Eagles Week 4: Kolb and the Defense Come Up Short in McNabb’s Return

October 4, 2010

Donovan McNabb’s Redskins defeated the Eagles yesterday, and amazingly, McNabb wasn’t even the big story of the game.

First off, as I predicted, McNabb received a positive reaction from the crowd when he was introduced.  Many gave him a standing ovation.  I hope that will shut up the national media types who were sure that the crowd would be hostile to him. 

Of course when the Redskins offense took the field, there were boos.  But I think that was to say “We gave you your props, but now you’re the enemy and we’re rooting against you.”  Nothing wrong with that.

As for the game itself, the Eagles did not play well.  Special teams mistakes, poor tackling, and countless penalties – many on key plays – pretty much handed the game to the Redskins. 

Despite all that, the biggest news was probably the injury suffered by Michael Vick, and the lackluster performance by Kevin Kolb in relief.  Against a defense that had been torched the past couple of weeks, Kolb looked either unwilling or unable to complete a pass downfield. 

What went right?

– Not too much in this section.  RB LeSean McCoy had a very busy day.  Reid actually ran the ball a decent amount, and since Kolb only likes to throw screen passes or dump offs, he had a busy receiving day.  For the most part, he ran well, but he did have an extremely costly fumble which probably cost them points.

– Sav Rocca had a good day punting.  (No, it isn’t good when the punter is one of the highlights)

What went wrong?

– The Eagles continue to commit costly penalties.  On two different occasions, the Eagles had the Redskins stopped on third down, but committed penalties which kept the drive alive.  Especially galling was a roughing the passer penalty on McNabb, since the refs almost never called that on McNabb when he was a member of the Eagles.

– While the offensive line did seem to give Kolb adequate time, I think that may have been due to a heavy protection scheme and the Redskins not employing a heavy pass rush.  The line also committed a few key penalties, most notably on the play where Vick got injured.

– Another special teams breakdown came on the Eagles first punt.  They allowed a long return setting up the Redskins’ first touchdown.

– The defense did not have a good showing.  They couldn’t seem to tackle well at all, and because of it, Redskins backup RB Ryan Torain had a big game.  Normally reliable guys like Quintin Mikell and Stewart Bradley both had some missed tackles. 

– There were also some breakdowns in coverage, and the Eagles were lucky that McNabb was inaccurate.  On the first play, he missed the receiver.  On the second, he hit WR Anthony Armstrong for a long completion, but he stumbled out of bounds after the catch.  Both plays could have been touchdowns with better passes.

– Kolb looked slow and indecisive, as every play seemed to take forever to develop.  And the belief that Kolb is an accurate passer might be a myth.  It’s not that hard to be accurate when you’re throwing nothing but screen passes and outlet passes to the backs.

Later in the game, when the Eagles desperately needed to stretch the field, Kolb simply wasn’t able to get it done.  This wasn’t a strong secondary the Eagles were facing, and if Kolb is unable to succeed against them, it’s a bit scary to think what will happen when he faces a good defense.

While the announcers seemed to want to use Kolb’s youth and inexperience as an excuse, you have to keep in mind that this is his fourth year in the league, and the Eagles pretty much handed him the keys for the season.  If he isn’t ready to play now, then he might never be.

The McNabb Report

It may have been a one game aberration, but Redskins coach Mike Shanahan may have realized what Andy Reid never seemed to: Donovan McNabb is not an elite quarterback, and the onus of winning football games shouldn’t be put solely on his shoulders.

McNabb didn’t have a great game.  He was actually kind of lousy.  There was an interception, inaccurate deep balls, and some classic McNabb grounders.

But, he wasn’t forced to be the whole offense, and he made a couple of big plays to win the game.  The touchdown to Chris Cooley was a perfect pass.  And his scramble for a first down helped seal the deal.  (Although you can question why he ran out of bounds)

If the Redskins running game can perform the way it did yesterday, and McNabb can keep making a few big plays a game, then the Redskins might have a winning formula.  If the Redskins were smart, they’d use Torain as the feature back.  It might have been a fluke performance yesterday, but if the alternative is Clinton Portis, then they should at least give him a chance.  Portis looks slow and seems to get injured on every play.

Bad Andy Reid Coaching Move of the Week

I’m still not sure what happened when the Eagles had the ball on the goal line late in the second quarter.  The announcers didn’t seem to know either.  After a booth review to see if the Eagles had scored a touchdown, the Eagles called timeout to set up the next play.  Bafflingly, after the timeout, as the play clock wound down, the offense wasn’t ready, and they were charged with a delay of game penalty.

While I’m sure the officials may have done something wrong (the announcers said as much), I have to question why after a lengthy review and a timeout, the Eagles offense wasn’t ready to go regardless.  Why did they wait so long to come onto the field in the first place? 

This is not the type of thing that should happen to a coach who has been in the league for over eleven years.

Elsewhere in the NFL

– After looking horrendous last week against the Eagles, the Jaguars manage to upset the Colts on a last minute field goal.  Does anyone know who in the NFL is actually good right now?  The league says it wants parity, and that certainly seems to be what we have right now.

– The Bears are no longer undefeated, as the Giants (a team who many were writing off after last week) crushed them on defense.  QB Jay Cutler was sacked nine times and was eventually knocked out of the game.

Eagles Next Opponent

As I predicted, the San Francisco 49ers appear to be this year’s team that was overhyped without actually achieving anything and then disappoints.  It was a close contest against the Atlanta Falcons, but a last minute Falcons field goal dropped the 49ers to 0-4. 

 If there was ever a bad time to play on 0-4 team, this is it.  The 49ers will be desperate, and the Eagles have to play a cross-country night game, which is always tough.   The Eagles also often underperform in prime time games as well.  And considering how bad the Eagles run defense has been, RB Frank Gore might be due for a monumental effort.

Final Analysis

Vick’s status is still uncertain, but considering he’s going in for an MRI today, I’m guessing he’ll miss at least a couple of weeks.  This may be Kolb’s big chance to reclaim the starting job.  Considering how he was the designated heir to McNabb, you have to figure that if he looks good, he’ll remain the starter even after Vick returns.  On the other hand, if he continues to falter, then you have to wonder how many more opportunities he’ll receive.

He’s definitely going to have to look better than he has thus far.  While it is good that he can complete short passes, he has to remember that he’s got some dynamic wide receivers on the team.  If he can’t get the ball to them, then the Eagles offense is not going to succeed.


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