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Justin Boylan

Justin Boylan...Game 5 Eagles lose to Raiders 13-9... 10-18-09

The team just did all the right things. They played tremendous defense, and the offense was hitting on all cylinders. It was as complete team effort that resulted in a win (those things usually go hand-in-hand; team, effort, and win). Before 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, most of us would have read those first lines and assumed they were about the Eagles, while hoping they could also be regarding Phillies. Yet, over the past 15 months it has been the Phillies pumping this city full of life and the Eagles continue to take it away. Let's just get this over with.

A lot of times when you are playing a team that is going to be a challenge, you want to step up and play to their level. In the Eagles case, they see a team they could easily beat to a pulp and play down to their level (the Raiders and Eagles were playing at about a first-grade level yesterday). The first two possessions by both teams were 3 and out. On the Raiders third possession quarterback JaMarcus Russell threw an interception to Asante Samuel. The Eagles respond by gaining four yards on the first three downs and missing a field goal on fourth (more playing to their opponent's level, the elevator is going down). The Eagles got the ball back after another Oakland punt, and Donovan McNabb hit DeSean Jackson for a 51-yard bomb which lead to Akers connecting on his second attempt at a field goal. Those three points were followed by an 86-yard touchdown pass from Russell to tight end Zach Miller (or for those of us who watched the game, it was Russell stepping up past seven blitzing Eagles to find a wide open tight end ahead of his defender across the middle of the field, who then dodges four Eagles while running down the sideline like he never ran with a football before in his life). It was Miller's first touchdown of the season, congratulations Zach! Oakland 7, Eagles 3.

The Raiders began the second quarter with another scoring drive, 13 plays, 65 yards, and a field goal. The Eagles responded with an offensive possession in which they used their final two timeouts and McNabb got sacked again on a 3 rd and long. Still, the Eagles get another chance because Russell throws his second interception of the game, and this is where the Eagles showed us they were not going to win this game.

No huddle offense, because the Eagles got a first down at the Oakland 15 yard line. McNabb is changing the play, he's trying to say something to someone, and he takes a timeout. “We don't have any timeouts!!!!!!” says everyone watching this game. Even running back Brian Westbrook is trying to tell McNabb that they don't have any left. The result is a delay of game penalty, and McNabb swinging his arms like, “I'm just the quarterback. How am I supposed to know how many timeouts we have left?” That was the moment. The team just wasn't in the game, whether it happened in the air somewhere over Colorado or they didn't want to jinx the Phillies by winning, nobody in white and green showed up to play in Oakland, with the exception of Westbrook (he knew the Eagles were out of timeouts, and he's just the running back).

I would recap the second half, but I would be wasting time and space, a couple more field goals in the fourth for both teams and a couple more trips to the turf for McNabb. This game reminded me of another pathetic Eagles game from just last season. In that game, the Eagles were 3-18 on 3 rd down and had four turnovers. Against the Raiders, the Birds were 2-16 on 3 rd down, but didn't turn the ball over once. McNabb was inefficient in both games and the defense performed like blindfolded flag football players. In that game Westbrook had 14 carries for 60 yards, while against the Raiders he had 6 for 50 yards (but in Oakland, Westbrook also had 9 catches for 91 yards). That game last year, against the Bengals, ended in arguably worse fashion than yesterday, but the Eagles didn't lose that game, they tied.

What was the final score? Oh right, 13-9 Oakland Raiders beat the Eagles.

More annoying than the actual game Sunday, was the love everyone on television showed to a pigeon that was flying around the field. If you didn't see it, there was a bird on the field and during one of Oakland's kickoffs the pigeon was flying the same way the Raiders were running towards the ball. Not the funny, cute stuff you want to see when your team literally cannot get a first down (they were physically unable to). I am afraid to watch SportsCenter just because I know I'll see and hear about the pigeon playing with the Raiders. I don't know which sent me into Artest-mode first on Sunday afternoon, the “12 th man for Oakland” or the same announcer calling every big play a “gainer.” What the hell is a gainer?

So where does the blame fall after a loss like this? The coaches, the quarterback, the receivers, the offensive line, the defense, special teams, take your pick. Don't hesitate, pick. Trust me, there aren't any wrong answers.

The coaches and head Andy Reid did not make the proper adjustments to put the Eagles in a position to win on Sunday. The play calling was typical, McNabb threw the ball 46 times and the Eagles ran it just 14 times. When tackle Jason Peters was injured in the first quarter, the pressure became insurmountable. For the first play of the second half Reid put an extra tight end on the left side to help block and the Eagles gained 6 yards rolling away from that side. That happened once that I can remember. The biggest adjustment Reid made was going from saying “Let's go” in the first half, to yelling “LET'S GO!!!” in the second half. It didn't seem to impact the game.

The quarterback always gets in on the blame, and one week after putting on a show in Philly against the Bucs some blame is flying McNabb's direction. Yes, he did have a lot of pressure in his face all game long and could barely get the ball out of his hand and down field. When he could and did he completed 47 percent of his passes. Plenty of balls were thrown too high and too low, including the Eagles final play, a 4 th and 4 that bounced off the ground and into Jackson's hands. Speaking of hands…

Come get what's yours, receivers. At least eight dropped passes from the receiving core isn't the best strategy offensively if you ask me. But seriously, who's asking me?

After Peters left the game it kind of felt like our offensive line wasn't even playing. It was as if the Eagles flew five middle school soccer players out to Oakland for the afternoon to block. Peters' replacement, King Dunlap (great name for an O-lineman who can't stay on his feet after the ball is snapped) needed help to stop Richard Seymour. When he was stopped it was another large defensive lineman getting through to the backfield. The Eagles might have been better off just gathering a bunch of leftover equipment and piling it at the left tackle position, Seymour would have probably had a harder time getting through all those pads and helmets, and chinstraps. Wait that sounds like an adjustment, put that under the coaches section in your head.

The defense had the same strategy they had last week against Tampa Bay, blitz, blitz, blitz, and if you get by me racing to the quarterback, oh well. There were numerous occasions in the game where Eagles defenders were sprinting trying to get into the backfield and Oakland running back Justin Vargas was running right past them for positive rushing yards. The only way for bad quarterbacks to succeed is to get rid of the ball quickly to open guys. That is exactly what the Eagles allowed Russell to do. Like Josh Johnson last week, you can sit back in coverage and force them to make throws they don't want to. Blitzing is great, and it works in the right situations, but the more you send and more often you do it, it becomes easier to counter as the Raiders showed on Sunday.

It has been such a team effort so far, we can't leave out the special teams. Akers missed two field goals worth three points each (2 x 3 = 6), the Eagles lost by four (I'm not a math major). The two misses were unlike Akers, but on a day like this, nothing seemed to work.

The Eagles laid an egg in Oakland, a big, fat, smelly egg. Next up is a Monday night game against the Redskins. The Eagles have the superior team and should win in Washington, but as we've seen in the past, never put anything past those Birds.

 

 

Justin Boylan

 

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