Sept. 23, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Daryl Washington (58) and outside linebacker Sam Acho (94) sack Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) in the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Eagles 27 - 6. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE
What was there to like most about this game? For Eagles fans, it is probably that is is over.
The Eagles were a complete no-show in Arizona yesterday and put up zero fight in their 27-6 loss to the Cardinals. It was hard to watch, and unlike other weeks where a comeback seemed possible, it was hard to have any faith that would happen by halftime.
Here is What I Liked and What I Didn't Like from yesterday's game:
What I Liked:
Brandon Graham: Brandon Graham has slowly seen his playing time increase week by week, and it's easy to see why. Graham was all over the field against Arizona, finishing with 3 tackles and half a sack. Everyone knows it was a big year for the former 1st round pick, and unlike Jaiquawn Jarrett, Graham is doing everything he can to remove the "bust" label. His playing time should only continue to grow.
Kevin Kolb: Any Eagles fan will tell you it's hard to root for a player on the other team, but you had to feel good for Kolb after he beat the Eagles at home. Kolb didn't earn all of the money Arizona gave him with the one win, but he did his job and likely has taken the starting job back from John Skelton. Kolb didn't force anything, was smart with the ball, and took what the Eagles gave him. He also benefited from a great game plan by the Cardinals coaching staff.
Bryce Brown: Brown had a really bad drop against the Cardinals, but he also showed flashes of what made the Eagles keep him on the roster. Brown had 4 carries for 28 yards, including a long run in the 3rd quarter for 17. Reid will never run the ball enough to really have a 2-back system, but Brown is clearly this teams 2nd best running back.
Still 2-1: There is no doubt about it- the loss against the Cardinals was a bad one. But at the end of the day, the Eagles still stand at 2-1 and tied for the division lead. On the same day the Eagles got smoked by the Cardinals, the San Francisco 49ers got beaten pretty bad by the Minnesota Vikings. Bad losses are going to happen. But the good news is that by pulling out wins against the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens, the Eagles allowed themselves to take a loss like this and not have it ruin the season. This loss puts more pressure on the upcoming game with the Giants, but it does not mean Vick should be benched or Reid should be fired. It was a bad loss, but it is still this teams only loss in the first three games- which at the end of the day, is not a horrible thing.
What I Didn't Like:
DeSean Jackson: To me, the game turned on one play- DeSean Jackson avoiding contact right before the end of the half. The Eagles were already down 17-0, but were closing in on a touchdown. Vick hit Jackson in stride at the 2 yard line- but Jackson ducked and braced for contact about 3 seconds before any came. Could Jackson have made it into the endzone if he would have kept running? We'll never know. But it sure looks like he would have. A touchdown there would have made it a 10 point game and allowed the Eagles to go into the half with the momentum. Instead, 3 plays later, the Cardinals all but ended the game by returning a fumble for a touchdown. After taking a big hit last week against the Ravens, it's not fair to completely question Jackson's toughness. But ask yourself this: Do the Eagles score on that play if Maclin catches it at the 2 and not Jackson?
Michael Vick: It's hard to fully put the blame on Vick for this loss- the offensive line was awful, and he had pressure in his face the entire game. Vick actually played worse against the Browns, but this game was out of hand before he had a chance to lead the team back. But while Vick didn't make any awful throws or take any really bad sacks, he did not do what a franchise quarterback is supposed to do- get the game under control. Things snowballed on the Eagles early in Arizona, and Vick was no where to be seen trying to stop it. Part of that is game planning, but moments like that are when true leaders step up. Vick didn't have to calm things down by making a big play, but just by slowing down the Cardinals momentum. Instead, he just continued to be reckless with the ball and fumbled it twice.
Damaris Johnson: It's time to get DeSean Jackson back out there in punt returns. Johnson hasn't shown much through 3 games- except poor judgement when it comes to deciding whether or not to field the ball. His fumble yesterday killed what little momentum the Eagles had going after the defense forced the Cardinals into a 3-and-out. DeSean Jackson is one of the best punt returners in the game and needs to be back there.
Gameplan: With Adrian Wilson out, it was a foregone conclusion that Reid was going to throw the ball. But 25 first half runs to only 5 runs is not the way you silent a loud home crowd. With the offensive line struggling early, Reid did nothing to help them by continuing to have Vick drop back. It is an interesting question to ask: Why is it when the defense struggles, Juan Castillo gets all the blame- but when the offense does, Marty Mornhinweg seems to escape the wrath of the fans? Yes, Andy Reid is more involved in the offense than the defense- but Mornhinweg needs to do a better job on gameday of adjusting.
Nnamdi Asomugha: It's clear that there was a breakdown in communication on the 37 yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald in the 2nd quarter- but what is Nnamdi Asomugha doing just leaving Fitzgerald? I understand he expected help over the top, but when that help wasn't there- and with no body else around him- why would Asomugha leave the Cardinals best wideout? Kurt Coleman, Juan Castillo and Todd Bowles all deserve a piece of the blame, but I still put that touchdown on Asomugha.
Burning a Timeout Between Quarters: There have been plenty of material for the straight to DVD "Andy Reid's Guide to Mismanaging Timeouts", but using one between quarters has to be up there. Not only did it show the how confused and unprepared the Eagles were, but it also cost them points at the end of the half. Michael Vick deserves a good portion of the blame on this one as well, as he needs to get the team out of the huddle quicker if he is going to adjust the play at the line. But it's still Reid's responsibility to manage the timeouts and get his team ready to play- things he clearly didn't do yesterday.
Redzone Offense Before Half: The Eagles finally were moving the ball against the Cardinals, and had it on the 1 yard line and fresh set of downs right before the half- but with only 16 seconds left on the clock. Because they had no timeouts left, Reid had to make a call- does he throw the ball to conserve time, or run it once and rush the FG unit out? Given how the passing game has been in the redzone so far this season, I would have rather seen McCoy run the ball once there and then rush out the field goal team. McCoy is maybe the best redzone back in the game, and has shown time and time again he has a knack for getting it into the endzone. Reid running a play with 6 seconds to go showed he clearly was not overly concerned with making sure they attempted a field goal- so run the ball with your best weapon from the one yard line.
Team Attitude: It's important not to overreact after a tough loss like the Eagles suffered against the Cardinals- but if there was one thing to be concerned about watching the game yesterday, it was the lack of fight the team showed. The Eagles got their first 2 wins this season by not giving up despite a rough start to both games. The deficit was bigger against the Cardinals, but that was no excuse to stop fighting. The Eagles lacked urgency in the 2nd half and anyone watching the game could see they gave up. The Eagles can overcome one bad loss, but if the Eagles showed their true colors as a team yesterday by giving up, this team really is in trouble.
Follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks