MAYBE THE biggest surprise in the Eagles' loss to the Giants Sunday was that the Birds weren't able to break LeSean McCoy loose, after talking all week about making adjustments to reverse a monthlong downward trend in rushing numbers. Even if Michael Vick hadn't reinjured his hamstring, the Eagles were hardly going to put everything on his back; McCoy was a focal point in this game, and his struggle to gain 48 yards on 15 carries might have had as much to do with keeping the offense scoreless as did the rookie mistakes of QB Matt Barkley.
"I think LeSean, to his credit, is his own worst critic. He takes a lot of responsibility. His numbers have been down the last 2 weeks. I think sometimes LeSean is trying to press too much and trying to hit a home run, instead of letting it develop," Chip Kelly said yesterday.
"Sometimes we talk about, 'Back get us 2 [yards], line get us 2.' Then it's second-and-6. Maybe we'll call the same play again. Now it's third-and-2. Third-and-2s are much easier to convert than third-and-12s.
"If we start to move east-west and we're not getting our shoulders squared to the end zone, and starting to get the ball downhill, I think we get into some situations that are tough to get ourselves out of . . . I think when we're successful offensively, we're playing downhill football."
Trying to hit the home run, Kelly said, is "one of his strengths, too. It's the tough part where you regulate it. There's times where you're like, 'No! no! no! - Great run, big guy.' That's what you get with him.
"So it's tough. How much do you reel him in? We've talked about it . . . I think he's frustrated in himself because he wants some things there, that he's leaving some yards on the field. I think he wants those back. That's one of the qualities I love about the kid."
Asked about Kelly's observation yesterday evening during a break from his 94WIP radio show, McCoy said that on Sunday, "It was so backed up in there, it was hard to make a play. Usually, it just happens . . . It's just so different [now], everybody's in and out, the quarterbacks. We're not getting many plays, so you're trying to make a play. Maybe too many plays."
McCoy agreed that he needs to be more patient - which, again, is hard, when the opportunities are few.
Developing story lines
* The Eagles’ defense doesn’t have a lot of guys opposing offenses need to game plan around, but Connor Barwin might be getting there. Impressive how he forced an intentional grounding, then blocked an Eli Manning pass on back-to-back plays Sunday.
* I’m going to say leaving Justin Tuck unblocked on third-and-4 from the Giants’ 47 with 10:25 left was not putting Matt Barkley in a position to be successful. I’m also going to say the Eagles should have gone for it there on fourth-and-4, instead of punting.
* Unless Jason Avant is the strongest man on the planet, the official who called that critical offensive pass-interference penalty with 5:20 left got fooled by the defender’s off-balance inability to stop, and thought he saw something that didn’t happen. Brushing a guy’s back with your arm as you turn to catch the ball is not pass interference. Balancing the ledger, the earlier roughing-the-passer call on the Giants’ Mathias Kiwanuka was equally dubious.
* Halfway through the season, Bryce Brown has 38 carries for 98 yards, 2.6 yards per carry. Longest run is 9 yards. I expected much more.
When the NFL stats came out yesterday, the Eagles no longer had the 32nd-ranked defense. They were 31st. The best part: Taking their spot at the bottom was Dallas.
The longest throw of the day would be Zak DeOssie’s snap over the head of Giants punter Steve Weatherford?
Two series in Sunday’s game made a huge difference in how the game was viewed by the Eagles’ faithful, it says here.
The first one has been discussed endlessly, the initial Matt Barkley series, which ended on the fumble on first-and-goal from the Giants’ 2, when the Eagles were trying to run a naked boot instead of just handing the ball to LeSean McCoy. The other was the Birds’ next series, first series of the third quarter, when Barkley took a sack from the Giants’ 25 to the 32 on third down, and Chip Kelly opted to go for it on fourth-and-10. Barkley then fumbled the shotgun snap, picked it up, and threw wildly over the head of Jason Avant.
So, back-to-back scoring opportunities, the best of the game, no points. If you score a touchdown before the half, add a field goal on the third-quarter sequence — it would have been about a 43-yarder, before Barkley stood there forever and took the coverage sack — the Eagles would have had 10 points. Theoretically, that Najee Goode touchdown on the botched Giants punt snap could have then won the game.
“Theoretically” because we don’t know if the Giants would have been so conservative on offense down the stretch, had the game been closer. And of course we don’t know they wouldn’t have driven and scored after the Goode touchdown.
But even if the game had ended as an 18-17 Eagles loss, or something similar, I think people would have been able to cope. It’s a rebuilding year, they had to throw the rookie quarterback in there, he wasn’t terrible, this is kind of what we expected. But getting shut out on offense while making questionable decisions (the Barkley bootleg, the onside kick) is not what we expected. For this offense, regardless of who’s running it, to go through back-to-back home games without managing a touchdown is excruciating, and dispiriting.
The difference between OK and horrendous was not huge Sunday; Barkley actually was more functional than Nick Foles was for three quarters the week before against Dallas. But Barkley wasn’t as ready to play as he needed to be, because Kelly opted to get Michael Vick prepared to start last week, and the Eagles paid a huge price.
On Twitter: @LesBowen