Philadelphia Eagles News

Passing Game Must Start To Soar

There was a 4-play, 70-yard touchdown drive that featured a nifty 23-yard LeSean McCoy run, a completion to tight end Brent Celek, another McCoy run and a short pass on the left side of the formation to Jeremy Maclin who followed the Mack Truck blocking of left tackle Jason Peters down the sideline for a 36-yard touchdown play.

Then the offense, set up by Asante Samuel's spectacular interception, took over on the Atlanta 22-yard line and went about its business. McCoy gained 5 yards on first down and then added 2 on a pass from Michael Vick, setting up a third-and-3 play. Vick ran for 7 yards and a first down at the 8-yard line, and on first and goal from there, McCoy ran to the right side, into the end zone and the Eagles had a lead.

They weren't finished.

Two offensive possessions later, the Eagles took advantage of a poor Falcons punt and set up shop at the Atlanta 20-yard line. They manufactured a 5-play drive, marred by a concussion suffered by Vick on a 9-yard completion to Vick, and scored another touchdown on a McCoy 2-yard run left.

Four possessions, three touchdowns, one quarter. It was what we expect of this offense every week -- a combination of explosive plays, efficiency in the red zone and a reliable running game.

But the Eagles have been anything but consistent offensively in three games. They have had some explosive moments, but not enough. Vick has missed the fourth quarter in each of the last two games, both losses.

The passing game has been off and on and the red zone has not been nearly as consistent as offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg demands.

Only McCoy, who leads the NFC in rushing yards, has been as productive on a game-in, game-out basis. He is on his way to the Pro Bowl and is can be argued that he is, after three games, the best running back in the entire NFL.

It's time for the rest of the offense to catch up.

To do so, the Eagles have to overcome a very strong San Francisco defense, led by an outstanding front seven. The 49ers run a 3-4 defense and have a pair of game-changing linebackers, Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman. The 49ers are stout inside and don't give up much in the running game.

The 49ers are 2-1 largely because they have won the battle of field position, have played solid defense and are dominating on special teams.

So San Francisco is not going to be intimidated by the Eagles' highly-skilled playmakers on offense. The 49ers are going to try to get at Vick, hit him and take him out of his game. The Giants were effective last week minimizing the Eagles by playing a soft defense, a two-deep shell and then holding in the red zone.

It's a strategy that other teams are likely to employ: If you can keep the Eagles in front of you, you have a chance to win the game.

How do the Eagles counter? They certainly must get the ball more to DeSean Jackson, who has just 4 catches in the last two games. They need to convert in the red zone, which has been a puzzling dead zone this season. They must keep Vick upright and clean.

And Vick must be better. He needs to see the field and make decisions quickly. Vick is going through his progressions and that's great, but in doing so he is absorbing so much punishment that is accumulating early in this season. Where is his darting, up-tempo scrambling? Vick had 9 touchdowns a year ago; he has zero in three games in 2011.

We've seen only a glimpse of how potent this fast-break offense can be. To get to where the Eagles want to go, they must be better on offense. The formula is for this team to play with a lead and to exhaust defenses with their speed and their depth in talent.

San Francisco is a big test. The 49ers are physical and they play downhill football. Which Eagles offense shows up to play?

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