Eagles vs. Falcons Recap: The Beginning of the End?

Rob Carr

The beginning of the rest of the season started off about as poorly as possible, and the 2012 Eagles now look destined for a spectacularly disastrous end. Is there any resolve left in this team to fight back, or have the players already given up on both the coaches and themselves?

Sigh, I guess that's what I get for dialing up the optimism going into this game. I knew it was an inadvisable idea. I tried to give Andy Reid the benefit of the doubt, but all he did was further prove he's likely in his fourth season past expiration. Sunday's drubbing also continued to hammer home the notion that this era of Eagles football concluded with the NFC Championship Game loss to Arizona on January 18, 2009, followed by Jim Johnson's passing a little more than six months later.

These 2012 Eagles, after two weeks off that saw a "team-wide evaluation" yield the dismissal of Juan Castillo, came out flat as can be on Sunday. Like a team that didn't believe in its coaches, didn't believe in itself. Like a team that had already given up on the season. The defense was in fourth quarter mode from the very beginning, letting the Falcons move down the field at will, even aiding their efforts by committing dumb penalties and allowing third down conversions. Over and over. Lather, rinse, repeat. It was just so absurdly easy for Atlanta, I was embarrassed (a word you heard a lot from the players) and ashamed.

For the third straight game, the Eagles didn't make winning plays. Whereas they made those plays earlier in the season when they needed to, it's no longer happening. The Eagles once again look like the team we have all come to loathe in recent years. Again, I have to ask: Have you been entertained AT ALL this season AT ANY POINT? Maybe for a few interspersed moments during the Ravens game? Maybe the second half against the Giants? More than anything, the Eagles just engender feelings of frustration, anger, hatred and rage.

Andy Reid is a rapidly depreciating asset who's almost out of tricks, and the Eagles are going down with him. All that's left is to sit back as the climax of wreckage unfolds, or life miraculously rises from the ashes. The fact that Reid has lasted nearly 14 years here is a monumental accomplishment in its own right, but the reality is he's been a fairly mediocre head coach ever since the Super Bowl season in 2004. He has been living off equity for the past eight years. Now, with the decline unmistakable and pronounced, it seems like we've reached the end of the road. And to think, Andy Reid's Eagles are 11-15 (including playoffs) since pulling off the Miracle at the New Meadowlands.

The Good

1) No turnovers. YAY!!! Except now the Eagles can be safe with the football and still suck, which is an important thing to know.

2) Second-half defense. Only allowed six points, though the Falcons never seemed too interested in anything more than possessing the ball and chewing up clock. I like that Brandon Graham started to take the snaps of the increasingly useless and detrimental Jason Babin, who is now doubly awful because he can't get to the quarterback AND commits his idiotic -- and trademarked -- drive-extending penalties. Is it time to drastically cut Babin and Trent Cole's snaps in favor of Graham, Phillip Hunt, Darryl Tapp, and Vinny Curry? I mean, it can't get much worse, right?

3) LeSean McCoy. It wasn't a sparkling statistical performance for Shady (though no fault of his own), but he seems like one of the few guys who played hard and with a sense of purpose. It was also refreshing to hear him speak out and take the team to task after the game for a lack of pride and heart. While Shady only put up 67 total yards on 19 touches, he scored both touchdowns, gave it his all and, as usual, would've been even better had Marty/Andy made him the focal point of the offense. Which reminds me, don't let the 19 total touches deceive you. Through the first three quarters, McCoy had nine. Nine! That's right, only in the fourth quarter with time dwindling and the game essentially out of reach, did Marty/Andy earnestly feed McCoy. If anyone has a suitable explanation as to why Shady got a mere nine touches in the first three quarters, when there was still plenty of time to get back in the game, but then ten in the fourth, I'm all ears. Marty Mornhinweg and Andy Reid, as game-planners and play-callers, either have warped senses of humor or are grossly incompetent.

I said multiple times in the week leading up this game that I'd stop watching the Eagles if Shady didn't get at least 25 touches against the Falcons. Truth is, I wanted that number to be closer to 30. I won't put my money where my mouth is just yet, but I'm getting to the same point of indifference that prompted me not to tune in for the final four games of last season. It's not like subjecting myself to this team is a fun and enjoyable way to spend three-plus hours anyway. I'd rather watch Red Zone Channel.

4) Offensive line. I haven't taken a look at the tape, but it didn't seem like the offensive line was a glaring handicap. At least not enough to be part of "The Bad." There were some breakdowns here and there, which happens, but I didn't find myself thinking that group is what crippled the Eagles. Vick wasn't getting pummeled on every dropback, plays weren't constantly screwed at the snap. In fact, the line started to get push in the running game on the second drive, behind Todd Herremans and Dennis Kelly on the right side in particular, but of course Marty/Andy never stuck with it. God forbid the run game should be relied upon.

The Bad

1) Marty and Andy. I just don't understand. The Eagles had success on the ground during their first scoring drive, ending it with five straight runs and a Shady touchdown. Then, on their next drive, after the Ryan-to-Jones 63-yard touchdown strike, the Eagles offense was faced with a 2nd and 2 at the Falcons 49 after getting into a bit of a rhythm. The handoff went to McCoy, who was stuffed for no gain. On the next play, instead of going back to the offense's best player and hoping the line could get enough of a push to pick up those two yards, Marty called for a quick pass over the middle that got batted away. On 4th and 2, with momentum hanging in the balance, Andy decided to punt. And by punt, I mean concede defeat. There is a time to trust your defense, but not when it's simulated butter and the opposing offense a hot knife. That was capitulation, LOSER FOOTBALL, plain and simple. Andy Reid gave up. The Eagles' only hope at that point was to maintain possession and get a score before the half, after which they were set to receive the ball to start the third quarter. Instead, Andy foolishly thought Todd Bowles' muddled and bewildered defense could get a stop. Why the fuck would he think that after seeing how the first three drives went? Have a pair of testicles and go for it, Andy. Why do you have to act like a gigantic pussy and go down like such a bitch? It's no shock the team follows that lead.

If it happens that Jeffrey Lurie is in pursuit of a new head coach this summer, I want him to present the above scenario as part of the interview. The candidates who think punting is the way to go should be eliminated from the search process immediately.

2) Pass rush. Yeah, the defense managed to end its drought by getting two second-half sacks (congratulations to Cedric Thornton on the first of his career), but pressure from the front seven was absent early in the game when the Falcons did all their damage. Naturally, when a defender did have a free run at Matt Ryan, he flew right by the quarterback, letting Ryan adroitly shuffle his feet, keep his eyes downfield, and buy extra time to make a play.

3) Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. A horror show for both players. DRC had perhaps his worst game as an Eagle from start to finish, littered with poor play, terrible penalties, and general apathy. Nnamdi tried to one-up his fellow starter and, in the play that might come to define his time as an Eagle, got burnt to a crisp by the speedy Julio Jones on a straight go route for a long touchdown. He didn't even try to get a jam on Jones at the line, reduced to fruitlessly chasing from behind as the Falcons' second-year star blew by and ran under a perfect throw from Matt Ryan. It brought back the "free agent bust" chorus that had quieted down a bit after Asomugha matched up so brilliantly against Calvin Johnson.

The Eagles pass defense as a whole, which had been the league's stingiest up to Sunday's game, was systemically picked apart by Matt Ryan. Oh, and Kurt Coleman bites so hard on every single pump fake and play action. I believe I'm being literal when I write "every," but he's not alone. Up next: A pissed off Drew Brees on Monday night.

4) Drops. There were a bunch, each more aggravating than its predecessor. Jeremy Maclin has made it an art to drop passes on third down and then complain to the officials that an undeserved flag should be thrown. But easily the most costly drop was that of Fletcher Cox, who had an easy pick-six on the second play of the game. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to hold onto the ball, and the Falcons used the next 14 plays to march down the field and score their first touchdown, setting the tone for domination.

5) The crowd. For the second straight game, the atmosphere inside the Linc was one of catatonia. Matt Ryan and friends never allowed the crowd to get involved, and for fans teetering on the edge, it didn't take much to make them lose faith. Streams of people began leaving the stadium once the Falcons scored their second touchdown with less than a minute to go in the first quarter. Call me crazy, but I don't think their departure had anything to do with the initial rains of Hurricane Sandy. Meanwhile, the fans who stayed incanted the first "Fire Andy" chants of the season.

The Ugly

1) The defense. I don't think this is what Todd Bowles had in mind for his debut as defensive coordinator. But it was Juan Castillo's fault, right? I saw some encouraging moments in the second half (including the two sacks), but this game was decided in the first 30 minutes when Bowles's unit put forth an utterly wretched display. Once again, no turnovers were forced, leaving the pitiful total at two in five games. Nobody makes any fucking plays. Overall, the Falcons' first six possessions yielded six scores -- three touchdowns followed by three field goals. So, what are the excuses now? We'll see in the coming weeks how Bowles operates in his new role and whether the defense can right the ship. Edit: Maybe implement a schematic tweak that focuses on taming the aggressiveness of the line -- which can't get to the quarterback as it is -- a bit so the defense isn't incessantly gashed by screens and short/dump off passes? I don't know, some ADJUSTMENT of any kind.

2) This. I know I harshly discredited anonymous sources in my previous article, but I can't do the same when the anonymous source is actually in the shit. Do I wish this anonymous player would've attached his name to these scathing words? Yes. But can I blame him for looking out for his own interests when he sees that no one is safe? No.

3) First quarter. I'd say the Eagles sure looked like a team that came out rejuvenated and ready to play. What a bunch of listless frauds. Presented to you, without further comment, are the first quarter stats for each team.

Falcons: 23 plays, 134 total yards, 14 points, 13:02 time of possession

Eagles: 4 plays, -3 yards, 0 points, 1:58 time of possession

4) Michael Vick's post-game press conference. First, Michael Vick didn't have a good day, and he didn't have a terrible day. He had a "blah" day, one that would've included a pick-six had Stephen Nicholas done his best D'Qwell Jackson impersonation and caught the ball thrown right into his hands. People say Vick has lost a step. Uh, he's lost at least a step, and playing behind this patchwork offensive line has exacerbated the issue. Mentally, he's cooked, too, as evidenced when he took the podium and announced he'd be okay if his job got taken away. On the list of things you want to hear from your quarterback, acceptance that he might get benched is last. What he said after the game can only be characterized one way. And for that, I'd like to call on the esteemed Homer J. Simpson: THAT'S LOSER TALK!!!! I don't think Vick's play is the reason for the Eagles' current malaise, but with that mindset, I don't want him starting at quarterback either. He certainly won't be part of the solution with that kind of self-sorry sulking. Sounds like the Nick Foles era is nearly upon us, though it's not like that move alone will solve what ails the Eagles.

5) Asante's post-game comments. I'd say this qualifies as shots fired. In addition to blasting Andy Reid (and Howie Roseman) to a swarm of reporters and cameras in front of his locker in the most Asante-like manner, Samuel dropped this quote that cut to the core:

"We got really good coaching. We run the ball. Time of possession is real good."

Real good, indeed. Why, he's only describing the offense I've lusted and pined for since... forever! One that controls the clock and dictates a game's flow. One that is built around the team's best player, LeSean McCoy. Asante, I think you're a selfish asshole, hate your style of play (your game IS in steep decline, by the way), and am happy you're no longer on the team -- but thanks for speaking the truth here. Even though the Falcons have morphed into a passing offense built around Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez, Dirk Koetter still shows commitment to running the ball with Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers. We're not talking about a formidable run game either, not like we've seen with the Falcons in years' past. Yet the coaches still believe in its viability as part of the offense. Can you imagine if the Eagles made a REAL commitment to the run? Perhaps this game wouldn't have been over late in the second quarter, when Marty/Andy refused to give Shady the ball on 3rd and 2 and 4th and 2, calling for a pass followed by a punt instead.

Schadenfreude moment of the day: Watching my man Jacquizz Rodgers tool on the Eagles defense during that 43-yard run of his late in the third quarter... and then finding out that it elicited a response of audible laughter in the press box.

Conclusion

This team is stupid, dysfunctional, and self-sabotaging. I really don't have much else to say, nor the energy and desire to expand upon what's already being said by everyone else. On Sunday, the Eagles were thoroughly outclassed and looked like a group that had quit, that was fractured beyond repair and headed for inevitable disaster. I said it in my Lions game recap article, and I reiterated it on Twitter early against the Falcons:

Say what you will about Andy Reid, but you cannot knock the man's record when he has two weeks to prepare for an opponent. In the regular season, his teams are an immaculate 13-0 after the bye week (and 3-0 in the playoffs). I'd like to think this means the Eagles will be ready to go against the undefeated Falcons the weekend before Halloween. Then again, that game could end up being a damning indication Reid has lost his touch and is nearing the end of his tenure as head coach here in Philadelphia.

Well, looks like we're there. If you can't believe in Andy after the bye, what about him can you believe in anymore?

All the coaches and players do is talk. Talk, talk, talk. Spewing the same rehearsed and empty rhetoric. And they never back it up. The delusion is so ingrained at a foundational level that it might not be correctable without a full purge. You know the worst part? I actually think last year's sad excuse for a team was better than this one.

After the bye week, the thinking was that this season could go one of two ways. The team could be galvanized and come together, or the players could lose faith entirely and begin a death spiral. Right now, the latter option seems to be prevailing. Yet for all the doom and gloom, I wouldn't say this is rock bottom. Sure, it may have looked and felt like rock bottom, but it can't be. Why not? This team, no matter how hopeless things seem right now, remains 3-4 and one win away from being back in the thick of the Wild Card race. Pretty remarkable to consider, since popular opinion is that the season is over. Now, if the Eagles go into New Orleans and lay another egg, against that historically horrendous Saints defense (first ever to give up 400+ yards of offense in seven consecutive games), then it'll probably be appropriate to declare the 2012 season -- and the Andy Reid era -- dead.

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