1. Sam Bradford
The leader looks bad when things go badly and Sam was the face of failure in the first half. The Eagles were unable to move the ball at all, except for two isolated explosion plays -- DeMarco Murray's 30-yard run, and Nelson Agholor's 45-yard one-handed catch.
But Sam played a very good game, as I broke down here, with a quarterback rating of 122.6 He was hounded by a blistering pass rush, especially in the first half, and even there he showed good escapability. Twice he broke tackles to thrown long downfield. One was over an open Riley Cooper's head, the other was the touchdown to Celek. He also had a nice 14-yard scramble for a first down, with a perfectly executed slide at the end. FINALLY!
Admittedly, I write this not having seen the All-22 so he may have missed some open receivers. But generally speaking, Bradford made big plays and avoided turnovers. Even his missed throws were generally solid, such as the bullet in the end zone just out of Ertz' reach in the end zone with 9:07 left in the third, or wise throw-aways. He had an outstanding throw to Ertz for a TD in the first half, which was called back due to a rookie formation mistake by Agholor (who failed to cover the tackle).
There were just four passes out of 31 that I thought were poor -- two deep overthrows to Matthews that would have been touchdowns, and two short passes to Sproles -- both of which Darren should have caught anyway.
Did Bradford "fail to move the team" on drives? I suppose, but I don't see how it was his fault. Did he cause the OL to block poorly, invigorate Washington's pass rush, or make Agholor fumble the reverse?
The game turned on the Eagles "four minute offense" drive that began with 11:26 left in the fourth and a 20-16 lead. The team could have run more time off the clock after the 5th and 6th plays, but Bradford "moved the team" 34 yards despite a holding penalty. Sam threw behind Sproles on the final 3rd down, but the RB had it in his hands and shares responsibility.
The real killer was the holding penalty against Celek on the drive's fourth play. The pass-to-run strategy was working after 3 TDs in the second half, as the Eagles ripped off consecutive runs of nine, six and eight yards by Ryan Mathews. But the third run was called back by the hold and Bradford was forced to throw. Even then he got 12 yards right back with a toss to Austin, but the Birds were "behind in the count" and couldn't get the first down.
2. Lack of turnovers
I don't count the "fumble" (more like an intercepted pass) on the final multi-lateral play. Curses on the Cal Bears for encouraging coaches to try that ridiculous maneuver again and again. I'd rather see a solid pass up the middle to Agholor or Ertz at the 30, giving them a chance to run it in.
Otherwise, the Eagles did a good job of protecting the ball. When Bradford threw two interceptions in the first two games, that was a disaster, because Chip picked him in large part for his extraordinary record in protecting the ball. Now he seems to have cleaned that up. The Eagles run a lot of ball protection drills and they seem to be paying off.
3. Going Deep
The Eagles were unable to sustain a drive, so Chip made a smart adjustment -- go for the home run. Starting with Agholor's 45-yard catch, Bradford went deep again and again, hitting half of them to turn the game around and finally demonstrate some of his big-arm potential.
Four Eagles caught passes of 30 or more yards, including forgotten elders Miles Austin and Riley Cooper. These were not just catch-and-run checkdowns to Sproles, but balls in the air for 30, 40, 55 yards. Not only was it effective, it was a tremendous morale booster for fans and players alike.
It was also part of the time of possession imbalance, as the Eagles scored on drives of 3:06 (80 yards), 1:33 (56 yards) and 0:21 (58 yards). I don't have a problem with that.
4. Run defense
The Eagles gave up one disastrous play early, a 3rd-down draw that went for 42 yards. That yardage is on the ILBs and safeties who should have limited it to maybe 10 yards, more than the front line.
Otherwise, Washington got 85 yards on 31 plays, 2.74 yards per play. That's with 3 top DL out injured, defending 79 plays in a game. Awesome.
5. Red zone defense
Based in part on that stoutness in the ground game, the Eagles continued their excellent RZ defense this year. They held Washington to field goals on three of five deep drives (counting the one that stalled at the 20) and rank 7th among the NFL's best red zone defenses.
1. Caleb Sturgis (the guy who tried to be the kicker)
He missed a 33-yard field goal, then an extra point (which is the same distance). That's four points that should have been automatic. The Eagles lost by three. The only good thing to say is that he got three touchbacks on four kickoffs.
Sadly, the Eagles are probably stuck with him, as several teams are scrambling for kickers and the Birds have already kicked the tires on the alternatives. The problem around the league seems to be handling pressure, not leg strength. Is there some soccer player who became a Buddhist monk, anywhere in the world? Seems like there must be.
Time of Possession Number of Defensive Plays
Chip Kelly is not wrong about how worthless time of possession is as a statistic -- unless you are going to delete huddle time from that number. But his preferred stat, number of plays, shows the disadvantage this defense was under. They faced 79 plays, while Washington only had to defend
27 52 [math is hard!]. That puts them under tremendous pressure especially when you factor in ....
It was bad before, and it's worse now. Key players Jason Peters, Byron Maxwell, Mychal Kendricks, and Brandon Bair played just 6, 7, 11, and 17 snaps before they had to leave. Eric Rowe had a rougher day then he did in game 3, nothing unusual for a rookie but nothing outstanding like his defense of the Jet's Devin Smith either.
4. Defensive playmaking
Brandon Graham had a great strip on Jordan Reed, pulling out the ball which rookie Jordan Hicks (of course) caught in mid-air. Fantastic play -- and the only big play all game on defense.
I get that the D was appropriately tired -- at the end of the game, when they had faced 79 plays. But they would have faced fewer had they come up with an interception, another fumble or more than a single sack earlier in the game.
In this system, the linebackers and DBs are expected to make the big plays, and they came up short. DeMeco Ryans is a great leader but just isn't fast enough to shine much anymore. Jordan Hicks is still a rookie, overachiever that he is, and Brandon Graham is adjusting to a new position.
Connor Barwin has been way too quiet this year, with just 2 sacks so far. Then again, he started slow last year too, with only one sack in the first four games before ending up with 14.5. So you could argue he's on pace for 29 sacks, if you want to be ridiculous. But this team needs him to step up sooner rather than later.
5. Chip's excuses
When Chip successfully lobbied to become GM as well as coach, he put it all on his shoulders and seemed to embrace that responsibility. Now he's blaming "execution," arguing that his schemes and the personnel that he chose are fine.
That's very disappointing, as well as wrong. This team clearly lacks talent. depth and health at several positions, and the schemes are not working. There are a couple of plays that you can fairly blame on execution, such as Agholor's fumble on the reverse -- a play that otherwise was set up for a big gain.
If you're wondering why Chip called the reverse to Agholor, here's why. Looked like a big play waiting to happen. pic.twitter.com/0BY0nBh1jk— Josh Paunil (@JoshPaunil) October 5, 2015
In general though, if your players can't execute your scheme time after time, then you have the wrong scheme. Period. Chip needs to take responsibility here or he risks losing the player's trust. And his job.
UPDATE: Corrected my stupid math error on the number of plays. h/t to EastonAssassin63 for catching it.