Looking Back to the 2011 Opener

Posted: September 4th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 22 Comments »

I’m excited for the season opener on Sunday, but also nervous, anxious, and confused.  We’re about to start on a long journey.  A quest, actually, for the NFL’s version of the Holy Grail.  We don’t know how the quest will turn out in the long run so we have to live and die with the results of each game.

I’m pretty confident the Eagles will beat the Cleveland Browns.  That said, winning and playing well are two very different things.  That got me to thinking about last year’s opener.  I remember the highlights of the game, but not the nuances.  I decided to look up the game and see if there were some warning signs that should have hinted a slow start was definitely possible.

The score was 31-13, Eagles over the Rams.  At halftime, the lead was just 17-10.  Michael Vick ran for 98 yards, which was great, but he was just 14 of 32 passing.  Blitzes were an issue and led to a sack/FF in the Red Zone.

Shady ran for 122, but started off 11-27.  His final 4 runs netted him 95 yards.  I was interested to see that 3 RBs were active and all had carries.  Heck, all 3 had carries in the 1st half.  That could bode well for Bryce Brown.

The receivers played pretty well.  The biggest note of interest was that Brent Celek stayed in to pass block most of the time.  He had 1 catch and was targeted 3 times.

The defense was heaven and hell.  We struggled vs the run all game long.  The very first play was a 47-yd TD run by Steven Jackson.  The run problems were a combination of missed assignments and missed tackles.  Jim Washburn mentioned this spring that you could go back and re-watch the first month of last year and see mistake after mistake.

The pass rush was good.  Rams QBs were sacked 5 times.  Sam Bradford was knocked out of the game.  The defense picked up a fumble and ran it back for a TD.  The Rams were just 2 of 12 on 3rd downs and they were 0-1 in the Red Zone.

So what did we see in that game?

The offense was sloppy.  14 of 32 is awful passing in today’s NFL.  Shady started slow, going just 11-27 at first.  The OL, Vick, and Shady struggled to sync up on stretch plays.  The lack of a normal offseason caused those issues.  It takes time to develop timing and rhythm.

The defense was sloppy.  The worst two players in the game were Kurt Coleman and Casey Matthews, young guys in the middle of the defense.  The DL was very good at pressuring the QB, but wasn’t ideal vs the run.  They had 1 TFL.  Patt and Jenkins were disruptive, but the backups (Laws & Dixon) were inconsistent.

As you may recall, there were multiple plays where confusion was in issue.  Who lines up where?  Who covers who?  I thought these were season opener problems, but they lasted for months.  Not good.

I remember being happy with the outcome (an Eagles blowout) even though the game was far from perfect.  I assumed (very incorrectly I might add) that the issues that we saw during the game would be quickly corrected.

Andy Reid is just 6-7 in season openers.  That’s not good, but think about his losses.

1999 – Arizona – Andy’s first game as coach, team blew lead late on some crazy plays.

2001 – Rams – Eagles lost in OT to the team that would go to the Super Bowl.

2002 – Titans – Eagles blow a lead and lose to Titans team that went 11-5, won their division.

2003 – Bucs – Eagles lost to the defending SB champs.

2005 – Falcons – Jeremiah Trotter was suspended for the game due to a pre-game fight.  We lost 14-10.

2007 – Packers – Punt retuner-gate.  Packers are #1 seed in the NFC that year.

2010 – Packers – Kolb goes out, Vick comes in.  Leads good comeback, but falls short.  Packers win the SB.

Andy does lose too much in season openers, but usually only to good teams.  Give him a mediocre or poor opponent and the Eagles normally blow them away.  The sloppy showing vs the Rams probably should have sent off more alarms than it did.  The problem was that you didn’t know how to judge teams/players due to the lockout.

This year I’m looking for a win, but I will also pay close attention to how the team plays.  This Eagles team has a lot of talent.  Cleveland appears to be a bad team.  Based on years like 2004, 2008, and 2009, the Eagles should win big.  The Eagles were healthy and talented and won those games handily.  They played well.  It wasn’t just the scoreboard.  The Eagles passed the eye test in those games.

Beating Cleveland may or may not be a big challenge.  Playing good football is.  And it is important that the Eagles show us something.

* * * * *

There is an odd myth taking hold that you only need to get hot late in the year to win the Super Bowl.  The Giants did this in 2007 to a lesser extent and last year in a big way.

However, in 2010 the Packers were a good team all year.  They battled through injuries and had some crazy OT losses that hurt their record, but the Packers set an NFL record that year by never trailing by more than 7 points at any time in any game for the whole season.  Think about that for a second.

In 2009 it was clear that the Saints were the best team in the NFC and I thought they were the best team in the NFL.  The Colts did start 14-0, but weren’t as dominant.

The 2008 Steelers were 12-4 and the #2 AFC seed.

Go back before the Giants 2007 SB win.  The Colts were 12-4 in 2006.  The Steelers went 11-5 in 2005.  The Pats were dominant in 2004 & 2003.  The Bucs were outstanding in 2002.

Getting hot late in the year is good, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it is now a proven formula for winning the SB.  Far from it.

* * * * *

Donovan McNabb is close to joining the NFL Network.  Sad end to a great career.

I hope he does well in TV.  There are times when he is great and seems natural.  There are other times when Donovan tries to joke and things come out awkwardly and you don’t know where he’s headed with his comments.

If Donovan will relax and be himself, he could do a great job for the NFLN.  I’ll be pulling for him.

* * * * *

Video Time

EaglesJake has up several PS vids from the final game or two that are worth checking out.  He does great work so make sure to support his site.

Here is a video of Nate Menkins vs the Vikings.  Nate is #77 and playing LT.  Fun video to watch.  I’m not sure who to credit.  I got this from an Eagles fan named Adrian Ahufinger on Twitter.  Follow him.  He posted several Demetress Bell videos in the spring.

You can see Nate isn’t a natural pass blocker, but he has lots of potential as a run blocker.  And he could develop into a good pass blocker in Mudd’s system.

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  • http://twitter.com/ProtoTyler Tyler Phillips

    http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/09/04/jaguars-lose-waiver-claim-brackett-for-season/

    Brett Brackett out for the year with a knee injury. poor dude

    • A_T_G

      Injuries suck, but spending a year on IR might not be the worst thing for him. He needs to get stronger and learn blocking techniques, both things he can work on during recovery.

      Shame it has to be the Jags IR. Poor dude, indeed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.verhoog Matthew Verhoog

      1 week to late…

  • ACViking

    T-Law:

    The last 3 years or so, it seems — emphasize “seems” (as I’ve not checked the data) — that Reid’s Eagles have done very well against lesser tier opponents, but have struggled overall against the better teams. Used to be, with McNabb, Dawk, Trott and D.C. JJ, that the Eagles won their share of games against top tier opponents.

    Now, this is just an impression. Any thoughts?
    _______________

    I’d love to see the Eagles beat down the Browns w/ McCoy, Brown, and Polk getting about 35-40 carries collectively. Damn . . . call 50 runs.

    That, obviously, won’t happen unless the Birds get a big lead by the early 3rd Q and the pass-rush pummels “The Weed.” Oh yeah . . . and both Brown and Polk’re activated.
    ________________

    As the great and sinister George Allen once told his team, “40 men together can’t lose.”

    Reid’s a 47-man guy. But I love that line . . . because in no sport is that more true than in football.

    And the statement means so much more than just hustling around the field.

    George Allen was many things, including a defensive genius for his time.

    But foremost, until the 1977 debacle that was his brief return to the Rams, he was a GREAT motivator. One of the best. And a great judge of talent.

    Like Reid, he struggled to get to the SB, though, despite some great teams and great players in LA and D.C.

    • TommyLawlor

      George Allen never had a losing season as HC in the NFL.

      He coached Terrell Davis in college before Davis transferred to UGA.

      Allen claims to have invented the phrase Nickel Defense, but I’ve read elsewhere that Clary Shaughnessy did. And he was kind of an advisor to the Bears when Allen claims to have made up the phrase.

      George Allen once ended a family vacation early so he could get back to D.C. and go to work. Juan Castillo’s idol.

      • ACViking

        Excellent stuff, T-Law.

        PS – Allen also had great success in the USFL. The guy was an amazing — albeit strange — guy.

        PSS – “40 guys together can’t lose!” I’m ready to run through a wall to win whenever see that NFL Films clip. At my age, I’d crumble in pieces, unfortunately.

  • austinfan

    I like Menkins, shows some nice movement skills on the second level. You have to remember he’s from Mary Hardin, probably has never seen a real weight room or had a real OL coach, this is the kind of guy, like Thornton, who you stash for a year and he “surprises” people next August.

    Matt Reynolds is more athletic than his brother, but he’s a one year patch, and may be the first cut if someone better shakes loose. At age 26, isn’t a lot of upside there.

  • Mac

    I remember how sloppy that game was. I had high hopes that it was part of the gelling process for our defense and that things would tighten up and become more stable. The problem is that I wasn’t hopeful that the defense would start to gel in game 12… sigh.

    • TommyLawlor

      Actually that was game 13 when the defense began to gel. Even more sad.

      • Mac

        Oh golly, I guess my work of trying to forget last season is well under way. haha

  • TheRogerPodacter

    hey tommy, i dont remember this game too well.

    The defense was heaven and hell. We struggled vs the run all game long. The very first play was a 47-yd TD run by Steven Jackson.

    how was the first play of the game a 47 yard td run? did the rams get the ball on their first possession on our 47 yard line??? was that a long KOR or a PR? was it caused by a bad possession by the offense or did they not even have the ball before then?
    thanks!

    • TommyLawlor

      That was the Rams first play. We’d run an offensive series and a bad punt gave them the ball at our 47.

      Poorly worded on my part.

      • TheRogerPodacter

        i wouldnt say poorly worded… you just mentioned the important details. i thought a first play of a 47 yard td was a little curious and wanted to know what led up to it. : )

  • iskar36

    I had seen most of EaglesJake’s videos already, but I rewatched the Foles videos and one thing I noticed was that on almost every single play, the QB clock (which I love that EaglesJake added) was almost always around or under 3 seconds. The very few times it went over 3 seconds, Foles was scrambling and getting into a clear spot on the field to throw (or threw it away). With Vick and McNabb, sometimes, the complaint has been that they hold on to the ball way to long and end up taking the sack. It was nice to see that Foles had a good internal clock and quality pocket presence (which also has lead to him to being sacked only once in the preseason).

    • dislikedisqus

      Agree. watching the kelly video made me fear for our QBs safety if they hold the ball past 3 secs. And he was playing RT which would be Vick’s blind side. Foley magically managed to avoid almost all the guys who were getting by or about to get by Kelly. I don’t think Mudd teaches lunging forward so far you almost fall over as a correct blocking stance but that is how Kelly looked trying to handle some speed rushes.

  • ACViking

    Re: Looking Back at the Portent of a Pair of Great Opening Day Wins

    As T-Law documented, getting hot late versus being good all season isn’t necessarily the road to the SB. But getting cold late . . . that’s not what you want to do. Because it may signal more than just a playoff loss.
    _______________

    In 1980, coming off a disappointing divisional loss to the Bucs, the Eagles visited hosted the Denver Broncos and blew them out 27-6. The game wasn’t that close because of a pair of turnovers. The Birds ran up 421 yards in total offense to the Broncos’ 233. Jaworski threw 3 TDs. Wilbert Montgomery and rookie 2nd-round pick Perry Harrington combined for 120 yards rushing on 28 carries.

    The Eagles ran out to an 11-1 record before finishing 12-4, beating the ‘Boys for the NFC title and reaching the Super Bowl — where they’d have gone in 1979 if MLB Bill Bergey hadn’t blown out his knee.
    _______________

    The next season, 1981, the Eagles again dominated in winning their opener — going up to Giants Stadium and whipping New York 24-10. The Eagles held the G-men to 230 yards in total offense, while gaining only 325 themselves. But more than half on the Eagles’ yardage came via the ground game. Montgomery, Harrington, and Coach Vermeil’s nephew Louie Giammona combined for 178 yards rushing on 48 carries. (THAT USED TO BE “EAGLES FOOTBALL.”) On defense the Eagles’ defense had 6 sacks while holding the Giants and Lawrence Taylor to only 1 — thanks to LOT Stan Walters.

    Just like 1980, the Eagles started fast, going 7-1 — with the closest win being a 3 pointer over the Falcons. But as fans of that time remember, the Eagles seemed grew old overnight. They lost 5 of their next 7 games, including 4 straight with an embarrassing 20-10 home loss to a very different Giants team.

    (T-LAW, this if for you) In a portent of things to come in the playoffs, Giants’ fullback Rob Carpenter pounded the Eagles’ defense for 111 yards on 24 carries.

    The Eagles and Giants met in the wildcard round. The Eagles were a team that we soon learned in a quick and steep decline. The Giants were going in the other direction.

    And drafting FB Michael Haddix from Mississippi State No. 8 overall in 1983 hastened the team’s struggles — though not as much as the choice of OT Kevin Allen No. 9 overall in 1985. (I won’t mention guys like Marino and Kelly from 1983’s draft, when Jaworski was entering his 11th season, or Lachey and Rice from 1985 . . . because what’s the point.)
    ________________

    By the way . . . Haddix was the last Eagle chosen in Rd 1 from MS State until this year’s choice of Fletcher Cox.

    In fact, between Haddix and Cox, the Eagles chose on 4 MS State players. In 1983, along with Haddix, the Eagles chose WR Glenn Young in Rd 3 (who played 1 season with the Eagles and finished with 3 catches for 141 yards, including a 71 yard TD). In 1995, new coach Ray Rhodes used his back-to-back picks in Rds 6 and 7 for FB Fred McCrary and HB Kevin Bouie. And in 2010, in Rd 7, the Birds grabbed LB Jamar Chaney.

    Not a particularly auspicious group.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.borkowski.71 Brian Borkowski

    Maybe this is hindsight being 20-20 but I remember this being an excruciating game that felt a lot closer than 31-13. I remember Rams fans saying (on SBnation trash talking) that they gave the game to us, and part of me felt like they were right. The feeling would only get worse as the year went on.

    Speaking of the Rams trash talking, I remember being told that Lance Kendricks was going to smoke us on his way to being the next big thing at tight end, and that our pass rushers wouldn’t get past the iron wall of Roger Saffold and Jason Smith.

    Heh.

  • Todd B.

    I remember the game. I also remember thinking, “well, the Eagles didn’t lose and that is all that matters. Rather have an ugly win than a pretty loss.”

  • http://twitter.com/sjampendk Patrick

    So, apparently Haden is confirmed out for the opener with his suspension, which mean that when the Eagles face the almost Eagles, we get to see DeSean and Maclin against… Our good friend Dimitri Patterson.

    • Todd B.

      and Sheldon Brown? or was he cut?

  • ACViking

    T-Law:

    A couple of quick questions, and an observation.

    1. The Eagles seem to be Right-OT heavy. If Dunlap goes down, is Bell his replacement at OLT? Or do you go w/ young Kelly?

    Either way, would you agree that the loss of Dunlop — who’s a big step back from J-Pete in terms of second-level blocking, which could substantially hurt McCoy’s production — will probably require the Eagles to put a TE on the left side A LOT. What’s the impact?

    2. If Babin goes down again for any appreciable period, would you anticipate the Eagles adding a DT to the active roster — to give them more flexibility in moving C-Jenkins to LDE on 1st down.

    Or, does Brandon Graham become the No. 1 DE over there. (I think Hunt is such a huge weapon from the usual blind side . . . and he’d take a beating on first down over there on the left.)
    ____________________

    I’m trying to think of a Prime-Time opener that I’m less enthused about watching than the G-men v. C-Boys. Since there’s no way both teams can lose, I’d rather watch re-runs of the 3 Stooges.

  • Steven Steiner

    I do remember pretty well my feelings after the Rams game last year. I heard the 47 yd TD run on the radio on the way to watch the game – and I said out loud in the car, “The run defense this year is going to be painful – but hopefully they will shore things up as they get used to the Wide 9 style of DL play.” Eventually that did come true, they got better in games as the year went on and they sort of seemed to shift in and out of the Wide 9 situationally. Did anyone notice them doing that in the PS this year? Are they abandoning tightening up the alignments on some of the obvious rushing downs and just hoping the LB play is better this year?
    Anyway, I came away thinking that it was a big play team on offense and defense. We were neck and neck with the Rams until the fumble. That changed the whole complexion of the game from: The Rams are playing with us and giving us all we can handle to The Rams can’t compete with the level of talent we have (a common theme for us in 2011 – talent seeming like it could overcome anything). Then Bradford got knocked out and you could relax.
    I did not feel good after the game. I felt like a few unlucky breaks, or if we had to play a team that was ahead and could grind the clock, that we’d be in for a handful all season long. Also I did not like how the offense was so hit and miss. Big play or three and out. No sustaining drives. I hope we can sustain some longer drives this year and not have to rely on Mike running around and DeSean getting behind the coverage.