Patchwork offensive line puts Eagles in a losing situation

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Eagles running back LeSean McCoy. (Ben Margot/AP)

YES, THE Eagles could have won Sunday had they converted either third-and-goal or fourth-and-goal from just inside the 49ers' 2, right after the 2-minute warning. No, they did not deserve to win, in any way, shape or fashion.

I wouldn't have minded seeing them try to run it once, maybe on third down. It is hard to envision David Molk, Matt Tobin and Dennis Kelly winning their matchups to the tune of a 2-yard push against a goal-line defense, though. Easier to envision tacklers knifing through them and a 4-yard LeSean McCoy loss, which happened a little earlier.

The third-down play Chip Kelly called would have worked, had McCoy not whiffed on blitzing Antoine Bethea (player of the game, if you ask me). Nick Foles had to unload early, and missed an open Brent Celek on the left side of the end zone. McCoy usually is dependable in blitz pickup, but absolutely nothing is working for him right now. Maybe it's the PYT Curse.

Fourth down, Kelly rolled out Foles, but linebacker Aaron Lynch came in unblocked and started chasing the QB hard toward the sideline. Don't know who was supposed to block him - maybe James Casey, before leaking out into his shallow pattern? Anyhow, Foles throwing on a dead run? Not what a coach who used to work here would call putting Foles in a position to succeed. He flung it over Jeremy Maclin in the back of the end zone. Maclin wasn't really open, ditto Riley Cooper just under Maclin. Casey, playing his third offensive snap of the game, was open, but he wasn't in the end zone, and Perrish Cox had a good angle for the tackle, had Foles flipped Casey the ball. Still probably the best option, though.

It's probably best not to get too caught up in what might have been. Had the Eagles come home 4-0, it would have been grand larceny. One of the things we like about sports is that unlike life in general, in sports, you generally get what you deserve. The Eagles got what they deserved.

Kelly was peppered with questions yesterday about maybe giving Darren Sproles or even Chris Polk a crack at the goal line in that sequence.

Poll

Which of the three plugs in the offensive line was most disappointing against the 49ers?

"It had nothing to do with the back," Kelly said. "It had to do with, 'Are we going to get any movement against that front?' "

Kelly said McCoy got 5 yards on second-and-goal from the 6, setting up the final sequence, because Kelly had called passes on 10 of the previous 11 plays in the drive, and the 49ers were looking for another pass.

Inside the 2, they wouldn't have been surprised by a run.

"I just didn't think we could do it," Kelly said.

Developing story lines

Remember when Darren Sproles was part of the Eagles’ offense? Those were good times.

Riley Cooper and Nick Foles. Sigh. Foles missed Cooper, behind the defense, for a sure touchdown with 4:57 left, and Cooper returned the favor by dropping a sure touchdown pass six plays later.

DeMeco Ryans, Malcolm Jenkins, Cary Williams and Nate Allen played all 83 defensive snaps for the Eagles Sunday. Eighty. Three.

Rewatching the game, I think the key play might have been the Zach Ertz fumble, which set up the touchdown that really got the 49ers going. After the turnover, Cary Williams took that holding penalty, negating a third-down sack by Trent Cole. Williams got his arm inside Stevie Johnson, across his chest. Not sure he really held, but it looked fishy. Then Johnson caught the TD pass, which Fox showed a zillion times without ever addressing the issue of whether the ball has to at some point cross the plane of the goal line. Still not sure on that.

Both Emmanuel Acho and Casey Matthews had their moments. Acho’s most notable one came when he stuffed Frank Gore on third-and-short, making the 49ers settle for a field goal with 1:04 left in the first half. Matthews shared a sack with Connor Barwin. Matthews played 31 snaps, Acho 29, rookie Marcus Smith only seven, one of which resulted in his man, Gore, catching that 55-yard, against-the-grain touchdown pass.

San Francisco had allowed 17 first downs by penalty, had gotten only four until Sunday. The Eagles gave the 49ers four such first downs, 49ers gave the Birds none.

Who knew?

That your defense and your special teams could score three touchdowns and you could lose?

Obscure stat

Going into last night’s game, in their Week 4 performances, 45 NFL players had individually outrushed the Eagles, who gained 22 yards on the ground Sunday.

Extra point

Tommy Lawlor, of Iggles Blitz, wrote after Sunday’s game that he could understand fans being disappointed, but that people seemed more angry than fans should be regarding a 3-1 team that had just lost a close game on the road to a favored opponent.

Overreacting to a loss is one of our most cherished civic traditions, right up there with the Mummers Parade, but I understand what Lawlor was saying, and I also think I understand the angry fans. People here really don’t like to see their football team beaten physically, which was what the 49ers’ front did to Chip Kelly's patchwork offensive line. If not for the two special-teams touchdowns, this would have been a blowout loss, which was really what it felt like.

Yes, the Eagles are 3-1, but it is a skin-of-the-teeth 3-1, and on Sunday, the war in the trenches did not go at all well. The offensive line was beaten up, and, by the fourth quarter, the hanging-in-there-without-Mychal-Kendricks defense was beaten down. Whatever the reality of the injury situation, this is not something people in Philly readily swallow. They would trade a pretty punt-return touchdown for some downhill running. Especially on third and fourth down, inside the opponent’s 2.

 

 


Email: bowenl@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian