Inside the Ravens with Aaron Wilson

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One that got away, way away...


This game was there for the taking. It was in their mitts. Cruising along at 16-7 midway through the third quarter, the Eagles were on the Titans 3 yard line and ready to pop in another touchdown when suddenly the game changed for the worse.

Instead of holding a 23-7 advantage over the Titans and keeping momentum squarely with the boys in green, it happened. A bad exchange between Kevin Kolb and LeSean McCoy caused by penetration from the Titans Jason Jones and the Titans not only recovered the football but gained a shot in the arm they surely needed.

From there on out, it was an unmitigated disaster.

The Titans went on to outscore the Eagles 30-3 as the Birds had zero answers for the Titans offense the rest of the way. The Titans went on to a 37-19 victory. This was one that got away.

Goodbye 5-2 record before the bye.

Goodbye any chance Andy Reid had of finally beating Jeff Fisher, who now is 4-0 lifetime versus Reid.

For what it's worth, the Eagles under Reid just can't seem to beat tough AFC opponents, especially on the road. The Titans on the other had have now won 12 straight against the NFC, after pounding the Eagles in the fourth quarter for 27 points.

Reid of course offered up what we all were thinking in his post game press conference.

"You can't give good teams an opportunity to survive when you have their back against the wall, and we did that."

And while the fumbled exchange was certainly the turning point in this devastating loss, it wasn't the main reason the Birds are headed into the bye at 4-3. In fact, if you look inside the game, you'll find three examples that seem to rear their heads in each and every loss under Reid; penalties, turnovers, and red zone efficiency.

Once again penalties stopped the Eagles in their tracks. In all ten penalties for 100yards either contributed to stalled drives or momentum changes, including three more holding calls.

Kicker David Akers had a solid bounce back day, banging four field goals but what the Eagles needed were touchdowns, especially inside the 20. The Birds were 1 for 4 in the red zone and again failed to convert their opportunities while knocking on their opponent’s door.

And lastly, the Eagles committed four turnovers which Tennessee converted into 24 points. The Eagles meanwhile turned two Titans miscues into zero points.

Not exactly a recipe for winning, but one for disaster.

And oh by the way, the Eagles secondary had one of their worst performances of the season, allowing Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt to morph into Jerry Rice , torching them for 225 yards and three scores.

"You have to eliminate mistakes and overcome mistakes, and these are things we will learn from." Reid said.

They'd better.

It doesn't get any easier for the Birds. After the bye, the Eagles welcome Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, another AFC foe Reid is winless against in his 12year tenure in Philadelphia.

Enjoy the bye.

Eagles Notes: The Aftermath, Birds @ Titans


· S Quintin Mikell registered his first interception of the season and also contributed a sack and forced fumble which was recovered by DE Juqua Parker. It was Mikell’s first-ever game with a sack and interception … The last Eagles defensive back with a sack, interception and forced fumble in the same game was Brian Dawkins on 9/12/05 at Atlanta … Mikell became the 10th different Eagles player to record a sack this season and the seventh with an interception.

· DT Antonio Dixon had his second sack in the last three games, extending Philadelphia’s streak to 26 consecutive games with at least one sack, which is the second-longest in the NFL (Pittsburgh – 30) and the longest by an Eagles team since a 30-game streak from 9/14/03 to 12/27/04 … DE Trent Cole also registered his sixth sack of the season and the 53rd of his career. He trails Reggie White (124.0), Clyde Simmons (76.5), and Hugh Douglas (54.5) on the team’s all-time list.

· The Eagles have held their opponents to 75 or fewer rushing yards in each of the last three games, their first time doing so in three consecutive games since the first three of the 2008 season. They held Chris Johnson, Michael Turner, and Frank Gore to a combined 163 yards in those games (54.3 average), and have not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Birds have tough task in Music City



EAGLES PREVIEW

Who: Eagles vs. Tennessee Titans

What: Week 7 between an Eagles team, at 4-2, tied for first place in the NFC East and a 4-2 Titans team tied for first in the AFC South.

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

Where: LP Field, Nashville, Tenn.

Line: Tennessee by 3

Last Week: Eagles beat Atlanta, 31-17, for their second straight win with Kevin Kolb in place of an injured Mike Vick at quarterback. Kolb played his best game yet as an Eagle with a 133.6 quarterback rating. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin also had a big game with seven catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns.

Tennessee beat division rival Jacksonville, 30-3 on the road and on Monday Night Football for its second straight win as well. Veteran quarterback Kerry Collins came off the bench for an injured Vince Young. The Titans are already 2-0 against the NFC East this year with wins over Dallas and New York.

Next Week: Eagles will enjoy their bye week. Tennessee will travel to San Diego.

Series Record: The Eagles lead 6-3, but have lost three straight in the series after winning the first six games ever played in the rivalry. Andy Reid is 0-3 against Jeff Fisher.

FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME

CONTAIN CHRIS JOHNSON: Nearly every Eagle to a man called Johnson the best back in the NFL. The Eagles have done a nice job the past two weeks against good backs in San Francisco’s Frank Gore and Atlanta’s Michael Turner. Neither was a factor in the game. Johnson will be in some way. The Titans, no matter the score, or the situation, will get him the ball. The Eagles have to find a way to not let him dominate.

RUN THE BALL: The best way to stop Johnson is to keep him on the sideline. The Eagles offense needs to have long, ball-controlled drives that eat up the clock, and at the same time keep an aggressive, pass-rushing Titans defense honest. Tennessee is better against the run (8th) than it is against the pass (23rd), which is going to tempt Andy Reid all day, but he can’t get pass happy or it could be a long day on both sides of the ball.

WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLE: Both defenses thrive on sacks and turnovers. The Eagles have a combined 31 of both (18 sacks, 13 turnovers), fourth best in the league and Tennessee has 38, the most in the league. Suffice it to say, the team that can hold on to the ball, or force the other team into mistakes is going to have huge advantage.

FIELD POSITION: Tennessee’s rookie returnman Marc Mariani has had a good six games. He’s averaging 28.0 on kickoff returns and 10.3 on punt returns, both rank in the top 10 in the league. The Eagles do not want to allow any long returns and give the Titans offense a short field. On the other side, the Titans have been excellent in punt coverage (5.3 yards allowed), but can be beat in kickoff coverage (27.1). Rookie Jordan Calvin gets the call on returns.

NEXT WEEK IS THE BYE: The Eagles went through a horrible stretch from 2001-07 where they went 1-6 the week before the bye, perhaps thinking the bye was a week early. The past two years they turned it around and won the week before the bye. Against a good Titans team they need to stay focused.

PREDICTION: Over the past 10 years, Tennessee is 30-10 against the NFC and 9-3 against the NFC East. This is a tough spot for the Eagles.

Tennessee 23, Eagles 16

Seven for Sunday: Eagles @ Titans Preview


Kevin Kolb was named the NFC player of the month. Of course with that honor, the question Eagles fans have been debating all week is should he remain the starter even when Mike Vick is healthy enough to return.

Consider…

· Kolb completed 23-of-29 passes (79.3 percent) for 326 yards with three touchdowns and one interception for a 133.6 passer rating in the Eagles' 31-17 victory over Atlanta.

· He set single-game career-highs in completion percentage (79.3), passer rating (133.6), yards per attempt (11.24), touchdowns (three) and longest pass (83 yards).

· In his first five career starts, Kolb has three 300-yard passing games and became the first quarterback to accomplish the feat since Kurt Warner (1999).

· He threw touchdown passes of 83, 34 and eight yards, connecting with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin twice and DeSean Jackson once.

· In his fourth season, this is Kolb's second player of the week award (Week 3, 2009)

· He is the third quarterback in team history to be names Offensive player of the week multiple times, joining Donovan McNabb (five times) and Randall Cunningham (four).

Take all that into consideration and realize that we had the same debate about Vick, he posted two really impressive games and had the support of many Eagles fans around the Delaware Valley.

So how did Head Coach Andy Reid sum up the controversy?"There's no conflict between the two or worry between the two right now," Reid stated. "He's just trying to get himself healthy."“Right now”, interesting choice of words…

Remember back when Reid had said Donovan McNabb was the quarterback during the offseason; remember when he said Kevin Kolb is the starting quarterback and then switched to Vick - right now, if I'm Vick, I'm not sure I fell to comfortable - time will tell.

So is there a chance Kolb can win the position, by playing well right now?

"I haven't even thought about that" Reid said. "We're worried about Tennessee right now and we're not worried about starting jobs. You guys can worry about all that. We're worried right now about trying to put together a game plan, learn the game plan and execute the game plan. That's what I think Kevin is focused in on, that's what we're focused in on as coaches. I haven't thought about all that other stuff."

I think this time around, Vick stays on as the starter, but the plot will thicken that's for sure with every Kolb outing. Here are seven for Sunday, the seven key issues for this week's game:

1. What offensive line shows up? - The Eagles line played its best game of the season in the win over the Falcons. Atlanta has a pretty good pass rush, but the Titans present more challenges then the Falcons do up front.

King Dunlap exceeded all expectations filling in for Jason Peters at left-tackle and the rest of the line showed that there is some reason for hope that they can become a serviceable line. The Titans have 24 sacks already in just six games, the Eagles have been known to give up a few, including 20 so far this season, second highest in the league.

2. Old faces, new places - The Titans defense features a couple of former Eagles who have excelled in their brief stint with the Titans. Linebacker Will Witherspoon and defensive end Jason Babin have helped energize the Titan pass rush. Witherspoon already has three sacks in just six games and Babin has registered six sacks.

3. On the Road...Again - The Eagles are a young team, the average age is just 24 years old. However, that hasn't prevented them from playing well away from their nest. The young Eagles are 3-0 on the road, with Kevin Kolb at quarterback they are 1-0 (at San Francisco). Tennessee is similar to the Eagles; they have struggled in the Music City, but are 3-0 on the road this year. Both teams have the co-lead in their division with 4-2 records, but if they want to be taken serious, they need to start winning on their home field.

4. NFC...Least? - The Eagles reside in the NFC and the Titans have dominated the conference with such ease over their last 11 games. The Titans have won 11 in a row over NFC foes, including wins already this year over Dallas and the Giants. The last time the Titans lost to an NFC team, was 2007 when they lost to Tampa Bay. The Eagles have struggled against AFC teams during the Andy Reid era, is it time for something to give here?

5. Musical City QB's - The Eagles have gone from Kolb to Vick then back to Kolb and at some point, they will probably go back to Vick. On the Titans sideline, their quarterback spot is still up in the air for week seven. Starter Vince Young has knee and ankle problems and hasn't practiced at time of print. Kerry Collins entered the game last week and lead the Titans to a 30-3 win over Jacksonville, while Collins is an experienced veteran leader, he will make some bad throws, with 187 career interceptions.

6. Injuries catching up? - The Eagles have won games without the services of starting fullback Leonard Weaver, starting center Jamal Jackson, starting left tackle Jason Peters, starting defensive tackle Broderick Bunkley and their starting quarterbacks, both Kolb and Vick on different occasions. Now they must play without their biggest play-maker in DeSean Jackson, who will miss this game with a concussion. The guys who will need to step up...Kolb, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Trevor Laws and once again this week; King Dunlap.

7. Johnson & McCoy - While it sounds like a good law firm, this should be a very exciting game to watch. With both teams having QB injuries and the Eagles having so many injuries up front, you could see a huge does to, two of the most dynamic running backs in the league. Chris Johnson is third in the league in rushing and has hit the 100-yard mark in three of his last four games. McCoy has done it via the ground and the air, he has totaled seven touchdowns already this season and 668 yards this season.

The back that has more of an impact could determine the outcome of this game. The Titans rank eighth in the league in stopping the run, while the Eagles rank 23rd in that category. Result - The Eagles have some injury problems and have many key players missing for this game. They are 3-0 on the road while the Titans are just 1-2 at home. Kevin Kolb and Kerry Collins, both back-up quarterbacks, are both very capable in the starting role. Chris Johnson is a tough assignment for any defense and Bo Scaife is a very serviceable tight end.

However, the Eagles might have two small insights on the Titans that could help them out – their names are Witherspoon and Babin. Both are key to the Titans pass rush and both are players the Eagles staff knows well. Could they be exploited just enough to give the Eagles another road win - I think so.

Eagles 25, Titans 21

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Rearview Mirror: Eagles v. Falcons


Observations From Sunday

It's no secret that the Eagles have been besieged by injuries this season. In the opener alone versus Green Bay the team suffered season ending losses to Center Jamal Jackson and Fullback Leonard Weaver. Quarterbacks Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb have both suffered injuries that have cost them to miss playing time. Stewart Bradley, Asante Samuel, Brodrick Bunkley, Jason Peters, the list goes on and on, but through it all, the Eagles have persevered, showing good depth and currently find themselves tied atop the NFC East with a 4-2 record.

However, this past Sunday, the team suffered a loss that will provide a new challenge in the depth department. The vicious and illegal hit on DeSean Jackson by the Falcons' Dunta Robinson, and subsequent concussion has now left a gaping hole in the heart and soul of this football team, and the Eagles are left missing a major cog in their offensive wheel.

With all due respect to wide-out Jeremy Maclin, who had a spectacular 159 yard, two touchdown performance on Sunday in Jackson's absence, the Eagles obviously become less dynamic at the wide receiver position, not to mention in the return game as well. Jackson not only produces statistically, but he also garners a consistent double team, freeing up another weapon somewhere along the Eagles' offensive attack. It goes without saying that this is a significant loss.

But as they have done at a variety of positions, the team must press on without a key member – a difficult task at hand with the schedule getting increasingly harder in the weeks to come.

It's amazing what a 21-0 lead will do for the confidence of a defense. A week after shutting down San Francisco's Frank Gore, the Birds limited the Falcons to just 65 yards on the ground. This unit has come a long away from the one that got gashed early on by Detroit's Jahvid Best. The Eagles were also able to get significant pressure on Falcons Quarterback Matt Ryan, providing the secondary with the opportunity to produce outstanding coverage.

Kevin Kolb was impressive yet again. He threw for 326 yards and set a career high with three touchdowns, including a career-long 83-yarder, on 23 of 29 passing (79.3%). It was Kolb’s second-straight victory and his third-career 300-yard game … In the four games Kolb has started and finished, he owns a 3-1 record and has thrown for 1,297 yards (324.3 per game) and eight touchdowns on 99 of 145 passing (68.3%) for a quarterback rating of 103.1. Kolb set career highs in completion percentage, quarterback rating (133.6), touchdowns, and longest pass. Not bad for a guy who many people wanted to give up on after a bad half of football in the season opener.

Eagles Notes

· DeSean Jackson scored on a 31-yard rush, the third of his career, and a 34-yard touchdown catch, the 14th of his career. Both scores came on the first two possessions, making him the first Eagle to ever score on a 30-plus yard rush and reception in the same quarter, according to the Elias Sports Bureau

· The Eagles have won four straight games against the Falcons and eight of their last nine dating back to 2000 … In their last two games against Atlanta, Philadelphia has won by a combined score of 65-24.

· The Eagles scored a touchdown on their opening drive for the third time this year, and the second game in a row. Since 2000, the Eagles are 35-9 when doing so.

· The Eagles have won 22 straight games when leading at half, which is the longest current streak in the NFL. Since 1999, the Eagles own an 90-14 record when ahead at the break.

· Stewart Bradley picked up his first sack of the season, becoming the ninth different player on the defense to bring down the opposing quarterback and extending Philadelphia’s streak to 25 consecutive games with at least one sack, which is the second-longest in the NFL (Pittsburgh – 29) and the longest by an Eagles team since a 30-game streak from 9/14/03 to 12/27/04.