Week 15 Report Card: Eagles suffer major letdown by falling into the trap

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Much like last week's edition, this will review will follow a different format.

Well, that was extremely unfortunate. After five weeks of extremely impressive performances and all-around improving play, the Eagles faltered in what may be the team's worst loss of the season. An eight-week-long stranglehold on opposing offensives was lifted in embarrassing fashion by the Philadelphia defense that allowed two forgotten former Pro Bowl players (Greg Jennings and Matt Cassel) to own the the play clock and keep control of the scoreboard, all while keeping the Eagles offense off of the field.

Adding to the Eagles defensive woes, was the seemingly unusual decision-making of Nick Foles and futile coaching decisions by Chip Kelly and his staff. The NFL's top rusher, LeSean McCoy, was only given eight carries, while averaging nearly five yards per carry despite two one-yard first-down conversion fails. Foles threw 48 times, while completing 30 passes for 428 yards, three touchdowns and one interceptions. If someone had not watched the game, they would likely think that was a strong performance, but really Foles was great for 10 minutes between the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth while being pretty mediocre for a majority of the contest. Some may say that his and the offense's rhythm were thrown off by the defense's inability to stop the Vikings, but Foles deserves credit for looking hesitant in the pocket, making genuinely poor decisions at critical points in the game and holding on to the ball for waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long.

In a game that did not feature the Vikings best player, Adrian Peterson, the Eagles essentially failed to do anything they had established in the previous five contests. The defense allowed 48 points which was more than double of any score the unit gave up over the last eight games, the normally-strong decision-making Foles looked indecisive and Kelly looked outwitted by a coach that will likely receive a pink slip in a few weeks. This was an entire team loss in every sense of the term.

Since there was so much bad mojo in this contest, the HOT and NOT will not be part of this column. Frankly, this is a game that will be hard to re-watch for any Eagles fan, especially those who bragged to their co-workers about an easy win. This was a very, very bad loss.

The main issue on Sunday was obviously the secondary. Pat Chung was benched immediately after allowing the game's opening touchdown to Jennings on a long ball. Chung was beat badly and not even recovery help from Nate Allen (who was one the other side of the field) could save the score. The former Patriot unfortunately only was on the bench for a little more than a quarter due to an injury to former starter Kurt Coleman. The Eagles were not a ton better with Coleman in the lineup, but they were able to takeaway the long pass for a few minutes and hold the running game in check for the most part.

Cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher were roasted by the Vikings entire wide receiver group. From Jennings to Jarius Wright to even third-string tight end (and former Eagle) Chad Ford, Philadelphia's defense failed to stop anyone. Billy Davis seemingly had no answer for Bill Musgrave's play-calling and even the pretty solid front seven was unsuccessful in stopping third-string running back Matt Asiata from putting up three rushing scores.

On special teams, kicker Alex Henery had his best game in two seasons, while nailing three field goals, which included a career high-tying 51-yard field goal. Unfortunately for Henery, special team coach Dave Fipp or possibly even Kelly ordered the kicker play target practice with the 30-40 yard lines of the Vikings on kickoffs to avoid Cordarrelle Patterson. This seemed like a good idea on the first two kickoffs, but once the Vikings proved they could take advantage of the short field, it was definitely time to re-think that strategy. The decision to not adjust likely cost the Eagles the game, as the defense clearly could not stop Minnesota.

As previously mentioned, Foles seemed very human on Sunday. While most people would take his stats on a bad day as a very solid showing, the decision-making in this game was concerning. That is not to say Michael Vick would have won this game or any other quarterback with a defense giving up 48 points, but it was notable. The run game was underutilized against a terrible run defense, which was puzzling to say the least. However, it should be noted that wide receiver DeSean Jackson and tight end Zach Ertz had impeccable second half performances. Ertz recovered from a first drive drop and performed admirably while securing one of the nicest touchdown catches you will ever see. Jackson was electric on and off of the field, while collecting 10 catches for 195 yards. He did not actively pursue Shaun Prater on Foles' interception and got into a heated exchange with Jason Avant and the Eagles wide receiver coach. As mentioned before, everyone had a hand in this loss.

Kelly made some interesting and unsuccessful calls including an oddly-timed 4th-and-1 attempt well-inside the Eagles own territory, perhaps one of the most foolish challenges ever that followed a pretty bad non-challenge and a timeout on a two-point conversion attempt. There was also the idea of quitting on the run and the whole kickoff deployment thing. It was not Kelly's best game and at time the Eagles seemed pretty desperate with their play-calling. This is not to say Kelly should be thrown to the wolves, but it was likely just "one of those games" for the entire team.

There are a few players that should singled out for their promising performances on Sunday. Along with Ertz, Henery and Jackson, linebacker Mychal Kendricks and defensive end Cedric Thornton both played very well. Thornton was a monster against the run as usual, while Kendricks secured an interception and a sack. Connor Barwin and DeMeco Ryans also had their moments.

Overall, this is one game the Eagles will likely want back, but in the scheme of the playoff hunt actually means little. The Cowboys gifted the Packers a 37-36 comeback win on Sunday afternoon, which has be one of the biggest meltdown losses in the history of the franchise, considering they were up 26-3 in the third quarter. The Eagles are now back where they started prior to the Vikings game with a one-game lead over the Cowboys for the NFC East. If the Redskins beat the Cowboys in Week 16, the Eagles can clinch the division with a victory over the Bears on Sunday Night Football.

A 48-30 loss to the Vikings looks awful on paper, but it is really just a flesh wound due to the Dallas failure. The Eagles can fix a ton of the issues from Sunday (absent the secondary, yikes!) and will likely be more motivated than ever. Philadelphia controls its own destiny and that is really all they could ask for heading into Week 16.

Miscellaneous Musings

  • A few of my colleagues noticed a lot of Foles hate on the Philly.com and several other message boards along with Twitter on Sunday. That is really unfortunate when you look at the season and even the game as a whole. He was mediocre, but really, his performance was better than at least 10-14 of his fellow NFL starters best days this season. Calm down, it's one game. All of his mistakes are fixable and he has the right attitude to fix them. Having said that, they do need to be fixed moving forward.
  • Let's give a lot of credit to the Vikings. This was not an easy task on paper and without Peterson, seemed extremely daunting. Musgrave and Frazier called a fantastic game and their talent has yet to quit on them, despite their front office likely having the desire to move on. The Vikings are not as bad as their record and neither is Cassel.
  • I hate to say I told you so, but I felt this loss coming for a few days. I had mentioned it on Twitter and BGN Radio. This felt like San Diego. Over-confident fanbase and underrated competition equal a tough loss.
  • The Eagles decision to not allow Brad Smith to take kick returns could cost them a very good nickelback in Brandon Boykin. I am not aware of the status of his injury, but it literally made no sense to have essentially a starter continue to return kicks when Smith is on the roster. After Boykin went down, Smith had a 44-yard return, as if to say "duh, bro!"
  • Taunting penalties are probably the most subjective of all punishments. On both sides the call was made on players, and neither call seemed to be all that correct from a televised perspective. I was not impressed with the refereeing in this game and I have not been all season. I said this on Twitter, but it bares repeating. It is almost as if the Miami-Ohio State National Championship crew has been alternating with the Steelers-Seahawks Super Bowl referees for every game this season. Those are the two worst refereed games that I have ever seen (or at least recall off the top of my head in an empty airport in Ft. Lauderdale at 4:36 a.m.).
  • Sunday was definitely scary, but there were some alarming tweets on Sunday by fans, writers and Bleacher Report "journalists" alike. I won't reveal this guy's name, but he speculated that Kelly's seat should have been warm, even prior to Sunday's game. Apparently setting tons of franchise records, doubling the previous regime's record from last season and winning five-straight games for the first time in years qualifies as crappy employee conduct. Listen, I am no stranger to having typos or jumping to conclusions or misinterpreting a stat, but if you are paid to write at least make sure you can justify your comments. The sentiment that this writer used doesn't even make sense, unless he wrote Kelly's name instead of Tom Coughlin's or Mike Shanahan's or the current head writer of Doctor Who.
  • A lot of people are going to say the Eagles took the Vikings lightly and that may be the case, but I do not see it that way. I think it was clearly just a really bad day at the office. It happens, especially to Tony Romo. Look, the Rams with Kellen Clemens beat Drew Brees and the Saints, while the Dolphins upset the Patriots. This is happens all the time because the NFL is ultimate parity-driven league. That is why it is so great. Any given Sunday and whatnot.
  • Those who follow me on Twitter know that this weekend was a very successful and special one for myself and my personal life, and I wanted to thank all of you that sent me messages and emails over the last few days. I am very transparent and open to talking about my non-football endeavors, as most know from BGN Radio and Twitter, but the overwhelming non-Eagles or BGN-related support I got from you guys was awesome. I appreciate the love and return it to you. BGN Radio has been a real success for John, Brandon, James and I, and we are really excited to be giving back to you guys over the next several months and hopefully years. Thanks again for all the support.

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