Maybe it was a missed 50-yard field goal, one that sailed just right of the goal posts, that sucked the wind out of the early momentum the Eagles generated. Maybe it was the Washington drive that followed and resulted in three Redskins points, or the successive went-nowhere series the Eagles offense had in the second quarter.
Whatever changed from the time the Eagles opened the game with a beautiful 12-play, 80-yard drive and then electrified the Lincoln Financial Field crowd with a 68-yard DeSean Jackson died somewhere in the second quarter, and the Eagles never got it back. They were unable to get off the field defensively the rest of the game, and the offense generated just one first down from late in the first quarter until 13:17 remained in the fourth quarter and, as a result, dropped an extremely important NFC East game on Sunday to visiting Washington, 23-17.
It was as ugly as they come after the first quarter. Washington's offense, basic in its approach for the most part, attacked the edges of the Eagles defense and piled up yards and first downs on the ground. Quarterback Jason Campbell was a model of efficiency, shrugging off early blitzes and pressure and carving apart the Eagles with mid-range throws. When Washington needed a first down, the Redskins made it. They converted 11 of 18 third downs and then the back-breaking fourth down with 2:48 to go in the game.
And the Eagles offense? Nothing doing after the first two drives led to a 14-0 lead -- thanks to the opening touchdown drive and DeSean Jackson's 68-yard punt return -- and a missed David Akers field goal.
Really, it was hard to watch after the first quarter. The Eagles had no rhythm on offense -- the Redskins controlled the line of scrimmage -- and the defense could not generate any kind of pressure on Campbell without bringing the house on a blitz and now, well, 2-3 is not a good place to be in the NFC East, especially now that the Eagles are 0-2 in the division. Moving forward, there are many things to fix.
- Offensively, the Eagles have had little semblance of a running game since the opener against the Rams, and even then the Eagles gained just 108 yards on 32 carries. With no production in that phase of the game, the offense is way out of kilter. Why is there so little success on the ground? The Eagles aren't controlling the line of scrimmage. Teams are cutting off Brian Westbrook's running lanes and are eliminating any cutback room he has.
The Eagles can't rely on McNabb and the passing game alone. Whatever defenses are doing, Jackson hasn't been nearly as involved in the air attack since he had six catches and 110 yards in Dallas. Whether they are doubling Jackson with a safety over the top, or taking away his room on routes, Jackson's numbers have gone down and the rest of the offense hasn't picked up the slack.
In Chicago, the Eagles blew a game because they couldn't convert in the red zone on two first-and-goal situations. The view at that point was that the Eagles offense was fine and that a better job in the red zone would be the cure. But the dismal performance against Washington illustrated greater problems.
The Eagles don't have any breathing room on offense. Westbrook played despite a sore ankle and some kind of mid-body injury that sent him into the locker room for a short period of time late in the first quarter, just about the time the offense went in the tank.
What is the solution? The Eagles need to re-gain supremacy at the line of scrimmage and they need to find a way to make a greater emphasis on the ground game. The old, blame-the-wide receivers game doesn't apply, because the Eagles didn't sustain enough drives on Sunday to pinpoint anything one way or the other about the receivers.
It starts up front when it goes well and when it doesn't go so well. Late on Sunday, with the Eagles trailing 23-14 and the ball inside the Washington 5-yard line, the Eagles were twice unable to gain a first down on running plays to Westbrook. Unacceptable. Akers kicked a field goal and the Eagles were alive at 23-17 with 7 minutes, 18 seconds remaining, but the botched offensive series was important -- and telling. On second and 1 at the Washington 2-yard line, the Eagles handed off to Westbrook for no gain. Then they handed off to Westbrook for a try around left side and he lost 3 yards.
Terrible. Keep in mind that the Eagles played a Washington defense minus starters defensive end Jason Taylor, linebacker Marcus Washington and cornerback Shawn Springs.
All of that offensive promise the Eagles showed against the Rams, and in Dallas and even at times at Chicago, has gone down the drain. The Eagles are 2-3. The balance is lacking. Answers are needed immediately.
- Defensively, it all went wrong against Washington. The Redskins dominated from the second quarter on. Maybe the defense was simply gassed as the Eagles failed to sustain drives, but too many times Washington converted third downs and calmly dissected Philadelphia's pressure packages.
What to do? The Eagles must generate some pressure from the front four and not rely so much on the blitz. They've got to do a better job of getting off the field on third down -- remember, Chicago converted 7 of 17 third downs a week earlier -- and they have to take control of the game and keep it.
Maybe the offense's lack of production got to the defense on Sunday. By game's end, the defense was frantically trying to cover down the field and pressure Campbell as the young and emerging quarterback broke the pocket a few times to run for back-breaking first downs.
- Jackson was great on his punt return and Sav Rocca is having a Pro Bowl season, but the concerns have to grow over Akers' performance. He is now 1 for 4 on field goals of longer than 40 yards this season, and just 3 of 14 in the last two seasons. Everything is there -- the distance is great -- except for the ball going through the uprights.
The kickoff return game was poor on Sunday and really hasn't had a big return in weeks. The kickoff coverage team had too many mistakes the last few weeks and ...
Hey, the Eagles are in a deep, deep hole. The other three teams in the NFC East aren't going to lose many games this season. The Giants, Cowboys and Redskins are all very, very good. Meanwhile, the Eagles think they have a good team, but at 2-3, talk is cheap. The record is the record. And it speaks volumes about where this team is right now.