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Embarrassing Loss For Eagles

Well, the Eagles made a statement in this 1-3 start to the 2011 season. They tried to run a trick play from the one-half yard line with a 10-3 lead in the second quarter of a home game against the San Francisco 49ers, and it backfired in their faces in an embarrassing manner.

Using a six-man offensive line with King Dunlap at right tackle and Todd Herremans at left tackle as an eligible receiver, with Clay Harbor at tight end on the left side of the formation and Brent Celek lined up tight on the right side, and with fullback Owen Schmitt lined up in front of halfback Ronnie Brown, the Eagles had a power formation, ready to play some power football.

But they weren't going to play power football. They were going with a run/pass option for Brown, who was supposed to roll left with the handoff from quarterback Michael Vick and throw a pass to a wide-open Harbor in the left corner of the end zone.

That's how it was supposed to work. Instead, it was a disaster.

Linebacker Parys Haralson came free and got to Brown quickly, before right guard Kyle DeVan reached Haralson. Devan tripped over the foot of center Jason Kelce trying to pull and cross block Haralson, and that's where all the problems started. Brown took the handoff, had his path blocked and was hit quickly by Haralson. As he was falling to the ground, Brown made the wrong decision: He tried to throw a pass instead of simply taking the loss.

The play looked over, doomed as another red-zone failure for an offense that has had too many of them this season. But the play wasn't over as Vick walked away from the play. Brown somehow tried to throw a pass and the ball fluttered backward out of his hand and San Francisco recovered at their 4-yard line.

"No matter what the call was," said Brown to the media after the game, "it's my responsibility to make the right decision. I made a mistake there."

The Eagles went on to take a 20-point lead over San Francisco, and Brown's gaffe looked like it would go down as one of those mistakes quickly forgotten as a play that would never again be run. But no, not this year. Not with this script.

The Eagles lost 24-23, a terrible defeat. They are 1-3 and in disarray. Nobody has answers. Nobody has a solution. The buzzwords are "hard work" and "stay together" and those are the things you want to hear as the team hopes to turn it around.

But there are so many fundamentals not happening. The Eagles are treating the ball carelessly, holding the football sloppily. They are turning the football over. They are making dumb mistakes. They can't get off blocks on defense. They can't get stops. On Sunday, the special teams let them down.

It is a total team effort. Reid was right when he said the Eagles were "terrible" on Sunday.

Remember those heady days of late July when the Eagles made the biggest splash of the NFL's offseason and looked ready to gear up and make a Super Bowl run? Those days are decades ago. They have been replaced by a team that has blown three straight leads in the second half of games, by a defense that allowed 442 yards of offense and three second-half touchdowns to a 49ers attack that entered the game ranked 32nd, and last, in the NFL in total offense.

"A bunch of talented players doesn't make a football team," said defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins. "We're not playing as a team at all right now."

"I think," said cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, the prize of the free-agent haul, "that everyone here is embarrassed."

Where do you start with what may have been the worst loss of the Andy Reid era? How about the offense, which rolled up 513 total yards but converted just 2 of 7 times in the red zone and coughed the football up three times including a fumble by Jeremy Maclin at the 49ers 31-yard line with 2 minutes, 6 seconds remaining in the game? It's past being a concern about the offense in the red zone.

The defense wasn't any bit better, and it certainly didn't raise spirits to see standout defensive end Trent Cole on crutches after the game, unable to put weight on his calf injury. The Eagles can't get stops. The run defense was gashed for 164 yards. Alex Smith averaged 7.7 yards on his 33 passing attempts. Philadelphia produced just one takeaway.

Special teams? Rookie placekicker Alex Henery pushed field goal attempts of 39 yards and 33 yards, easy makes that would have been the difference in the win.

All the Michael Vick statistical marvels in the world don't mean a thing -- he passed for 416 yards and ran for 75 more -- in a game when the Eagles can't seal the deal against a so-so San Francisco squad.

These are troubling times, make no mistake about it. The Eagles didn't respond with any kind of urgency after the loss to the Giants a week earlier. They again didn't hold a lead in the second half and they were again unsatisfactory in the areas that everyone sees are trouble spots -- the run defense, the red-zone defense, and the red-zone offense.

The fans were right to give this team a hard time late in the game. What is happening here is inexcusable. It is unthinkable. But it is happening, and unless the Eagles wake up and play flawless, fundamental football, this is going to be a long, disappointing and unpleasant season.

Nobody is happy about it. The Eagles have been outscored 36-0 in their last three fourth quarters. Awful. Reid's teams have historically won that crucial final 15 minutes. Now they are playing with their tongues out, gasping for air, hoping for a stop or a score or anything to reverse the momentum back into the Eagles' favor.

Changing personnel on defense didn't help. Brian Rolle played OK at linebacker and Nate Allen looked like he was in the right place most of the time at free safety, but Frank Gore -- playing on a hobbled ankle -- still ran for 127 yards on 15 carries and the Eagles couldn't stop him late when they knew San Francisco was going to run the ball.

The defense continues to allow huge running lanes and big plays. The offense continues to turn the ball over and to make mistakes in the red zone.

It is a dangerous formula. It is a losing formula, and the Eagles deserve to be where they are at 1-3.

What happens next? They get back to work and they improve. There is no other choice. The season is at a tipping point, no question about it, but it is not yet over. Not by a long shot. The NFC East is still there.

But the Eagles aren't a good football team right now. They have to earn that distinction, and a 1-3 record doesn't get it done.

"Success just doesn't come easy," said Jenkins. "You have to expect it and once you get it, you have to keep rolling with it. You have to keep it coming; you can't get happy or complacent once you get a little bit of it. I think that's what we're doing.

"It's going to be up to us to get it together and expect to play four quarters of good football."

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