Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bye-Bye, Bye

Yes, I was there last night freezing my balls off with Arkansas Fred, his dad and 68,000 other disappointed Eagles fans to witness the Eagles kiss any chance they might have had at a bye goodbye.

Don't act like you don't know every word to that song

The game plan was terrible. The coaching was terrible. The defense was terrible. The protection was terrible. The special teams were terrible. David Akers was terrible. And most of all, Michael Vick was terrible. Beyond terrible, actually. It was easily his worst game as a Philadelphia Eagle, and it probably ranked up there with any egg he laid in Atlanta.

This wasn't MVP candidate and starting Pro Bowl quarterback Michael Vick we've grown accustomed to. This was immature, impatient, dumb Michael Vick from his days in Atlanta.

To be fair, he was under heavy pressure all night. The Vikings brought the blitz early and often and from all areas of the field, and the offensive line couldn't pick it up. But that doesn't excuse Vick's play. Where he has shown tremendous poise and made great reads virtually all season, he instead neglected to read the defense and continued to throw horrible passes into coverage. He was picked off only once on the night, but he could have and should have been intercepted at least four times, probably five —  if only the Minnesota defenders could catch.

He missed wide open receivers, never hit a hot route and made the wrong decision damn near every time he pulled the trigger on a pass. Yes, he did throw a touchdown pass to Clay Harbor on an awesome catch by the rookie tight end and run in the Eagles' other score by faking Jamarca Sanford out of his jock to bring the Eagles within a field goal in the 4th quarter.

But Vick also lost two fumbles, one of which was picked up and returned for a touchdown by Antoine Winfield to tie the game right before half as the Eagles were driving and looking to go up by two scores before the second half.

It was an absolutely horrendous game for the man who was named the NFC's starting quarterback in Pro Bowl prior to kickoff. In fact, not a single Eagle that was named to the Pro Bowl did much of anything. Vick was at his absolute worst. David Akers missed a 54-yard field goal attempt by coming up way, way short, and absolutely killed the Birds by sailing his kickoff out of bounds immediately following Vick's in the 4th touchdown, taking away all of the momentum they had gained. And it proved lethal, as the Vikings took advantage of the great field position and answered with a touchdown of their own to all but ice the game.

DeSean Jackson was held in check and looked at times disinterested. There were several instances where he could have come back and fought for the ball but simply didn't. Jason Peters wasn't altogether horrible, but it's hard to say anyone on the offensive line played well given the severe pressure and hard pounding Vick took all night. And Asante — while not making any glaring errors mostly because Joe Webb was content to pick on Dmitri Patterson, Joselio Hanson and the rest of Philadelphia's banged-up, inexperienced and plain bad secondary — didn't do anything special, and missed a few tackles. Oh, and he got called for another helmet-to-helmet penalty on a hit that is pretty difficult to avoid.

All in all, it was hard to find a single positive thing about last night's game.

But there are times when the players are just not going to have it. It's annoying, and maybe it shouldn't happen, but every team goes through lulls. What I found most egregious about last night was the game plan and the failure to adjust.

The passing game wasn't working at all. Not even a little bit. The line couldn't protect Vick and Vick was playing like he was the rookie making his first start, not Joe Webb. The Vikings were pummeling Vick and taking away the big play for the most part. With all of that combined with the cold, slippery conditions, you'd think the Eagles would have tossed out the game plan that clearly wasn't working and instead look to get the ball in LeSean McCoy's hands as often as possible.

They did not. McCoy only had 17 touches in the game. He only ran the ball 13 times. And it was nearly impossible to remember him being utilized at all in the first half. This is completely baffling and infuriating to me and so many others.

This may sound crazy, but watching everything LeSean McCoy has been able to do this season, I think he may just be the best player on this offense, or at least the most versatile. Saying it out loud, it actually does sound strange given that includes Vick and DeSean, two Pro Bowl players, Jeremy Maclin, et al. But that's how impressive he's been this season to me.

We could see the potential he had last year, and he's done nothing but improve in his first full season as the starter. He can run, he can catch, and he's worked hard to both improve his blocking and curtail his fumbling. Honestly, he has all the tools that Brian Westbrook did. And frankly, I think he should be utilized in the same way.

When Westbrook was at his peak, the Eagles got him the ball a variety of ways throughout the entire game — runs, screens, flanking him out wide, you name it. And it worked magic for Westbrook and the Eagles offense. That's exactly what they should be doing with McCoy because he has that kind of talent. The man is averaging 5.2 yards per carry, yet he only gets 13-14 carries a game. When you combine his catches (78), he's averaging 19 touches a game. That number, given his talent and explosiveness, should be closer to 25-30 touches a game.

I understand that this offense has a ton of weapons, understand that Vick needs to spread the ball around and that he himself takes a lot of the rushing game on his own shoulders by turning called passes into long rushes, but LeSean McCoy needs to be utilized more. It will take pressure off Vick, off Maclin and Jackson and Celek, and it will open up the game for everyone. Plus, it takes some stress off an offensive line that has had stretches where they struggle to protect Vick. Give him the same number of screen plays, swing passes, carries and touches that Westbrook got in his prime. It will only make the Eagles better, especially in games like last night when the passing game struggled.

There's no reason McCoy shouldn't have been a bigger part of the offense last night, and that one rests entirely on the shoulders of Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg.

Oh, and Sean McDermott still sucks. I'll concede that he's been dealt a raw deal with all the injuries to key players on defense, especially in the secondary, but damn. How in the hell can you, on 3rd and long with the game on the line, call a blitz by Joselio Hanson that then calls for Jamar Chaney, a rookie middle linebacker, to cover Percy Harvin, one of the fastest players on the planet? Because you're a shitty defensive coordinator, that's why.

Joe Webb, who wasn't even supposed to be a quarterback, wasn't great, but he didn't make any big mistakes. Adrian Peterson gained 118 yards on 22 carries, bringing the Philadelphia run defense back down to earth, and Percy had a field day running by Chaney, Patterson and Hanson for 7 catches for 100 yards. Things got so bad that Patterson, who played well in his first two games starting but has progressively gotten worse, was benched for Trevard Lindley in the 4th quarter. And Trevard Lindley sucks.

Really, there's nothing good I can say about that game. It was cold, the Eagles sucked and now they have no shot at a bye. On a bright note, they can rest anyone they want next week against Dallas, because the game is meaningless. The Eagles are locked in as the 3 seed in the NFC, meaning they'll host either the Packers, Giants or Bucs the second weekend in January.

Oh, and the Flyers lost, Jody Shelley sucker-punched former Flyer Andrew Alberts and will most assuredly face another suspension, and Kimmo Timonen suffered the dreaded lower-body injury. Awesome.

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