Eagles-Broncos: What did we learn?

DENVER -- The Birds had ten days to shake off the loss to the Chiefs and prepare for the Broncos, but they put on an embarrassing performance and lost in all phases and ultimately, 52-20, on Sunday. Here are some observations:

--Chip Kelly is only four games into his tenure as Eagles coach and he faces his first crossroads. I thought bouncing back from the loss to Andy Reid and Kansas City would be his first challenge, but facing Peyton Manning and Denver was never really going to be a fair test. What is most disconcerting is the way in which the Eagles lost – the defense was hideous, but the offense kept kicking itself in the rear and the special teams were an utter disaster.

Kelly has to regroup. He said he’ll know Tuesday if the Eagles have made any progress from last season’s debacle. “If we come out and we’re hanging our heads feeling sorry for ourselves, then I’ll say we didn’t have any progress or growth,” he said. And they’ll only be one person to blame for that. Kelly doesn’t have all of his “guys” yet, but if he can’t get his team to buy in this early then the Eagles have a problem.

Judging from the reaction in the locker room after the game, I don’t think he’ll find many quitters on Tuesday. My main concern was that the players that always hold themselves accountable – Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, Jason Kelce, Brent Celek – were the ones preaching unity in the visitors’ locker room. There were a bunch of other guys missing, although to be fair, I’d want to get on the first shuttle out of Denver after that debacle.

-- The Eagles should be embarrassed, though. The 52 points they allowed was the most in 41 years – the Eagles lost to the New York Giants, 62-10, in 1972 – and the Broncos set a franchise mark for points in a game. “May have to give old Thunder an IV after this one,” Manning joked after the game about the white horse the Broncos trot out after scores. “It took us three days to get over our loss to Kansas City,” Vick said when asked about the Eagles rebounding before Sunday’s game at the 0-4 Giants. “That shouldn’t happen.” McCoy was less diplomatic when asked about the loss affecting players when they come back to work on Tuesday. “No way -- if you’re a coward probably -- but guys in this locker room got heart,” McCoy said. “We’ll keep fighting and battling.”

-- Kelly was asked if he was sticking with Vick going forward and he gave a resounding yes, which he should have. Vick played well for the first half and had little to do with the mistakes on offense. He completed 10 of 16 passes for 170 yards in the first half and overall avoided the turnovers that plagued him and the Eagles against the Chiefs. He also ran when needed, scrambling eight times for 41 yards. His receivers didn’t help him out on a few throws, including tight end Brent Celek, who dropped an early pass on third down that resulted in the Eagles settling for a field goal. Vick wasn’t good against Kansas City, but through four games he’s been solid enough to warrant Kelly’s decision to choose him over Nick Foles. He did hold onto the ball a few clicks too long on some plays, probably because of last game’s interceptions. He’ll have to let it loose more in the future with teams likely to play a lot of man-to-man against Eagles receivers.


Who’s the worst team in the weak NFC East?

-- After “holding” Manning and the Broncos to 14 points in the first half – there was the kickoff return for a touchdown – the Eagles defense folded like a lawn chair in the second half. The Broncos scored touchdowns on each of their first three drives and there was absolutely nothing Bill Davis’ defense could do to slow the locomotive down. Denver was able to pound the ball on the ground and Manning hit a few throws over top, but it was the dink-and-dunk passes underneath to tight end Demaryius Thomas and receiver Wes Welker that killed the Eagles. Those are some great players, but linebackers Connor Barwin, DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks and safeties Nate Allen and Earl Wolff were exposed.

-- Davis is being asked to do a lot in a short time. He’s taking a defense with very little above-average talent and transitioning to a 3-4 front. That being said, he’s done little to give his unit an identity. It seems like he’s always drawing up something to account for the deficiencies at several spots, but it’s a tricked-up scheme that has ultimately failed. His job is to try and win games, but I’d rather see him adopt a general philosophy, stick to it and let the chips fall where they may. No one expects this defense to be good this season. Find out what guys can play your scheme going forward.

-- I’ll watch a replay of the game as soon as I land from Denver in the morning, so it’s difficult to say who did what or didn’t do what on defense, but I saw: Cedric Thornton play with effort and record a sack after a bull rush, Ryans play well against the run, but not so well in coverage, Barwin take a bad third down penalty, not much of Trent Cole and Fletcher Cox in the backfield, Allen make a bad read on Thomas’ 15-yard TD, Cary Williams get beat twice by Eric Decker on double moves, Wolff make some nice tackles, but also miss a few, Bradley Fletcher get jobbed on a pass interference penalty but not respond by breaking up a similar fade pass that netted a touchdown.

-- Watching Williams and Fletcher flounder out there had to be frustrating for some Eagles fans because Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie was so good on the other side. The Eagles let DRC walk and he signed a one-year deal for $5 million with Denver. The Eagles didn’t want DRC back because he couldn’t tackle and, well, he’s a bit of a flake. But he can cover and he can man up most receivers, like he did in holding DeSean Jackson to 2 catches for 34 yards. I’ll take a corner that can cover over one that can tackle every day of the week.

-- Jackson said he couldn’t talk after the game because he had to get treatment. I’m not sure what his injury was, but he did leave briefly after clutching his leg early in the game. “He went straight to the locker room,” DRC said of Jackson. “I could understand a guy with his talent wanting to win so I can understand.”

-- With Jackson shut down, Vick did a fine job of finding other receivers or taking off with the Broncos in man coverage. But no one stepped up. Celek led all Eagles with three catches for 57 yards. Riley Cooper had two catches for 25 yards. He needs to produce more. Jason Avant had a quiet one catch for seven yards. The running backs had a couple grabs. Tight end Zach Ertz didn’t get on the board till late.

-- The lackluster play of Eagles special teams the last two games came out of nowhere considering how well both cover and kick units looked through the preseason and the first two games of the year. Bobby April took a lot of heat during his stint with the Eagles but did his units ever allow two touchdowns in one game? I have to look at the tape to see who missed his assignment, but there were breakdowns on both the 105-yard kickoff return TD and the blocked punt TD. It’ll be interesting to see if Dave Fipp gets his units to respond against the Giants.

-- Alex Henery has now missed 40-something-yard FG attempts in three straight games. Kelly said he wasn’t concerned about his kicker after the Chiefs game. I forgot to ask him about his level of concern after another miss. I’ll make sure to ask him on Monday.

-- A few quickie notes: Bryce Brown can rumble with the best of them, but he needs to stay upright in the open field. … Chris Polk ran four yards for a touchdown on the very first NFL offensive snap of his career. I’d like to see more Polk on offense. … The Eagles had 8 penalties for 62 yards. Evan Mathis’ hold was a killer.