No matter the opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles learned the hard way they can’t take any team lightly.
A day after blowing a gimme against the woeful Oakland Raiders, the Eagles searched for answers. It was an all-around ugly performance that resulted in a stunning 13-9 loss.
“It’s a great lesson to learn that no team is as good as you think in this league and no team is as bad as you think in this league,” coach Andy Reid said Monday. “It’s the National Football League and you better be ready every week to play and execute as coaches and players and it starts with me. Anything less than that, you’ve got a problem.”
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The Eagles were 14-point road favorites against a team that had been outscored 96-16 the previous three games. A week earlier, Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce said playing the Raiders was like a scrimmage. Oakland defensive end Greg Ellis called his team the laughingstock of the NFL.
But the joke was on Philadelphia (3-2). The Eagles wasted timeouts, missed field goals, tackled poorly and had major problems blocking.
“Any time you lose in this league, it’s frustrating,” Reid said. “If you’re looking at all teams equally, then they are all frustrating; too much talent, too much good coaching in this league to slight somebody. Go back to the drawing board and try to make it right.”
There were several questionable coaching decisions against the Raiders, mainly the play calling. As usual, the Eagles relied heavily on their passing attack. But the offensive line had trouble protecting Donovan McNabb, especially after left tackle Jason Peters went down with a knee injury.
McNabb was sacked six times and got hurried on numerous throws. He finished just 22 of 46 for 269 yards. Meanwhile, Brian Westbrook had success running the ball the few chances he had. Westbrook rushed for 50 yards on only six carries. Perhaps the Eagles could’ve sustained longer drives if they’d just kept the ball on the ground instead of passing, passing and passing some more.
“I thought that we could have run a little bit more,” Reid said. “We did what we thought would help us win the game, but looking back on it, we probably could have run the ball more.”
The final line: 66 plays, 54 passes, 12 runs, excluding two scrambles by McNabb that really were pass plays. That’s an 82:18 pass-run ratio in a game that was close the whole way.
“We felt like if we could protect, we would have a pretty good chance down the field,” Reid said. “We had a little bit of penetration, and then at times when we didn’t have penetration, the throws were a little long or the routes were off by a bit. We thought we saw some things there that we could have taken advantage of.”
The wildcat may have been a good idea against the Raiders. Instead, Michael Vick only saw the field twice and didn’t line up behind center. He lost 4 yards on one carry and was a decoy on another play. It seemed like the ideal time to use Vick and the wildcat formation because the traditional offense wasn’t working.
“There are certain weeks that that’s going to be used, certain weeks it won’t be used,” Reid said. “We just didn’t get to it this week.”
The Eagles missed an opportunity to separate themselves from most of the NFC, but now they’re one of six teams with a 3-2 record. Four clubs are 4-1 or better.
Now the Eagles enter the tough part of their schedule. Nine of their remaining 11 games are against teams that currently have a winning record.
“We’re a much better football team,” McNabb said. “I’ve always said for a young team that we have, we have to take baby steps and there’s going to be a point in time where we hit a wall, and I didn’t expect to hit the wall (Sunday). This is a learning experience and one that for myself as well as the veterans, that we have to lead the younger guys to understand there’s going to be times in the season that things don’t go well, but it can’t be for four quarters.”