DENVER - The Eagles do not have enough offensive talent in the red zone. They do not have enough defensive talent on any square inch of God's green football field. Talent is the issue here, even if Chip Kelly cannot say it, even as he works furiously to stuff a stopper into the drain.
It is pretty hard to rack up more than 400 yards of offense, week after week after week, and still lose games - but that is what the Eagles are doing. Most of the reason why is a horrendous defense (even when the guy on the other side of the field isn't a Hall of Famer). Make no mistake: The story of Broncos 52, Eagles 20 was the story of Peyton Manning toying with the Eagles' defense.
Still, it is impossible to ignore the points this offense is leaving on the field, every week. The dropped balls . . . the penalties . . . it is all the very definition of being bad in the NFL. As Kelly said, "I felt like we could move the ball on them. But we get the ball down there, we end up with field goals and that's not gonna win. You can't trade threes for sevens with Peyton, and that's obviously difficult."
The focus turns to the quarterback, as always, and put it this way: Michael Vick is not the problem, per se. What Vick is, well, is a symbol of the problem. He is not well-matched for this quick-trigger offense but he has been deemed by Kelly to be the best of the available alternatives. His play this year has been OK. His play against the Broncos was OK. His play has been at a high-enough level for this offense to average more than 450 yards per game. He is not the only reason they are not scoring points to match that output.
Will Vick be the quarterback when Kelly gets this team where he wants it to be? No. But in the meantime, Vick can be productive if he gets a reasonable amount of time. He needs more than the average quarterback, and that is just a fact. But there were many times yesterday when he was battered by the rushing waves and it was not his fault. As Kelly said, "I do know this, and we've got to address it: We have to protect him better. We've got times where he is at the top of his drop and he is sticking his foot into the ground and there's pressure on him. That's not on Mike."
Enough time? Vick knows some of this is on him but he also acknowledged, "I would like to have more time, but I've got to go with what I've got." Again, if he would get rid of the ball quicker, everyone would benefit - but he has never done that in his life. To be fair, there did not appear to be a lot of open receivers.
Changing quarterbacks here would not solve the problems of the defense, and it would not turn DeSean Jackson into a viable red-zone target, and it would not make tight end Brent Celek catch that ball on the 5-yard line in the first quarter. What it would do is shake an already-shaken dressing room. That is the last thing the Eagles need at this point. Ask me again in a few weeks, but to change to Nick Foles now would be counterproductive - and Kelly says he has no intention of changing.
We already saw a bit of unraveling in the late stages yesterday. Yes, it bears watching. Last week, Vick said it took some players far too long to shake off the Kansas City loss, including him. He said he was dragging, and that, "Coach Kelly pulled me aside and got me going."
Kelly told him, Vick said, "that I'm the catalyst for everything and guys feed off of me. Sometimes I forget about that. At the same time, I understand that I've got to continue to be the leader that God put me on this earth to be."
Leadership is overrated in sports, except at times like these. New coach, new system, frustration heaped upon frustration heaped upon 52-20 - this is a tricky point in Kelly's maiden voyage. At the Giants, at Tampa Bay, home for the Cowboys, home for the Giants - these next four games are where the story of the season will be written. To stumble badly in this stretch would leave us with just three words: Look out below.
They need to win here with Kelly's offense. They need to win here with Vick, the guy Kelly picked to take them through this season. With two very winnable games upcoming, the last thing the Eagles need is another convulsion.