Here are some observations and notes after re-watching the Eagles’ 28-13 loss to the Saints on Monday:
ON SECOND THOUGHT
Why were the Eagles so bad in the red zone on Monday night when they failed to convert five trips inside the Saints’ 20-yard line into more than just two field goals?
There are a numbers of reasons why: turnovers, penalties and bad execution stand out. But how about the play-calling? The Eagles ran 20 plays in the red zone but called for only three runs. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg may say, “Well, look at the end result of those runs. We lost a yard on three carries.” But when Eagles running backs rushed 20 times for 167 yards outside the red zone, there needed to be more emphasis on feeding LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown.
One series stood out. After McCoy ran for 34 yards on fourth down to the Saints 4 – all on his own merit – the Eagles did not hand the ball off to him on the next three plays. McCoy ran on first down and goal at the 5-yard line on the previous series and lost a yard, but he needed a carry in this situation.
He didn’t run on first down because he took a breather after the long rush. Brown instead ran off right tackle and gained no yards. On second down, the Eagles had Michael Vick in the shotgun with a two-back set. The formation screamed Shovel pass!!, and, of course, the Saints sniffed it out.
On third down, Vick dropped back and fired a pass to DeSean Jackson inside a small crevice. The throw was low and incomplete and the Eagles had to settle for a field goal. Vick’s passing numbers inside the 20 were hideous. He completed 2 of 9 passes for six yards with one interception. He was also sacked twice.
All told, the Eagles netted a negative 24 yards in the red zone. When we examine a few of the offensive linemen “In the Spotlight” it will be clear why the offense was anemic when it matter most Monday night.
REWIND THE TAPE
There comes a time when all first-year players hit that rookie wall and linebacker Mychal Kendricks has apparently run into it full steam at the midpoint of the season.
Kendricks has increasingly gotten worse during the Eagles’ four-game losing streak. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and cornerback Brandon Boykin have also tapered off after a fast start, so hold the phone on any proclamations about the 2012 draft being a success.
Kendricks had one particularly rough series in the third quarter after the Eagles narrowed the Saints lead to 22-13. New Orleans drove down to the Birds 13 and on second down Kendricks was called for holding when he grabbed the jersey of receiver Lance Moore over the middle. Two plays later he missed an open field tackle on the 6-foot-7 Jimmy Graham – certainly not an east task – and the tight end waltzed into the end zone with a six-yard reception.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
1. It’s a scary proposition, but you may have to get used to Demetress Bell as the Eagles starting right tackle. Bell jumped in for the injured Todd Herremans in the first quarter and on his first play McCoy ran through a hole on the right for 25 yards. It was all downhill from there, though. A few plays later he whiffed on blocking linebacker Jonathan Vilma and McCoy was dropped a yard behind the line. His worst moments came in the fourth quarter when he blocked too far upfield on a screen to McCoy and was penalized on first and goal at the 5. Two plays later he was called for a false start. And then on the next play he ole’d defensive end Cameron Jordan who sacked Vick.
2. Mike Patterson played 15 snaps in his return to action. The Eagles defensive tackle showed obvious rust and was credited with only an assist when he helped dragged Saints running back Chris Ivory to the ground after he gained nine yards in the first. That was the highlight of his day. Patterson was pancaked on a Pierre Thomas 9-yard run down to the Eagles 1 in the second and he was tossed to ground in the third when Saints quarterback Drew Brees hit Mark Ingram for a 7-yard pass.
3. Dennis Kelly hung tough in his first career NFL start last week, but Monday night was a different story for the rookie. The right guard had some serious issues in the early going. Kelly appeared to miss a blitz pickup when Vilma shot through a gap and strung Brown out of bounds for a no gain. He got lucky when end Martez Wilson was called for roughing the passer after he owned Kelly with an inside rush. He looked lost on the shovel pass to McCoy and didn’t lay a finger on a defender. Vick has been sacked 28 times already this season. He was sacked only 23 times all last season. It’ll be a miracle if he makes it through the final eight games.
There has been a chorus chanting for Todd Bowles to blitz more than Juan Castillo did as defensive coordinator. But there’s a reason why the Eagles shouldn’t send extra pass rushers – they just aren’t very good at it. Brees had struggled against the blitz coming in, but he completed 6 of 7 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown when the Eagles blitzed him on 8 of 29 drops backs.
THIS AND THAT
-- David Sims had some rough early moments in his first career start, but the safety, who was pressed into action when the injured Nate Allen couldn’t go, actually made a few plays on defense. He did a nice job breaking up a pass to Graham in the third and he dropped Ivory for minus-5 yards a series later. Sims also led the Eagles with eight tackles.
-- Sims took a poor angle during Ivory’s 22-yard touchdown run in the second, but the Eagles had already lost the battle up front when Brandon Graham rushed blindly inside and did little to contain the left edge.
-- Vick was 4 of 12 for 96 yards, threw a touchdown and interception and was sacked three times when the Saints blitzed. Seventy-seven of the yards came on the touchdown pass to Jackson in the third.
-- After getting killed on screens by the Falcons last week, the Eagles defense hardly saw the Saints dink and dunk them with misdirection plays.
The Eagles have made some progress. Mercifully, Jason Babin didn’t posture when he sacked Brees in the fourth with the Eagles trailing, 28-13. It was the defensive ends first sack in five games. He has 3-1/2 of the Eagles’ 11 sacks through eight games. Trent Cole, meanwhile, hasn’t notched a full sack since the second game of the season. He had Brees in his clear sight when he went unblocked on the Saints’ first drive, but the quarterback simply sidestepped the end and fired downfield for a 38-yard pass. The old Cole makes that play.
WHAT ANDY SAID
On whether he likes the character of the team:
“I do like the character of the team, yeah. I’ve said that a number of times.”
WHAT ANDY MEANT
“Yeah, that Babin is some character. He’ll tackle any issue, whether he has a clue about it or not. Well, except for defending the run … Oh, you meant character character. No, I got a bunch of primma donnas.”