Just a couple of days ago, we saw the Eagles play one of their strongest games of the season. Mistakes were kept to a minimum, Nick Foles took a major step forward, and the defense played with a little intensity.
On Thursday night, we hoped to see the young Eagles build off of the momentum they’d gathered from the come-from-behind victory over Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, what we saw was a return to the fundamentally flawed, mistake-prone football that we’ve had to deal with throughout the season.
When this team checks out, they turn to dust almost instantly. The Eagles actually played the Bengals pretty tough through three quarters, but completely imploded during the final stages of the game and allowed the Bengals to score 24 unanswered points.
The Eagles continued to have issues protecting the football, turning the ball over five times. Jeremy Maclin began the game by fumbling away the football on the first possession of the game, setting the Bengals up for an easy touchdown. Running back Bryce Brown continues to have issues securing the football. Brown’s fumble in the fourth quarter that was returned for a touchdown served as the knockout blow that ended any chance of the team coming back. Quarterback Nick Foles also had his share of issues protecting the football, throwing an interception and losing a fumble.
The Eagles have had all kinds of terrible special teams breakdowns throughout the season, and Thursday’s game was no exception. On fourth down of the team’s second drive, rookie receiver Marvin McNutt was driven straight back into Matt McBriar’s punt, setting up Cincinnati for a field goal.
Right before the blocked punt, the Eagles also had problems getting the right players onto the field. Somehow, tight end Clay Harbor wasn’t aware that he was needed on the field to be with the punting team. How does a breakdown like that happen? It’s an indictment of how disorganized and poorly coached the team is.
The Final Nail In Andy’s Coffin?
After the Eagles played like a respectable football team on Sunday, there was a bit of fear around the fan base that Jeffrey Lurie could be convinced into letting Reid play out the final year of his contract if the team won their final three games and Nick Foles continued to make significant strides.
If there was any legitimacy to that school of thought, it can be put to bed for good after last night’s game. The Eagles took another embarrassing loss on the national stage, with a stadium that was almost completely empty by the start of the fourth quarter.
Reid’s playcalling during the team’s two redzone possessions in the first half was terrible. No team in the league uses four receiver sets on the goalline more than the Philadelphia Eagles. Even though the offensive line has been an issue throughout the season, you’ve got to at least give them an opportunity to the pound the football into the endzone from short range. Or if you really have that little confidence in their ability to run block, you’ve got to think of something a little more creative than the shovel pass that you’ve used for over a decade, and seem to rely on every week.
There’s no escape for Andy this time. Clearly the team hasn’t responded to his message throughout the season, and no amount of improvement that the team could make in the final two games will be enough to keep him from being fired.
- After making positive strides in his first two starts, Nick Foles had a rough outing against the Bengals. Foles completed just 18 of 34 passes for 182 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He made some nice throws, but struggled to get the ball downfield at times. There’s no reason to get down on the rookie after this performance. Consider this game as just part of his growing pains. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs against the Washington Redskins, a team that he really struggled against in his first start of the season.
- It’s hard to imagine Clay Harbor back with this team next year. Although he’s got the physical ability, he just hasn’t been able to put it altogether after being in the league for three years. He’s a decent receiver, but a poor blocker. The fumble late in the game was inexcusable.
- Very active game for Jamar Chaney, who finished the game with eight total tackles.
- Colt Anderson was solid again in his second start. Anderson had five tackles, and also broke up a pass in the endzone. He doesn’t have the size to hold up through a 16-game season, but he certainly looks like a nice third or fourth safety who could capably fill-in for an injured starter for a short period of time.
- The defensive lined proved that they don’t need the Wide Nine gimmick in order to generate sacks. The defensive line had their best week of the season, picking up six sacks on the night, and forcing two fumbles.
- Brandon Graham had another strong game, notching 2.5 sacks and forcing a fumble that led to a turnover.
- Fletcher Cox recorded 1.5 sacks.
- Cullen Jenkins played his best game of the season, recording a sack and forcing a fumble.
It’s a shame that the good feelings from the Tampa Bay game have been erased so quickly.
Thursday’s game was a long, painful experience for Eagles fans. Actions speak louder than words, and the completely deserted stands in Lincoln Financial Field said it all about how fatigued this fanbase is of the coach, the team, and the culture surrounding them.
The Eagles don’t play again for 10 days, and right now that’s a mercy.