Chip is beginning to offend me. Here he is talking to Angelo Cataldi this morning about the Eric Rowe-Calvin Johnson cluster F:
“When you look at it, Calvin caught two balls, he was specifically on the right side early in the game and was matched up with Max. When they moved him over to the left side after Nolan got injured, they had two throws underneath [and] we were in zone coverage so, you know, corner’s just playing over the top in a zone coverage so it’s not like Eric’s matched up with anybody. He’s playing his zone on the field.
And then the two touchdown passes: One of them Eric should have had some deep help over the top, I think he was anticipating that and played it that way. And then the second one was as good a throw and catch as you see … I don’t think anybody could have covered him. The ball was thrown five yards to the outside of the receiver and there’s probably nobody in the NFL except for Calvn Johnson, with his size and his length, that can go and get that football. Eric was in as good a position as he could on that one, so, we all want that back but … I thought [Eric] competed out there and he played hard and again, it’s just because a receiver is on the left side and a corner’s over there that doesn’t mean he’s matched up and playing man-to-man, you can be playing zone also.”
I mean, there’s coach speak, and then there’s just having no accountability. Everyone in the country could see that Eric Rowe on Calvin Johnson was going to end badly. Zone, man, whatever. Rowe was the corner on Johnson’s side of the field. Johnson was targeted five times on one drive, for three completions including a touchdown. Rowe had some help, yes, and he hung with Johnson quite well on a few plays, but this was a painfully obvious mismatch– an instance of coaches putting a rookie in a position to fail in front of a national TV audience on Thanksgiving, when just last week…
Oh God. Bill Davis just compared Eric Rowe to Marcus Smith
— Jawn Gonzalez (@JohnGonzalez) November 24, 2015
Here are all of the throws that went to Johnson on the Lions’ final drive of the first half, which resulted in a touchdown on their third attempt at throwing to Johnson in the corner of the end zone, which, again, EVERYONE saw coming:
Gee, you think the Lions saw something here? I mean, look at all the cushion Rowe is giving– not even Lowell Meyerson recommends this much padding to cover your ass:
On the second touchdown, Rowe didn’t do a bad job of defending, but look how far away safety help was:
So Chip can spin it any way he wants, but the Lions obviously saw a weakness and exploited it. Bad defense, bad coaching, whatever. This is yet another example of the Eagles allowing the opponent to dictate matchups. Byron Maxwell had Johnson in check early, and there’s nothing, theoretically, that prevented the Eagles from moving Maxwell over with Johnson. Here’s Billy Davis during the offseason:
That’s why Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis is open to the idea of having Byron Maxwell, his big free-agent pickup from Seattle, switch sides during games. That way, Maxwell could cover elite receivers wherever they line up: Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham Jr., Calvin Johnson, and so on.
“We can,” Davis said. “I’m not going to say we are, but we can. We have that ability. Right now, we change them left and right every day, so they’re working on the right side, they’re working on the left side.”
Keeping a corner on one side is the preference of most defensive coordinators, but it also breeds the sort of tunnel vision that led to Dez Bryant torching Bradley Fletcher for three touchdowns last season. When a starter goes out, sometimes you have to think outside the box. Davis doesn’t do that. He, like Kelly, is stubborn and believes in the BS next man up thing, which doesn’t work so well against elite NFL talent.
So, man or zone, Rowe, who went more than a month without taking a snap on defense, was put in a position to fail on Thanksgiving.