Breaking down Sunday’s ugly loss to the Giants while wondering whether I really needed that hip replacement surgery last year or, like Mike Vick’s hand, it just might’ve just been a swollen blood vessel:
--Three changes Juan Castillo needs to make immediately to his defense: 1) bench Casey Matthews and insert rookie Brian Rolle at weakside linebacker in his base package; 2) put Joselio Hanson back in the nickel at slot corner. He understands the slot better than both Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha and can tackle better than both of them; and 3) enough with all of the zone coverage you’ve got Asomugha playing. The guy has spent his entire career as a man-cover guy. He’s one of the best in the game at taking the other team’s best receiver out of the game and making him disappear. Both Castillo and Andy Reid talk nonstop about needing to put players in position to make plays. Well, do it.
--Rookie center Jason Kelce has played pretty well in the first three games, but he was the main reason that that second goal-line run by fullback Owen Schmitt on a drive late in the third quarter didn’t work. Kelce, who weighs just 280 pounds, got pushed back into pulling tackle Jason Peters by the Giants’ Linval Joseph, which had the same effect as a 15-car pileup on the Schuylkill at rush hour. Schmitt never made it to the line of scrimmage.
--If Mike Kafka is going to make it in the NFL, it’s going to be because of his decision-making, not his arm-strength. He made some smart decisions with the ball last week against the Falcons, but made a dumb one Sunday on his first interception after replacing Mike Vick early in the fourth quarter. DeSean Jackson tried to beat cornerback Aaron Ross with a double move. But Ross was playing off of him and never bit on the move. Right then and there, Kafka should have gone to his next progression. Instead, he forced the ball to Jackson, who was blanketed not only by Ross, but also by safety Kenny Phillips. Ross picked off the pass.
--Giving up two touchdown passes to Victor Cruz was bad enough. But it easily could’ve been three. On the first play of the Giants’ second possession, Cruz beat cornerback Asante Samuel and safety Jarrad Page with a double move. He would’ve had a 73-yard TD if Manning hadn’t overthrown him.
--The Giants’ first touchdown -- that 40-yard catch-and-run by Brandon Jacobs on a wheel route in which he beat rookie linebacker Casey Matthews -- is all on Castillo. He keeps insisting that his linebackers are ``interchangeable.’’ That may be somewhat true of the SAM and WILL spots, but not MIKE and WILL. If you hesitate for even a split second in the NFL, you’re going to get beat. Matthews’ slow recognition on that play makes it pretty clear that you need more than a few days of practice to move from one to the other.
--This hardly is breaking news, but the Eagles’ tackling in Sunday’s loss was abysmal. Might’ve been the worst overall job of tackling in a game in the Andy Reid era.
--Jackson threw the Eagles’ defense under the bus after the game. Their poor play definitely deserves criticism. I’m just not sure a wide receiver who has been held to two catches in each of the last two games is the right guy to deliver it.
After Sunday’s game, Vick complained about the hits he’s taking and suggested that the zebras aren’t affording him the same protection as some of the league’s other quarterbacks. After watching the tape of the game, though, I’m not sure Vick has much of a case, though. Did he take some licks? Absolutely. But I didn’t really see any that should have drawn flags or fines. A look at four of the more notable ones:
1--He took a good shot from defensive end Dave Tollefson after his pass to Steve Smith was picked off by Aaron Ross. But there was nothing illegal about it. Just as Vick made a move to pursue Ross, Tollefson leveled him from the side. If Vick wanted to avoid getting clobbered, all he had to do was head toward the sideline.
2--He took a big lick from defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul on a third-and-11 sack late in the first quarter. The problems started when Pierre-Paul beat left tackle Jason Peters on an outside rush and flushed Vick out of the pocket. Vick eluded him, but Pierre-Paul got a second chance at Vick when Tuck cut off his outside escape and forced him to take it back inside. He ran right into Pierre-Paul. But Pierre-Paul kept his head up and hit Vick in the chest, not the head. Again, if you don’t want to take shots like that, throw the ball away.
3--He took a pretty good shot from tackle Rocky Bernard after letting the ball go on his eight-yard completion to Avant that gave the Eagles a first down at the Giants 7 early in the second quarter. Bernard came on a delayed rush, and left guard Evan Mathis was late picking him up. But it wasn’t a late or illegal hit.
4--Vick got tattooed pretty good by defensive lineman Chris Canty on his 23-yard completion to Jeremy Maclin in the third quarter. It also was the play in which he injured his right hand. Tight end Brent Celek’s job was to slow Canty, then quickly slide to the right flat and become a receiving option, which he did. Vick could have avoided the hit by throwing quickly to Celek, but opted to hold on to the ball and wait for Maclin to get open in the middle of the field. It was a hard hit, but not flagworthy. Canty kept his head up, didn’t launch himself and didn’t hit Vick in the head. As for Vick’s hand, it appeared he actually hurt it when he used it to brace his fall.
The Run Defense
Ahmad Bradshaw gashed the Eagles defense for 15- and 37-yard first-half runs. Eagles allowed four runs of 8 yards or more. Giants, who finished with 102 yards on 25 rushing attempts, averaged 7.1 yards per carry in the first three quarters.
On Bradshaw’s 15-yard run on the Giants’ second possession, Fokou came on an outside blitz around Babin, and Babin rushed inside. That left a gap between them which should have been filled by middle linebacker Jamar Chaney. But he couldn’t get off a block by Chris Snee.
On Bradshaw’s 37-yard run in second quarter, Eagles were in nickel on third-and-5. Chaney came up the middle on blitz, but got sealed off. Bradhaw ran underneath defensive end Trent Cole. There was no one in the gap. Safety Jarrad Page missed a tackle that would have kept it to a 10-yard gain. Then Nate Allen got stiff-armed badly at the end of the play, allowing Bradshaw to gain a final 7 yards.
LESEAN MCCOY’S DAY
LeSean McCoy notched his second 100-yard game of the season, rushing for 128 yards on 24 carries. But he still occasionally dances too much rather than just hitting the hole.
It’s one of the reasons he had five carries for losses Sunday, including that momentum-changing three-yard loss on the fourth-and-one play early in the fourth quarter. He tried to bounce outside for a big gain on the play rather than just attack the pile and try to pick up the one yard.
His poor decision-making on that play was the main reason Andy Reid was lukewarm in his praise of the running back at his Monday news conference, despite his impressive numbers. ``He’s playing very well,’’ Reid said of a guy who’s on pace to rush for 1,860 yards this season. ``There’s some plays he’d like to have back yesterday. But for the most part, he did a nice job.’’
Breaking down McCoy’s numbers Sunday and in the Eagles’ first three games:
Overall: 57-345-4 (5.9)
1st Q 6-28 13-37
2nd Q 9-60 16-83
3rd Q 6-24 18-91
4th Q 3-16 10-134
1st D 12-89 31-219
2nd D 9-27 20-106
3rd D 2-15 5-23
4th D 1-(-)3 1-(-)3