Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Eagles-Bears: A Post-Mortem

Didn't get a chance to write up a game report from the Eagles' 24 - 20 loss to the Chicago Bears last Sunday night, but I did want to mention a couple of pertinent things to take away from the game.

In short, the game against the Bears represents a missed opportunity on a couple of levels. It was a winnable road game that would have nicely position the Eagles for the 2nd quarter of their schedule. Unfortunately, there is not much to be done about it now, but to break down what went right and what went wrong.

Offense. 1.) I felt that Donovan McNabb actually had about as good of a game as you're going to have when you're missing your best wide receiver, your best running back/offensive weapon, and your starting tight end. In going 25 for 41 for 262 yards and a touchdown, you can't lay this loss at McNabb's feet. He spread the ball to an astounding 9 different receivers.

2.) The offensive play that probably garners the most attention will probably be the call on 4th and 1 to run Buckhalter up the middle. I have no problem with the call to go for it on 4th down in that spot. What I will take issue with is putting the ball in Buckhalter's hands rather than McNabb's. To reiterate what John Madden said during the telecast, you put the ball into the hands of your best player and the Eagles' best player is McNabb (at least he is as long as Westbrook is hurt).

3.) Another thought that struck during the game on Sunday night and during the final drives during the Dallas game is how much better the Eagles would be with a dominant wide receiver or tight end they can count on when they need a crucial 3rd down late in the game. I think DeSean Jackson is going to be a weapon on this team this year, but I don't think he's at that stage of utter reliability late in a game just yet.

Defense. 1.) The defense played well for the most part, but when they didn't get through on the blitz, they got burnt badly. They did force Kyle Orton to turn the ball over 4 times, but I wonder if they waited too long to dial things back and make Orton work for his touchdowns a bit more.

2.) If you give Kyle Orton 10 opportunities to make that throw that he made to Devin Hester when they hooked up for a touchdown, he misses that pass 8 times out of 10. It was a heckuva throw by Orton and a good grab by Hester, with Asante Samuel trailing in his wake.

3.) The defense did not come through after they Eagles offense whiffed on that 4th down by the goalline. They allowed Matt Forte to run through them at key situations. While Stewart Bradley played OK, he has to step up in that spot as the leader of the front 7 and make sure that doesn't happen.

4.) Omar Gaither was a beast in this game with 9 tackles and a recovered fumble.

Special Teams. 1.) The area I think Andy Reid will only address after it is too late is the matter of David Akers not being a trustworthy kicker from over 40 yards. Akers' two misses, one of 50 yards and the other of 47 yards, has a direct effect on the decisions to made by Reid during the game (HINT: the 4th down call at the goalline might have been a field goal at that stage of the game). If Akers hits even one of those two kicks, the Eagles probably win this game.

I don't want to put the whole loss on Akers; they had other opportunities to win it. But during the NFC Championship years, Akers used to be an absolute weapon from over 40 yards and ever since Koy Detmer stopped holding on field goals, he's gone downhill. This has got to be a mental thing at this stage for Akers; he needs to solve it before the weather gets colder outside and long field goals become even more difficult to hit. I wouldn't mind seeing Reid bring in a kicker who can hit those longer field goals if Akers is unable to get it done from long distance anymore.

Getting back to DeSean Jackson, it was pointed out during the telecast that he wasn't quite the same player, offensively, after he put the ball on the turf early in the 2nd quarter. Hard to disagree with that; it seemed that he and McNabb were not on the same page on the interception that McNabb threw in the 2nd half. If Jackson is going to be an offensive weapon this year, he can't take mistakes he might make on special teams with him into the offensive huddle.

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