Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford was off the mark on a handful of passes last night, but his receiving corp did him no favors dropping many catch-able balls.
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports
By Anthony Fabrikant
The Philadelphia Eagles lost to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday night and showed blaring weaknesses for a team hoping to contend for the NFC East crown. The question is whether the issues will be addressed as Head Coach Chip Kelly continues to defer responsibility while the Eagles have lost their fourth game through seven weeks of play.
The Eagles run defense disappeared as Panthers’ center Ryan Kalil led a dominant effort by the Panthers and Jonathan Stewart rumbled his way to a hundred-yard rushing performance, finishing with 125 yards on the ground. Stewart seemed to move the pile on every carry, adding an extra two yards by driving his legs through contact. The Eagles could never seem to stop him and this allowed Cam Newton to run an effective read-option; making the Eagles the victims of their own reactions.
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Sam Bradford did not look great, but his receiving core looked worse. Jordan Matthews seemed to drop every pass, including what would have been a huge touchdown late in the first half after Malcolm Jenkins picked off Newton. The issue did not end with Matthews but even Darren Sproles struggled to make plays that he has made look elementary before. These inconsistencies killed multiple drives for the Eagles, including their final attempt to tie the game in the fourth quarter where on fourth down, with under two minutes remaining, Bradford threw a first down pass to Miles Austin only to see the ball, along with the team’s aspirations of victory, slip through the veteran’s hands.
The Eagles attempted to remain dedicated to their rushing attack as DeMarco Murray finished with 18 carries, but Kelly deflected blame for the inconsistent running back rotation. The issue is relevant because Ryan Mathews sparked the Eagles in the second half after exploding for a 63-yard touchdown run. Mathews only had one more carry after that attempt. But the Eagles also had Luke Kuechly to contend with, and he was brilliant Sunday night. Kuechly finished with 11 tackles and always seemed to make a play right before Murray was about to gash the Panthers for a nice run. The issue is that with Jason Peters’ injury and the Eagles inconsistent offensive line play, their ability to get blockers to the second level has been compromised. Kuechly was dominant and the biggest reason why the Eagles couldn’t sustain their rushing attack. Kuechly’s only mistake came on Mathews’ touchdown run as he overran the play, but still nearly took Mathews down at the 20-yardline.
Although the Eagles defense struggled to slow Stewart down, they made enough plays for the Eagles offense to capitalize on. The secondary picked Newton off three times, and never allowed the Panthers to break away from an Eagles team that continued to struggle to put points on the board. The Eagles have issues they haven’t really addressed because Chip Kelly is adamant that this team’s issues are solely based on the players’ ability to execute his schemes. The first step to fixing a problem, is admitting that there is one Chip.