As the old saying goes, the more things change the more they stay the same.
For the Philadelphia Eagles that provides a great summary of what went down in their 26-24 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night. It was a carbon copy of many games in 2014 where the offence and defensive front did enough to win, but the secondary could not cope with a classy quarterback/receiver combination.
After an anemic first half where the offence could not get going bar one long drive that resulted in a field goal and the secondary hung on for dear life as the Atlanta receivers went long time after time, the Eagles were lucky to be only trailing 20-7, ironically the same margin they trailed Jacksonville by in the season opener a year ago.
A brilliant one handed interception by Kiko Alonso stopped a sure touchdown to Julio Jones and the defensive line made some big plays to turn touchdowns into fields goals.
The second half was all Philadelphia, with touchdowns to Eagles debutants DeMarco Murray (with a rushing and receiving touchdown) and Ryan Mathews. Darren Sproles was in everything.
Philadelphia looked like winning when they took the lead after the Mathews touchdown, however after another long Atlanta drive they took the lead back for good following a Matt Bryant 47 yard field goal, a feat Cody Parkey was unable to repeat from about the same distance moments later, leaving Atlanta with a well deserved win.
Where it was lost
- The secondary – Julio Jones and Roddy White, the Falcons two best receivers combined for 225 yards from 13 receptions (17.3 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. The new secondary of Byron Maxwell, Nolan Carroll, Walter Thurmond and Malcolm Jenkins just couldn’t stay with Jones and White, in particular whoever was not being covered by Maxwell
- Penalties – fourteen penalties in all, of which only ten were accepted. This is far too many. Some were at critical times, cancelling out long plays. The discipline has to improve.
- Turnovers – both of Sam Bradford’s interceptions were at critical times and both in their own red zone. While the second one was on third down in a two minute situation, the first one should not have been thrown and led to a Jones touchdown.
- Missed opportunities – missed field goals, missed interceptions, dropped catches all equal missed opportunities. For a team that wants to contend for playoffs and championships, these chances need to be taken.
- Bad play calling – Chip Kelly did not have his best night. The call to kick the field goal that was missed instead of going for it on 4th and 1 when the offence had been marching up the field the entire second half was baffling, as was the decision to hardly use the run game in the first half.
- The comeback – as poor as the first half was, the second half comeback was full of merit and deserves much praise even if it did fall short.
- The offensive line – did a great job of keeping the defence away from Bradford and those knees. Not one sack was recorded by the Atlanta defence.
- Chip’s off season moves look good – Alonso pulled of a Beckham-like catch to make an interception in the end zone and the Murray/Mathews combination combined for all three Eagle touchdowns. Bradford did put up some big numbers (336 yards and a touchdown) despite the two interceptions.
- No injuries – the Eagles remain healthy. Zach Ertz played after being questionable through the week. Alonso got through the game, as did Bradford, Murray and Mathews.
- There’s still 15 games to go – although that was a game they would have expected to win in a crowded NFC title race.
The Dallas Cowboys come to the Linc next Monday morning (6.25 AEST). This one is always a big match up between two bitter rivals. Dez Bryant is out which will take a bit of the pressure off the secondary. Who knows which way this will go.