The Eagles surprised everyone by being even worse than last week. It didn’t seem possible.
On the team’s own website, Chris McPherson apologized to fans for the game, Ike Reese called out [some of] the players for not doing everything they could to win, and Greg Cosell identified Malcolm Jenkins as the guy who missed key tackles allowing Ameer Addullah’s 23-yard run today as well as Doug Martin’s 84-yard run last week.
That was the team’s own announcers. And everyone else was more negative, as they should have been.
You know how bad they played, and you probably watched at least part of the game, or you wouldn’t be reading this. So there’s no point rehashing that part of the story. Here are five other points worth considering. Not everyone played terribly or gave up. And since this team is sure to get blown up this off-season, perhaps including the coaches, it’s important to note where the problems were.
1. Real injuries hurt this team.
It wasn’t only lack of effort. The offense was moving well until Jason Peters left the game, after a lineman rolled up on his leg. Then the drive moved backwards and Caleb Sturgis sproinked a field goal off the post. Jason Kelce had entered the game hobbled by a bad knee, and the offense couldn’t weather these two weak spots at key positions in their ultrathin offensive line.
Sanchez was under severe pressure the rest of the game, taking six sacks and nine hits while the run game evaporated. This team’s problems this year started with Chip Kelly not investing enough in the offensive line, and that failure (more than scheme or play calling) has been the root of this team’s troubles.
Then Nolan Carroll broke his ankle, leaving 6’1″ rookie Eric Rowe to cover 6’5″ superstar Calvin Johnson. Rowe actually did pretty well in his first extended action. He didn’t shut down Megatron but he played him tightly, gaining experience and confidence that will help him going forward. Meanwhile though, Detroit ran away with the game.
Later in the game, Josh Huff finally got his first target since the 39-yard touchdown he scored early against Tampa Bay — and was promptly knocked out of the game with a concussion. Obviously not having Ertz, Ryan Mathews or Sam Bradford is crippling this offense as well. Kiko Alonso seems to be trying, but is obviously hurt by his partial MCL tear and it’s not clear what he’s adding to this team to justify the risk of a worse re-injury.
2. Billy Davis’ stubbornness hurt it more.
While Rowe played well-ish, there was no need to have him play the Lions’ best receiver man to man without much safety help. Last year, Davis refused to bench Bradley Fletcher through the three game losing streak even as he was victimized by opponents over and over. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Davis’ scheme or play calls, but his bull-headedness is costing the team games and making it too easy for opponents to out-coach him.
We don’t know for sure if Davis coached his players to give such a huge cushion to Detroit receivers, or if they just stopped caring. Either way, it’s on Davis.
With all the Eagles’ defensive talent, two terrible teams dropped 90 points on his head over the last two weeks. End of story.
Whether Chip stays or not this off-season, Davis needs to be replaced, and he will be. Maybe this week. In fact, an immediate firing would be a sign that Lurie might want to keep Chip around, while honoring the obvious need for change.
3. Sanchez was not that bad.
Even with all the pressure, Sanchez did reasonably well today. He was 19-27 for 199 yards and two TDs, giving him a quarterback rating of 116.1. He wasn’t even intercepted, a week after tossing three balls to Buccaneer defenders. And he scrambled for a first down. Last Sunday’s loss had a lot to do with Sanchez’ play, but not today’s. The Eagles still desperately need Bradford back next week, and he has 10 days to heal up now.
4. Not every Eagle stopped trying.
Just most of them. Don’t get me wrong, the team as a whole surrendered, especially the defense. Chip did too, punting on 4th and two with 2:15 left in the 3rd and the Birds down 38-7.
One Lions vet on Eagles: “We made them tap out. … Guys just looked like they didn’t want to play anymore.” Said Detroit saw it in the 3Q.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) November 26, 2015
To my eye, these players kept scrapping throughout: Vinny Curry, Connor Barwin, DeMeco Ryans, Brandon Graham, Jordan Matthews, Walter Thurmond, Sanchez, Seyi Ajirotutu, Darren Sproles, Eric Rowe, Kenjon Barner, Jason Peters, Brent Celek, Bennie Logan, Fletcher Cox, and Taylor Hart. That’s only 16 of 46 active players.
Everyone else deserves scrutiny, especially DeMarco Murray and the linebackers. Players who did NOT look all in or willing to tackle include (to my eye) Murray, Mychal Kendricks, and Byron Maxwell. All three signed big contracts this off-season
5. Chip was humbled after the game.
Of course, he should have been, but it wasn’t a given. The coach had no attitude, no guff. There was no blaming, no talk about “execution” or just having to make plays. He knows he is coaching poorly and would be fired by many if not most owners after this. And he might well be.
But whether he stays in Philadelphia, becomes an offensive coordinator with some other team, or licks his wounds on the New Hampshire Seacoast for a couple of years, that change of attitude is one of the few signs of hope for the future out of all this mess today.