Sunday, September 20, 2009

Defense? What Defense?

With the combination of the death of defensive coordinator/guiding light Jim Johnson, and the departure of Brian Dawkins, the unquestioned leader of the defense, I have had serious concerns about the viability of the Eagles' defense all season. Once middle linebacker Stewart Bradley went down with a blown ACL early in training camp, the depth of my concern only grew. The defense played beyond my wildest expectations last week against the Carolina Panthers, and deceived me about how good the defense really is. Today, Sean McDermott's defense showed its true colors, and believe me, it wasn't pretty. Not pretty at all.

Today, the defense ran into the superb Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, and Brees ate them for lunch. The Birds lost really, really ugly today, 48-22. In many ways, they were their own worst enemies--they fumbled the second half kick0ff on their own 20 yard line, and New Orleans immediately took the ball in and scored. Kevin Kolb also had an interception returned 95 yards for a touchdown in the closing moments of the game. The defense was just atrocious. It allowed Brees to go 25/34 for 311 yards and 3 touchdowns, and gave up a total of 421 yards of offense. The defensive line got almost no pressure on Brees. He was sacked a couple of times, and knocked down a couple of times, but it wasn't enough to rattle a cool customer like Drew Brees. For a team that lives and dies by its defense, those numbers just are not acceptable.

"We're the team that we had last week," said safety Quintin Mikell. "This week, it's almost a game where you gotta watch the film, learn from it and move on. That's just not what we do around here. We were playing on our heels. We weren't playing aggressive. You can't do that against a good team. And they're a good team. They came out and they made a lot of good plays. But I feel like we're a good team too. We just didn't play our best game tonight." That's for absolutely certain. If that was their best game, it's going to be an ugly season.

Kevin Kolb did better than I might have hoped. He went 31/51 for 391 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. One of those touchdowns was a 71-yarder to DeSean Jackson in the first quarter, that happened when the Saints blew a coverage and Jackson found a seam and got free. The Eagles also made good use of the Wildcat formation during the first half, gaining some decent yardage with it, but as soon as the Saints got a lead, Marty Morninhweg stopped calling it and stuck with a conventional offensive set. Kolb showed some maturity in the wake of the loss. "There really are a lot of things I can learn from and do better at," he said after the game. "It's a shame." About his three interceptions, he said, "The last one is Hail Mary, the other two, they were bad throws. I left them inside. You can't do that on those routes. That's on the first page of the quarterback book. It upsets me that I made errors. To be fair, Kolb probably played well enough to earn another start next week if Donovan McNabb is not ready to go. The offense wasn't great--coughing up four big turnovers--but it wasn't terrible, either. I'm not particularly worried about the ability of the Birds to put points on the board, even though Brian Westbrook appears to have injured his ankle. In spite of it all, they will score plenty of points this season.

Andy Reid was very blunt in his assessment of the game. "An absolutely horrendous performance," he correctly stated. "We made too many mistakes. That's my responsibility. Wasn't right today, and phase of it...The first half, we had way too many penalties. We were lucky enough to keep it close. We came out in the second half and turnovers, penalties, and everything else. That's my responsibility. It's my football team. It's my job to make sure they play better than that." Let's hope he does so, and quickly.

I am very, very worried about the defense, or lack thereof. If they don't find a way to play more like they did in the season opener, when they had a slew of turnovers, it's going to be a VERY long and unpleasant season for the Eagles, and it's upon the shoulders of the coaching staff to turn this around and get the defense straightened out before next week's game, or it could be another long and unpleasant day again next Sunday.

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