Semi-coherent Philadelphia Eagles vs. San Francisco 49ers preview


After last week’s mundane win over the Redskins, the Eagles are 3-0 and on top of the NFC East standings. That should mean that all is well in “Eagleland,” correct?

Not exactly.

Despite the addition of Malcolm Jenkins, the Eagles’ secondary appears to be just as shaky as it was last season. (Not that this is Jenkins’ fault. He seems to be playing well.) According to Cary Williams, the reason they’re not playing well is because Chip Kelly is working them too hard in practice.

Sep 21, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) runs past Philadelphia Eagles strong safety Nate Allen (29) on an 81-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles defeated the Redskins, 37-34. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

I have news for you, Cary: An intense practice schedule isn’t the reason why Nate Allen is struggling. He was on the Eagles for three seasons before Kelly came to town, and those problems that we saw last week were nothing new. (Anyone heard from Earl Wolff lately?)

But at least the secondary is healthy. The Eagles have a ton of injuries on the offensive line and at linebacker, and those injuries may prove to be a much greater concern.

Unfortunately, the NFL schedule doesn’t stop just because a team is beaten up. The Eagles will have to fly across the country to face the San Francisco 49ers.

Before the season, this appeared to be a tough game since the 49ers were considered a contender. However, with a 1-2 record, the 49ers have yet to live up to those lofty expectations.

The last time they met

October 2nd, 2011 was one of the worst days of my life. It almost caused me to stop being a sports fan. While it was far from the only cause for my mental collapse, the Eagles game against the 49ers certainly didn’t help matters.

Entering that game, the “Dream Team” Eagles had a disappointing 1-2 record, but a game against the seemingly underwhelming 49ers looked like just the thing to get them back on track.

The first half played out as expected, with the Eagles taking a 20-3 lead into the locker room. The lead could have been bigger if not for backup running back Ronnie Brown (one of the trumpeted offseason acquisitions) fumbling at the goal line. I don’t know if “fumble” is even the right word for it. Here’s a clip of the play if you don’t recall:

Can anyone explain what Brown was attempting to do here?

The Eagles gave up three touchdowns in the second half and lost the game. The collapse was partially fueled by a classic Andy Reid coaching performance. Despite having a 17 point lead at the half, the Eagles only attempted to run the ball on five plays in the second half.

What’s new with the 49ers?

People have complained about the way the Eagles have gotten off to slow starts, only to turn it on in the second half. As any 49ers fan could tell you, that is much better than the opposite.

The 49ers have played well in the first half of their first three games, only to crap the bed in the second half. In week one, they were outscored 14-0 in the second half, but were still able to hold on for a win. The following week, the Bears outdid them by 18 points en route to a comeback win. Last week, the 49ers once again were held scoreless after halftime, and squandered a 14-6 lead in a loss to the Cardinals.

Sep 14, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore (21) rushes for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the second quarter at Levi

What’s been the cause of their second half problems? Much of it seems to stem from the fact that they can’t run the ball effectively. Former franchise running back Frank Gore seems to have lost a few steps, and when teams force him to beat them from the pocket, quarterback Colin Kaepernick hasn’t shown that he’s up to the task.

It hasn’t helped that the once fearsome 49ers defense is missing some key players due to injury and can’t seem to shut the door on opponents.

Featured 49ers player: Colin Kaepernick

When I dislike an athlete, it’s usually because they’ve played well against my team. Michael Irvin and Kobe Bryant are just a couple of players who have earned my scorn due to their success against my favorite teams.

Colin Kaepernick. Image Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Colin Kaepernick has never faced the Eagles. And yet, I can’t stand him. There’s something about him that makes me want to punch him in his stupid face.

Maybe it’s because I find him to be terribly overrated. Yes, both he and his teams have undeniably been successful, but that may be starting to fade.

Kaepernick is dangerous because he can make plays with his feet. But eventually, you’re going to have to make some plays with the arm as well. And I don’t think he’s capable of doing that on a regular basis.

The key to limiting the 49ers appears to be ignoring their non-existent running game, making sure Kaepernick stays in the pocket, and forcing him to beat you with his arm.

I’m sure that Kapernick’s fans can point to games where he has indeed won the game with his arm. But I could probably do the same for Alex Smith. For that matter, I could show you some games where just about any QB who’s had a starting job for more than a year has had some success.

Key Eagles issue: The decimated offensive line

If I were to list the most indispensible Eagles, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, and Jason Peters would all be somewhere near the top. Unfortunately, none of them were still playing at the end of last week’s game.

Sep 21, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce (62) walks off the field after an injury during game against the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles defeated the Redskins, 37-34. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

As a result, the Redskins were able to control the line of scrimmage in the second half. There was nowhere for the running backs to go, and Nick Foles was facing a good deal of pressure.

This isn’t a condemnation of the backups. Any team will suffer if they’re forced to play three backups on the offensive line. (Remember, Lane Johnson is suspended, and his original backup, Allen Barbre, is hurt as well) Honestly, the backups did about as well as we could have hoped against a solid defensive front.

Peters will be back for this week’s game, but Kelce and Mathis will both be out for a while longer. Dennis Kelly and David Molk are expected to fill in at guard and center, while Matt Tobin will handle right tackle for this week.

Will they be able to open some running lanes for LeSean McCoy and keep Foles clean? That may be the deciding factor in the game.


After last week’s gutsy performance, I think Eagles fans are a lot more confident in Foles.

Elsewhere in the NFL

Sep 25, 2014; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) sits on the bench during the fourth quarter against the New York Giants at FedEx Field. The Giants won 45-14. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Listening to Washington DC sports talk radio this week, I was a bit disappointed by what I heard. Normally after the Eagles beat the Redskins, the airwaves are filled with crying Redskins fans. Yet the vibe was mostly positive. The cause for the happiness: Quarterback Kirk Cousins.

After his excellent performance (minus the failed final drive) against the Eagles, most Redskins fans were convinced that they had found their new franchise quarterback. After Cousins’ meltdown against the Giants on Thursday night, the fans are no longer quite as confident.

In that game, Cousins may have revealed himself as a typical backup: He can come in and play well for a game or two, but if he has to start for much longer than that, his flaws soon become exposed.


It’s always tough to play a road game on the West coast. It’s even tougher when dealing with a lot of injuries as the Eagles are.

While the 49ers haven’t played well so far this season, I don’t think they’re quite as bad as they’ve looked. They’re facing somewhat of a “must win” situation, so I think they’ll bring their “A” game this week.

The Eagles are fortunate to be 3-0, but I think their luck runs out this week.

49ers 23, Eagles 16