Coming off of 3 big wins (Colts, McNabb, Giants), there was a feeling this game could be a let down game. The final score (26-31) would make one believe that it was a close game, and in some ways it was. If the referees do their job and review the onside kick at the end, who knows what happens. But at the end, the Eagles came up short, and have no one to blame but themselves. Lets look at the good and the bad, as the Eagles dropped to 7-4, ending their 3 game winning streak.
Michael Vick: Yes, he threw his first interception of the season. But as far as interceptions go, that is about as far from his fault as they could come. The fact that it happened in the redzone only made it worse. Overall, however, Vick still played a very solid game. The Bears front four lived in the Eagles backfield, and it is a miracle that Vick was only sacked 4 times. Vick’s athletic play kept the team in the game, as the offense would have been able to get nothing going without it. Vick’s spin on Lance Briggs to convert a 4th and 1 run was one only he could make. In addition to doing a good job avoiding the rush, Vick had a solid day throwing the ball. Vick’s late touchdown pass to Brent Celek was a thing of beauty, and was even more impressive considering the wind gushing through the stadium. Vick finished with over 300 yards in the air, spread the ball around to 8 different receivers, even attempted to slide, and once again did a good job not taking off to soon and letting a play develop (when he could).
Jason Avant: Avant is built for games like the one against the Bears, as he did his job and killed the Bears underneath. Avant finished the day with 8 catches and a team leading 88 yards. The Bears came into the game playing a 2-deep defense, focusing on taking away the deep ball from the Birds. This left the middle of the field open, and Avant did his job, catching everything thrown his way, and made some huge catches. Yes, the Bears were happy to give it to him, but Avant did his job, which is more than could be said for other members of the team yesterday.
Antonio Dixon: Dixon has been a bright spot on the defense this season, and played well against the Bears. On a day when the Eagles run defense fell apart, he managed to get in on many plays in the backfield and finished the day with 4 tackles. Broderick Bunkley might as well have gotten the surgery, because Dixon has cemented himself as the best defense tackle on this team.
Brandon Graham: Graham recorded his 3rd sack of the season, and forced Cutler out of the pocket a few times. Starting in place of an injured Juqua Parker, Graham played well and stepped up when the team needed him. He has not finished on a lot of plays this year, and while his sack was a clear shot, he still brought down Cutler.
Brent Celek: Celek has had a tough year, so you have to give him credit for keeping his head up and making that touchdown catch between 4 Bears defenders at the end of the game. Celek has been asked to block a lot this season, and is more hurt than he lets on, and his numbers have suffered because of it. It was nice to see him get in the end zone.
Penalties: After a rough week against the Giants, the Eagles were called for only 3 penalties, totaling only 19 yards. It won’t get talked about much, but if were going to kill them for getting to many penalties, we should give them credit when they don’t.
No Andre Johnson: While it is no guarantee, I can’t imagine Andre Johnson will not be suspended for this weeks upcoming game against the Eagles after yesterdays outrageous brawl against the Titans. For an Eagle’s secondary that is hurting right now, that is great news.
RedZone Offense: This game is in the loss column today because of the Eagles inability to punch the ball into the end zone. Any team trying to win on the road knows there is certain things they have to do to take the crowd out of a game: don’t turn the ball over, run the ball- and convert in the redzone. None of those things happened for the Birds today, but it was the redzone execution that killed them the most. The offense made 5 trips inside the 20 today, the managed to come away with 3 FG’s, 1 TD and a turnover. By comparison, the Chicago Bears got 4 touchdowns and 1 FG from their 5 trips to the redzone. Fans will point to Andy Reid’s decision not to go for the touchdown’s late in the game, kicking field goals instead, but he made those calls because he saw that the Eagles had not been able to punch it in all day.
The play calling, however, was almost as bad as the execution. One of the flaws of Andy Reid on game day is that he gets to cute with the play calling, instead of using what got him there. Why is a play designed for Clay Harbour being run in the fourth quarter of a tight game? I am a big Harbour fan, but he is still only a rookie that has been inactive for most of the season. The same questionable play calling was shown earlier in the game in the redzone, when the Eagles had Michael Vick roll out to the right, with only Owen Schmitt in the flat. I understand that most team anticipate a quarterback draw, but what makes Michael Vick so great is his ability to convert on those plays despite the other team knowing its coming. I would rather see Vick with the ball in his hands instead of Harbour. The hot start the Eagles offense experienced in the redzone with Vick appears to be over, as the team has only score 2 touchdowns in the last 10 possessions inside the 20. The main reason for the teams inability to punch it in is obivious: when inside the redzone, the field strinks- and the Eagles offense is built to play on a wide open field, where they can utilize their speed. But speed does not score in the redzone- big bodies and overpowering the other team does.
Run Defense: The Eagles had been doing a good job against the run in the last few weeks, but their run defense came apart the seams today, to the tune of 117 yards to Matt Forte on only 14 carries. Forte became the only opposing player this season to rush for over 100 yards against the Eagles. While that number can be a little bit misleading, as over half (61) of Forte’s yards came on 1 carry, it was the way the yards were gained that was frustrating. This Eagles team needs a serious crash course in how to tackle, and Stewart Bradley is the main culprit. The next time Bradley is able to make a tackle behind the line of scrimmage it’ll be the first. Without Antonio Dixon and Trevor Laws stepping up this season, the team would be in serious trouble, as Mike Patterson and Broderick Bunkley were not even on the field for a key third down, obvious rushing play late in the game.
Solider Field: A high school game was played on Friday, and the damage the field took from it showed. The Eagles secondary was slipping all day, and it cost them on the Bear’s second touchdown pass. Yes both teams were playing on the same field, but it is unacceptable for a game to be played with the field in such bad conditions.
Secondary: In the offseason, many fans called for Asante Samuel to be traded. Today was a sneak peak of what the secondary would look like without him. I have been high on the play of the secondary this year, but it was clear they missed Samuel today. Trevard Lindley saw the most action he has seen all season, and had his good and bad moments. He had excellent coverage on Devin Hester in the endzone, and was never caught completely out of position. Jay Cutler is a good quarterback, but he is not the superstar the Eagles made him look like today. The Bears were able to beat the Eagles with quick slants to utilize the speed of their wide receivers. The Eagles secondary did not adjust. Couple the lack of adjustments with poor tackling, and Cutler’s line of 14/21, 247 yards and 4 touchdowns happened.
DeSean Jackson: Jackson was a non factor today, catching the ball only 2 times for 26 yards. In comparison, Riley Cooper and Clay Harbour both had more yards. Jackson showed why Joe Banner might be a little hesitant to turn the big money over to him. When a team does not allow him to get deep, he has little effect on the game. Jackson had a chance to pull in a touchdown catch late in the game, but was unable to come up with it. I won’t go as far as to say he got alligator arms on the play, but it was no doubt a catch a number one reciever- which Jackson want’s to be paid like- makes. Les Bowen tweeted after the game that Desean is said to have snapped at Vick, and described a scene of him basically pouting at his locker after the game. DeSean is not on the level of Randy Moss, but he definitely quit on Kevin Kolb earlier in the season, and his attitude is growing old fast.
Where is Harrison?: Once again Harrison was no where to be seen, carrying the call only 1 time. I don’t understand what the thinking is here- Harrison showed he can play against the Redskins. He needs more chances then he is getting,and deserves them.
Turnovers: Coming into the game, the Eagles were first in the NFL in takeaways. They failed for the first time all season to register either an interception or a fumble recovery. They had their chance in the fourth quarter to give the ball back to their offense, but were unable to recover a Johnny Knox’s fumble in Bear’s territory. They were also unable to pick off Cutler, who is one of the worst quarterbacks in the league at protecting the ball. Michael Vick fumbled the ball 4 times, and was lucky to recover 2 of them. People talk about the way LeSean McCoy carries the ball, but Vick might be even worse, as he roams around the pocket with the ball in one hand hanging loosely on his side.
Playoff Seeding: Despite the loss, the Eagles still remain in first place in the NFC East. But they had a blew a chance to move into second in the conference, with Green Bay losing to Atlanta. The Eagles and Packers now have the same record, but Green Bay holds the tie breaker. With the Eagles beating Atlanta, a win today would have put them in great position to finish first in the conference. They did not capitalize on it, and it could come back to bite them in the end.
Despite all of this, the Eagles still had a chance to win the game, and lost by only 5 points. The good news is that this is a short week, and the Eagles will get the chance to get the bad taste out of their mouth from this one quickly.