Saturday, December 27, 2014

Domo's Eagles-Bears Day-After Dissection

Sifting through the wreckage of the Eagles’ latest loss while wondering what Nnamdi Asomugha would do if he could go back in time 3 ½ months and be a free agent again:

Domo's Eagles-Bears Day-After Dissection

Andy Reid and Asante Samuel walk off the field after Samuel was injured in the first quarter. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Andy Reid and Asante Samuel walk off the field after Samuel was injured in the first quarter. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Sifting through the wreckage of the Eagles’ latest loss while wondering what Nnamdi Asomugha would do if he could go back in time 3 ½ months and be a free agent again:

People like to say Andy Reid never says anything at his news conferences. But that’s not necessarily true. Sometimes you just have to listen really, really closely.

In not so many words, Reid admitted Tuesday what everybody else who watched Monday night’s game already knew: that his three stud corners – Asante Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – stunk up the joint.

He admitted as much when somebody asked him about the Eagles’ inability to get pressure on Jay Cutler in the 30-24 loss to the Bears. The Eagles failed to register a sack for the first time since Week 11 of the 2010 season.

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"What they did," Reid said of the Bears, "was they held seven people in to protect just about every play and turned it into a three-man game on the outside. And so, whether you’re blitzing or four-man rushing, it’s tough to get there when they’re holding all those people in. So you’ve got to really make sure that your coverage patterns are taken care of."

Far too often, they weren’t. With Samuel, Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie, no team in the league should be better equipped to play a three-man game on the outside than the Eagles. Yet the three of them came up very small in Monday night’s loss.

The Bears, who entered the game ranked 29th in the league in third-down efficiency, converted 7 of 14 third down opportunities against the Eagles. And we’re not talking third-and-shorts. We’re talking a third-and-six and two third-and-sevens and a third-and-eight and even a third-and-16.

In the Eagles’ first seven games, their opponents managed to convert just 9 of 52 third downs of six yards or more. On Monday night, the Bears converted 5 of 8. Quarterback Jay Cutler completed 7 of 11 third-down pass attempts for 114 of his 208 passing yards and six first downs.

Rodgers-Cromartie continued to look like a little boy lost in his role as the slot corner. He is a second late and step slow on just about everything he does. Receivers were effectively pushing off of him. He quit on at least one tackle. And he blew at least one coverage.

Samuel, who has just one interception this season, played like a guy who knows his days in Eagle green are numbered. Among other things, he got beat by Earl Bennett for a five-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown that gave the Bears the lead for good.

Asomugha, playing the press coverage that is supposed to be his forte on a third-and-11 play on the Bears’ final scoring drive, was flagged for a pass interference penalty against Johnny Knox that gave the Bears a first down at the Philadelphia seven-yard line.

A look at the five third-and-long plays that the Bears converted against the Eagles, as well as Asomugha’s pass-interference penalty:

Third-and-7 at the Philadelphia 31 on the Bears’ first possession. Rodgers-Cromartie was matched up in the slot on Bennett. Bennett ran a square-in and caught a 14-yard pass from Cutler. The final seven yards came after DRC failed to bring him down. The Bears later scored on the drive when Cutler completed a five-yard pass to tight end Matt Speath, who somehow managed to escape the attention of Eagles linebackers Moise Fokou and Brian Rolle.

Third-and-7 at the Chicago 17 on the Bears’ second possession. The Eagles were in their dime (six defensive backs) package. Cutler completed a 14-yard pass to wide receiver Roy Williams who found a hole in the Eagles’ soft zone coverage in front of rookie safety Jaiquawn Jarrett.

Third-and-seven at the Chicago 34 also on Bears’ second possession. The Eagles went with an unorthodox alignment that featured five defensive linemen. Defensive end Trent Cole came through the A gap, but Cutler sidestepped him and hit Johnny Knox for a 14-yard completion in front of Samuel.

Third-and-16 at the Chicago 42 early in second quarter. Asomugha was matched up against Bennett in man coverage. Bennett beat him with an outside move, then Rodgers-Cromartie missed yet another tackle that allowed the Bears wideout to pick up an extra seven yards for a 26-yard completion at the Philadelphia 32. Robbie Gould would eventually kick the first of his three field goals to give the Bears a 3-0 lead.

Third-and-8 at the Chicago 25 late in third quarter. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo calls a blitz that, like most of the one he called Monday, didn’t get there, giving Cutler plenty of time to find an open receiver. Bennett, matched up against DRC, beat him with a stop and go move for an 18-yard completion that set up Gould’s second field goal.

Third-and-eight at the Philadelphia 24 with 4:58 left in the game and the Bears up 27-24. The Eagles blitzed and the corners were again in press coverage. Asomugha was matched up with Johnny Knox. Cutler threw a back-shoulder fade pass to Knox while Asomugha’s hands still were all over him. He was deservedly flagged for pass interference. Gould would eventually kick his third field goal of the game.

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF DESEAN

DeSean Jackson had just two catches for 16 yards against the Bears. If you’re counting – and Joe Banner surely is – Jackson’s got just eight receptions for 93 yards and no touchdowns in the Eagles’ last three games. Yes, he continues to be the main coverage focus for opposing defenses. And yes, the attention he draws opens things up for the rest of the team’s receiving corps.

But it’s not like Mike Vick is ignoring him. Jackson was targeted eight times Monday. Only Brent Celek (9) and Jeremy Maclin (9) were targeted more. Since Week 3, he’s been targeted 43 times, but has just 21 catches.

Jackson was the intended receiver Monday on the interception Vick threw in the red zone. In his desire to get Jackson more involved in the offense, Vick occasionally has forced some balls to him. But Jackson also has had some drops.

And the incompletion to him over the middle early in fourth quarter Monday night was a bit disconcerting. He was open and Vick threw him a catchable ball. And maybe the fact that the Bears’ rookie safety, Chris Conte, was bearing down on him had nothing to do with his failure to catch the pass. Or maybe it did.

Jackson’s got just one reception of 20 yards or more in the last three games. He’s got just one touchdown catch in the last seven games and just eight TD catches in his last 15 games. He’s got one red-zone reception the entire season. If you think it’s a given that the Eagles are going to put the franchise tag on him next February if they haven’t re-signed him by then, think again. Because it’s not.

OH, THAT DARN RUN DEFENSE

The good news Monday night was that the Eagles held the Bears’ Matt Forte to four yards or less on 14 of his 24 carries, including six in which they stuffed him for zero or negative yards.

The bad news, of course, is what he did on his 10 other carries. He gained 108 yards on those, including four runs of 14 or more yards. Forte finished with 133 yards on 24 carries. He’s the fourth running back to rush for 100 yards against the Eagles this season, joining the Falcons’ Michael Turner (21-114), the 49ers’ Frank Gore (15-127) and the Bills’ Fred Jackson (26-111). The Eagles are 0-4 this season when they’ve allowed a 100-yard rusher.

First down has been a particularly problematic down for the Eagles against the run this season. Opponents have averaged 5.4 yards per carry against them on first down. The Eagles actually did a good job against the run on first down Monday night, holding the Bears to 43 rushing yards on 17 carries.

Not so much on second down, though. After holding opponents to 3.6 yards per carry on second down in the first seven games, the Eagles gave up 113 yards on 14 second-down carries to the Bears, an average of 8.1 yards per carry. All four of Matt Forte’s double-digit runs came on second down. So did Marion Barber’s 17-yard run in the third quarter.

For the season, the Eagles have allowed 124.0 rushing yards per game and 5.01 yards per carry. A breakdown of the run defense by down and quarter this season:

By Down

First Down: 108-539 (5.0)

Second Down: 69-311 (4.5)

Third Down: 49-202 (7.0)

Fourth Down 57-259 (4.5)

By Quarter

First Qtr: 57-351 (6.2)

Second Qtr: 35-180 (5.1)

Third Qtr: 49-202 (4.1)

Fourth Qtr: 57-259 (4.5)

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING

--Michael Vick has had just two games without an interception this season – v. the Rams in Week 1 and the Cowboys in Week 8.

--Vick has nine interceptions this season, including three in the red zone. No. 3 came in the second quarter Monday night at the Chicago 19. He tried to hit DeSean Jackson down the middle and never saw linebacker Lance Briggs or safety Major Wright. Briggs tipped the ball and Wright picked it off, ruining a golden scoring opportunity. For the season, Vick has completed just 21 of 41 passes in the red zone. He was just 1-for-3 against the Bears inside the 20.

--Vick was sacked just one time Monday night. The Eagles have given up just 14 sacks this season and 11 in the last seven games. They’ve allowed two or fewer sacks in six of the first eight games. Last year, they had six games with two or fewer sacks allowed the entire season.

--After scoring on their first two possessions against the Cowboys two weeks ago, the Eagles failed to score on either of their first two possessions Monday night. The Cowboys game has been the only time this season the Eagles have scored on their first possession. They’ve gained more than 20 yards on their first drive of the game just three times in eight games.

--Seven of the 14 touchdown passes the Eagles have given up this season have been caught by tight ends (4) and running backs (3). That includes the five-yard first-quarter scoring catch by the Bears’ Matt Spaeth. Spaeth came into the game with just three receptions. For the season, opposing tight ends and running backs have 72 receptions for 753 yards against them.

--When Brian Rolle stripped the ball from Matt Forte in the second quarte, it was the first forced fumble by an Eagles linebacker since Week 15 of last season when Jamar Chaney had one against the Giants.

SOME OTHER STUFF

--After his 33-yard touchdown run with 5:52 left in the third quarter put the Eagles up, 24-17, LeSean McCoy had just two more rushing attempts the rest of the game. He lost four yards on a first-down run prior to the failed fake punt. And ran for no gain on a first-and-10 play with 2:34 left in the game. McCoy had seven first-down carries in the game. Lost two yards on those seven carries.

--Alex Henery’s 47-yard field goal in the second quarter was the first 40-plus yard field goal of his career. But it barely got there. It caromed weakly off the lower part of the right upright and dropped through with about a yard to spare.

--One of the formations that the Eagles like to use quite a bit is a three-wide receiver, two-tight end set with the two tight ends, Brent Celek and Clay Harbor, lined up in a split backfield.

--Every game, LeSean McCoy has at least one of those did-you-see-that moments. He had one in the Eagles’ first scoring drive of the third-quarter when he took a pass over the middle from Mike Vick with his back to the defense, then instinctively spun away from Bears safety Major Wright for an eight-yard completion and a first down.

Paul Domowitch Daily News NFL Columnist
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Paul Domowitch Daily News NFL Columnist
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