This Eagles team seems determined to make it as difficult as possible on themselves this season.
It’s difficult to divorce this team from the hype generated with all of the free agent signings and trades during the (brief) off-season. Balancing the hype were all of the question marks that littered this team- the Offensive Line, the new Defensive Coordinator in Juan Castillo (who was the offensive line coach last season), the retooled Defense which really needed a lot of help, and a number of new assistant coaches behind the scenes. Then, come game time, this team starts off slow.
But what a wild game
Offensively, getting stopped on a 3rd-and-1 situation early on was painful. Early on in the second quarter, their trip down into the red zone, the Eagles, benefited with an offside penalty by the Falcons, were able to tie up the game 7-7. Their next red zone trip netted only 3 points, despite being in another 3rd-and-1 situation. The crazy thing is that the O-Line was holding up pretty well, most of the time giving Vick time to make throws and not forcing him to flush out of the pocket too often. But then it hurts when Vick loses the ball twice in the first half, even if the Defense brought one of them back with an interception of their own (only for Reid to waste the opportunity on a a 63-yard field goal attempt that wasn’t even close. Come on, Andy, a Hail Mary would have been more productive).
The Defense’s Achilles’ Heel is clearly stopping the run. Atlanta was able to use Michael Turner to exploit the gaps left in the Eagles’ “Wide 9” defensive scheme early on, but as the game went on, the Defense tightened up, just as they did last week. Except, they shouldn’t be exploited against the run like this week after week. The blame is, in part, on the linebackers, who are supposed to adjust accordingly.
In the end, the game turned into an entertaining ping-pong match, with the heart-stopping moment Michael Vick left the game with a neck injury. Backup Mike Kafka stepped in and performed reasonably well, given the task the help the Eagles win in a close one. I can’t pin the blame for the loss on him even a little bit- the Eagles defense here wound up giving up 35 points, a poor performance no matter how you shake it.
We’re still seeing growing pains for this team, but they were going up against a Falcons team that was embarrassed the previous week and they were playing in Atlanta- a recipe for disaster against any team coming in. Hopefully next week the Eagles can bounce back, but this defense still needs a lot of work.