Monday, September 22, 2014
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Eagles-Bills Day-After Dissection

Surveying the wreckage of the Eagles’ fourth straight loss while wondering why Donovan McNabb still can’t seem to put Philadelphia in his rear-view mirror:

Eagles-Bills Day-After Dissection

Fred Jackson torched the Eagles with much of his rushing yardage coming after first contact. (David Duprey/AP)
Fred Jackson torched the Eagles with much of his rushing yardage coming after first contact. (David Duprey/AP)

Surveying the wreckage of the Eagles’ fourth straight loss while wondering why Donovan McNabb still can’t seem to put Philadelphia in his rear-view mirror:

MARTY’S 3 THINGS

Last week, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said his unit needed to improve in three areas against the Bills: 1) eliminate turnovers; 2) convert third-and-short situations and 3) eliminate red-zone penalties.

They were 0-for-3.

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They committed a season-high five turnovers, which the Bills turned into 17 points. The final giveaway, that weird interception/fumble on a Mike Vick pass to Jason Avant with two minutes left and the Eagles driving for the game-tying score, effectively put an end to the Eagles’ comeback hopes.

The Eagles have an NFL-high 15 turnovers in their first five games, which their opponents have converted into 45 points. The Eagles have allowed 132 points this season. That means 34.1 percent of their opponents’ points have been kick-started by turnovers. After five games last year, the Eagles had just four giveaways.

As for the other two areas mentioned by Mornhinweg:

--The Eagles weren’t very good on third down the whole afternoon, converting just two of nine third-down opportunities. Just one of those third-down situations was three-yards or less. That was on that last pass to Avant.

--The offense only committed two penalties against the Bills. But both came in the red zone on back-to-back fourth-quarter plays and cost them points. Rookie Danny Watkins was called for illegal use of hands on a second-and-goal from the six, which wiped out a six-yard touchdown run by Vick that would have made it a 31-28 game with 11-plus minutes left. That moved the ball back to the 16. Dunlap’s hold on the very next play moved it back to the 26. The Eagles ended up having to settle for an Alex Henery field goal.

DEFENDING THE SCREENS

Expect to see a ton of screens from the Redskins this week after the success the Bills had with them on Sunday. Nine of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 21 completions and 89 of his 193 passing yards came on screens and shovel passes that took advantage of the Eagles’ wide-nine front, the inability of their linebackers to get off blocks and the continued dreadful tackling by their safeties and corners.

Bills running back Fred Jackson had six receptions for 85 yards against the Eagles. Sixty-six of those yards came off of three screens, including a 49-yard catch-and-run in the second quarter that set up the Bills’ second touchdown.

Through five games, opposing running backs have 27 receptions against the Eagles for 359 yards and three touchdowns.

THE RUN DEFENSE

The Bills became the fourth team in five games to run for at least 138 yards against the Eagles. They finished with 143 on 35 carries, including 111 by Jackson.

The Bills rushed for 70 yards on 17 carries in the first half, then opened the second half with a 22-yard run by Jackson around right end, as end Jason Babin and middle linebacker Jamar Chaney both got sealed off inside.

But after that, Juan Castillo’s unit actually did a pretty good job stopping the run. Not including two game-ending kneel-downs by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bills were held to 54 yards on their final 15 second-half carries.

SPOTLIGHT ON. . . JASON AVANT

It was a day of highs and lows for the veteran slot receiver. He had a career-high nine catches against the Bills. His 139 receiving yards were the second most in his career, surpassed only by a 156-yard performance against the Chargers in ’09.

But he also was responsible for two of the Eagles’ five turnovers, one of which led to a Buffalo score, the other of which killed the Eagles’ comeback hopes.

Trailing 28-14 late in the third quarter, the Eagles had the ball on their own three compliments of a 56-yard Brian Moorman punt. But on second down, Vick found Avant open at the 28-yard line. Avant picked up 10 more yards after the catch, but then had the ball stripped from his hands by safety Jairus Byrd when he tried to cut back outside.

Avant was Vick’s go-to guy along with DeSean Jackson on their final fourth-quarter drive. He caught three passes for 8, 11 and 15 yards as the Eagles moved the ball from their own 20 down to the Buffalo 25.

On third-and-three, Vick looked for the red-hot Avant again. The slot receiver ran a quick out route and Vick threw the ball to him. Just as he got the ball in his hands, Bills cornerback Drayton Florence hit him and ripped the ball out into the air, where linebacker Nick Barnett grabbed it for his second interception of the game.

Avant was targeted 10 times by Vick Sunday and caught nine passes. Seven of those nine catches resulted in first downs. Fifteen of his 23 receptions in the first five games have picked up first downs. Avant, who caught a career-high 51 passes last season, is on pace to catch 74 this season.

 

DID YOU NOTICE

--Referee Walt Coleman and his crew got it wrong at the end of the first half when they ruled that time had expired on Vick’s throwaway through the end zone. Replays clearly show there still was one second left on the clock when the pass was touched by a civilian behind the end zone, which is when the clock should have stopped. That said, Andy Reid still made a poor decision to try and run one more play with eight seconds left rather than bring on Alex Henery for a field goal try. And Vick waited too long to throw the ball away.

--Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie contributed little again. The cornerback the Eagles acquired in the Kevin Kolb trade looks like a guy who is just going through the motions. His lack of aggressiveness was very evident on a 16-yard completion by Bills wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt. Roosevelt ran a quick slant in front of Rodgers-Cromartie, who made little effort to catch him and tackle him. Roosevelt gained another 10 yards after the catch.

--Middle linebacker Jamar Chaney continues to have great difficulty getting off blocks. On Brad Smith’s five-yard third-quarter touchdown run out of the Wildcat formation, Chaney got blocked three yards deep into the end zone.

--Colt Anderson showed once again why he’s one of Bobby April’s very best special teams players when, after Alex Henery’s field goal with 9:29 left in the game that got the Eagles within seven, he flew down the field and tackled kick returner Brad Smith at the 10-yard line.

--Safety Nate Allen, who still has not completely recovered from last December’s patella tendon injury, made two nice plays in the fourth quarter that may indicate he’s turning a corner in his comeback. He sniffed out a second-and-10 screen to Fred Jackson and took him down for a three-yard loss. And he made a nice play on a third-and-7 pass to Stevie Johnson, bringing him down short of a first down and allowing the Eagles to get the ball back with 5 ½ minutes left in the game.

--The Bills might not even have tried to draw the Eagles offsides on fourth and one with a minute and a half left had Reid not decided to burn his final timeout there. Gailey already had sent his punter, Brian Moorman, onto the field. But after the timeout, he decided to take a shot at drawing the Eagles offsides.

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Eagletarian is your home for comprehensive coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Les Bowen Daily News Staff Writer
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