This is an ugly season for the Eagles, and yesterday was an ugly loss to an even uglier team. Leaders get the blame, and for the Eagles that means quarterback Sam Bradford and head coach Chip Kelly, who traded for the former.
Breaking down the tape from yesterday’s game, though, I don’t think Sam is the problem. He was 15-28 for 270 yards, with three TDs and no interceptions (or fumbles.)
That last point is important — Bradford was picked in large part because he protected the ball well. In games one and two, when he had two interceptions per game… well, that was bad. He seems to have corrected that.
Of his 13 incompletions, five were very well defended by the Skins’ secondary. At least two were probably tactical INCs, thrown to minimize interception risk in tight coverage. Three were thrown away under heavy pressure, and he was hit while throwing a fourth, which fell to the turf.
The Skins’ pass rush was brutal in the first half, as Bradford was sacked or nearly sacked six times on the first three drives. It doesn’t seem to be any one lineman getting blown up; Jason Kelce and Jason Peters (before he left the game) got shoved around too. It looked more like communication and adjustment to handle stunts and things like first-down blitzes, which you could blame on chemistry between shifting players on the dinged up line, or bad coaching.
Oddly, Sam’s protection got better after Peters left the game, with a makeshift line featuring Matt Tobin at left tackle, Allen Barbre at left guard, and Dennis Kelly at right guard. Since the Eagles weren’t able to sustain a drive, Chip started calling the long pass, and Bradford delivered.
First there was the 45-yarder that Nelson Agholor caught one-handed. Bradford overthrew Jordan Matthews deep at the five-yard line but came right back with the 62-yard TD to Riley Cooper. These were not short catch-and-run throws; they were in the air for 54, 60 and 55 yards, respectively.
Sam had a lot of other great throws, not even counting his second and third touchdowns. His first half bullet to Zach Ertz for a touchdown was called back because Agholor failed to cover the tackle on the line of scrimmage [editor’s note: I thought this was Bradford’s best pass as an Eagle]. In the third quarter he placed a beautiful ball to Matthews (see picture above), 30 yards in the air right in between three defenders at the Washington 30. That set up the shorter TD pass to Celek two plays later.
He was also pretty mobile, breaking tackles to evade two sacks and throw — one of which was that TD to Celek. On another play, he scrambled for 14 yards and executed a perfect slide, a move that has been strangely difficult for Eagles QBs in recent years.
We haven’t seen the coaches’ tape yet, so it’s impossible to say how many open receivers Bradford might have missed. (Matthews was open in the end zone on one first half sack.) But I only saw four passes I would criticize him for. Two were overthrows on deep shots down field. The others were short passes to Sproles – too low and behind him, respectively – but Sproles has caught those types of passes before.
Unfortunately, one was the key third down on the Eagles’ fourth quarter drive that could’ve put the game away. But I would blame Celek’s holding call on Philly’s third successful run in a row (for nine, six and eight yards) earlier in the drive more than Bradford’s toss. Bradford threw a 12-yard pass to Miles Austin after that, but it wasn’t enough.
There are a lot of huge problems with this team, starting with the offensive line. But I don’t think Sam Bradford is one of them. Or at least he’s not in the top ten.
If I had to hastily rank problems?
1) O-line of course, which might be four or five problems:
a) communication between them
b) run blocking
5) DeMarco Murray not fitting in
6) 3rd down defense
7) inconsistent WR play (separation, hanging on to the ball after hits, route running)
8) play calling
9) ineffective pass rush
10) lack of faith in themselves