Another year, another playoff loss. It is routine in Philadelphia to spend the month of January deciphering who is to blame for another loss in the post season. The only difference this year is that no one can point a finger at Donovan McNabb. Now, I’m sure someone right now is still cursing 5 for the loss on Sunday, but we should probably let the booze where off before we actually listen to what he is saying.
Never-the-less…the question still begs: Who do you blame? Unfortunately for Eagles fans, the list is long and plentiful. If 5 people were to look at the tape, all 5 might come up with a different answer. Let’s just take a look at a few of the nominees:
Facts: Regular season – 32/38, 84.2%
Akers missed only 6 kicks during the regular season. Of those who had at least 30 attempts this season, only 3 have a higher kicking percentage than Akers: Matt Bryant, Neil Rackers, Josh Brown. Notice anything in common with those 3 guys? Yep, they’re all guys kicking in a dome. So to be at 84% is pretty damn solid.
That said, he missed two huge kicks against Green Bay. Yes… that is rare for Akers. Very rare. In fact, he has kicked 22 FG in the postseason setting the all time Eagles franchise mark and placing him 5th all time in NFL history. So the guy knows how to kick field goals in the postseason. That doesn’t; however, shield him from his fair share of the blame. Those 6 points left on the field would have certainly helped… but let us not fall into a trap.
Anyone who says, “If Akers makes those, the Eagles win” is absolutely void of any football acumen. The game is not played in a vacuum and as the score changes, so does play calling. Had Akers hit his field goals, Mike McCarthy may have opened up the playbook a little more instead of chewing up valuable clock time on the ground. Akers gets his share, but he should NOT shoulder the loss.
Facts: Entered the game 7-1 as Eagles head coach in postseason home openers.
Everyone was reminded of the success Andy Reid has had in the playoffs… especially opening up at home. While this time, he didn’t have 5 under center, Michael Vick has proven to be more dangerous with his combination of speed and accuracy than Donovan ever was. On paper, this favored the Eagles, right?
Depends on what paper you’re looking at. Are you looking at the media guide before the game or the post game notes? The post game stats say it all. In a game that everyone knew the Eagles needed to be able to run the ball, Reid gave only 13 attempts to his running backs. 12 of those attempts were by LeSean McCoy and one by Jerome Harrison. Vick added 8 runs of his own, but I highly doubt ½ of those were designed. In case you didn’t notice, the packers employed a two deep zone and two deep man coverage scheme when not blitzing. This is ideal to run against and difficult to throw against. Makes sense that Reid would elect the pass, right? But I digress.
Compare those 13 rushing attempts to Vick’s 36 pass attempts and you realize that Reid implemented no balance… again. How many times do Philadelphia fans need to get frustrated over this lack of balance and play calling? Is it not every year that the same issues arise? And don’t tell me the Eagles don’t run the ball effectively because they were 5th in the NFL this season. Shady eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark while averaging only 13.8 attempts per game! That’s pretty productive.
Aside from the play calling, Reid made sure to burn his timeouts as well. Would it even be a question if Vick would spike the ball or call a play at the 27 yard line if he had a timeout or two in his back pocket? Down 5, a first down at the 27 yard line and you might want to take 2 minutes to say, “Let’s not force anything here. We’re in great position to get the W.”
Instead, Vick feels rushed and wants to pick up whatever he can. I don’t have a problem with Vick going for the win. He had man coverage on the outside, throwing to his big target. He just under-threw it. The inability to manage his timeouts came back to bite him.
Let us not forget the inability to pick up 3rd and short. The Eagles had 5 3rd down opportunities of 3 yards or less. They converted only 1. The other 8 3rd downs were all 3rd and relatively long. Another product of bad play calling.
Facts: Started 2 rookie 7th round draft selections against Green Bay.
McDermott came into Sunday’s playoff matchup with a lot to prove. After being handed the Defensive Coordinator position, he has done little to impress. His defense was torn apart last season, much of this season and it continued in the playoffs. Yes, Rodgers didn’t light it up through the air…but he did throw for 3 td’s. It’s no coincidence that they were all in the redzone. What is worse is the success that the Packers had on the ground. James Starks simply had his way rushing for a Packer rookie playoff record of 123 yards.
What about lack of pressure? Was there a hand in Rodger’s face all day? Sure, the Eagles got a big sack at the end of the game and were able to force a turnover… but for the most part, Rodgers was comfortable. The front 4 had no pressure and there was nothing exotic of the edges. I understand completely that McDermott is dealing with a lack of personnel, but isn’t half of coaching the ability to succeed with a game plan? Are you telling me that good coaches simply have the best talent? No… McDermott came up flat (again) and needs to be held accountable for his failed game plan.
Fact: They are terrible.
Look no further than the 1st play of the game. To the Eagles credit, there was absolutely no talk of the Packers blitz coming into the game or the fact that Michael Vick was being hit too frequently. So I wouldn’t expect the offensive line to be prepared for the obvious. WHAT! The first friggin’ play of the game!?
While the Packers visibly backed off and played a coverage scheme, Vick still took his shots. The offensive line certainly wasn’t the worst I’ve seen it this season… but it wasn’t anything good.
I’ll sum it up with Winston Justice’s stellar contribution. On one play he gets flagged for a false start. On the very next snap, a flag and a hat is thrown. Not only was caught lined up a yard off the line, but then he got tagged with a hold. That’s 3 penalties in 2 snaps against 1 guy. Has that EVER happened before?
Fact: In the first 6 games (minus first matchup with WSH when he got hurt) he had 15 TD’s and 0 turnovers. Since then, 15 TD’s and 9 turnovers.
Michael Vick had an amazing season. From start to finish he was an exciting player who was a threat to score, both with his legs and arm. That said, he needed to secure the ball in this one. And he did. Vick accounted for 292 yards passing, TD, 33 yards rushing, TD. He protected the ball well with his only turnover being the very last play of the game. Now, that is a pretty damn big turnover. Down only 5 from the 27 yardline, he needed to show a little more poise. I agree that he didn’t need to clock it at that point. You leave as little time on the clock as possible! However, if you are going to make that throw, it better be to the back pylon where only Riley Cooper can make the grab. He didn’t… game over.
I can’t criticize Vick for his overall play. He forces defenses to account for you at all times. I think he did a good job of hanging in the pocket and taking off when he needed to. The last thing I want to see happen is for Vick to get hurt, but he has to utilize his legs when he can. It’s what makes him so versatile.
I will say that over the last 11 years, people in Philadelphia ripped McNabb for game ending picks or playoff losses. The guy threw for over 300 yards and 3 TD’s in the superbowl, yet still gets hammered for that performance. So let Vick own this disappointment. Let him own his share of the blame. Philadelphia let 5 go because he couldn’t win the big game and it was time to find out who could. Vick, albeit not simply his fault, didn’t win the game. To boot, it ended on a throw he made. There is inherent blame to that. It’s his… and it should be.
So… Who do you blame? I think it’s pretty clear who to blame for the Eagles 21-16 loss on Sunday. You blame the Eagles. The team. From the management who put the personnel together, to the coaches who didn’t coach, to the players who didn’t play. It’s that simple. This was a team loss from top to bottom. There is a lot of blame to go around, but I think it would be highly unfair to pin it on any one guy. It’s a team sport. You win as a team and you lose as a team. I think it was pretty evident on Sunday.