Dream Evaporates for Reid and Eagles

Now about that “Dream Team” stuff…

Never mind the Super Bowl.   It’s a near-certainty the Philadelphia Eagles aren’t going to make the playoffs.

The summertime darlings, bolstered by the acquisition of cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as well as defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins, took themselves mostly out of the hunt with their second home loss of the week, 21-17 to Arizona.  Coming on the heels of Monday night’s 30-24 loss to the Bears, the result dropped the Eagles to 3-6 on the season, 1-4 in front of their brotherly and loving fans.

Arizona came into Lincoln Financial Field with the fourth-worst pass defense in the league, allowing 272 yards per game.  The Eagles managed just 123 yards in 34 Michael Vick passes, a miserable 3.6 yards per pass.  Vick threw two interceptions, no touchdowns, and had a 32.5 passer rating for the game.

The Eagles played without wideout DeSean Jackson, declared ineligible and ordered to stay home by the team after missing a meeting on Saturday.  Without him, the Philadelphia offense was missing all day, mounting only one scoring drive against the permissive Cardinals, who had allowed 30 or more points in half their games.  Ten of the Eagles’ seventeen points came from a pick-six and a field goal after an interception deep in Arizona territory.

As for the Philly defense, suffice it to say that when John Skelton throws for 315 yards against you, you’ve got issues.  Skelton’s effort was the finest performance by a Fordham player in the NFL since Alex Wojciechowicz retired in 1950.

It was the fifth time this season that the Eagles have blown a fourth-quarter lead.  Despite the presence of one of the best and most versatile running backs in the league in LeSean McCoy, the Eagles called nine consecutive pass plays, starting in the third quarter up by seven.  Those two possessions took a mere 3:07 off the clock.

On the winning Arizona drive, the key play was a 37-yard completion to Larry Fitzgerald on third-and-ten.  Fitzgerald made a gorgeous diving catch at the one, having gotten behind rookie safety Jaiquawn Jarrett.  It was a bad matchup for the Eagles, raising further doubts about head coach Andy Reid’s decision to make Juan Castillo his defensive coordinator this year; Castillo had spent the last 13 seasons as an offensive line coach.

Reid minced no words after the game: “Obviously you can’t turn over the football as many times as we did, and have eleven penalties on top of that, and then be a disaster in the Red Zone like we were, so, that’s my responsibility…. None of us did very good.  Starting with me.  It was a joint effort.”

The Eagles will have to run the table to have any chance of eking out a wild card, and their remaining schedule includes road games against the Giants and Cowboys (as well as a trip to Seattle, where the crowd makes the Seahawks a formidable opponent, something Baltimore learned this week), and home matchups with New England and the Jets.

Even then, 10-6 may not be good enough.  The NFC North will probably provide both wild cards; the suddenly frisky Chicago Bears knocked off Detroit by 37-13 to improve to 6-3, tied with the Lions behind the 8-0 Packers.  The Bears’ remaining games include all four weaklings of the AFC West, as well as Seattle (in Chicago) and 2-6 Minnesota.

Despite their record, the Eagles have actually outscored their opponents by 17; they’re the only team in the league with a losing record and a positive differential.

Statistical analysis suggests that this means they’ve been unlucky.  The boos raining down from all directions endorse instead the wisdom of Bill Parcells: “You are what your record says you are.”

Three-and-six is not the stuff that dreams are made of.

(published November 14, 2011)





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