The Eagles’ evaporating playoff hopes were dealt a nearly fatal blow Sunday as the Patriots whipped the Birds, 38-20. “Fire Andy!” chants were heard during the third quarter before the disgusted crowd emptied out of Lincoln Financial Field.
You’ve probably read obituaries of the Eagles’ playoff hopes before. Get ready to read another one. But this one comes with a twist.
Two weeks ago, after a horrid loss to the Arizona Cardinals in which they blew yet another fourth-quarter lead, the Eagles were proclaimed dead. Well, almost dead. But they came back with a spirited triumph over the New York Giants, reviving their playoff aspirations.
There wasn’t much spirit evident during Sunday’s 38-20 loss to the New England Patriots that left the Eagles one loss from their postseason hopes being dead and buried. The only spirit coming from people clad in Eagles green were the boos and “Fire Andy!” chants echoing throughout Lincoln Financial Field.
The “Fire Andy!” chants broke out after the Eagles failed to score from the 3-yard line midway through the third quarter.
“I didn’t hear them,” Reid said. “But, the way we played, I understand them.”
Reid understands that’s what happens when a team, particularly a team touted as a Super Bowl contender, loses on its home field for the eighth time in nine games. He also understands chants and boos because the Eagles continue to experience the same problems:
- They commit too many penalties
- They drop too many passes
- Their defense can’t stop the opponent
- The Eagles don’t run the ball well enough
If the fans weren’t infuriated after watching the Eagles’ make the same mistakes they’ve been making all season, they assuredly were after hearing Reid’s repetitive responses during his postgame news conference.
(read Ron Opher’s “Benefit of the doubt, or definition of insanity?” piece, posted 10/10/11)
Penalties? “That’s my responsibility to make sure my football team is disciplined,” Reid said.
Dropped passes? “We’ve got to do a better job there,” Reid said.
The decision to pass the football near the goal line instead of running it, as they did on their first touchdown drive? “That’s my responsibility,” Reid said.
The inability of Juan Castillo’s defense to stop the Patriots? “It’s all our fault,” Reid said. “We’ve all got to take responsibility for that.”
The team’s penchant for making the same mistakes over and over again? “We’ve got to do a better job all the way around,” Reid said.
(haven’t we been here before?)
In other words, Reid gave the same answers he’s been giving all season. But the same problems keep creeping up throughout the season.
The Eagles have four days to fix these problems. They play at Seattle, a 23-17 loser to Washington, on Thursday night. by the way, the Eagles (4-7) have the same record as the Seahawks and Redskins.
The Eagles have to fix their problems in order to win their remaining five games, which is their only chance of making the playoffs. The Eagles received some help this weekend as the Lions and Bears, both with seven wins, were beaten by the Packers and Raiders, respectively. The Giants, with six wins, play at the Saints on Monday night.
But the Eagles failed to take advantage of their opportunity to gain ground in the wild-card chase. Instead, the Patriots stuffed the Birds like a Thanksgiving Day turkey.
Don’t be fooled by the final score (correctly predicted by PhillyPhanatics.com’s Ron Opher in his game preview) or that fact that the Eagles outgained the Patriots, 466-457 yards. After the first half of the first quarter, the Patriots dominated the game.
It seems difficult to believe that the Eagles held an early 10- 0 lead. On the Eagles’ third play from scrimmage, Vince Young, starting in place of the injured Michael Vick, unleashed a perfect bomb to Riley Cooper for a 58-yard gain to the Patriots 4-yard line. LeSean McCoy ran twice for 2 yards to reach the end one and give the Eagles a 7-0 lead just 2 minutes, 17 seconds into the game.
The Eagles pressured Tom Brady on the Patriots’ first possession, knocking the heralded quarterback to the ground several times. The Patriots were forced to punt, although that would be their last punt until late in the third quarter – after the “Fire Andy!” chants had reached their zenith.
Young (26 of 48, career-high 400 yards, TD, INT) connected with DeSean Jackson for a 43-yard gain on the first play of the Eagles’ second possession. But two drops by McCoy and an incompletion that Jackson should have caught forced the Eagles to settle for a 43-yard Alex Henery field goal.
Still, the 10-0 lead with 8:19 remaining in the first quarter looked good. Then the wheels came off.
Brady (24 for 34, 361 yards, 3 TDs) led the Patriots on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that consumed nearly seven minutes. After a three-and-out for the Eagles, Brady shook off the Eagles’ only sack (by Mike Patterson) to drive the Patriots 62 yards in five plays for a 14-10 lead. The key play was a 63-yard pass to Deion Branch (6 receptions, 125 yards), an improvised play by quarterback and receiver after Brady stepped up in the pocket to avoid a sack.
The Eagles gave the ball right back on Young’s interception. The Patriots missed a 39-yard field goal attempt, but, after another three-and-out by the Eagles, the Patriots struck again. This time Brady found Wes Welker (7 receptions, 105 yards, 2 TDs) wide open for a 41-yard touchdown after a play-action fake, extending the Patriots’ lead to 21-10.
It should be noted that the Patriots’ play-action fakes seem to work because they actually hand the ball off to their running backs with some frequency. By contrast, McCoy carried just six times during the first half, including twice during the opening 2-minute drive.
The Eagles pulled within a touchdown, but even that was considered a failure. The Eagles reached the 5-yard line. The Eagles then called three straight pass plays and had to settle for a 21-yard Henery field goal.
That sequence was still fresh in the fans’ minds when, after the Patriots had extended their lead to 31-13 with a late first-half field goal and an easy 69-yard touchdown drive to open the third quarter, the Eagles again approached the goal line.
McCoy (10 carries, 31 yards) gained 1 yard to the 2, setting up fourth-and-1 from the 2. Even with time to think about the play due to a Patriots timeout, the Eagles called for Young to fake a handoff and roll out to his right. His throw was so far off that even if tight end Brank Celek (5 receptions, 75 yards) had caught the ball, he would have been out of the end zone.
The boos rained down from the Lincoln Financial Field stands. They were followed by loud “Fire Andy!” chants.
If the same mistakes continue to occur the rest of the season, those fans might finally get an answer they want to hear.