Another Eagles season and another heartbreaking finish. This is really starting to get old in Philadelphia.
Back in training camp when the Eagles were preparing for a season of questions behind Kevin Kolb, many fans never thought the ‘Birds would have been in this position. However, just halfway through week one, Michael Vick brought a new sense of hope to the city of Philadelphia. He brought the Eagles from a rebuilding year to a contending year. Fifteen weeks later, the Eagles faced off against the Green Bay Packers at Lincoln Financial Field.
And that’s all she wrote.
For the third straight week, the Eagles were outplayed and outcoached. You could sense it in Lincoln Financial Field, as fans showed a cautious optimism that quickly turned to cautious pessimism due to the blitzing Packers defense and the relentless Green Bay offense.
Offensively, Marty Mornhinweg’s Eagles seemed utterly shocked by the aggressive blitzing scheme of Don Caper’s Packers. They quickly abandoned the run and put all the pressure on Michael Vick to carry the team on his back. Vick, who was often given less than four seconds to get rid of the football, faced many ups and downs offensive but eventually found himself in a position to win the game.
After a 28-yard pass to DeSean Jackson with less than a minute to play, the Eagles quickly rushed to the line of scrimmage. Facing a 1st and 10 with 27 seconds remaining, many thought Vick would spike the ball and set up a play to the end zone. However, head coach Andy Reid advised No. 7 to go for the end zone and elected for a 4-go route, sending all receivers to the end zone. The play call is going to be debated until training camp next year, considering it cost the Eagles season and a potential come from behind win that echoed the Miracle in the Meadowlands a month before. Vick, who “went out swinging”, went for the end zone to Riley Cooper in single coverage. We all know where it went from there, as Tramon Williams used his positioning to intercept the pass and end the Eagles highly touted playoff run.
While it was the play that ended the season, it was not the sole reason for the Eagles loss. The Packers came to play at the Linc for the second time this season, and the Eagles came out flat for the second meeting. Between missed field goals, third down conversions, and a creative offensive scheme, the Eagles were fortunate enough to even be in a position to win the game.
For the second straight year, the Eagles failed to show up in the NFC Wildcard game. They have lost their last three playoff games, and sorry Eagles fans, there is no more Donovan McNabb to blame. Michael Vick, the replacement Eagles fans were looking for, also failed to do it. Now what changes do the Eagles need to make? I have a long list to come, but for now let’s look at the final report card of the season.
Quarterback: B –
Michael Vick dished out his second consecutive sub-80 passer rating and completed just 20-36 passes. For the seventh straight game, Vick tossed a an interception, and this one to Tramon Williams topped them all. He was criticized during the Vikings game for his lack of preparation and being unable to properly read defensive schemes. Vick was given an extra week off to prepare for the Packers, but still didn’t look 100 percent out there. He clearly seemed bothered by his leg contusion and failed to create any offensive consistency.
Fun fact: for the second time this season, the Eagles offense lost the football game despite winning the turnover battle. The only other loss occurred in the opening week against none other than the Green Bay Packers.
Running backs: C+
One of the biggest problems I had with the game was that LeSean McCoy was not properly involved in the offense. Coming into the game, the Eagles offense averaged over 140 yards per game on the ground, but were held to just 84 against the Packers. McCoy has proven as much as anyone that he deserves to see more looks. He only had 12 carries on the night and most of them came early in the game. Granted he didn’t have the most productive yards per carry average (3.8), but everyone knows that Shady is always poised to break a big run. The Packers run stopping was the weakest part of their offense, yet Mornhinweg refused to make any changes and spice up the play call.
Wide Receivers: C
It certainly didn’t help that DeSean Jackson spent most of the game on the sidelines. He finished the contest with just two catches and the other Eagles receivers didn’t pull their weight to make up for the missing Pro-Bowler. Even though Jason Avant scored a touchdown, he also dropped a crucial pass on third down late in the game. Is it me or is it that Avant, the guy who was supposed to have some of the best hands in the league, seems to drop passes at the worst times?
Offensive Line: D –
The most crucial part of the Eagles success failed to show up on Sunday. The offensive line has been the Eagles biggest question mark all season and needed to hold their own against the highly aggressive Packers defense. However, they looked terrified on the line. Winston Justice tallied four penalties and miraculously managed to get two penalties on one play. Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji made Michael Vick’s day that much harder and it was quickly apparent on the opening play when Matthews sacked Vick for a loss.
If the Eagles want to have any success on offense next year (pending Michael Vick’s status), they are going to need to invest in some offensive linemen. Winston Justice, King Dunlap, and Nick Cole all showed that they can’t contain opposing defenses.
Defensive Line/Linebackers: F
I expected the front seven to have some trouble covering receivers over the middle, but never did I think the Packers would dominate the inside game. Rookie James Starks looked like Barry Sanders against the ‘Birds. He rushed for 123 yards, which was 22 yards more than he had all season for the Green and Gold. It was quite obvious that the Eagles overlooked the running game and focused solely on stopping the Packers passing game that ranked top-5 in the NFL.
Even worse than the run-stopping was the Eagles failure to stop Green Bay on third down. Led by Aaron Rodgers, the Packers were 7-9 on third down conversions in the first half. One their three scoring drives, Green Bay was 7-7 on third downs. This simply cannot happen defensively, especially when most of those conversions came on plays of more than five yards.
Finally, the front seven did a terrible job getting to the quarterback. The Eagles only hit Rodgers twice, both resulting in sacks. When you give Aaron Rodgers all day to throw the ball, he is going to make you pay. The Eagles experienced that firsthand on Sunday night. Philadelphia’s “enforcer”, Ernie Sims, ran around the field aimlessly. He only had two tackles on the night, which is quite pathetic considering how many plays went over the middle.
The Eagles secondary did a great job preventing the long ball, but still struggled when it mattered on big plays. Aaron Rodgers was 5-5 with three touchdown passes in the red zone, which is something the secondary has failed to improve on all season. On third downs, Rodgers completed 6-8 passes, all of which went for first downs.
Special Teams: F
David Akers, the longest tenured Eagle and one of the hardest workers, could not have picked a worse time to collapse. Granted there are reports that there have been some family issues, but that is no excuse when you are a professional football player, especially a kicker. Akers was having a career year, missing just two field goals heading into the game. However, No. 2 missed two gimmes that proved to be the difference maker. Is he the sole reason for the Eagles loss? No. But it certainly would have been nice to have those six points.
Gerard Lawson was absolutely terrible. Not only did he fail as the Eagles kick returner (averaged just 18 yards per return) but he also was called for a holding penalty on DeSean Jackson’s punt return at the end of the game. I have a feeling we won’t be seeing much more from Mr. Lawson.
As difficult as it is to not have a team to truly cheer for in the next month, the Eagles had one heck of an impressive season. Taking into account all of the drama that came with the quarterbacks and the injuries to the defense, it was quite impressive that the Eagles showed such signs of dominance in 2010. Even though most of us aren’t numb to this pain of losing and coming up short in big games, we still have a lot to be thankful for. There’s no need to call for the end of Andy Reid or Michael Vick because if I was a betting man, I would say there’s a bright future for both of them coming soon.