Glass-Half-Empty & Glass-Half-Full Recaps of Eagles Loss to 49ers


Sep 28, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) leaves the field after the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi

On the surface, the Eagles 26-21 loss to the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium was what it was. The Philadelphia offense was kept in check for almost the entire game, remained in contention thanks to a few timely plays by their special teams and defense, and were unable to come up with a score when they needed it most. There are no such things as moral victories in the NFL when a team expects to contend for a lengthy playoff run. On the flip side, unless a team suffers debilitating injuries in the process of doing so, there’s no such thing as a loss this early in the season that can completely derail a season.

That being said, Sunday’s loss was a unique one in the sense that it felt both so disheartening and yet fans were left with hope for a victory until the final two minutes of the game. Though they are a talented roster, the 49ers were a vulnerable team which the Eagles had the opportunity to deal what would have most likely been a death blow to their 2014 season just four games in. Instead, San Francisco temporarily righted the ship by escaping with a five-point win and left the Eagles with a long flight back East to think about what could have been. The loss was also peculiar because it left plenty of fodder for both sides of the ‘glass-half-full’ and ‘glass-half-empty’ argument. Having spent a great deal of time on both sides of that debate, I think I can shed a fair amount of light on what both parties were most likely feeling when the final seconds ticked off the clock.


LeSean McCoy’s problems are real. Even when he is unable to pick up the necessary blocks to spring some of the long runs that helped him en route to a rushing title in 2013, something just seems off. He struggles to get to the corner, he rarely makes defenders miss, and there is just a lack of energy when he touches the ball. Last season, there was a special feeling whenever Shady got his hands on the melon. He had the chance to reach the endzone on every play and often, when he did not hit paydirt, came awful close to doing so. Shady is getting plenty of touches in the run game (70 carries) but isn’t doing much with them (192 rush yards). For McCoy to have not gotten a second touch towards the goal line in the Eagles furthest probe into San Francisco territory late in the game should tell you all you need to know about the confidence level in the run game. The standard narrative is to put the ball in the hands of the team’s best player with the game on the line. Though the stats might not say it, that is still McCoy and he did not get an opportunity to lift his team to a win.

After what was in my opinion his sharpest game as a starter, Nick Foles regressed to his misfiring ways on Sunday. Even early in the game, before a heavy dose of 49ers pressure had knocked the Eagles starter off his game, Foles missed open targets down the field that could have very easily loosened up the tight zone coverage that San Francisco was running throughout the contest. For as strong as the 49ers front seven is, their secondary leaves some to be desired. Foles had an opportunity early on to play on that doubt that has fostered in the back-end of the San Francisco defense. Instead, early stalls on offense kept the 49ers fresh and built their confidence through the second half, when they ultimately took over the confidence.

When a team scores three non-offensive touchdowns, they should win every time. If the Eagles were able to manage even one offensive scoring drive (even a field goal) before the 49ers got untracked, they probably could have won the game rather comfortably. Instead, when Zach Ertz fumbled the ball away to Parrish Cox in the early stages of the 3rd quarter, the Eagles gave a team that had yet to score a second-half touchdown prime field position with which they took advantage of. There are going to be games where the offense is unable to put up the type of numbers they did against Washington. Still, even up to the last drive of the game, one touchdown would have done the trick and they could not get it done.

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Finally, for the first time in a while, one could call into question some of Chip Kelly’s playcalling. I’m not of the school of thought that we should expect Kelly to adjust his calls depending on where he is on the field or what point of the game it is. At this point, 20 games into Kelly’s tenure, we should know what we’ve signed up for. He’s going to keep running the spread, he’s going to keep the tempo up, and he doesn’t care about what people think otherwise. More of my issues with the playcalling were elsewhere around the field. If he was not confident in running the ball three feet from the goal line, he should not have been comfortable running the ball elsewhere. There were several drives that started beyond the chains because he tried to get McCoy going in the second half. Minus plays are detrimental to the Eagles offense and, though it may have put his quarterback in a bit more peril, the drives that started with short passes to the sidelines at least kept the team on schedule. Some of the little swing screens to the running backs and run plays in the second half almost assured a three-and-out by the offense and kept the team from finding any sort of rhythm until late in the game.

The Eagles had a chance to escape Levi’s Stadium with a trademark game-winning drive by their quarterback on his worst statistical game as a pro with a makeshift offensive line in front of him. Instead, their last-ditch effort only soured the unsatisfied feeling of the 26-21 loss as the Eagles fell back toward the field of the NFC East division.


Big picture: the Eagles made it through Lane Johnson’s four game suspension with a 3-1 record including a win over a 2013 playoff team and a division foe. Smaller picture, they were a touchdown away from being 4-o over that stretch in a game against a team whose season was on the brink. The Eagles entered Sunday’s showdown against San Francisco as underdogs and, in the areas where the 49ers were supposed to have the advantage, Philadelphia appeared that way. I still feel as if the 49ers have enough talent to at least contend for a wild card spot this season and their win over the Eagles went a long way into reaffirming that belief. Even with injuries and suspensions, they have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL and a collective coaching brilliance that should allow them to bounce back from their shaky start.

Nick Foles wasn’t good throughout most of the game, but almost engineered one of the most impressive game-winning drives that this generation of Eagles fans would have seen. Had it not been for yet another endzone drop by Riley Cooper, an issue that is becoming impossible to ignore, Foles would have driven the team 91 yards on a defense they had not registered a first down in the second half against. The throw was perfect, in-between three San Francisco defenders. Cooper once again failed to make a play for his quarterback and San Francisco was able to buckle down on a short field, where they had a definitive advantage.

Speaking of wide receivers, Jeremy Maclin is making it very easy to forget about DeSean Jackson. Sunday was one of those games that Jackson would have been invisible in, I guarantee it. Sunday reminded me of last year’s win over the Cardinals. Some say the Eagles had no business winning that game. They were able to do so, but hardly because of Jackson’s contributions (6 rec, 36 yards). Maclin, once again, managed to work his way open throughout most of the contest. Had it not been for Foles inability to hit him on deep balls (again), he most likely would have surpassed the 100 yard mark and hauled in another touchdown reception. His 3rd and 14 catch along the sidelines where he tapped the ball to himself and kept his feet in bounds all while getting both arms under the ball was as spectacular a catch from a receiver as we’ll see this season. It should have been the highlight play on a game-winning drive. Instead, it will suffice to remind us that Jeremy Maclin is a legit top target and continues to prove so on a weekly basis.

The special teams has become a legitimate weapon for the Eagles. A blocked punt touchdown and a punt return touchdown should be enough to demoralize an opponent enough to lead to a win. Though that was not the case on Sunday, it was still impressive to see what a threat that unit has become. Even when the Eagles got the ball back on their final drive, a bogus block in the back call negated what should have been a punt return by Sproles to set the team up for a more manageable last-chance drive. Donnie Jones has regressed some from his 2013 form, but the coverage unit remains stellar and the increased talent level within the unit is showing in a big way. Starting to see why Trey Burton remained on the roster.

Finally, tip of the cap to the defense in this one. They had to deal with another game where they were on the field for over two thirds of the contest and, to the very last drive, came up with the stops that gave their offense a chance. They recorded a turnover for the 16th straight game on Malcolm Jenkins 2nd quarter pick-six of Kaepernick. The athletic quarterback was kept largely in check and only on a few occasions was able to burn the Eagles defense with his talents. The defense managed to sack him four times and provide pressure once more. I felt as if they were victim to a few shaky calls that extended San Francisco drives and yet, the two drives they surrendered touchdowns on were still rather fluky. Frank Gore’s 55-yard reception was straight out of backyard football and Stevie Johnson’s 3rd quarter touchdown was made much easier considering the short field the 49ers were playing on. Hopefully, Mychal Kendricks’ return is not too far away. That said, his absence wasn’t overwhelmingly obvious like it had been in previous games.

The Eagles have a chance to put this loss behind them against a 1-2 Rams team coming off a bye and fading fast in their division. Their season ended when Sam Bradford went down with a knee injury. Let’s hope this is not the classic game where the Eagles play down to an opponent and drop a game they have no business doing so (see 2013-Minnesota Vikings). The Eagles have done a good job bouncing back from shaky performances under Kelly. Hopefully Johnson’s return gives the offensive line a boost and the team can gain from Sunday’s slip-up in wine country.