Week 1 Recap: Eagles 31, Rams 13
Well, I got this one wrong. For weeks I thought the Rams were going to win this game. Andy Reid’s teams always look shaky Week 1, and I felt the Rams were ready to make a statement. Instead, they laid a stinker. And it’s not like the Eagles were overwhelmingly impressive, either, but they have a plethora of skill and made enough plays to emerge victorious. There’s still lots of work to be done, but a win is a win is a win is a win is a win. I’ll take it.
1. LeSean McCoy. Shady’s the man, and he looked incredible on Sunday. I want him getting 20 touches per game, at the bare minimum. Just keep feeding the beast — give Shady the ball and get out of the way, especially in the fourth quarter (which he owns). I still want the offense to establish the run before the second half, but I know that’s a long shot. It’s a shame, too, because a physical ground game will only make the aerial attack that much more lethal (and lessen the pounding Michael Vick has to take).
2. Michael Vick. No, Vick didn’t have his best day passing and completed less than 50% of his attempts. Obviously that has to improve. He did, however, resemble the Vick of old (and, well, present) numerous times as he narrowly eluded pressure and took off down the field for a big gain. Michael Vick is the most exciting athlete on the planet. Period. Is there a cooler, more explosive synergy of talent than Vick and DeSean Jackson?
3. Pass rush. The defensive line was all over Sam Bradford from the very beginning, racking up five sacks total. Jason Babin had two and Trent Cole added another. Darryl Tapp was highly impressive, too, and could be a key contributor in Jim Washburn’s scheme (although now he’s nursing a torn pectoral muscle and will be out at least one game). Also gotta give it up to Juqua Parker for scooping the fumble and returning it for the easiest touchdown ever — bonus points for the stiff arm on Moise Fokou. Big, BIG play by the defense that turned the game in the Eagles’ favor.
1. Run defense. That “Wide Nine” alignment helps the defensive ends get upfield and pressure the passer, but it also opens up sizable holes along the line for teams to exploit on the ground. The Rams did just that, and it’s going to be worse against more physical teams that are committed to the run (and don’t lose their top back five minutes into the game), especially when you remember that the middle of the defense is, um, not good. The Eagles can’t just pompously expect that they will get out to big leads in each game and force opposing offenses to pass all the time.
2. Linebackers. So, when does the Casey Matthews experiment end? I’m not trying to pile hate on the guy, but he’s physically and mentally overmatched right now, can’t get off a block to save his life, and doesn’t even cover all that well. That’s before pointing out that he seems hesitant and is still doing way too much thinking instead of reacting, which prevents him from sticking to his gaps and/or finding the ball in time to make a play. I’m just not confident with Matthews on the field. Perhaps he’ll get better as the season progresses, but I never saw him as a starter in the NFL even during his days at Oregon. In fact, I’m of the opinion that the linebacker corps might be better off replacing Matthews with Chaney inside and playing Brian Rolle (very impressed with him on Sunday) on the strong side. Then again, I don’t do this talent evaluation thing for a living and therefore have little to no idea what I’m talking about. I mean, as we all know, it’s impossible for an amateur observer — especially one who’s never played football at any level — to truly understand the nuances of the game and deduce what traits are possible indicators of future success. Oh, wait, that’s really no longer the case, despite what some of the traditionalists might think and prefer.
3. Offensive line. Alright, the unit wasn’t THAT bad, but if Michael Vick wasn’t Michael Vick, a number of those ridiculous escapes and scrambles would have been sacks instead. He also got hit way too much, in general, which was a troubling theme in the preseason and persisted into Week 1. The offensive line certainly got better as the game went along, but it’s far from being where it needs to be.
Update (9/15): I’ll let Ray Didinger handle this one:
Why were Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg still calling pass plays with 6:04 left and a 31-13 lead? On that garbage time series, Vick ran the ball once (a 14-yard scramble) and threw it twice, including a fourth-and-11 play that ended with him getting slammed to the ground one last time.
It was a stupid call and Spagnuolo almost made them pay for it big-time.
“It’s fourth down, the game’s in the bag and (the Eagles) line up in the shotgun to throw another pass?” Baldinger said. “Spags is saying, ‘OK, you want to do that? I’m going to take out your quarterback.’ He sends a full blitz. They are going for the knockout (on Vick) and they almost got it.
“Three guys hit (Vick) and land on top of him, his head whiplashes off the turf. That might be the hardest hit he took all day and it was totally unnecessary.”
Thank you for calling out the coaches here, Ray. Attention must be drawn to this kind of bullshit, as it’s an example of arrogantly gratuitous play-calling that is both obnoxious and, worse, dangerous. There is severe risk and ZERO reward. It’s foolish, irresponsible, infuriating, and ABSOLUTELY INEXCUSABLE. If Vick had been seriously injured on one of those plays, Andy and Marty should have been fired on the spot. I’m not joking.
Oh, right, before I forget… give DeSean Jackson his money. PAY THE MAN.
Playing at Atlanta on Sunday night — in a game that team has to have — isn’t going to be easy, and the Michael Vick saga always makes for a great subplot. Overall, I like the way the Eagles match up against the Falcons (always have), so I’m thinking a 2-0 start is in the cards… which probably means you should put your money on Atlanta.