I'll admit. I don't know a quarter of what Andy Reid knows about football. I don't see the film he sees, I don't get the reports he gets, I don't know the players like he knows them. Football can be a complicated game, but at it's core it's pretty simple. You see something in a game and you adjust to it. You react. I have a few examples.
Winston Justice - When you have a kid making his NFL debut against a pro bowl pass rusher, you can't play as if your pro bowl left tackle is still in the game. Time after time after time Osi Umenyoria beat Winston Justice and sacked McNabb. He ended up with 6 sacks, not all were when he was on Justice, but most were(probably 4). Even when he wasn't getting sacks he was putting pressure on nearly every play. So, if you're a coach and you see that happening don't you do something about it? Don't you put a TE or RB over there to help the kid out? This isn't a new or experimental concept or anything... teams do this all the time against good pass rushers. They chip them, they double team them, they generally do anything other than let them tee off one on one with a single blocker. But did the Eagles give Winston Justice ANY help at all? Not from what I saw. Every replay of every Umenyoria sack or pressure showed Winston Justice getting beat one on one. That's a poor job from the sidelines. No doubt Winston Justice has to step and play better than he did, but like I've said several times this year the coaches have to put guys in a position to be successful. And when you have a kid struggling bigtime in his NFL debut you don't give him some help you aren;t putting him or your team in a position to be successful. Madden said it all at the end of the game. "Not giving Justice some help over there blocking Umenyoria is just asking for trouble." In fact, at one point Madden was almost pleading with Reid to give Justice help, seemingly just feeling bad for the kid. It's just flat out bad coaching. A good coach sees what's happening on the field and adjusts. Andy Reid did not do that tonight.
On the offensive side of the ball, it's the same old story. Like I said, football is pretty simple. ;Some things work and some things don't. Let's not even look at the run pass ratio at the end of the game. For most of the second half the Eagles were chasing the game and had to throw a lot. However, at the half it was only 7-0. So let's look at the stats going into the half. Buckhalter had 66 yards on an average of 7.3 a carry. McNabb had 44 yards passing on 3.4 yards an attempt... yet McNabb has dropped back to pass twice as many times as Buck was been handed the ball. It just makes no sense. The running game was working. The stats don't lie, it was working. The passing game was not. Yet this team simply can not stick with the run. Instead of saying, the run is working and the pass is not so let's stick with what is working... they look at the situation and say, let's just keep passing until it finally works. Again, it's a case of seeing what is happening on the field and not adjusting to it. For fun let's just check out the final stats... Buckhalter - 17 carries for 103 yards, 6.1 average. McNabb - 16 of 32 for 138 yards, 4.3 an attempt. In total, it was 19 runs plays and 48 pass plays.
One more thing about the run... What's the best way to beat a team that's constantly blitzing you? You run right at them. In fact, the few times the Eagles did run tonight Buckhalter often ran right by the New York blitz. Again, this is nothing new. It's fairly standard practice in the NFL, you run right at the pass rusher. If you constantly pound the run at a big time pass rusher, you force him to think twice about going after the QB. That slows him up, alters his decision making process, and can often neutralize him. Too may times you could see Umenyoria & several other Giants pass rushers not even bothering to see whether the Eagles were running or passing. Specifically, Umenyoria was beating Justice with a bullrush with his head down! If the Eagles had run at him on the those plays, Buckhalter would been 5 yards pass the line of scrimmage before Osi ever looked up. The Giants pass rushers were free to tee off and blitz because there was no threat of the Eagles running at that blitz. How many times last year did we see teams abuse the Eagles blitzing defense by running right at them? I ask once again, where was the adjustment? Why is our coach not seeing what's on the field and reacting to it? It's like he has his game plan and it doesn't matter what the other team does. It doesn't seem to matter even whether that game plan is working or not.
Then, there's the penalties. It's very simple, teams who have more penalty yards than offensive yards(which the Eagles did well into the 3rd quarter) do not win games. This 15 penalties for 153 yards showing tonight was embarrassing and it has to fall on the coaching staff. TO put it in perspective, the team had only 5 more passing yards than penalty yards! When penalties become a team wide epidemic like they were tonight, you can only blame it on the coaches. It's not like it was one player, everyone looked unfocused and unprepared. They ran the gamut of penalties; offsides, illegal formations, facemasks, holds, illegal forward pass... That's just inexcusable in a game where you fighting to get back to .500 and stay out of the NFC East basement.
The injuries DID matter. Finally, and I hate to sound like I'm making excuses here... but the injuries really did have a dramatic impact on this team and this game. Obviously, when the offense only scores 3 points it's easy to see how Brian Westbrook could have changed that. Maybe even more obviously is that Osi Umenyoria doesn't get 6 sacks when he's lined up against a healthy William Thomas. No has ever done to Thomas what was done to Justice tonight. Plus, we saw Will James get beat deep and commit an interference penalty... you have to assume that shouldn't happen with pro bowl CB Lito Sheppard in there. In a game that the Giants dominated throughly, but only managed 10 points on offense... it's not crazy to think how those few guys healthy could have changed things. Unfortunately, we'll never know.
I'll have more thoughts on this game tomorrow, but I think this is enough to chew on for now.