Remain calm; All is well.
— Chip Diller, Animal House
Andy Reid won’t be standing in the streets of Philadelphia, trying to convince an angry mob that the 2012 season is still salvageable and that panic is the last thing that should prevail.
But perhaps the Big Man should consider some little gesture of public relations, because after Sunday’s ugly loss to undefeated Atlanta, it is quite evident that these Eagles are nowhere near the team many thought they would be. The Birds are lacking in every area. They aren’t overly talented. They aren’t particularly well coached. They lack big-play performers. And, after showing grit in toughness during their three wins early in the season, they have displayed a maddening tendency in recent weeks to come up small in key situations.
In other words, they are strikingly mediocre. In an NFC that is stronger than ever, that’s an awful thing. The Eagles trail New York by two-and-a-half games in the NFC East standings. They are tied with Dallas and Tampa Bay for sixth in the wild-card hunt. Their conference record is a poor 1-3. About the only thing they have in their favor as the season’s halfway mark approaches is a win over the Giants, but New York could well be so far ahead of the Birds in the standings come December, tiebreakers probably won’t matter at all.
Reid is now 13-1 after bye weeks, a spectacular mark. The problem is that he is 0-1 this season, meaning one of the main things he has had in his favor during his tenure in Philadelphia has betrayed him in 2012. No matter how you look at it, this team does not resemble one capable of making the post-season, much less doing any damage if it got there.
Sunday’s game was particularly ugly, since the Falcons scored on their only four possessions of the first half to build an insurmountable lead. The Eagles’ past two losses had come when the defense had betrayed the team in the fourth quarter. This time, the new, presumably improved and promised “unpredictable” unit fell apart right away, as Atlanta coordinator Dirk Koetter seemed completely at home attacking Todd Bowles’ schemes. Granted, this was Bowles’ first time running a defense since he was at Grambling at 1999, but it seems as if there is a finite amount anyone can do with the personnel on that side of the ball, despite what were thought to be substantial off-season upgrades.
Atlanta, meanwhile, schemed perfectly for the Eagles’ attack, forcing them to play patient football and matriculate the ball upfield gradually. Michael Vick didn’t turn the ball over, but he was unable to throw deep and averaged a mere 5.5 yards per attempt. LeSean McCoy was held to 45 yards on 16 carries by a defense that entered the game ranked 28th in the league against the rush. The Birds didn’t do anything overtly awful on offense, but they didn’t impress, either.
That seems to be the theme for this team of late. It doesn’t offend, but it isn’t capable of delighting, either. That’s almost the textbook definition of mediocrity. Perhaps the Eagles’ biggest sin this year is that they are boring. Of course, drab and 6-1 is completely acceptable. Bland and 3-4, with four losses in the last five games, is bad news. In what could be considered the biggest regular season game of Reid’s time in Philadelphia, the Birds were methodically disposed of from the opening kickoff.
So, what now? There is plenty of time for the Eagles to rebound, although in order to win 10 games – probably the benchmark for wild-card inclusion in a sturdy NFC – they must go 7-2, something which they seem absolutely incapable of doing. The remaining schedule is not particularly taxing. In fact, right now it includes only one team (the Giants) with a winning record. The problem is that what appears to be manageable is actually quite daunting, because the Eagles’ problems are not necessarily their opponents’ talents; they stem from their own inability to execute consistently.
They sacked Matt Ryan twice Sunday, big news because that brought their season total to nine. Nine! Their outside receivers struggled to get open downfield and have combined for a total of four TD receptions this season. The beleaguered offensive line is incapable of providing consistent protection for Vick and doesn’t block particularly well on running plays, either.
Again, it’s a mediocre team in a conference that is anything but. Sunday dawned with a region’s fearing the worst from Hurricane Sandy but with Eagles fans’ looking forward to a guaranteed victory following a bye week and the beginning of a rally to the playoffs. As the storm bears down, the grim reality of the 2012 season is more evident than ever. The Eagles just aren’t that good. If Sunday’s loss taught us anything, it’s that the final nine weeks of the regular season will likely be a slide deeper into the malaise.
Bad, boring and inconsistent is no way to succeed in the NFL, fellas.
- Timely hitting, disciplined play and reliable pitching are carrying the Giants to their second World Series title in three years. Let’s hope Ruben Amaro uses his off-season moves to add players who can play winning baseball, rather than trying to be a fantasy owner hoping to make a big splash.
- Just because Penn State’s five-game winning streak ended Saturday against Ohio State doesn’t mean the Nittany Lions are headed for trouble. They can hang with anybody left on their schedule, provided they can resume the physical play they favored up front, rather than getting manhandled, as they were against the Buckeyes.
- If Andrew Bynum’s recent knee travails don’t convince the Sixers that he is a one-year rental, nothing will. He has chronic problems, not one-time incidents. He will require copious rest and multiple doses of pain and swelling-relieving balms for the rest of his career. And, in case you haven’t been paying attention, knees do not get better with age. Giving him a long-term contract won’t be a good idea, no matter what he does this year.