Eagles-Dolphins, The Day After
Expectations for the 2015 season were largely built on trust.
Trust that Chip Kelly knew what he was doing as a head coach and architect; that the offensive line would hold up despite a big subtraction and no notable additions; that the young receivers would help replace a key veteran; that Sam Bradford would take his game to the next level in this system and avoid injury; and that over time, the new pieces would coalesce to form a contender.
On Sunday, that trust absorbed its biggest hit yet.
Old habits were re-introduced and the longstanding fears were realized in Sunday’s 20-19 loss to the Dolphins, leaving considerable doubt as to whether this team has the ability to rise very far above mediocrity.
The interior offensive line — a major question mark from the moment Evan Mathis was released — got demolished. Ndamukong Suh (8 tackles, 3 TFL, 3 QB hits, sack) helped collapse a front that yielded 10 quarterback hits and four sacks. Bradford was pummeled and pummeled some more until his body gave out.
A disgusted Jason Kelce declined to be interviewed afterwards, but did leave reporters with the following statement before exiting:
“That was the worst game of my entire career. Three penalties, f**king bad snap, and f**king, just a terrible blocking performance. I gotta get it corrected. Other than that, that’s about all I gotta say.”
There were the usual untimely penalties, including an illegal formation infraction on Riley Cooper that negated a Zach Ertz touchdown. (Cooper and Miles Austin were both held without a catch. The leading wide receiver was Nelson Agholor, who was coming off a high ankle sprain and posted a modest three grabs for 32 yards.) The Eagles had seven penalties that were accepted against Miami and a handful of others that were either declined or offsetting.
More bad mistakes at the wrong time. Despite all the talk and all the time to get it right, the Eagles found themselves singing a familiar tune afterwards.
“As far as discipline, the tiniest details in practice that you let slip away will come to make a big impact on the game on Sunday. You’ve really gotta pay attention. That’s something I’ve learned the more I’ve been in the league, it’s the little details that you think are OK that will get exposed in the game,” said Lane Johnson, who was whistled for holding while filling in once again at left tackle for Jason Peters.
“I get tired of making excuses to y’all. It really pisses me off. We’re going to keep battling, though.”
Particularly after the Cowboys win, there was a growing sentiment that this Eagles team had turned the corner. However, Sunday’s regression against a mediocre opponent confirmed concerns that the issues might be too deep-rooted to make a clean getaway from.
At what point are you concerned that this is who you guys are?
The last man standing in the home locker room Sunday evening, all eyes were on Malcolm Jenkins as he weaved his response to a question that is central to the rest of the season.
“Well, to be honest, I don’t think that’s my concern. Even if that is who we are, you work day in and day out to not accept that,” he said. “Until the season is over, until you have no fight left, until you’re statistically completely out of the playoff race, you always have a chance. You really fool yourself into thinking you’re not and you try to fix whatever it is that you have to get done.”
But you can only fool yourself, of course, for so long.
Mark Sanchez had injected a little life into an offense-gone-stagnant and the Eagles were on the move. Trailing by just a point, completions to Zach Ertz and DeMarco Murray set the Eagles up inside the Dolphins 10-yard line with under five minutes to play. They were poised to take the lead until this sequence unfolded on second-and-goal.
“We had a couple other guys [open]. We were hoping he would take a peek if you don’t have it because they’re in coverage,” said Kelly. “It looked to me like Brent [Celek] was open underneath, just dump it down, play the next snap and get positive yardage. We were already in field goal range; that would have put us up. But you obviously want to try to score a touchdown because there’s obviously time left in the game.”
Celek was open underneath as Kelly thought.
Instead Sanchez opted for Austin, who was not in sync with his quarterback.
“I think it was just miscommunication between me and Miles,” said Sanchez. “I thought he was going to do one thing and he was thinking another. So I put the ball [there] expecting, trying to anticipate where he was going and it didn’t pan out very well.”
“It was play action and I was coming over to the left side,” added Austin. “You are supposed to expect the ball to always come your way. Their guy made a play.”
If we are to infer from Austin’s comments that he wasn’t looking for the ball there, then that rings as both odd and unacceptable.
The Eagles may be bad, but this will all be irrelevant when the sun swallows the earth in about 5000 years — #1 Ghostbear Fan™ (@moleloco) October 4, 2015
Who says Eagles fans can’t look on the bright side?
OK, hearing now Grade II AC joint for Bradford. Nonthrowing shoulder, so might not be out long, depending on concussion. — Les Bowen (@LesBowen) November 15, 2015
Details on Bradford’s separated shoulder from Les.
This was the 9th time in Eagles history they’ve had 13 points after the first quarter but finished with 20 or fewer. — Reuben Frank (@RoobCSN) November 15, 2015
Some historical context from Roob on the offensive cliff Kelly’s crew fell off after a hot start.
Sorry about that, guys.
My former colleague and NFL expert Johnny Mac, with an accurate temperature read pre-game.
“That’s kind of how the game went. It was in the air for four seconds; it has to be a pick. There were a couple plays there that rolled their way, but that’s how the game goes sometimes.”
— Connor Barwin on his deflected pass that turned into a Jarvis Landry TD.
“You can’t just come in and expect anything. This is the NFL.”
— DeMarco Murray, when asked if he envisioned having stronger rushing numbers against a Dolphins defense that has been generous against the run. The ground game finished with 83 yards on 36 carries (2.3 avg.)
“The wind was blowing left to right, and I have to start it further down the middle. I just started it too far right and it missed. It’s something that I have to get better at.”
— Caleb Sturgis on missed 32-yard field goal.
“I’ll have to see the tape to see specifically what, but it looked like it was a low snap.”
— Kelly, when asked about Jon Dorenbos‘ snap on the missed field goal. He suggested the snap helped lead to the blocked punt as well.
“I wasn’t set. That was my fault.”
Riley Cooper on the penalty that negated Ertz’s touchdown.
“I know what I ate and it wasn’t a Philly cheesesteak that caused this.”
— Miami corner and Philly native Brent Grimes, who missed the game with food poisoning.
Cooper was not targeted despite playing 52 snaps…Austin was targeted four times and failed to come away with a catch…After a big night against Dallas, Jordan Matthews had three catches for 21 yards on five targets.
DeMeco Ryans received the bulk of the snaps at inside linebacker despite coming off a hamstring strain. Jordan Hicks was logging the most snaps per game before going down for the year…Kiko Alonso had four tackles in his 30 snaps of action…Marcus Smith held contain on an end around after being beat on a similar play against Carolina. He did not appear on the stat sheet and has one tackle on the season.