Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Raiders 13, Phillies 11, Eagles 9

Philadelphia Eagles v Oakland Raiders
By all appearances, the Eagles got caught looking past the woeful Oakland Raiders, and could never gather themselves to avoid a painful 13-9 loss.  And, to add insult to injury, when Shane Victorino tacked on a late game field goal, the Eagles found themselves outscored by their baseball playing brothers across the street. Of course, the Phillies big victory deflected a great deal of scrutiny off the Eagles lackluster performance and eased the pain of Philadelphia sports fans.

Although no one can really say for sure, Sunday looked like a case of a strong team taking a struggling team too lightly. The Eagles quickly fell behind and could never find their rhythm on offense to put a touchdown drive together. And, the defense could not come up with crucial stops in the fourth quarter to get the ball back into their hands of the offense.

Somehow, some way, the Eagles found a way to lose a game where they had no turnovers, collected two interceptions and held their opponent to 13 points. The biggest culprit was the offensive line's ability to pick up Raiders blitzes and provide protection for Donovan McNabb. This was further exacerbated by the great imbalance in play selection as the Eagles ran the ball on only 14 of 66 plays. This allowed the Raiders to keep McNabb under constant pressure, limit him to less than 50% completion percentage, while getting sacked 6 times.

With the Eagles coming off consecutive high margin victories, and the Raiders coming off 3 straight large margin defeats, the prospects of the Eagles losing this game seemed highly unlikely. Of course, this is the NFL, and "on any given Sunday...." Unfortunately for the Eagles, this was either one of those given Sunday's or the team feared the Raiders so little that they fooled themselves into thinking it would be a "cake walk." I am not sure exactly what type of walk that represents, but lets just say the Eagles players left the field with batter all over their uniforms.

Conversely, the Raiders showed up motivated to save face with an aggressive, attacking game plan. Their defense took a page out of the Eagles book, deploying a blitzing defense all day to limit McNabb's time and harass him into erratic passing. The formula worked, and by the time the Eagles seemed to get a sense of urgency, they could not sufficiently "turn things on" to overcome the deficit.

As it has from day 1 of training camp, the offensive line continues to present questions and concerns. It has played well at times, but it has never been settled. With Peters going down with an injury, the line played most of the day without its top four players as projected prior to the season. Shawn Andrews is on IR, Stacy Andrews is being limited in playing time, Todd Herremans is still fighting back from injury and Peters has a sprained knee. In order for the Eagles to establish themselves as legitimate contenders, they will need to get some order in terms of the players and their roles on the offensive line.

No matter how good, due to the competitiveness of the NFL and simple human nature, most teams experience an unpredictable upset along the way. Lets hope that yesterday was an aberration and the experience awakened a sense of urgency to avoid a similar scenario down the road. A couple small silver linings are that the NFC Eastern Division leading New York Giants also lost and the Raiders are a non-conference team. Beyond that, Sunday and the ensuing dust trail gloomily hang over head. The Eagles would be wise to learn from their red pinstriped brethren, and simply put this one behind them to place their undivided attention on the opponents ahead.

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