Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
By Jordan Raanan, Xfinity Sports NFL Columnist and Bleeding Green Contributor
It could be argued the Eagles offense blew the game with turnovers and two pathetic closing drives. The blame could also fall on the defense for failing to make a late stop. Or the special teams for not making any impact against a Lions team that had struggled badly in that phase of the game.
It's all open for interpretation and debate. Even the frustrated Eagles players were grasping for explanations and excuses following the 26-23 overtime loss at home to the Lions.
Take this Nnamdi Asomugha comment, via CSNPhilly's Reuben Frank:
"The fourth quarter was a lot of blitzing, so the fourth quarter they were able to find the matchups they wanted amidst the blitzing," Asomugha said. "So you can say we should blitz more, but it didn't help us in the end."
Nnamdi's comment could be perceived as an indictment of defensive coordinator Juan Castillo's play-calling or just his honest assessment of what went wrong. Again, it's all open for interpretation or debate.
What isn't open for interpretation or debate is reality: The Eagles didn't really blitz that much on passing plays in the fourth quarter. Or the game. Or the season.
Here's the blitz breakdown on pass plays from Sunday:
First Quarter: 3 on 11 plays
Second Quarter: 0 on 9 plays
Third Quarter: 0 on 4 plays
Fourth Quarter: 3 on 24 plays
Overtime: 1 on 2 plays
As you can see, the Eagles almost never blitz. They sent more than four men after Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford on seven of 50 called passes (including plays negated by penalty). No matter how you cut it, that's not a lot. And neither is three of 24 in the fourth quarter.
Maybe Nnamdi's assessment changed after he watched the tape. Maybe Castillo second-guessed his lack of blitzes in the fourth quarter after he watched the tape. Regardless, it's something the Eagles must consider going forward. Do they just need better play from their defensive linemen - particularly their defensive ends - or do they need to start sending pass rushers from all angles?
None of the seven blitzes against the Lions came from a cornerback. None were hidden very well. Only one of the seven came from a safety.
The lack of variety likely makes life easier for opposing offensive lines, especially since we watch the Eagles and Vick have trouble week after week locating and picking up blitzers. Lately, life hasn't been too difficult for opposing quarterbacks against the Eagles.
Other Notable Observations:
- The offensive line was a well-rounded mess against the Lions. After watching the game live I thought center Dallas Reynolds was the major culprit. Well, right guard Danny Watkins was just as bad. Left guard Evan Mathis and left tackle Demetress Bell weren't far behind. Reynolds' biggest problem is in the running game. He's unable to reach the second level and make quality blocks, which is his primary responsibility in Howard Mudd's scheme.
- On the first play of overtime it was right tackle Todd Herremans who was beat badly for a sack. On the second play Mathis was fortunate not to get called for holding in the end zone, which would have resulted in a safety that ended the game.
- I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if King Dunlap starts at left tackle against the Falcons and Steve Vallos is at center.
- Even though Trent Cole was officially credited with zero tackles, he did make a few plays. He stuffed a running play along with DeMeco Ryan in the first half. He also made another tackle that was negated by a penalty. Still, it wasn't one of his better games and it might be worth noting that the worst season of his career sack-wise is coming after he signed a lucrative contract extension this offseason.
- Alex Henery fixed the Eagles' porous kickoff coverage. He had four touchbacks on Sunday. He had five in the first five games.
- Backup cornerbacks Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes were on the field in dime formations. Hughes played 11 defensive snaps, Marsh seven. Hughes allowed three huge receptions in the fourth quarter for 82 yards and a touchdown. Marsh allowed a 16-yard reception on Detroit's first offensive play of overtime that put them into field-goal range.