Eagles-Panthers Postgame: Dropping Another One
The Philadelphia Eagles are not a very good team. They just aren't.
They can beat bad teams like the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints, but they can also lose to bad teams like the Washington Redskins. They are the kind of team you would expect to have a record like 3-4, which is exactly where the Eagles now find themselves after their 27-16 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday night.
There is no shame in losing to the undefeated Panthers, who have now won 10 regular season games in a row, dating back to last season. But there certainly is plenty of shame to go around regarding how they lost to the Panthers.
Quite simply, it was a total team effort. The quarterback wasn't terrible, as he usually has been this season, but he wasn't good either. The receivers couldn't catch a cold, let alone a football. The offensive line allowed five sacks and generally had trouble opening up holes for the running game. The high-priced free agent RB never seems to get it going and was the second best RB on his own team. The defense that was stuffing the run all season, allowed a 100-yard rusher for the first time in 18 games. The team kept shooting themselves in the foot by committing penalties at the worst possible times. And the special teams didn't do anything specials because Carolina kicked away from Darren Sproles all night.
Let's start with Sam Bradford. The fact that the QB didn't throw multiple interceptions in this game is actually an improvement. If you want to be honest about it, his only INT wasn't his fault at all. Bradford's pass wasn't perfect, but WR Jordan Matthews should have caught the pass he let deflect off his hands and into the waiting arms of a defender. Bradford completed 26 of 46 passes for 205 yards, no TDs and that 1 INT. That can't be considered a good performance by any stretch of the imagination, but we're grading Bradford on a curve of his own ineptitude these days. If he throws the ball directly into the ground, instead of directly into the midsection of a defender these days, it's considered a good pass. He also doesn't seem to be able to put any touch on the ball. Several of his incompletions would have been complete if he only put a little air under the ball to keep it away from the defenders.
And while his receivers were horrible in dropping 7 passes, some of those drops were passes that were too high in the first place. Matthews has regressed horribly in his second season. He can't seem to catch the football any longer and against the Panthers, the Eagles most reliable WR was Miles Austin. That is pathetic. Josh Huff is playing like a guy who was a RB that Chip Kelly converted into a WR and he just can't quite get the hang of it. What? Oh, that's exactly what Huff is and what Kelly did? Oh, then it makes perfect sense that he stinks. He dropped a TD in the back of the endzone that even an average WR would have caught. Suddenly, the days of Pinkston and Thrash don't seem so bad, do they?
TE Zach Ertz led the team with 5 catches for 63 yards and it won't be long before defenses start treating him like the lone receiving threat on the Eagles besides the RBs.
Speaking of the RBs, I continue to wonder why Kelly won't admit that Ryan Matthews is a far better fit for this offense than DeMarco Murray. Murray gained 65 yards on 18 carries, while Matthew had 97 yards on only 6 carries, including a 63-yard TD run that kept the Eagles in the game after the Panthers took the opening possession of the second half for a TD and a 21-6 lead. Then, of course, he only got 2 more carries, as he spent most of the rest of the game on the bench, while Murray got run out of bounds of stupid stretch plays and sweeps. Hey Chipper, want a little advice? When you're playing a great defense with possibly the fastest LBs in the entire NFL, it's best not to run slow-developing plays to the outside where those LBs can run down the play. Matthews' TD run was right up the gut. Just saying.
The offensive line lost LT Jason Peters early and you would have thought that he was the greatest offensive lineman in the history of the NFL. At least that's what the announcers made it sound like. While Peters is still great compared to his fellow linemen on the Eagles, he's a shadow of his former Pro Bowl self. But when he was carted off the field (back spasms?) Kelly shifted RG Matt Tobin to LT and brought Dennis Kelly in to play RG. On the very next play, DE Jared Allen blew past Tobin to pressure Bradford. Tobin also gave up two sacks later.
The defensive line likes to say they are the best unit in the NFL, but the Panthers O-line manhandled them, en route to 204 yards rushing. The Eagles had only given up one rushing TD all season before Sunday night. They gave up two in the first half against the Panthers. Jonathan Stewart led the way with 125 yards on 24 carries and QB Cam Newton chipped in with 20 yards and a TD run. But the thing is, that's the extent of Newton as a weapon. He simply isn't a great passer.
Newton finished 14 of 24 for 197 yards, with 1 TD and 3 INTs. Tell me how a team won with QB stats that ugly. Actually, the explanation is simple. Instead of converting those turnovers into TDs, like the Eagles did the week before against Eli Manning and the Giants, the Eagles did absolutely nothing with any of those INTs from Newton. They managed 2 FGs off those turnovers, but both drives started in FG range, so the offense didn't move the ball.
Who Should Get the Majority of the Carries for the Eagles?
The good news was that the Eagles defense at least continued to force turnovers. Nolan Carroll ripped the football out of Ted Ginn Jr's hands on the first play after Matthews gave up an INT on a decent pass from Bradford. Malcolm Jenkins made an incredible diving interception on a pass where he anticipated the pass and jumped the out-pattern. And even Byron Maxwell stopped grabbing receivers' jerseys long enough to catch a ball that was deflected by the WR when Newton threw the ball too hard.
Another positive quickly turned into a negative, when kicker Caleb Sturgis nailed a 52 yard FG and then promptly kicked the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, which gave the Panthers the ball at the 40 yard line. Carolina took that gift and turned it into a TD.
Carolina is absolutely a better team than the Eagles, but not that much better. They simply know what they want to do and they do it. The want to run the football and play good defense. If only Kelly would figure out what this Eagles team wants to be. Maybe he'll figure it out over the bye week. Or maybe not.
One week, he's having his QB throw on 75 % of the plays even though Braford missed the previous two seasons with an injury. Then he pounds the rock against a good Jets team with Matthews, before relegating him to the bench once Murray came back healthy. There is no deep threat on this team that defenses have to respect, as evidenced by Bradford completing one pass over 20 yards on Sunday night, and that allows defenses to commit an extra man to the run. And now the defense got mauled by a rushing attack that they knew was coming from a Carolina team that runs the ball more than anyone else in the NFL.
NFC East Standings
New York Giants
All of the personnel mistakes are on Kelly and he's also getting outcoached on a weekly basis. At 3-4, the Eagles are only one game behind the Giants, who they already beat. That means they're right in the thick of the race for the NFC East division title going into their bye. But is it really best for this team to win the division, only to get crushed by a good team in the playoffs?
It seems fairly obvious that this Eagles team is not great. They might not even be very good. They certainly can't beat any of the better teams in the NFL this season. And weren't all those offseason moves made to take them from a good team, coming off back-to-back 10-6 seasons, and make them a great team? How's that working out for you, Chipper?
They absolutely could have stolen a win against the Panthers by forcing all of those turnovers. Unfortunately, they offense literally dropped the ball. That is a very bad sign for this team's prospects throughout the remainder of this season and it's all Chip Kelly's fault.