Breaking down Sunday’s 38-20 loss to the Patriots while wondering what the odds would be on a Marty Mornhinweg-Jim Washburn fight:
* The Patriots converted six of 11 third-down opportunities against the Eagles. And that doesn’t include two more the Eagles converted for them with penalties.
In the last four games, the Eagles’ opponents have converted 24 of 55 third-down opportunities (43.6 percent). Their third-down pass defense has been terrible. Opposing quarterbacks have averaged 11.0 yards per attempt and have completed 63.4 percent of their pass attempts on third down in the last four games.
The Patriots’ Tom Brady completed 5 of 8 third-down passes for 104 yards and five first downs. The week before, Eli Manning completed 8 of 12 passes on third down for 148 yards and five first downs.
* Lockout or no lockout, new defensive coordinator or no new defensive coordinator, blown coverages should be few and far between at this advanced stage of the season. But the Eagles’ back seven continues to play like they just arrived at training camp and were handed their playbooks.
A classic example was Tom Brady’s 23-yard completion to Deion Branch late in the third quarter on a second-and-nine at the New England three-yard line. Branch lined up wide left and running back Danny Woodhead and tight end Aaron Hernandez lined up in a split backfield. Brandon Hughes played press coverage on Branch.
When the ball was snapped, Woodhead circled out of the backfield to Hughes’ side. There was confusion as to who was responsible for Woodhead. Both Hughes and linebacker Jamar Chaney went to cover the Patriots running back, leaving Branch uncovered at the eight. Brady dumped the ball to him and Branch made short work of safety Nate Allen in space, blowing by him for a big gain and a first down.
It was not one of Allen’s better days. Both he and slot corner Joselio Hanson bit on a play-fake to Woodhead in the second quarter, leaving wide receiver Wes Welker wide open for an easy 41-yard touchdown catch. Allen also was one of three Eagles defenders along with Hanson and safety Kurt Coleman who had missed tackles on an 18-yard screen to Hernandez in the third quarter that set up a Patriots touchdown.
* Something else that shouldn’t be happening this late in the season is a defense being penalized for having 12 men on the field. It happened to the Eagles on a third-and-two on New England’s second possession when the Eagles were too slow making a change at linebacker. Juan Castillo sent Keenan Clayton into the game and Akeem Jordan was supposed to get off. But Jordan was late running off and Brady alertly had center Ryan Wendell quick-snap the ball, giving the Patriots a first down. Later on the same drive, it almost happened again. The Eagles had to waste a timeout to avoid another 12-men-on-the-field penalty on a third-and-one. Turned out to be for nothing. Right after the timeout, defensive tackle Derek Landri jumped offsides, giving the Patriots another free first down.
* The Eagles were flagged for a season-high 10 penalties in Sunday’s loss, including three offsides by the defense (Derek Landri, Trent Cole, Jason Babin) and three false starts by the offense (Danny Watkins, Chad Hall, Jason Avant). The Eagles have been called for 19 false starts and 13 offsides this season. Eleven of their 13 offsides penalties have come in their 7 losses.
* The Eagles’ front four got some good licks on Brady on the Patriots’ first couple of possessions, but sacked him just once in the game. The Patriots focused on mostly short and intermediate routes that allowed Brady to get the ball out quickly, which made it difficult for the Eagles to get to him. In the second and third quarters, just one of his passes took longer than 2.43 seconds to get out of his hand. Brady held the ball 4.5 seconds on his 63-yard, third-and-13 completion to Branch early in the second quarter that set up the Patriots’ second touchdown. The Eagles got outside pressure on him on the play, but no inside push, which allowed him to step up and wait for Branch to get separation from Hughes, who was covering him on the play.
* Back-to-back plays on the Patriots’ first scoring drive underscored the Eagles’ deficiencies at linebacker. On the first, Chaney got beat by Hernandez for an 11-yard completion on a third-and-three play that gave the Patriots a first down at the Philadelphia four-yard line. On the next play, a run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis, center Ryan Wendell double-teamed defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, leaving an open lane to Green-Ellis for Brian Rolle. But the rookie was too slow to make his move, which gave Wendell time to correct his mistake and get enough of a block on him to prevent him from making the tackle in the backfield on Green-Ellis. The running back scored on the play.
* Trailing by 11 at the half, the Eagles badly needed their defense to come out and stop the Patriots on their first possession of the second half. Instead, it gave up a dagger-to-the-heart eight-play, 69-yard touchdown drive that effectively made the rest of the game moot. The Patriots didn’t have a single third down on the drive. Brady completed 5 of 6 passes for 60 yards on the drive, including a nine-yard touchdown pass to Welker. The Patriots quarterback also had an eight-yard run on the drive
* DeSean Jackson has admitted that his contract situation has affected his play. But I think what’s affected it a lot more has been the second concussion he suffered last season. Jackson has lost his nerve, and I’m not sure even a rich new contract is going to help him find it. Jackson, who had three drops Sunday, including that one in the end zone in the second quarter when he took his eye off the ball after seeing linebacker Tracy White closing in on him, has just three 100-yard receiving performances in his last 21 games. He’s got just one touchdown catch in his last nine games and only three in his last 17. He’s got just one red-zone reception this season, and that came in Week 1.
If somebody wites a book on the worst play-calls of the Andy Reid era, that godawful fourth-and-one pass by Vince Young to tight end Brent Celek at the New England two-yard line in the third quarter certainly will rank right up there. They lined up in their ``elephant’’ package with two backs and three tight ends (right tackle Todd Herremans was an eligible receiver). Young play-faked to LeSean McCoy, then threw a pass in the corner of the end zone to a covered Celek, who, even if he had caught it, would’ve been several feet out of bounds.
* Vince Young seems to have a problem understanding how fast DeSean Jackson is. On the Eagles’ second possession, completed a 44-yard pass to Jackson that would have been a touchdown if Young had done a better job of leading him with the ball. Jackson had two or three yards on cornerback Antwuan Molden, but had to slow up for the ball. The Eagles ended up having to settle for a field goal on the drive. Young underthrew Jackson again on his second-quarter interception. Jackson had a step on Molden on the play, but the ball wasn’t thrown far enough. Young also should have had a touchdown pass to Celek in the second quarter. Celek beat linebacker Tracy White on a wheel route out of a two-tight end set, but the ball was underthrown. Celek made a great grab for a 24-yard completion to the New England five-yard line. But the drive died three plays later at the four.