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Monday, October 17, 2011

Eagles Snap Losing Streak


          The Eagles headed into the bye week with a 20-13 victory over the Washington Redskins and a 2-4 record. Besides giving Andy Reid and Juan Castillo a little breathing room, the win will no doubt spark a two-week debate over whether it was a season saver or merely postponed the inevitability of a failed season.

          I was honestly ready to believe in the former. Reality seems to scream that the latter is true.

          But the Eagles won a game and there were some very good signs. They actually looked like they have an NFL caliber defense for the first time all season, and Nnamdi Asomugha even proved that he can tackle with a great hit early in the first half.

          Eagles safety Kurt Coleman set the tone early with his first of three interceptions of Rex Grossman as Washington threatened to score in the first quarter. Despite a Jason Kelce snap over Mike Vick’s head, the Eagles put together an 87-yard, 5+ minute touchdown drive to get on the board first, 7-0. Brent Celek scored on a short, well designed pass play from Vick.

          Maybe Kelce will find time to practice shot gun snaps during the bye week instead of crying about signs that aren’t supportive and looking to fight fans.

          The defense forced a 3-and-out on the next possession, and the Eagles put together another long drive for a touchdown. LeSean McCoy capped it off with a 1-yard touchdown.

          A fumble on the ensuing kickoff put Washington on their own 5-yard line. But the defense couldn’t deliver a knockout punch – an Eagles theme for the day – as the Redskins got out of the shadow of their own goalposts for a punt. Former Eagle Sav Rocca booted a 50-yarder to put Philadelphia on its own 21.

          But again the Birds drove the field to the Redskins’ 9, and seemed poised to put the game away. Instead they had to settle for a field goal that made the score 17-0.

          On the very next play Nate Allen intercepted Grossman, and set the Eagles offense up on the Redskins’ 47. Vick’s play of the day, a 25-yard run, highlighted the next drive, but the Eagles were stopped in the red zone. A field goal made the score 20-0.

          That would be the end of the Eagles scoring for the day.

          Washington managed a field goal before the end of the half, and opened the third quarter with another one to make the score 20-6. While the Eagles “D” held, they continue to come out of the locker room at halftime and give up scoring drives.

          The offense followed that with a quick drive back to the red zone thanks to a long pass play to Jeremy Maclin. But a bad decision by Vick lead to an interception to end the drive.

          Again, the Redskins got away from their own goal line, and put the Eagles on their own 9. Disaster seemed to strike (again) in the third quarter when Vick got up from a run appearing to be woozy. The run was also brought back due to a penalty.

          Vick reportedly only had dirt in his eye, but backup Vince Young finished the series. This gave Andy Reid the opportunity to mess up a game that should have been over in the first half. Young, seeing his first action of the season, threw two passes from inside his own 10 – a spot in which 99.99% of football coaches would have run the ball, especially if they had McCoy in the backfield.

          Instead, Young threw an interception on the second pass.

          In perhaps the shocker of the season, the defense bailed out the Birds as Coleman made his second interception on the Washington possession. There’s no question it was the defense’s play of the season.

          After the Eagles next drive stalled when they went for a 4th-and-2 on Washington 32 – failing on the previous play to run for 1 yard, they threw incomplete to Maclin – Coleman sent Grossman to the bench with yet another interception.

          Backup quarterback Jeff Beck moved the Redskins offense well in the fourth quarter, running for a short touchdown with just under 3 minutes left in the game to make the score 20-13.

          It took a Vick sneak on a 3rd-and-1 on the Eagles’ own 40 to put the game away.

          Put the game down as a “W,” and the Eagles are suddenly half a game behind Dallas (2-3) to get out of the NFC East basement after they lost in New England. I mention Dallas because Washington looks like a weak 3-2, and the Giants held on to beat Buffalo after losing to Seattle last week – both at home. Dallas slowed a very good New England offense, and actually looked like the best team in the division in defeat despite doing little against a bad Patriots defense.

          Are the Eagles alive? Maybe for a playoff run, but I doubt even that based on this victory. They certainly didn’t look like a Super Bowl team. In fact, I think the win said a lot more about Washington not being very good than it said anything about the Eagles.

          But at least they can pretend otherwise through the bye week.

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