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No Defending That Loss
It’s one thing for fans to abandon their team. Players giving up is another thing entirely.
But after watching last night’s 45-21 humiliation by Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, it’s clear that the Birds themselves have joined Eagle Nation in the 2006 season.
What happened last night on the artificial turf at the RCA Dome was astonishing. From the very first snap, the Eagles defenders were tackled and pushed all over the field by the big, strong Colts offensive line.
The Philadelphia Eagles were being thrown on the ground like sacks of potatoes, opening holes for Indy’s stud rookie running back Joseph Addai (24/171). After throwing just three touchdowns through the first 10 games of the regular season, the first-year outside man from LSU scored four runs against an Eagles defense that has clearly given up.
Of course, even if they hadn’t quit, the Birds probably would have lost this game. They are no match for the Colts physically and the scores are likely to be even, no matter how motivated the Eagles are.
But last night’s defeat was an embarrassment. They were matched from the first snap, trailing 21-0 early in the second quarter, letting the Colts do whatever they wanted.
And like a good team, the Colts took advantage, rushing for a whopping 237 yards, piling up 420 yards of total offense. And that includes a fourth quarter in which Indy mercifully pulled away to reign.
It’s been clear for weeks that the biggest problem in Philadelphia is the defense. In fact it was seen last year as well. The Birds, with their philosophy of going with “small but quick” players, have been pushed around since the start of the 2005 season.
What is the problem here? Are they employees? Is it a philosophy? Has defensive coordinator Jim Johnson lost his touch? Has the rest of the NFL caught up with his plans?
The answer to all these questions is yes.
Perhaps the play that best crystallized this Eagles defense was Addai’s third touchdown run, six minutes into the second quarter. With Addai sprawling to the left, Indy TE Dallas Clark absolutely plowed over OLB Matt McCoy and opened up a huge hole that allowed Addai to score virtually untouched.
I repeat. A pass-catching tight end completely destroys a starting outside linebacker on a supposedly capable defense.
It made me want to vomit.
But McCoy isn’t the only one to blame, not by a long shot. With Darwin Walker and Mike Patterson being picked off in the attack, Trent Cole and Darren Howard disappearing before our eyes, Sean Barber and McCoy threatened, and Brian Dawkins and Sean Considine missing arm tackle after arm tackle, you wanted to throw up. Paperweight on your TV screen.
And it’s not like the Eagles didn’t address these defensive concerns last offseason. With their last two first-round picks, the Birds got Mike Patterson (I’d pay $200 if they could come up with a rational explanation for the contract extension the Eagles gave Patterson a few weeks ago) and Broderick Bunkley, who was deactivated. After missing the team’s flight to Indianapolis on Sunday, he was almost invisible for the rest of the year. This past off-season, they spent big on defensive end Darren Howard as a free agent and signed OLB Sean Barber to a one-year contract.
But one thing they never did was seriously invest in the outside linebacker position. Even in salary cap space, the Birds never prioritized the linebacker position, instead focusing on investing in a short, quick, quarterback-pressure defensive line.
Only, the defensive line puts no pressure on the opposing quarterback. Cole and Howard have disappeared. Jerome McDougal is the franchise’s worst draft pick since Mike Mamula. Not only can Patterson and Walker not generate any pressure on the interior, they are too undersized to close any running lanes. And with Andy Reid and Jim Johnson clearly and completely ignoring the linebacker position, the Eagles are simply no match for teams with any size hint.
The team’s defensive philosophy has to change. Maybe it’s time for Jim Johnson to find a job elsewhere and let a new defensive coordinator take the reigns. A defensive coordinator capable of making in-game adjustments. A defensive coordinator who values that size. A defensive coordinator who gets the concept that playing tight at linebacker will eventually catch up to you.
And while Johnson no longer has some of the players who once made his defense great (Corey Simon, Hollis Thomas, Carlos Emmons), what has happened over the past year and a half is his own fault. This is the defense he created with Big Red. These are the players he wanted for his system. He and Reed drafted these tight ends and signed these free agents.
And it doesn’t work. It is an embarrassment.
A new philosophy can only happen when Jim Johnson is fired as defensive coordinator. The Eagles need a new direction on defense, and they need it now.
Of course, there were other storylines last night. Jeff Garcia, filling in for Donovan McNabb, played pretty darn well, moving the Eagles offense up and down the field when he had the ball.
Brian Westbrook and the offensive line continue to show that, given the opportunity, they can be a dominant rushing force.
Andy Reid showed once again that he had completely lost touch with reality when he called that freak Hank basket pass play to start the Eagles’ second drive, a play-call that drew screams of panic.
While still very much alive mathematically (thanks to yesterday’s losses to the Giants and Panthers), the Eagles are through. Instead of rising to the challenge of playing without their starting quarterback and proving Delaware Valley wrong, the Birds did nothing but reinforce our cynicism and skepticism by making a joint stinker last night.
They have left their season.
And there is no defense for that.
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