Sunday's loss to the Titans was incredibly frustrating. The Eagles played pretty well for three quarters. The guys didn't do anything spectacular, but we looked like the better team. Everything changed in the blink of an eye.
We had a 19-10 lead with just over 13 minutes left. Kerry Collins dropped back and threw a downfield pass to Kenny Britt. We were in a Cover 2 look. That is designed to prevent big plays. Nate Allen had a simple job. Stay deeper than the deepest and keep everything in front of him. Allen got caught looking at an underneath receiver and Britt ran by him. The ball was poorly thrown, giving Allen a chance to make up for his mistake. Like most young players, he panicked and was out of control when trying to recover from getting beaten. He wasn't able to tackle Britt and then fell down. Britt had open field to the end zone. Eighty-yard touchdown. New ball game. Ugh.
Three quarters of good play went out the window at that point. We still had the lead, but Tennessee suddenly had life and you could see that the confidence of our young team was shaken. The Titans dominated the rest of the game and won 37-19.
We blew leads in a couple of games, but it never cost us. We were able to do enough to beat Detroit and San Francisco. Those were poor teams. The Titans are a good football team. You can't give them second and third chances. You've got to put the game away and play for 60 minutes. We played with fire and we got burned. The loss can be beneficial if the players learn from it.
The game goes in the loss column in the truest sense of that phrase. Some weeks you get out-played or simply go up against a better team. Green Bay got the best of us in the opener. They played well and looked like a strong team. I didn't come away from Sunday's game with the same feeling. I think we lost this game. We made mistakes. We didn't just shoot ourselves in the foot. We emptied a clip and then reloaded. The fact that we had a nine-point lead with 13 or so minutes left is pretty amazing.
Let's talk about some of the positives from the game for now. Defensive tackle Antonio Dixon started his second game in place of Brodrick Bunkley. Dixon was outstanding. I wrote in my preview that he could be in for a big game because the blockers he would face were the weak links on the Titans' line. That's exactly what happened.
Dixon overpowered the left guard and center time after time. He was very disruptive. Dixon sacked Collins by just bulling his way into the backfield and then pulling him down. That was pure power. Dixon had a couple of tackles-for-loss. He led the team with six tackles. He batted down a pass. He drew a holding call on an early run play. Are you getting the picture? Dixon was a force to be reckoned with. The matchup favored him and he took advantage of it.
We were all worried about running back Chris Johnson and what he might do. Dixon and the rest of the Eagles defense stifled him. Johnson had 66 yards on 24 carries. They played great team defense in stopping him. Players were disruptive and disciplined. We limited missed tackles. Guys swarmed to the ball.
Trent Cole did better against left tackle Michael Roos than I anticipated. Cole beat him cleanly for a sack late in the first half. Cole got pressure on several other plays. He had four solo tackles and was a big help in containing Johnson.
The linebackers had another strong showing. I thought Ernie Sims played his best game of the year. He broke up two passes and had a tackle-for-loss. He flew around the field and was very active. He did a good job of covering tight ends and Johnson on short routes. Collins had a hard time finding underneath targets to dump the ball to. Stewart Bradley wasn't overly productive, but helped to clog the middle and take away running lanes. He did a good job in limiting inside run plays. Moise Fokou had a good showing. He drew a holding call on a play when he knifed into the backfield. Fokou got pressure on a couple of plays where he blitzed. He helped in the run defense. Fokou shed blocks and was disruptive. He made a crucial tackle of Johnson on a run up the middle where he was about to explode for a huge gain.
Asante Samuel was the only member of the secondary who you can definitely say had a strong game. He picked off a pass and broke up another one. He actually had a couple of solid tackles. Samuel was solid in coverage all game long. Quintin Mikell had an interception and a strip-sack. Those were impressive turnover plays that we need more of. He was up and down in coverage.
One huge concern going into the game was how our revamped offensive line would handle the Titans pass rush. They led the NFL in sacks and had a balanced attack. It wasn't a matter of shutting down one guy. The line and other blockers did a very good job. Kevin Kolb was sacked only once. That came when fullback Owen Schmitt made a sloppy attempt to cut block a defensive end. The guys up front weren't great in pass protection, but they were good enough. They were outstanding on some screen passes. They were solid at run blocking. The line played well enough to win.
What about Kolb? He had a mixed performance. This was the best defense he's seen all year. There were times when Kolb looked really good. There were some plays he'd like to have back. His best pass of the game was a throw to Riley Cooper in the red zone. We had a third-and-3 situation. Kolb threw the ball behind Cooper and to the outside, but that was exactly where the ball was supposed to be. Cooper was able to turn away from the defender and the pass was right there for him to snatch. Kolb ran for a first down on third-and-14. That makes two out of the last three weeks where he's bailed us out on third and long with a scramble. One of the plays Kolb would like to have back was a pass inside the 10-yard line where he threw to a covered Jason Avant while Garrett Mills was open over the middle. That should have been an easy touchdown.
Back to Riley Cooper for a minute. He had a good game. He came up big in the red zone a couple of times. Kolb hit him on a shallow crossing route for a touchdown. That was well executed. The middle linebacker tried to get a shot on Cooper, but he ran right though it and was wide open for the score. Cooper made a sensational catch on a crazy version of the flea flicker. Kolb started off at wide receiver and had the ball pitched to him by LeSean McCoy. Kolb threw the ball about 50 yards downfield. The ball hung in the wind and was about to be picked off. Cooper jumped in front of the defensive back and snatched the ball. Great job by the young guy. He came up big for us in the absence of DeSean Jackson.
Avant and Jeremy Maclin combined for 11 catches and played pretty well. Maclin was open deep a couple of times. Once Kolb was hit as he threw and the pass had no chance. The other time Kolb was slow to get the ball out and he doesn't have the arm to be late. That ball went 54 yards, but was broken up by the safety.
Let's talk about some of the key mistakes. The big focus was on the inability to slow down (forget about stopping) Kenny Britt. He burned Mikell, Allen, and Ellis Hobbs for good gains. Hobbs was most frustrating because he's the veteran corner. As I re-watched the game I noticed that Hobbs didn't look right. He seemed to be moving gingerly. I don't know if he pulled a groin muscle or what, but he was super slow coming out of his breaks and trying to change directions. If he was hurting, Hobbs should have told the coaches. Britt destroyed us in the fourth quarter and we lost the game in large part because of that. Allen actually had very good coverage on a couple of plays, but Britt made good catches. Other times Allen was out of position or slow to react. Allen is a rookie and he's going to take his lumps. The same thing happened to Brian Dawkins and Wes Hopkins when they were cutting their teeth at free safety.
The defense made a lot of mistakes. Hobbs jumped offside on a third-and-3 play. You simply can't do something like that. Juqua Parker got good pressure on a third-and-long situation. He slammed Collins to the ground in the process. That's an obvious penalty. Parker knew what he'd done as soon as it happened. His body language told you that. The penalty extended a drive that resulted in a touchdown pass. Hobbs was called for pass interference on a play where we had the Titans backed up inside their own 1-yard line. That gave them 21 free yards.
The offense made a couple of critical errors. Center Mike McGlynn played a good game, but for some reason didn't block defensive tackle Jason Jones on a first-and-goal play. Jones was able to blow up the handoff from Kolb to McCoy. The Titans recovered. That cost us seven or three points. Winston Justice missed a block on a play where we tried to throw deep to Maclin. Kolb was hit as he threw and the ball was picked off. Justice let the rusher get inside. That's unacceptable on a downfield pass play. You have to force the guy to go around you if he's going to get pressure.
Special teams actually played a good game. David Akers was four of four on a windy day. His kickoffs had good depth. He had a career-high five touchbacks. Sav Rocca boomed some punts. Jorrick Calvin returned a kickoff 41 yards to set up a short scoring drive. There was one small problem. Calvin fumbled a punt late in the game that essentially sealed the win for the Titans. Ugh. He'd been so good the last couple of weeks, but that was a killer mistake.
5-2 was so close you could taste it, but instead we're 4-3. That's life with a young team. We're not so talented that the guys can go out there and be sloppy and expect to beat good teams. I hope the players take this lesson to heart. There is a lot of football left. There are five NFC East games left and each of them will be critical. The season is still wide open. The Falcons have the best record in the conference and we already beat them handily. I'm frustrated with the result from Sunday's game, but I still have good expectations for this team. I expect us to challenge for the division title. I like the potential of the team. The sky is the limit if they'll learn to play well for 60 full minutes.