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Eagles Week 12: Big Plays Propel the Bears to Victory

November 29, 2010

This was not entirely unexpected.

Coming off two straight emotional prime time games against division rivals, it was not ridiculous to expect a letdown performance by the Eagles, especially considering they have a short week ahead of them and two more prime time games coming up.

Not to mention the fact that their opponents – the Chicago Bears – had played the previous Thursday and had ten days to prepare for the game.

It would be hard to call the game against the Bears anything but a letdown.  Based on who they had beaten, coming into this game most people considered the Eagles to be legitimate contenders, and the Bears to be a fraud.  But the Bears showed that for one week at least, they were the better team, and have to be taken into account when discussing NFC contenders.

One week after perhaps their best performance of the season, the Eagles’ defense did not fare well.  They gave up quite a few big plays, and were essentially ripped apart by Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler who threw for four touchdowns.  The Eagles were hurt by not having either of their starting cornerbacks, but they were hurt even more by their inability to keep their footing and poor tackling.

On the offensive side, quarterback Michael Vick played his weakest game as a starter.  He wasn’t horrible, and the team did put up 26 points, but a few key mistakes to go along with problems in the red zone prevented them from making a comeback victory.

What Went Right

– Running back LeSean McCoy had a strong game with 120 total yards.

– The kick and punt return units had a few good returns.

– David Akers continues to have an excellent season, making four field goals.

– Brent Celek finally re-emerged with a 30 yard touchdown pass for the Eagles’ final score.  He was also open earlier on a play that probably would have been a touchdown had Vick been able to hit him.

What Went Wrong

– Bears QB Jay Cutler can be an interception throwing machine at times, but he also possesses a strong arm, and can do some damage through the air.  Unfortunately, the Eagles got the good Cutler.  He made good decisions, and precise throws, and pretty much tore the defense apart.

– The Eagles tackled horrendously.  They may have been missing Asante Samuel, but it isn’t like he would have improved the tackling.  Some of those big gains by the Bears should have been much smaller had the Eagles simply been able to bring the player down.

– The offensive line did not have a good day.  Vick was under pressure for most of the game, and took several big hits.

– Vick’s first interception of the season was a costly one.  Towards the end of the first half, the Eagles had driven to the Bears’ 4 yard line when a pass got tipped and picked off.  Not only did the Eagles not score, but it set up a Bears touchdown and a huge momentum shift.

Bad Andy Reid Coaching Move of the Week

Some familiar problems reappeared this week. 

Midway through the third quarter, the Eagles had a 3rd-and-19 situation at their own 31.  With the play clock winding down, the Eagles called timeout.

This is a recurring mistake by the Eagles.  In that situation, is the delay of game penalty going to be that costly?  I don’t know how much difference there is between 3rd-and-19 and 3rd-and-24.  Chances are, they’re going to end up punting either way.  Yet, throughout Reid’s tenure, the Eagles often call timeouts in those situations. 

Wouldn’t that timeout have been much more useful at the end of the game?

Speaking of the end of the game, the offense showed little urgency even though they were down by two scores.  While they eventually did score a touchdown, they certainly took their time in doing so.

The McNabb Report

One week earlier, the Redskins had the good fortune to play the Tennessee Titans just as that team was imploding.  This week, they had the misfortune of playing the Vikings immediately after they fired unpopular head coach Brad Childress. 

Teams typically play better the week after the coach gets fired, and the Vikings were no exception.  Despite star RB Adrian Peterson missing most of the game, they still were able to earn a 17-13 victory.

McNabb started out well in the game, going 8 for 8 on the opening drive which ended in a touchdown.  But the Redskins offense was largely ineffective afterwards, and McNabb ended up with stats similar to those he’s put up all year: 211 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception.

McNabb continues to receive little help, as he has few supporting players with much NFL experience, and one of the players who should be excelling – Santana Moss – has been dropping a lot of passes.  McNabb’s interception came when a ball bounced off of Moss.

Elsewhere in the NFL

– The Falcons became the NFC’s only nine win team as they defeated the Packers on a last minute field goal.  The Falcons are still unbeaten at home, which makes earning the conference’s top seed that much more important for them.

– The Giants used a late comeback to defeat the Jaguars and move back into a tie for first place in the NFC East.  Unlike the week before when the defense allowed the Eagles to score late, this time they shut down the Jaguars in the fourth quarter.

– Peyton Manning on Sunday night used to be one of the surest bets in sports.  But thanks in part to his two interceptions returned for touchdowns, the Colts fell to the Chargers.  Once again, the Chargers are making a late season surge towards the playoffs. 

Eagles Next Opponent

The Houston Texans may have salvaged their season with a 20-0 win over the Tennessee Titans in which the most interesting event was a brawl between Texans WR Andre Johnson and Titans CB Cortland Finnegan. 

The Titans look to be collapsing, and their current QB – Rusty Smith – doesn’t look like a capable NFL starter, but any time you can shut out your opponent, it is impressive.

Despite the Texans’ mediocre 5-6 record, they possess two of the best skill position players in the league in Johnson and RB Arian Foster. 

On the other hand, the Texans’ defense is horrible, and Michael Vick should be able to have another huge day.

Final Analysis

The loss definitely hurts.  You never want to lose to a team that you might be fighting with for a playoff spot or seeding.

But overall, I’m thinking this was just a case of a young team suffering a letdown, and not indicative of larger issues with the team. 

I don’t think that opponents have “figured out” Vick as much as they’ve faced two consecutive teams with excellent pass rushes.  And despite Vick’s struggles, they did put up 26 points which is a winning total many weeks.

Hopefully, the defensive lapses were just a one week aberration.  I’m sure that playing on a better field (Solider Field was largely torn up yesterday) will help with their footing issues, and the return of Asante Samuel should help contain opponents’ passing attacks.

The Texans’ game is on Thursday, and the short week typically favors the home team.  The Eagles need to quickly put this loss behind them and take care of business, or else their once promising playoff standing will be in serious jeopardy.

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