to see where I’m going with this.
How can I say that an offense that put up 513 total yards is to blame in this loss? Turnovers and red zone ineffectiveness, that’s how.
Michael Vick had a big day in passing for 416 yards and two TDs but still threw an interception to extend his streak to 11 straight games he’s turned the ball over at least once. That’s right, Vick has either thrown at least one INT or lost a fumble in each of his last 11 games.
As a matter of fact, Vick has put the ball on the ground 16 times in his last 11 games and has lost six fumbles. He’s also thrown 10 interceptions in that span. This means Vick has been responsible for 16 turnovers in 11 games.
That’s unacceptable from the $100 million man.
But it wasn’t Vick’s turnover that was most costly against the 49ers, it was Ronnie Brown’s and Jeremy Maclin’s miscues that proved to be the costliest.
Ronnie Brown’s misguided attempt at a “pass” down at the goal line was the fourth red zone turnover in four straight games. Everything was wrong on that play.
First, the play call was a run with an option to pass for Brown. Why oh why is that play being called down there? Stop trying to be fancy and just run the damn ball!
Then, what on earth was Ronnie Brown thinking as he simply threw the ball while being tackled? Dumb, just plain dumb and inexcusable.
Thirdly, why did Andy Reid bother challenging the play? It was clear as day what Brown did and that it was a turnover. Wasted challenge and loss of a timeout. Again, Reid just struggles in this area and it’s getting worse by the game.
Then there was Jeremy Maclin’s fumble to seal the defeat. The Eagles took over, down by a point, with three minutes left in the game. They were driving for what was hoped to be the game winning score.
Michael Vick completed a short pass to Maclin around mid-field and he ran it to the 49ers’ 32 yard line before he was tackled and coughed the ball up. Technically, that was field goal range already.
For the second time in three weeks, Jeremy Maclin comes up small in a big moment (dropped a 4th down pass in waning moments against Atlanta). I’m not sure what’s going on with him but I hope it doesn’t continue.
Then there was the offense’s inability to score and put the game out of reach when they had the chance. The Eagles had seven trips into the 49ers’ red zone, plus one other possession that reached the 49ers’ 22 yard line.
Out of those eight scoring opportunities, they could only get two of them in the end zone. The other six ended in three field goals, two missed field goals, and the Ronnie Brown fumble.
If the Eagles expect to win games, they must do a better job at converting red zone opportunities, obviously.
Oh man, where do I even begin with this one? This unit is in complete disarray right now. It’s hard to pinpoint one specific area and it’s more than just the linebacker corps.
The Eagles defense has now blown three-straight fourth quarter leads and has looked bad doing so. They just gave up 442 yards of offense to the 49ers who were ranked dead last in total offense coming into the game.
San Francisco averaged 213.7 yards of offense in the previous three games. The Eagles defense allowed them to double that yesterday and surrendered a 20 point lead in the process.
Forget about the Eagles’ “big three” at the cornerback position, they have been playing dreadful. The defense can’t stop the run or pass. They come up small in the second half and 4th quarters of games.
The only thing they seemingly can do is sack the quarterback. That’s it. Jason Babin, Trent Cole and Cullen Jenkins are excelling in that area. Unfortunately, it hasn’t helped them win games.
With the consistent bad play, we have to start looking at the man in charge of the unit in defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.
Is he in over his head? Does he truly know how to run a defense and manage a game? Does he know how to scheme against offenses? Does he know how to tailor his scheme to fit his players’ strengths?
All are fair questions at this point. One of the first things Castillo said after taking over the defense was that he wanted to simplify things so the players could “just play” and not have to think as much (Sean McDermott and Jim Johnson had complex schemes).
However, are things too simple? If this is the players “just playing”, maybe they need a better scheme in which to play in. This defense needs to stop playing around and get serious!
One thought is to scrap this predominantly zone scheme they seem to be deploying most of the time. Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha are press corners by nature. Castillo is forcing them to play zone.
It’s obvious the Asomugha is struggling with this. He is almost a total non-factor right now. Let these guys do what they do best and play man-coverage and send the dogs after the QB and stuff the running lanes.
This seems like the classic case of trying to force a square peg in a round hole. Good coaches devise their scheme around their players, not the other way around.
Juan Castillo needs to make a scheme adjustment, not just move players in and out of the starting lineup. It might be tough to do it during the season, but he needs to start making these types of changes now.
If not, this will be his one and only stint as a defensive coordinator. If Howard Mudd goes back into retirement, Castillo can say hello to the offensive line again.
The Special Teams:
Alex Henery missed two easy field goals yesterday, one from 33 yards and the other from 39 yards. Obviously, these were huge in terms of impacting the final outcome of a game lost by one point.
Henery had been okay up until yesterday’s game but now he has the experience of letting his team down on not one, but two occasions. Hopefully he can shake it off and use it as motivation to get better.
The return units, both punt and kickoff, have been boring and below average. Granted, kickoff returns are more difficult now with the rule change but Dion Lewis has been far less than spectacular.
Lewis has averaged a pedestrian 21.2 yards per kickoff return this season. Worse than that, though, is his decision-making on when to return the ball out of the end zone. Most times when he does, he struggles to make it to the 20 yard line.
Plus, he just looks slow and awkward when doing so. He hasn’t shown any flashes of ability in this area. The sad thing is, he’s probably the best option the Eagles have.
Nothing big has come out of the punt return game either. The only positive impact this unit has had is that when DeSean Jackson is back there, the other team is shanking some punts in an effort to avoid a big return by Jackson.
Other than that, nothing much.
The coverage teams are merely okay and were just that against the 49ers, okay. They didn’t allow Ted Ginn to be a factor in the return game which is a plus.
However, the special teams can be more of a factor in games and the Eagles’ units are mediocre at best. Alex Henery had the biggest impact in the loss against the 49ers but overall the Eagles need more from this group.
When all three phases of your team contributes to a loss like the Eagles did against San Francisco, you also have to take a look at the man in charge of everything.
Of course, that’s none other than head coach Andy Reid.
Reid is the man responsible for putting all of these pieces together. He chose Juan Castillo to be his defensive coordinator and decided to bring in the likes of offensive line coach Howard Mudd and defensive line coach Jim Washburn.
These are all complete scheme-changing coaches. Why did he decide to make such drastic scheme changes while at the same time acquire several new players?
Everything looked good on paper in the offseason but it takes time for all of these changes to come together and be productive on the field. And that’s if it would or could come together at all.
Reid took a huge gamble with all these changes to what was already a playoff caliber squad. So far, he’s coming up snake eyes.
You can trace back many of the Eagles’ failures against the 49ers to Andy Reid.
He decided not to keep David Akers and go with a rookie who ended up missing two easy field goals. The defense was horrible and he put those people in place. Trying to be too cute with the play calling at the goal line again has his finger prints all over it.
Let’s also not forget that his top three draft choices can’t even get on the field (Danny Watkins, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Curtis Marsh).
To boot, only two of his eight big-name player acquisitions are having an impact (Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins). Vince Young, Steve Smith, Ryan Harris, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Nnamdi Asomugha and Ronnie Brown have been anything but a “dream.”
All of this boils down to Andy Reid. We can all point to the offseason lockout as one reason this team hasn’t gelled together yet, and I even predicted that would be a problem before the season began, but things are getting ugly in a hurry.
Three straight losses in games we either could have, or should have won, falls in the lap of the man in charge.