Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Kind of Disappointing

Well, that wasn’t as much fun as last time.

It was a spirited, highly physical game- with just enough “first game of the season” head-scratching plays to give it a little spice. Like that “lateral” to Westbrook? Was that play practiced that way? How was that one pitched in the game-plan meeting? As soon as the ball was snapped you could almost feel the turnover. The Falcons parlayed their emotion and crowd into an early fourteen point lead- and then turned it over to their defense to protect.

I think that first of all, you have to throw mounds of credit to the Falcon defense. They were the story last night: hold teams to ten points in your own building and you win just about all the time. On offense, both teams were alternately sloppy and then way too conservative. But the Eagles simply can’t expect to win a physical game, against an eleven/twelve win type team, while away from the Linc by turning it over three times, having the offensive line play poorly, miss two field goals and lose two all-pros on defense.

Donovan was not good last night. But we know that #5 won’t turn it over three times very often- so I am not concerned about the quarterback. The scariest development continues to be the offensive line. The tackles have really slipped considerably. Philadelphia is now oh so slow at both spots outside. Neither Thomas nor Runyon could pick up edge pressure at all- guys blew by them all night long. The Eagles don’t really play a fullback or tight end just to block all that much- so there is no help there. Worse, other than Parry, I don’t know if any of the tight ends or fullbacks are good blockers. For example, Philly’s two tight end set is a joke when it comes to moving people. The Falcons sent waves of blitzers around the perimeter of the pocket- and the Eagles had no answers all night- just couldn’t get out there.

The interior of the line was a clear problem last year- and still seemed to be last night too. The Eagles can’t push anyone inside when they try to rush the football- and Westbrook is not the sort going to knock people over. Plus, am I the only one tired of Hank Fraley? I know he’s cap-friendly and all that- but he just brings nothing- and hasn’t for two years. It is like the Eagles play with ten guys on offense.

Accordingly the Eagles look disjointed- there just wasn’t anything easy or reliable on offense. They could not run it. The downfield passing game was devoid of consistent pass protection and consequently a scramble all night. Normally, the Eagles kinda get around these problems by having McNabb get up out of the pocket and hurt you with his legs or the resultant breakdowns in your coverage. But he seemed real reluctant to run last night- maybe that big hit early affected him more than it looked?

I am less concerned about the defense. Atlanta ran crazy on them in the first quarter- and hung up the quick 14 points- but then did pretty much nothing in the last 45 minutes of the game.

The Eagles are always going to have trouble stopping the run without Trotter in there- and Atlanta is a team that can rush the football. But the Eagles organizationally also don’t care much about stopping the run to begin with- they simply don’t believe running the football helps you much in the NFL. To wit, Atlanta ran the ball well and only had 14 points last night. Ten to twelve play drives, where you rush the ball nine times for forty yards or so, is just not how the Eagles fear teams hurting them. Fittingly, holding this offense in their dome to fourteen points is more than sufficient. No one else will hold the Falcons to fourteen at home all year.

Now let’s all go home to the Linc- drill the 49ers by twenty- and get the show back on the road.