Eagles Notes: Eagles running back Brown's Wildcat experiment fails badly

Posted: October 03, 2011

What was he thinking?

As Ronnie Brown was being dragged down in a scrum of Eagles and 49ers at the San Francisco goal line, he cocked the football back in an apparent attempt to heave a desperation pass. Not surprisingly, the ball was knocked loose, and the 49ers recovered, preventing the Eagles from trying a chip-shot field goal that could have provided a valuable three points.

Brown said the play, from the San Francisco 1-yard line, was designed to be a run-pass option to a tight end, though it seems that the "pass" option would ideally be used before he was wrapped up and going to the ground.

"I just have to make a better decision with the ball," Brown said. "I think I tried to outthink myself a little bit. It was a pass play, and I was thinking once the guys slipped off, you know, just try to throw the ball away and give us another chance on fourth down."

If he had thrown it away, Brown said, maybe the team could have tried for a touchdown on fourth down. Instead, San Francisco took over, and the Eagles came away without any points.

The play symbolized two glaring problems in Sunday's loss and the first four games of the season: The Eagles are struggling in the red zone and giving away the ball far more often than they take it away.

The Eagles scored just two touchdowns on seven trips inside the red zone Sunday. Brown's fumble ended a drive that included a first-and-goal from the 49ers' 4. The Eagles are 3 for 12 in the red zone the last two games, both losses.

The Eagles had three turnovers. In addition to Brown's fumble, Michael Vick threw an interception, and Jeremy Maclin fumbled on the Birds' final drive. They had just one takeaway. They now have 10 giveaways against just four takeaways, one of the worst ratios in the NFL. For all of their defensive struggles in 2010, they were one of the best in the league at creating turnovers.

More defensive woes

As if the struggling Eagles defense needs more challenges: Defensive end Trent Cole left the game with a calf strain, and defensive tackle Antonio Dixon had a triceps strain. Left tackle Jason Peters suffered a hamstring strain. All three will have MRIs Monday, coach Andy Reid said.

Cole, hurt early in the fourth quarter, was on crutches in the locker room after the game. Jason Babin moved to Cole's right defensive end spot after the injury, and Phillip Hunt filled in on the left side.

The injuries to Cole and Dixon are major concerns for a defensive line that entered the game without defensive ends Darryl Tapp (pectoral) and Juqua Parker (ankle).

The Eagles want a deep defensive-line rotation to help their frenetic pass rush but could be left dangerously thin at the position that drives the defense.

The injuries would seem to be a factor in the defense's running out of steam in the fourth quarter of each of the last three games.

Jackson goes big, not McCoy

After two quiet weeks, DeSean Jackson was a huge part of the Eagles game plan Sunday as he delivered six catches for 171 yards, though he could have had more. He missed two catchable deep balls early, including one that was intercepted by Carlos Rogers


The Eagles targeted him early.

"It's great for me to go out there and have breakout games with stats . . . but none of that really matters to me at the end of the day if we lose the game," Jackson said. "It's a long season. We still have 12 games left, so we have to be able to go out there and win out."

Jackson's big day came as LeSean McCoy had his quietest afternoon of the season. He entered the game as the NFL's No. 2 rusher but had just nine carries for 18 yards against a stout San Francisco run defense. McCoy added six receptions for 34 yards and a touchdown.

Asked about McCoy's limited role, Reid had little to say.

"We did what we did," Reid said. "You saw what we had in mind. We did what we had in mind. We just need to score more touchdowns."

Extra points

Babin's three sacks were a career high. He has seven sacks, the most ever by an Eagle through four games. . . . Tight end Clay Harbor caught his second career touchdown.

Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214, jtamari@phillynews.com, or @JonathanTamari on Twitter.

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