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Eagles-Falcons Postgame: All a Bad "Dream"
What I want to know is, why did Andy Reid and Nnamdi Asomugha make the trip to Atlanta with the Philadelphia Eagles for Monday night's game?
I mean, there is no other explanation for what occurred during the Eagles' 26-24 loss to the Falcons, right?
The Eagles called 52 pass plays and only 16 running plays. Meanwhile, the big-ticket free agent cornerback got burned so badly and so often that I believe he had to stay behind in Atlanta in the hospital's burn unit.
Let's recap the ugliness. Chip Kelly spent big money in free agency to bring in DeMarco Murray, who led the NFL in carries and rushing yards last season and only gave him 8 carries. He also brought in Ryan Matthews and only gave him 3 carries. Kelly got rid of both of his veteran guards and the offensive line looked horrible against a bad Atlanta defense. The new quarterback, Sam Bradford was under pressure too often and there weren't enough holes for the RBs. Most unsettling along the line was that Jason Peters looks to be a great player in reputation alone these days. Speaking of Bradford, he was off-target the entire first half and it buried his team. The only time new CB Byron Maxwell made contact with a Falcons receiver was when he was getting called for pass interference. And the kicker missed a 44-yard FG that would have put the Eagles ahead with only 2:27 left in the game.
Oh the humanity.
The game started out on the wrong foot as the Eagles went 3-and-out before allowing the Falcons to drive right down the field for the first of Matt Bryant's four FGs. Another 3-and-out by the offense was only outdone by Malcolm Jenkins dropping an easy INT and Maxwell getting flagged and burned repeatedly. The game actually would have been over in the first quarter if not for the finest interception you will ever see. Kiko Alonso intercepted a Matt Ryan pass in the endzone that made Odell Beckham sit up and take notice. Unfortunately, that was the only highlight in the entire first half for the Eagles.
Atlanta out-gained the Eagles by 126 to 35 yards in the first quarter and Julio Jones (9 receptions for 141 yards and 2 TDs) already had 4 catches for 54 yards. Jones added a TD early in the second quarter to put the Falcons up 10-0, before the Eagles showed a spark of life with a Cody Parkey FG, to cut Atlanta's lead to 10-3. Then it got really ugly.
Bryant knocked through another FG to make it 13-3. Bradford threw a pick on his own 27 yard line. A Fletcher Cox strip sack and Connor Barwin fumble recovery was negated by a phantom Kiko Alonso pass interference call. And finally, Julio Jones schools Maxwell on a 27-yard TD to make it 20-3.
At haltime the Eagles had called 27 pass plays and only 7 running plays. Even worse, Murray had 4 carries for negative 4 yards thanks to a 12 yard loss on an early run. As a team, the Eagles only had 8 yards rushing and most of that was on Darren Sproles draw plays at the end of the first half, as the Eagles were just trying to run out the clock. Unfortunately, Sproles had to keep running the ball since the Eagles offensive linemen kept getting flagged for holding. It was one of the worst halves of football you will ever witness.
Then Chip Kelly shaved off his Andy Reid mustache at halftime and did something that Andy could never do. He made some adjustments. Of course, he should have made one more and possibly tried running the ball a bit, but at least the Eagles showed some life in the second half.
Walter Thurmond intercepted a horrible Ryan pass and returned it to the Atlanta 8-yard line and Murray promptly ran for the 8-yard TD to pull the Eagles within 20-10. Jenkins dropped another easy INT, but the Eagles offense was just getting warmed up. The Eagles' 13-play, 95-yard TD drive would have been a thing of beauty if it weren't for four more penalties on the offensive line. But it did get the Eagles to 20-17, before a Bryant FG pushed the Falcons lead back up to 23-17.
Who was most to blame for the Eagles Loss to Atlanta?
The good news is that the Eagles answered back with another drive, capped by a Matthews 1-yard TD run to actually give the Eagles a 24-23 lead. The bad news is that on the very next offensive play for the Falcons, Maxwell got burned for a long completion to Jones on a drive that ended up with another Bryant FG to give the Falcons back the lead.
At this point Bradford (36 for 52, 336 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs) looked like the guy we saw in the preseason. He was 20-for-22 in the second half and the Eagles up-tempo offense was obviously wearing down the Falcons defense. Unfortunately, Kelly decided to attempt a 44-yard FG with 2:27 left in the game, which Parkey promptly pushed wide right.
The Eagles defense actually stopped the Falcons on three running plays to force a punt, but Bradford's pass to Jordan Matthews (10 receptions for 102 yards) went right through his hands and was intercepted by Atlanta's Ricardo Allen to end the game.
The Falcons offense was as good as advertised, with Matt Ryan (23 for 34, 298 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) and Julio Jones leading the way. Rookie Tevin Coleman even gained 80 yards rushing on 20 carries against an Eagles defense that looked like it could use a crash course in remedial tackling. Even Roddy White pitched in with 4 catches for 84 yards. While Maxwell was the easy target, the other CB, Nolan Carroll didn't fare much better. Of course, perhaps the reason the defensive backs looked so bad is that the Eagles generated almost no pass rush the entire game. They only got to Ryan once, thanks to that Alonso penalty. The Falcons offensive line is not good at all, so this was inexcusable
On offense, the blind loyalists will point to Bradford's great second half, but the truth is that he was brutal early in the game as he struggled to find his rhythm. Murray only gained 9 yards on his 8 carries and only had 11 yards on his 4 catches. One of them was a TD, but that's of little consolation in a losing locker room. One of the lone bright spots on the Eagles offense was Sproles who had 50 yards rushing on 5 carries and 76 yards on 7 receptions. Now we'll just have to see whether or not Kelly ignores him the rest of the season, like he did last year.
The Eagles blew a golden opportunity to steal a win in a game where they were outplayed. The easy thing to do would be to blame Parkey for missing the field goal, or blaming Kelly for not going for it on 4th-and-1 in the 4th quarter. But the truth is that Kelly was right to go for the FG that would have given the Eagles the lead. And I would have to venture a guess that Parkey's preseason injury problems aren't 100% behind him.
With all that being said, the Eagles are now 0-1 and have a short week before they face the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday in their home opener. Yes, the Cowboys will be without Dez Bryant, but I'm not sure the Eagles CBs can cover anybody after what I saw on Monday night in Atlanta. And what will the Eagles defense do against a great offensive line after not being able to dominate a bad one? This loss was bad, but the Eagles need to put it behind them and get a win against the Cowboys, because starting the season 0-2 with two losses in the conference is not a hole the Eagles want to try to climb out of.
The last time the Eagles spent a ton of money on free agents, like they did this offseason, they called themselves the "Dream Team." They need to hope that those visions of Andy Reid and Nnamdi Asomugha were just a bad dream. Time to wake up before it's too late, Eagles. The alarm clock is set for 4:25 on Sunday.