After hearing so much talk about not suffering a let down, the Eagles played poorly against what appeared to be an inferior Minnesota Vikings team. While the loss didn’t kill their playoff hopes, it made their road much more difficult.
The Eagles struggled in just about every aspect: Offense, defense, special teams, and most especially coaching.
If I didn’t know any better, I would have assumed that Andy Reid was running the Eagles today. Chip Kelly had been doing a pretty good job recently, but he made some very glaring mistakes today.
A week after setting the Eagles’ single-game rushing record, LeSean McCoy was shamefully ignored in the offensive game plan I understand that the Vikings secondary is depleted and it made sense to attack them through the air, but it is insane for McCoy to only get eight carries in a game that was still within striking distance heading into the fourth quarter.
I know that Cordarrelle Patterson is a dangerous returner, and I acknowledge that the Eagles’ special teams coverage units had some issues last week. But I think they should have at least been given an opportunity to play. The constant short and squib kicks gave the Vikings great field position on just about every drive.
There was a sequence in the third quarter that was just plain awful. On 3rd-and-1, the Eagles were spotted short of the first down on their own 24 yard line. Replays indicated that they might have gotten a first down, but instead of challenging the spot, Kelly decided to run a quick play on 4th down. I can understand this decision, and Kelly probably assumed that the Vikings wouldn’t be expecting a quick play. Unfortunately, the Eagles once again failed to pick up the 1st down, giving the Vikings excellent field position.
Kelly should have just lived with his mistake. Instead, he made the situation worse by challenging this spot, even though it was fairly obvious from the replay that there was little chance that it would be reversed. So not only did he hand the Vikings great field position, but he also wasted a timeout and a challenge.
The defense had been playing well over the past couple of months, but they experienced a huge setback today. The Eagles streak of holding opponents to 21 points or under ended spectacularly, as they were responsible for all 48 points. Sure, the Vikings were given advantageous field position on more than one occasion, but aside from an interception by Mychal Kendricks, the defense didn’t make any plays. The pass rush couldn’t generate much pressure on Matt Cassel, and the coverage seemed to be painfully soft. At least they stopped the run adequately, but you’d expect that to happen considering the Vikings were using their third string running back.
The defense’s season long trend of struggling in 3rd-and-long situations continued today, as the Vikings converted multiple times when they required more than ten yards to convert the first down.
While they are certainly not to blame for all of the Eagles’ struggles, the referees didn’t do the Eagles any favors today. I noticed what looked like a few blatant holds by Vikings offensive linemen that went uncalled. I’m still trying to figure out how pass interference gets called on Bradley Fletcher in the end zone when the official with a direct view of the play seemed to think that it was clean coverage.
Fletcher had a bad day, but that didn’t make him unique in the Eagles’ secondary. Injuries were partially responsible for the problems, as Kurt Coleman, Brandon Boykin, and Colt Anderson all left the game with injuries, but the struggles started well before they began to lose players. In the year 2013, a human being should never say the words, “Wow, Matt Cassel is really tearing them apart,” and yet that’s what happened.
The Offense scored 30 points, but it felt like there was the potential for much more had they capitalized on some opportunities.
Nick Foles put up some big numbers (30-48, 428 yards, 3 TDs) but this was not his best game. For the second straight week, he threw an interception, and there were a few times when he took costly sacks because he held the ball too long. Combined with a strong rushing effort (5 carries for 41 yards) he looked a lot like Michael Vick out there. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing.
DeSean Jackson had a monster game with 195 yards receiving. He had one touchdown on a catch, and had a touchdown run called back due to penalty. I’m not sure exactly what happened on the sideline, when Jackson was seen screaming at teammates.
Catching a Break
The Eagles caught a huge break today as Tony Romo played like “December Tony Romo” and helped the Cowboys blow a lead to the Packers. Because of that, the Eagles remain in first place. In a way, the loss becomes more painful because if they had won, the Eagles could have clinched the division with a win or a Cowboys loss next week.
I’m sure someone who is more familiar with tie breakers will be able to determine if next week’s game against the Bears will even have any meaning for the Eagles. It’s possible that win or lose, they might be locked into their playoff seed assuming they can beat the Cowboys in week 17. If that’s the case, would it make sense to rest their key players?
So Now What?
The Eagles take on the Bears in a game that has been flexed to Sunday night. The Bears offense has looked dangerous lately, and they didn’t seem to skip a beat with the return of starting quarterback Jay Cutler this week. Cutler has had some huge games against the Eagles in recent years, so if the defense plays as poorly as it did today, the Bears could put up a lot of points.
Let’s hope that Kelly and the rest of the coaching staff can come up with a better game plan for next week and that the Eagles can come out stronger than they did today.