I've read a ton of "Monday Morning Quarterback" columns, and I considered making a similar column here for the Eagles, then I decided that one day wasn't enough to give me the proper perspective to take a good look at the game, especially if the game was a loss. So I'm going to do my reflections on Wednesday or Thursday, here's the first installment.This loss
was embarrassing, pathetic, unforgivable and most importantly, avoidable. Luckily, it's only one loss, and every team throws away at least one game per year, so let's assume this was that throwaway and move on.
There are plenty of positives to take out of this game. First, Brian Westbrook touched the ball 26 times. He turned those 26 touches into 131 yards against a defense that was obviously keying in on him. That's definitely a positive. All the talk Andy Reid and Co. made about balance, and the importance of Westbrook appears to have been more than lip service.
Here's a sentence I don't think I've ever heard said about an Eagles team coached by Andy Reid. A defensive tackle led the team in tackles (Mike Patterson had 10). A linebacker was second (Takeo Spikes, with 9). Those two stats are huge for this team. Far too often we've seen safeties and corners leading the team in tackles, mainly because runners were breaking through the line, then the linebackers, only to be dragged down by a safety or corner. The d-line and linebackers did their job in this game, holding the Packers to 46 yards on the ground.
Probably the most encouraging thing I took away from this game was the pass rush. The Eagles put a ton of pressure on Brett Favre, but they did it without blitzing. Their front four consistently beat their man, and accounted for all four sacks. If they can get that kind of penetration from the linemen, we're going to see this ball-hawking secondary cause a ton of turnovers.
The passing game was marred by dropped passes, but overall I'd say McNabb isn't that far off. He showed more mobility than I thought he would. I expected to see more out of Reggie Brown, and I think we will in the coming weeks. Jason Avant had a strong game, and cemented his position as the number 3 receiver. The Eagles need to do a better job of capitalizing on the mismatches created when Westbrook splits out wide. The Packers did a good job on a couple of plays in matching a corner up with him, but when that happens, a linebacker or safety has to be matched up man-on-man against one of the wide receivers. Westbrook's value in the passing game isn't limited to catching the ball, if he creates mismatches elsewhere, McNabb needs to recognize that and capitalize. L.J. Smith made the start, which was a surprise, but didn't impact the game much. They need more out of him.
The line did a decent job against a tough defensive front. McNabb was only sacked once, although he was flushed quite a few times. I'd like to see them improve on their 3.6 yards/carry average, and they will. Westbrook never really broke a long run.
The one area which needs the most improvement (beyond the return game, which I still cannot talk about) is clock management. The Eagles burned multiple timeouts needlessly. This has been a recurring theme and it's something Andy needs to get a handle on. It didn't cost them the game this time, but it will before the season's over.
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