Crooner Tony Bennett’s signature song “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” came to mind during this week’s autopsy of the latest Eagles’ epic failure because…
Philadelphia seemed to show no collective heart at all on defense – again – down the stretch of Sunday’s loss to the 49ers…at home…after holding a 23-point lead in the third quarter.
Bennett sang his most famous of song stylings before the last football game at Kezar Stadium back in 1970 when the City by the Bay hosted the NFC title game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Right now, the Philadelphia Eagles look as far removed from this season’s NFC title game as can be mainly because:
1. Their offense stops themselves in the red zone. They are beautiful to watch on offense between the 20’s. They are hideous within the 20.
2. Their defense stops no one in the red zone. In the second half – once the opposition has made adjustments – they can’t stop anyone anywhere. Tackling seems to be less desirable to them at that time as well.
3. Their defense has inferior leadership on the sidelines…and obviously no leadership on the field.
Against San Francisco (hardly a favorite for the NFC title game themselves), Philadelphia’s offense scored TD’s on only 2 of 7 trips inside the 49ers’ 20. Rookie Kicker Alex Henery missed two attempts in the fourth quarter from 39 and 32 yards. Wide Receiver Jeremy Maclin fumbled the ball away within field goal range as the clock wound down.
The defense contributed mightily towards continuing the ugly trend of losing fourth-quarter leads. You may recall the Eagles led 31-21 through three quarters at Atlanta, 16-14 after three at home against the Giants…and Sunday had a 23-17 lead headed into the final period.
After four games, someone could make the case if St. Louis’ star Running Back Steven Jackson had not hurt his quad so early in the season opener, Philadelphia might be staring at a 0-4 start instead of 1-3.
And about that 1-3…the last time that happened was the last time the Eagles missed the post-season. It was 2007 and the final mark that year was 8-8.
After four games, someone could make the case 8-8 might be where Philadelphia winds up this season.
Legendary Head Coach Bill Parcells once said, “You are what your record says you are.”
Can’t fault Michael Vick for any of this mess. Soon, it will even easier not to fault him because the tiny offensive line the Eagles inexplicably installed this season combined with Vick’s burning desire – and necessity – to lead the team in both rushing and passing will eventually find him battered, beaten…and behind the sidelines in street clothes. He leads them up and down the field but inside that 20…the offense fails miserably. More on that in a moment…because the defense has surely now become the main source of frustration in Philadelphia.
Frank Gore, who went from starting…to playing…to trying to give it a go…absolutely steamrolled the Eagles’ defense. He entered the contest on a gimpy ankle, averaging but 2.5 yards a carry. At the close of business Sunday, his average per carry against the Eagles’ defense was 8.5 yards. That defense is headed by new Coordinator Juan Castillo, who with each passing week certainly looks more and more as if he really was the Offensive Line coach last year and not a Defensive Coordinator…especially once teams digest what Philadelphia throws at them in the first half. Head Coach Andy Reid is as arrogant as ever in refusing to admit reincarnating his friend from one side of the ball to the other was a tragic mistake. That being said, it was assumed Castillo was playing with athletes who know how to, or care to…tackle. The jury is not only very much out on Juan’s coaching but his defense’s tackling. They also don’t appear to have any field leader (i.e. Brian Dawkins) who has the interest and/or following to effectively bring the “D” together and say, “Enough is enough.”
But I saved the best for last…and this one is admittedly all on the offense…
Third and goal from inside the 1-yard line in the second quarter. With two Tight Ends and a Tackle eligible for a third…and Fullback Owen Schmitt on the field…Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and/or Reid apparently called for Halfback Ronnie Brown to have a “run-pass” option. At least, that’s the second story Brown gave as to what was to take place. His first story was it was a pass play. In any event, while Brown was being tackled for a loss he made an attempt to pass it. Unfortunately, as he was enveloped by 49ers at that moment it became a fumble. In reviewing the play, it appears the only players he could have possibly completed a pass to were opposing ones anyway…but his complete lack of care for the football was jaw-dropping. Many including yours truly commented they’ve never seen anything quite like it. Yet, even while only at the quarter-pole of the season no Eagles fan should be shocked at what they see at the goal line.
For Vick and the Eagles, if they don’t “quick strike” from outside the red zone they are doomed. They have no way to get short yardage without resorting to this kind of mutated trickery. (Please note the afore-mentioned tiny offensive line) They have to score at a distance…because their chances of scoring from in close are distant. Brown knew that as he became flustered trying to execute whatever panicked sideline call really was made. Maybe the offense is pressing even more in light of the fact they know the defense will eventually wilt come crunch time.
The pitchforks are being sharpened and the torches are being lit. While ownership has never shown even the slightest interest in removing Reid from the top spot, this is shaping up as a season where the “expectations versus results ratio” is so very much out of whack upper management may be forced to show no heart…towards a Head Coach who, among many difficulties he’s created for himself…doesn’t sport a defense which seems to own one.