Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 10/29/12
The Eagles were notoriously bad on Sunday as Andy Reid’s 13-0 record after the bye got utterly demolished by an Atlanta Falcons team that routed the Eagles, 30-17, in front of the home crowd. The leading receiver in yards for the Eagles was DeSean Jackson, who had 59 yards on five receptions, and the ground game was just as ineffective with the leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, finishing with 45 yards on 16 carries. It was the defense, however, that ultimately lost the game, and, considering the game was Todd Bowles’ trial-by-fire initiation as defensive coordinator, question marks — weighty question marks — surround the Eagles.Philadelphia, once again, came out to a slow start, allowing the Falcons to engineer a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown-scoring drive that chewed 8:44 off the clock to start the game. The Falcons should have been stopped on their 37-yard line during the play, but Jason Babin’s holding penalty allowed the 3rd-and-10 conversion. Afterwards, Matt Ryan’s arm and precision, along with the double-pronged running attack of Jacquizz Rodgers and Michael Turner, who combined for 118 yards Sunday, allowed the Falcons to came out of the gates looking sharp, and the Eagles could not keep up.After the Falcons’ defense held the Eagles to a quick three-and-out in their first drive, during which the Eagles earned -3 yards, the Eagles' defense allowed the Falcons to march down the field on the subsequent drive and put seven more points on the board, stamping their mark on a 14-0 lead before the first quarter had even ended. The worst part of the ordeal, however, was the self-inflicted penalties. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie extended the drive from the Eagles 32-yard line to the 10 before Mychal Kendricks extended an incomplete pass on the 7-yard line during a 3rd-and-7 situation into a 1st and goal at the Eagles 6-yard line.  Thus, the mistakes on defense, even after removing Juan Castillo, are not fully fixed, and, in fact, the individual defensive members looked more out of sync than they have all season, and the situation brings up the question of whether or not Andy Reid implemented the firing of Juan Castillo at the correct time. Are Eagles fans now supposed to expect a collecting pool of penalties with Todd Bowles as the defensive coordinator?At the end of the first half, the Eagles were down 24-7 in Todd Bowles’ debut performance as defensive coordinator, and the secondary, where he coached before moving to defensive coordinator, was one of the major contributors, giving up 197 yards through the air in the first half alone. Thus, the Eagles’ faults on defense cannot be easily rectified. The wide-nine front is a porous hole in the center of the field for which opposing running backs attack at will, and the formula for defeating the Eagles through the air, putting six to seven blockers on the line and running up and down the field with short passes, is becoming common knowledge around the league. The worst culprit, however, is slow starts for the defense. The Eagles entered Week 8 outscored 26-7 in first-quarter play, and, on top of that damaging inefficiency, opponents had 162:59 of time of possession with the lead over the Eagles’ 84:19 through the first six games, and nothing much changed.The offense, which came into the game averaging a 30th-ranked 17.2 points per game, proved that statistic’s meaning as 17 points is all they could muster up Sunday, and they lost. They are now in the bottom of league in points per game with the Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Rams, and Jacksonville Jaguars. Michael Vick finished 21-of-35 for 191 yards; LeSean McCoy had 16 carries for 45 yards, and Jeremy Maclin led the team in receptions with 6 for 33 yards. It’s nothing to brag about. The Eagles' 270 yards of total offense was their second-lowest outing of the season, with their lowest, 248 against the Steelers, occurring at the start of their three-game slide. In their wins against Cleveland, Baltimore, and New York, they put up 456, 486, and 422 yards, respectively; those times, however, are long gone.After going the whole first quarter scoreless, the Eagles were able to manufacture a touchdown in the second quarter, but on Atlanta’s next drive after the touchdown, they manufactured their third consecutive touchdown-scoring drive, and the Eagles could not keep pace. The Falcons scored 30 points on three consecutive touchdowns followed by three consecutive field goals in their first six drives, and the Eagles offense struggled handily to retaliate with similar firepower. Instead, the Eagles struggled to put up 3 points in the third period and 7 points in the fourth quarter, and their final touchdown drive, which started early in the fourth quarter, left only seven minutes, 18 seconds on the clock in which to defend the Falcons and climb out of a 30-17 hole.Then, the costly, ill-advised timeouts caused by Michael Vick’s inability to read defenses effectively, along with Andy Reid’s tendency to burn timeouts with little logic tied to the reasoning, are becoming an egregious liability for the team. In response, Andy Reid’s future with the Eagles seems to have hit its final stretch, and Michael Vick could very well be seeing his time as a starter dwindling; benching Vick is now not out of the reach of possibility.  Nick Foles could be seen warming up on the sideline on Sunday, and a strong argument for Vick’s benching is valid. No matter how the situation goes, though, the Eagles have a large contract with Vick to justify at the end of the season.Finally, if the Eagles want Vick to play better, the offensive line needs to learn how to protect the trenches. The offensive line is a disastrous sieve. They gave up three sacks to the Falcons, who, generally speaking, decimated the Eagles front, and it was another bloodbath for Vick, who found himself attacked from all sides and constantly sprawled out on the ground. Dennis Kelly, a 2012 fifth-round draft pick, was in for Danny Watkins, a soon-to-be 28-year-old second-year player, and the confusion, which already existed with the revolving door at left tackle compounded by replacement problems at center, persisted. The Eagles came out flat on the offensive line, once again, and that grim situation is clearly hurting the Eagles’ ability to run the ball.  Over the current three-week slide, the Eagles have failed to put up at least 100 yards on the ground, finishing with 78, 71, and 92 yards against the Steelers, Lions, and Falcons.  Something needs to change.In the end, the circumstance is unfortunate; however, it is tough to argue that the better team did not win Sunday. The 7-0 Falcons are serious contenders for the Super Bowl this season, and even their ground game, their weakest link in the offense which averaged 3.7 yards per carry preceding the matchup, gained 146 yards total against the Eagles.  Jacquizz Rodgers (8 carries, 60 yards), who averaged 7.5 yards per run, and Michael Turner (24 carries, 58 yards) carried the majority of the load.  The Eagles, on the other hand, have many issues to correct and little time to do it before the New Orleans Saints, who are averaging 27.1 points per game, comes to town. The Eagles are now 3-4 and an under-par 11-12 stretching back to last season. They have even one of their best statistics this season heading into the game, allowing only 29.1 percent of third-down conversions to opposing teams, to cave in.  The Eagles gave up 54 percent — 7-of-13 — conversions. Change needs to come, but where the Eagles will start changing is anyone’s guess. The problems are overloading.
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