Eagles and NFL in review – Week 3

There really isn’t much positive to say about the Eagles loss to Arizona.  As a fan, all you can hope for is that it’s just “one of those games”.  Now three games into the year, I’m not so sure this is a one-off performance, especially on the offensive side of the ball.  There were a number of worrying signs:

  1. Michael Vick – I said at the start of the season that I expected this year to be a referendum on his future tenure as QB and so far it’s not going well.  The two 4th quarter comebacks notwithstanding, he’s still making the same poor reads, he’s holding onto the ball far too long and he’s a turnover machine.  Vick will always be a high risk / high reward type QB.  Those tend not to be the guys you win championships with.   His durability also has to be called into question.  He was hit more than 15 times against Arizona and more than half of those were his own fault.  His performance vs. the blitz was awful.  Top QBs welcome the blitz and make big plays.  Vick was 5/21 and sacked twice when blizted.
  2. Offensive line – Devastated by injuries, they’re effectively on their 3rd string LT, and have another backup in at C.  The line wasn’t terrible on Sunday, but there were breakdowns in protection and mistakes in getting out blocking in front of screen plays from the new guys on the line.  What was a strength last year is now a liability and Vick and this offence is not engineered to be successful without exceptionally strong protection and run blocking.
  3. Coaching decisions (also known as “The Andy Reid Greatest Hits Collection”) – A story of the Andy Reid tenure in Philly is that of questionable game management tactics.  The first was allowing an error prone Vick to attempt a TD pass with 0:07 left in the first half rather than kicking a field goal.  With a QB you can trust this isn’t a big deal – with Vick, we saw the result: fumble and a Cardinals TD the other way effectively sealing the outcome.  The second questionable decision was toward the end of the 3rd quarter with the Eagles down 3 scores, the Eagles kicked a field goal (leaving it still a 3 possession game) rather than going for it on 4th and 5.  Far too tentative a decision given the game score and time remaining.  The third item was the pass-run balance in the first half.  McCoy hardly saw the ball while Vick continued to get drilled on almost every drop back.  Lastly, Reid had to inexcusably burn a timeout at the start of the 2nd quarter (coming out of a long TV timeout).  That missing timeout led to the Eagles having to call 3 pass plays in the last 0:16 with no threat of a run.  The Cardinals used that to blitz Vick creating the game changing fumble/TD.
  4. Turnovers and generally sloppiness – Another unfortunate story of the Andy Reid tenure is that his teams do not play crisp, mistake free football.   Three turnovers (oddly, the fewest they’ve had in a game this year – not a good sign) killed any chance of a win.    There were plenty of mental mistakes (for example, DJax complaining to an official for a flag and not running a route to completion cost the Eagles a long pass play).   The offence lacks precision.  I’m not sure the pure talent of this team can carry them given all of the mistakes.  This isn’t just a 3 game problem – it’s been like this since Vick’s arrival.

Putting the loss in perspective, the Eagles are 2-1 and tied for first in the NFC East with a huge game coming up next week against the Giants.  However, there are strong signs that this team’s makeup on offence may not be good enough for a deep playoff push.

Elsewhere, here are a few things that caught my eye this week:

  • That was perhaps the best week of football since I’ve had Sunday Ticket / RedZone.  The OT games, crazy plays, upsets and comebacks made for a great afternoon.
  • The Giants look very deep.  Their win over the Panthers was one of the most one-sided games I’ve seen in a while.  The fact they did that missing 2 out of 3 of their top WRs, their starting RB and a starting offensive lineman was really impressive.
  • After watching the past 2 Ravens games start to finish, they’re looking very susceptible to the pass.  If you can stay away from Ed Reed and give your QB a bit of time to throw, their secondary and LBs don’t look good in coverage.
  • Speaking of the Ravens, the Ravens-Patriots game was played in almost a lawless state.  Even with all of the penalties called, there were probably another 10-15 that could have been whistled.  Those two teams played mean, had no respect for the officials, and turned in one of the most fascinating games this year to watch.
  • The Steelers lost a game they should have won, mostly due to their defence being inept in the second half.  The injuries/age are might be finally showing.  Without Polamalu and Harrison they’re not the same and play relatively vanilla coverages.  They’re also not getting much pressure on QBs.  That’s a bad combination.  They made Carson Palmer look like Brady yesterday and that’s hard to do.
  • The replacement officials turned in another bad week.  (UPDATE on Tuesday – I wrote this before the calamity that was the game ending call in the Packers-Seahawks game.  The first definitive call that changed a game’s outcome.  Terrible.) Games are running long due to indecision, there’s massive consistency issues and the number of times there have been hits to the head that went without penalty is becoming worrisome (the missed call in the Steelers game on the play that sent someone to the hospital was perhaps the worst of the year so far)
  • The Saints continue to look lost without their head coach.  The offensive creativity isn’t there anymore.  Their second half performance against the Chiefs was probably the worst I’ve seen them play at home since Brees arrived.  Their defence got shredded by the run.   This is a team that has overestimated the talent they have, especially on defence.  They’re in a lot of trouble at 0-3.
  • I really like Houston’s toughness this year.  This is a team that can pass, run, kick, play defence and can win in multiple ways.  For me, they’re way out in front as the early AFC favourite.
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