Every four years, for one Sunday I live in a household divided. My love is a Steelers fan, and this past Sunday was the long awaited battle for bragging rights. I didn’t make out so well this year. A close, hard fought game went against the Eagles and there were a few things to pick out of the rubble of the loss that drops them to 3-2 on the year.
- Vick had two more fumbles on Sunday including one that cost the Eagles a TD in the close game. Most worrisome is how lightly he gets hit when he coughs up the ball. I’m not sure why the Eagles keep calling for QB draws near the goal line. I wish they’d just give McCoy the ball in these situations.
- Last year the Eagles led the NFL in sacks, but went a second straight game without recording one on Sunday. Overall, the defensive line got reasonable pressure on Roethlisberger and forced at least 4 holding calls on his offensive line. Hard to criticize a defence that gives up 16 points, but a few big sacks would have helped. It’s starting to be apparent that opponents are calling more quick passes and/or leaving in an extra blocker for protection which means the d-line play is having an impact even if the sack totals are down.
- Three small criticisms of the defence in an otherwise strong performance: (1) their inability to get the Steelers off the field on a number of crucial 3rd downs in the 4th quarter (though, to be fair, the Steelers lead the NFL in 3rd down efficiency); (2) Asomugha having a weak performance in the first half while being beaten off the line of scrimmage in what is a bit of a troubling pattern this year; (3) difficulty in stopping the run in the 4th quarter – this led to the Steelers being able to run the clock out for the last second game winning FG.
- Special teams – There were some improvements in kick coverage with the return of Colt Anderson, but the special teams overall are still poor. The punting has been inconsistent at best and the return games have been non-existent.
- General inconsistencies on offence – The Eagles are one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. Certainly the turnovers are hurting their output. But this team just isn’t “clicking”. Aside from McCoy, there isn’t someone who’s always there for the big play when its needed. DJax and Maclin have been fading in and fading out. Celek has been up and down. The offensive line has been just ok, but they miss some blocks that would turn a short run into something longer. This isn’t a timing offence and is lacking in big play production.
- I loved the two gambles on 4th down (including on 4th and 1 from their own 30) in the 4th quarter. Seeing the Eagles playing to win games is refreshing. The two gambles and some steady play from Vick on that drive had the team up by 1 late in the 4th
Tough to see the loss in a game that they could have won, but they still end the week on top of the NFC East.
Elsewhere, here are a few things I saw this week:
- The Arizona o-line had the worst of a string of bad o-line performances in prime time games. That performance cost them the win at St. Louis. Even a mildly bad performance would have secured a win.
- Don’t look now, but the Patriots are a running team. I love what they’ve been doing in their hurry-up offence. They’re snapping the ball with 25 seconds left on the play clock and many times they’re running right up the middle.
- Atlanta and Baltimore both won games on Sunday that in years past they would have lost. Atlanta outlasted Washington outdoors in poor weather and Baltimore found a way to win 9-6 over KC in a classic trap game. That bodes well for both teams.
- The Panthers, with all kinds of off-season hype, are really looking like one of the worst 3-4 teams in the league. They have no flow on offence and a QB who looks lost in his second year. Newton had a receiver open about 10 yards away in the end zone for a late go-ahead TD pass and drilled the ball into the ground about 5 yards in front of him.