Way, way late this week. Read if you like, ignore if you like. Apologies for the delay.
Before I get into the review, let me talk about a couple of things. Some of you wonder why I would write about such a miserable game. I do it for a couple of reasons. First, I want to go back and see what happened, to try to understand the problems. You could think of this as a football autopsy.
Believe it or not, sometimes I feel better after re-watching the game. My heart isn’t involved in the plays since I know the outcome. I just focus on the play, not the result. I actually did feel better after checking out the Falcons tape. The game really came down to mistakes. Why would that make me feel better?
This wasn’t a game where Atlanta was just more talented. This wasn’t a game where the coaches did some awful things. This was about players making individual mistakes. Those can be fixed and corrected. We can’t make the team more talented. We can’t suddenly turn Andy Reid into Bill Walsh. We can fix sloppy play.
Just because we can do it doesn’t mean we will. But it does give me hope.
We went 11-5 in 2009. We lost to Dallas in the season finale and then the playoffs. We were outscored 58-14 in those 2 games. We gave up 377 rushing yards. Tony Romo threw 4 TDs, 1 INT. He threw 69 passes and was sacked 4 times. One of our 2 TDs was a play where Michael Vick (remember when he was the gimmick/Wildcat QB?) came in the game and hit Jeremy Maclin for a long score. We were helpless on offense and defense. We basically weren’t competitive in those games. That was discouraging. How do you fix that?
The problems we have now are very different. They are still problems, but they are fixable. Players were in the right position on Sunday. They were where they needed to be, but for some reason the guys made mistakes. The coaches must do a better job of getting them not to make mistakes. And the players must listen and put the coaching into action.
That could happen on Monday against the Saints. It could happen in a month. It might not happen at all. You just have some teams where things never click, for whatever reason. This could be one of those teams. I’m still holding out hope that isn’t the case, but I sure can’t promise you this bunch will get things solved.
I’m absolutely as frustrated with this team as anyone out there, but studying the games gives me a different perspective. If I only went off what I saw live on Sunday, I’d still be raging with anger. Studying the game does help. You see how close things were to working. Of course, it can also be torturous to see DeSean Jackson wide open as Michael Vick decides to run or throw elsewhere. That kind of stuff eats at you, but you see that the plays can work. The talent is there. This is all about execution.
If we can just get the guys to stop with the mistakes, maybe I can have a Sunday or Monday where I’m not consumed by rage, anger, anxiety, or dread. Football is supposed to be fun, right?
The other reason I write up DGRs is for the future. In 2 years we might have a discussion that points back to this game. Is this where Dennis Kelly started his great career? Or…might this have been the lone highlight of Kelly’s career? Stuff like that. You can’t just go read a boxscore and know what happened. Even in some butt-kickings there is value in looking back, whether at a player or something schematically.
ATL 30, PHI 17
The Eagles were on a 2-game losing streak, but they were coming off the bye. Andy Reid is 13-0 in games following the bye week. Surely the extra time he and the coaches had would lead to problems getting solved and the Eagles getting back on track. Right?
The defense had no answer for the Falcons. The offense struggled, again. STs failed to deliver any impact plays, although we did get some progress in the form of a deflected punt late in the game. The Eagles played well enough to avoid being blown out and that’s about the nicest description you can give it.
Some want to know who to blame? Reid? Vick? New DC Todd Bowles? No, my friend. This was a team loss. They all had a hand in this stinker. I wish it was as simple as blaming one guy. That would make me feel better. This game was all the more frustrating because it was a team effort. Coming off the bye and playing in a critical game should have brought out the best in the Eagles. It did not.
Let’s start with the defense since they got the most abused. The Falcons finished with 392 yards and 30 points. They were machine like on 3rd downs, especially early in the game as they built their lead. The opening drive was 16 plays, 80 yards, and a TD. It ate up almost 9 minutes and set the tone for the game. The worst part of this is that the Eagles had chance after chance to stop the drive. They just didn’t do it.
DT Fletcher Cox had a chance to pick off a screen pass on 2nd down. The ball hit him in the hands and should have been an easy pick. Heck, it might have been a pick-six. There was a blown coverage on 3rd down. The Eagles had Atlanta in 3rd/10 a few plays later. Jason Babin ended up covering Tony Gonzalez in the flat. All Babin had to do was let Tony catch the ball and shove him out of bounds (they were right by the sideline). Babin grabbed Tony and was called for holding. Gift 1st down for the Falcons.
The next ATL drive started near midfield. DRC then screwed up and was called for PI. That gave the Falcons 22 free yards. We got them in a 3rd/goal situation and Mychal Kendricks was called for PI. He should have let the receiver go free. Kendricks was in position to make the tackle. He was too aggressive. The Falcons scored a couple of plays later.
The next “drive” was short, but not sweet. Nnamdi got burned for a 63-yard TD, to cap off a 3-play drive. That made the score 21-7. The Falcons didn’t score another TD, but they had 3 more FG drives in a row. We didn’t force them to punt until late in the 4th quarter.
I don’t blame Todd Bowles for the poor showing. DRC played his worst game as an Eagle and that really hurt us since we were playing such good WRs. Other defenders took turns being good and bad. I did generally think players were in the right position. Bowles tried blitzing early, but we didn’t get to Matt Ryan. I don’t know if that made Bowles back off or if he wanted to play basic against the Falcons.
Most frustrating for me is that the defense came out with some energy to begin the game. I think the Babin PI call really deflated them. I never saw a lack of effort. Guys hustled all game long. Good defense is about more than effort. You need guys to play fast. They need to anticipate plays, see the field well, and fly to the ball. That wasn’t happening.
The offense was awkward. Atlanta is one of the stingiest teams in the league with giving up big pass plays. They love to play Cover 3 and keep things in front of them. That forces you to play small-ball and sustain drives. The Eagles did that on 3 of 9 drives. That just wasn’t enough in a game that was a shootout, well…a one-sided shootout.
Our inability to run the ball was incredibly frustrating. Shady was 16-45. That’s not enough carries, but it is terrible production. This was a team effort. There were plays where the OL missed blocks. There were plays where Shady was at fault. The skill players had a down game in terms of blocking. I do think the Falcons deserve some credit. Sean Weatherspoon played really well against the run.
One thing that frustrated me was the mindset. When you face the 28th ranked run defense and a team that doesn’t tackle well, why not attack them with the run? Line up in 2 TEs. Put Avant and Cooper in as the RBs. Run Shady for 3 straight plays. Make them stop you. We did mix it in (10 of 24 1st half plays were runs), but it still could have been done better. Poor blocks by Maclin hurt us. Put Cooper in the game and let him block. Who cares if ATL knows you’re going to run. Make them stop you. Asante Samuel was on the friggin’ field. Run right at him. Let him go after Bryce Brown and see if Asante is interested in tackling a 225-pound RB.
The Falcons did stop us, but in part because we weren’t really committed to running the ball.
* 6 of 13 on 3rd downs. That’s not bad and it surprised me.
* 2 of 3 in the RZ. We just didn’t get there enough.
VICK - 21-35-191, 1 TD, no INTs. Didn’t have a turnover, which sounds good. Unfortunately it wasn’t as clean as that sounds. Threw a pass in the 3rd Qtr right to a LB. Should have been a pick-6, but the LB dropped it. Fumbled on a run play, but was ruled down by contact. Correct call, but you still don’t like seeing Vick put the ball on the ground. The Falcons style of defense forced Vick to play small-ball. The stats don’t lie. He had mixed results. Did lead the team on a pair of good TD drives. My biggest complaint is that Vick never looked confident or crisp. The offense couldn’t get into a flow. Vick did miss some open players. Had DeSean Jackson wide open in the endzone, but had already looked elsewhere on that play. There was a play where Avant was semi-open in the middle of the field. Vick went for him, but he CB was able to reach around Avant and knock the ball away. Maclin was wide open, just to the right of them. That was a 3rd down play. If Vick sees the wide open guy, the drive might have been able to continue.
Vick ran 7 times for 42 yards. A couple of those runs were by design. I think it says a lot that the coaches have now abandoned the “we must protect Vick” mantra. One of the plays was a read option. Vick got a few yards, but was exposed to taking a big hit.
It was troubling on the final couple of drives in the game to see Vick’s body language. The Eagles were down 30-17 with 5 minutes left. Vick looked like a defeated QB. I’m not questioning his physical toughness. We all know he can take a beating. Just looked like he had already accepted defeat. I hope that I mis-read what I saw. I do know he had to be frustrated due to a long, miserable day.
SHADY - Disappointing game. 16-45, with 1 TD. Was 3-22-1 as a receiver. Didn’t have much room to work with. Best run came in the 4th Qtr on 3rd/2. Had to fight his way upfield for the 1st down. Great effort on the play. Shady was dodging defenders in the backfield. The TD catch came on a middle screen. Good call, good execution. I loved his TD run. Asante was unblocked. Shady was able to fight through his tackle attempt and get into the endzone. I’ve been on the other end of that play from 2008-2011. Felt good for it to benefit us for once.
B BROWN - Had 1 carry for 5 yards. Odd play. Fought really hard on the run and that was impressive. Earned every inch. The down side is that the ball got knocked loose once and then he fumbled at the very end of the run. Brown fell on the ball and made sure to secure it. You just hate to see a guy have an almost fumble and a fumble on the same play.
HAVILI - No touches. Didn’t have his best game as a blocker. ATL likes to keep defenders moving around a lot. There were a couple of plays where Havili seemed a bit unsure of who to block because of the movement. Only played 14 snaps. Had a very good chip block on Biermann late in the game.
CELEK - 3-32. Quiet game. Had 1 catch for 16 yards that provided a good boost for the team, but wasn’t able to get going beyond that.
HARBOR - Got little PT. Only out there for 9 snaps. No catches or targets.
MACLIN - I was not a big fan of Maclin’s game. Had 6 catches for 33 yards. Highlight was a WR screen that went for 12 yards and almost turned into a TD. Was tripped up from behind by Biermann. Caught mostly short passes on the outside. Failed to catch pass thrown his way in the early 3rd Qtr. Wasn’t going to get us much, but every yard helps in a game like this. My biggest complaint was his blocking. Terrible. Cost us quite a few yards with his failure to show even minimal effort as a run blocker. Really pissed me off. Had several plays where Shady was hit or tackled by his guy as Mac stood there and watched. Missed the block on Vick’s read option that limited the play to short yards.
D JACKSON - 5-59 as a pass catcher. Highlight was a short catch where he got away from Asante and went for 32 yards. Had a good gain on a WR screen as well. One beef was that DJax went out of bounds easily on a couple of plays. He does that a lot, but in a game where we desperately needed yards it would have been nice to see him go for it. Might not have added very much, but this was the game to try and make something happen. Did get hurt on one play in the 2nd half and left for a while. Showed good effort on early 3rd/2. Fought for the 1st down and moved the chains. Up and down as a blocker.
AVANT - 4-45.
COOPER - Only played a handful of snaps. No catches. One pass came his way.
* One thing that hurt was delay blitzes. I can’t always be sure who is supposed to pick up those rushers so assigning blame is tough.
DUNLAP - Got back into the starting lineup and had a solid showing. Had some good blocks downfield on WR screens. That really surprised me. King doesn’t get downfield all that well and doesn’t block well out in space. Solid job in pass pro.
MATHIS - Good game. Kept Jonathan Babineaux under control.
REYNOLDS - Solid game. Had a couple of very good run blocks. Pulled a couple of times and was able to get his target.
KELLY - Got his first NFL start and acquitted himself nicely. The thing that impressed me the most was that Dennis played smart. He showed good awareness. You always wonder if the new guy is going to get out there and make mental mistakes. Didn’t happen. Kelly had a couple of very good run blocks. Did an excellent job of sealing DTs on runs to his side. Solid day in pass pro. Kelly wasn’t great or anything like that, but I think you can argue that this is the best game from the RG position this year.
HERREMANS - Not his best game, especially late. Really struggled with Kroy Biermann toward the end of the game. Gave up one sack to him. On a 4th down play, Havili had an excellent chip block and then released Biermann to Todd. Still couldn’t block him on that. Todd was called for holding on another play (not Biermann). There were some good moments, but Todd came up small in the part of the game where he was needed to be at his best. Very discouraging. Winning when down 13 with 5 mins left is a major longshot, but even more of one when your best OL is struggling.
* ATL was 7 of 13 on 3rd downs. Got the first 6 in a row. Defense got better in part due to Falcons getting conservative and sitting on their lead.
* ATL was 2 of 4 in the RZ. Thank god we did that or the game would have been a major blowout.
* We gave up 146 rushing yards. 43 came on one play. Michael Turner was just 24-58 on the ground. Pretty good run D aside from that long run.
COLE - What a difference a year makes. Last September Trent dominated LT Sam Baker and knocked the crap out of Matt Ryan. This year Trent got some pressure here and there, but wasn’t anything close to being a force off the edge. Had 2 tackles.
BABIN - Didn’t have a good game and lost some snaps in the 2nd half. Credited with 1 tackle. I never saw a lack of hustle. Chased the ball hard. Just wasn’t beating the RT. There were a few plays when he was low and got knocked to the ground. Had one memorable play, for the wrong reasons. We blitzed on 3rd/10. Jason started to rush, then saw the TE go off to the flat. Jason peeled back and ran with Gonzalez. Unfortunately, he grabbed Tony and drew a flag for holding. Should have stayed off. Tony was going to catch the ball at the LOS and near the sideline. All Jason had to do was shove him out of bounds. I know Jason isn’t meant to cover, but that’s the whole point. He could give up the catch and still win the play.
LANDRI - Quiet. Had 1 TFL. Came close to blowing up a 3rd down run. Shot hard to the inside and the RB was close, but Derek wasn’t able to get hold of him. That would have been a huge play. Good effort. Did a solid job vs the run.
JENKINS - Solid game. Had TFL on run play. Got a gift sack in the 4th Qtr. Ryan was on a bootleg and CuJo hadn’t bought the fake so Ryan fell down…pulled a Favre. Jenkins was disruptive on other plays. Had some good moments. Played LDE some when we were expecting the Falcons to run the ball.
TAPP - Quiet game. 1 tackle.
GRAHAM - Got his most snaps of the year (thanks to Babin’s quiet game) and played well. One of the concerns with some fans is that Graham was just using the bull-rush. That is his primary form of attack. Did mix in at least one spin move and used inside moves a few times. Had 4 solo tackles. No sacks, but did flush the QB on one pass play. Did get pressure.
COX - Good game. Had 5 solo stops, 2 TFLs and the almost INT. Got push on pass plays. Held his ground vs the run. Active in getting to the ball. Quality showing.
THORNTON - Might have played even better than Cox. The light is really coming on for Thornton. Very active player. Was in on 4 tackles. Had our only “legit” sack. Got good push on pass plays. Disruptive against the run.
KENDRICKS - Suspended for the opening series, reportedly for being late to a meeting. Covered Tony G a lot and had mixed results. Called for PI on a play where their feet got tangled up. Seemed like a questionable call to me, but I’m biased. Tony had a quiet game, catching 3 passes for 29 yards. That was only 2-18 with Kendricks in the game. Mychal broke up a pass in the 2nd half. Had a chance to pick it off, but would have been a really tough catch. Didn’t particularly stand out vs the run. Credited with 2 tackles.
RYANS - Good game. Had 9 total tackles and 2 TFLs. Did a real good job vs the run. I only have one complaint. Came free up the middle on a blitz and ran right by Ryan. I know you have to run hard to get into the backfield, but you need enough body control to actually get the QB and not pass him. Very frustrating to have a guy get into the backfield, but not even hit Ryan.
JORDAN - Up and down vs the run. Credited with 2 tackles.
MATTHEWS - Started in place of Kendricks. Had a pair of tackles. Still must get better at shedding blocks. Looks a lot more natural at LB this year, but needs to be stronger and more decisive with his hands when taking on blockers.
ALLEN - For much of the game, Nate played very well. Had a couple of big mistakes. Came up into the box on a run play in the 2nd half. Was in position to tackle Jacquizz Rodgers, but missed him and that turned into a 43-yard gain. Other bad play was the long TD that Nnamdi gave up. Play was 2nd/14. Nate was the deep Safety, but was only 10 yards off the ball. At the snap, bailed deep. Unfortunately, wasn’t fast enough to get over and behind Jones. Could be that Nate was supposed to be there, but seems odd to be just 10 yds deep on 2nd/long. If Nate lines up deeper or bails just a bit earlier, might have been able to get over and help Nnamdi on the deep ball.
I thought Nate tackled well for most of the game. Had 8 solo stops. Got his targets low and put them down cleanly. Aside from the Jones deep ball, all other passes were completed within 15 yards of the LOS. Guys weren’t getting deep and Nate was doing a job of getting players down in the open field when they were in front of him.
COLEMAN - Pretty good game. Had 7 solo tackles. Had TFL & FF. The FF came late in the game. Kurt stripped the ball from the RB in traffic, but ATL was able to recover.
NNAMDI - Bad game. Burned for 63-yd TD. Pressed Jones, but didn’t get a jam on him and that allowed Julio to get by cleanly to the outside. Nnamdi just doesn’t have the recovery speed to catch up to someone like Jones. Gave up other completions, but that was the key. Might have been the key play of the game. We’d cut the lead to 14-7. Had them in 2nd/long. That TD was crushing. I have no idea why Nnamdi didn’t get a jam.
DRC - Played his worst game as an Eagle. Bit on fake on 3rd down and gave up TD pass on opening drive. On the next drive he had a bad PI penalty that gave the Falcons 22 yards. Didn’t play the run well. Was out of position on end around and gave up 9 yds. Not a huge deal, but if he keeps outside leverage on the play, might have been a minimal gain. Was slow to get in the action on other run plays. This year DRC has been a guy that either shut down receivers on his side or made plays when the ball came his way. Not Sunday. He gave up a TD and his penalty put the Falcons up at the 10, setting up the 2nd TD.
BOYKIN - Somewhat of a quiet game. Had a pair of tackles.
MCBRIAR - 3/144 = 48 yds per punt. 2 were downed inside the 20.
HENERY - 1 of 1 on FGs. Wind affected KOs, good and bad.
PR – Boykin had the job after Mardy Gilyard got hurt. Had one return for 7 yards. I thought he looked pretty natural back there.
KO – Boykin averaged 22.3 per KOR. Had one good KOR for 28 yards.
* Riley Cooper had a good block on Boykin’s long return.
* Chris Polk is a terrible blocker. Let a LB run right by him and tackle Boykin on KOR.
* David Sims almost had a FF on a KOR. Got the ball loose, but it didn’t come out til the player was on the ground. Good hit.