Monday, September 1, 2014
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Domo's Eagles-Falcons Day-After Dissection

Surveying the wreckage of Sunday’s 30-17 loss to the Falcons:

Domo's Eagles-Falcons Day-After Dissection

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Surveying the wreckage of Sunday’s 30-17 loss to the Falcons:

If Andy Reid decides to bench Michael Vick this week, it will be because of his quarterback’s decision-making more than anything else.

Vick’s passing numbers weren’t all that bad Sunday. He completed 60 percent of his passes and didn’t throw an interception for the fourth time in the last five games.

But he continues to lock on to receivers. On a third-and-two at midfield late in the second quarter, he forced a throw in the middle to Jason Avant that was knocked away by the Falcons’ Chris Owens. Meanwhile, Riley Cooper, the lone receiver on the left side of the four-wide receiver set on the play, had beaten cornerback Dunta Robinson on a quick slant and was open. With the Falcons putting defensive end Kroy Beiermann as the deep safety on the play, Cooper might’ve been able to score if Vick had thrown the ball to him.

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He locked on to DeSean Jackson on a pass in the third quarter that was nearly intercepted by Falcons linebacker Stephen Nicholas. Vick never saw Nicholas.

On a third-and-six at the Atlanta 15 in the third quarter, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon came unblocked on a delayed blitz. Vick could see Weatherspoon coming. He also could see Jackson open in the middle of the field at the 9-yard line. But Vick held on to the ball and eventually threw it away as he was being hit. If he had pulled the trigger to Jackson, he not only would’ve had a first down, but also would’ve avoided a hit.

Early in the fourth quarter, Weatherspoon came on a delayed blitz up the middle. Vick should’ve been able to see him coming and thrown the ball away. But he held on to it and was sacked by John Abraham for a four-yard loss.

On the Eagles’ fourth-quarter possession immediately after they closed the gap to 13 points, Vick forced a pass to Maclin when he had running back Bryce Brown wide open underneath. On a fourth-down play on the Eagles’ next to last possession, Vick stepped right into the heart of the Falcons’ pass rush, giving him no chance to complete a pass on the play.

Vick, who had a 129.1 passer rating against the blitz in the previous three games and a 95.7 rating against the blitz in the first six games, wasn’t nearly as effective Sunday when the Falcons sent extra rushers. Vick completed just 6 of 15 passes for 69 yards against the blitz. Two of his three sacks came when the Falcons blitzed. For the season, 12 of his 20 sacks have come on plays when he’s been blitzed.

THE DEFENSE AND THE BLITZ

The Eagles didn’t have any luck blitzing Matt Ryan Sunday. They sent extra rushers after him six times. Three times, the Eagles committed penalties – a hold on defensive end Jason Babin and pass interference penalties on cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and linebacker Mychal Kendricks.

On the other three Eagles blitzes, Ryan was 3-for-3 for 36 yards. He completed a 15-yard pass to Drew Davis in the first quarter when linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Casey Matthews blitzed. He completed a seven-yard pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez in the second quarter when Ryans and safety Kurt Coleman blitzed. And he hit Roddy White for 14 yards on a crossing route on a second-quarter blitz by Ryans and Kendricks.

 

SPOTLIGHT ON. . .

--DEFENSIVE END JASON BABIN. Babin was as ineffective as he’s been all season. Watching Falcons right tackle Tyson Clabo neutralize him down after down, it was hard to remember which one of those guys was the two-time Pro Bowler.

Babin, who had played 71.8 percent of the defensive snaps in the first six games, was on the field for just 31 of 68 snaps Sunday, and it wasn’t because he was hurt. His play was that poor.

Babin’s problems began on the Falcons’ first possession when he was called defensive holding on a third-and-10 play. The Eagles blitzed on the play, sending linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Casey Matthews, who subbed on the first series for Michael Kendricks, who was taking a timeout for being late for a meeting last week.

Babin initially rushed on the play, then dropped off to cover running back Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers got a step on Babin, prompting the defensive lineman to grab him with his left hand, which gave the Falcons a first down. They later scored on the drive.

On a third-and-two play after his penalty, Babin was rushing quarterback Matt Ryan when running back Jason Snelling came across the formation and blocked him low. Rather than leap over Snelling or try to avoid him, Babin stopped dead.

Late in the second quarter, Babin rushed upfield and left a huge gap for Ryan to run through for a 10-yard gain. He did the same thing on the very next play, allowing Rodgers to gain 10 yards through the same lane. Babin kept trying the same upfield rush all day against Clabo and kept getting blocked out of the play.

In the third quarter, Babin failed to protect the backside on an end-around by Julio Jones that gained nine yards.

--CORNERBACK NNAMDI ASOMUGHA: It’s become pretty obvious that, whatever it was that Asomugha used to be, he isn’t it anymore. In the second quarter, on a second-and-14 play at the Atlanta 37, Asomugha was matched up one-on-one on the outside with wide receiver Julio Jones. Asomugha made the mistake of trying to run with the much-faster Jones rather than attempt to jam him at the line. Jones blew by him as if he was standing still and hauled in a 63-touchdown pass from Ryan. The Eagles were in a single-safety coverage on the play, but Nate Allen, who was playing deep, couldn’t get over in time to help Asomugha.

On a third-and-four play late in the first half, Asomugha was matched up with wide receiver Roddy White. The Eagles blitzed again, sending Ryans and Kendricks. Asomugha had outside leverage on the play, which wasn’t a particularly smart thing to do since he knew he wasn’t going to be getting any help inside from the linebackers. White ran a crossing route with Asomugha trailing. Ryan hit him for a 14-yard gain.

In the third quarter, Asomugha was on Jones again. The Falcons ran a quick screen to him. The Eagles’ corner got blocked completely out of the play by White and Jones gained 37 yards. In Asomugha’s defense, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who was matched up on White, didn’t do anything to help him on the play. He stayed with White, even after Asomugha was blocked to the ground, allowing Jones to take the ball upfield.

Asomugha also had a missed tackle on another screen to Jones on the Falcons’ final scoring drive of the day. Jones only gained 10 yards on that play.

UNCERTAINTY, CONFUSION, MISTAKES

Whether it was because of the new things Todd Bowles had installed or what the Falcons were doing offensively, the Eagles defense often looked unsure of itself Sunday. Kind of like they looked early last season after the lockout.

On a third-and-two play on their first possession, the Falcons lined up in a bunch formation to the right, with Drew Davis at the point, White to his right and Jones to his left. Before the snap, Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin was frantically signaling for more coverage help to that side. Jones ran a short out rout, Davis ran downfield and White ran a five-yard turnaround. Ryan hit a wide-open White for a first down.

Then there was the screwup late in the drive on Ryan’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Davis. The Falcons again lined up in a three-wide receiver set with Jones and Davis to the right side. Jones was outside and Davis was in the slot. Ryan faked a screen to Jones, while Davis released downfield. Boykin, who had lined up on Davis, Rodgers-Cromartie, who was playing 10 yards off of Jones, and safety Kurt Coleman, all bit on the fake screen and moved toward Jones, leaving Davis uncovered in the end zone.

QUICK HITS

--The only time I really noticed Trent Cole Sunday was when he started a fight with Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez with 15 seconds left in the game. Cole, whose 55 snaps were the most of any Eagles defensive linemen, finished with just two tackles and no quarterback sacks or hits. Pro Football Focus did credit him with a team-high three hurries in their game review.

--Tight end Brent Celek didn’t play very well. Had three catches for 32 yards, but also had two drops, including one on the Eagles’ first possession of the third quarter on a second-and-six at the Atlanta 15. He got hit by safety William Moore just as he got his hands on the ball. But it’s a catch he’s made many times before. It would’ve given the Eagles a first down and an opportunity to get within 10 points. Instead, they ended up settling for an Alex Henery field goal. Celek also struggled with his blocking. He whiffed on a block on Moore on a screen to DeSean Jackson late in the third quarter. Moore tackled Jackson for no gain. Celek also got beat by defensive end Kroy Biermann on the Falcons’ third and final sack of Vick late in the fourth quarter. In his defense, fullback Stanley Havili also gets a share of the blame for that sack.

BY THE NUMBERS

--The Eagles have been outscored 40-7 in the first quarter this season, and 87-38 in the first half.

--The Eagles’ average starting field position this season has been the 24.9 yard line. They’ve started at their own 40-yard line or better just three times in their last 53 possessions. They haven’t started a possession on the other side of the 50 since Week 2.

--Just two of the Eagles’ 12 touchdown drives have covered less than 66 yards. Just four of their 24 scoring drives have covered less than 50 yards.

JUST WONDERING

--Where was DeMeco Ryans on the Falcons’ three-yard touchdown screen pass to Jason Snelling that gave Atlanta a 14-0 lead?

--When is Kurt Coleman going to stop thinking he’s Ronnie Lott and just tackle people rather than try and knock them into the middle of next week. On a 14-yard pass to White over the middle on the Falcons’ third touchdown drive, Coleman went for the kill shot on White and never even bothered to try and wrap White up.

--Why did DeSean Jackson run out of bounds at the tail-end of his 32-yard catch and run in the third quarter?

DID YOU NOTICE?

--Vick ran a read-option play on the Eagles’ first possession of the second half. Faked a handoff to LeSean McCoy and ran for a four-yard gain.

--Rodgers-Cromartie and Nate Allen both missed tackles on Jacquizz Rodgers’ 43-yard run late in the third quarter. Allen had him for a two-yard loss and let him slip away.

--On Brandon Boykin’s first kickoff return, Chris Polk and Darryl Tapp both blocked the same guy – Kroy Biermann, leaving defensive back Robert McClain unblocked and free to make the tackle.

Paul Domowitch Daily News NFL Columnist
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