Paul Domowitch: Autopsy of the collapse

Posted: October 04, 2011

REVIEWING the wreckage of the Eagles' 24-23 collapse to the 49ers while wondering how many hours Juan Castillo plans to go without sleep this week:

By the numbers * 

LeSean McCoy, who entered Sunday's game as the league's second-leading rusher, had just just nine carries against the Niners and only four in the second half of a game in which the Eagles had a 20-point lead. Andy Reid, who repeatedly has said over the years that he likes to run the ball in the second half after getting a lead, denied that yesterday. Must've been another Andy Reid.

* The Eagles have converted just three of 12 red-zone trips in the last two games.

* The Eagles have what is considered the best cornerback trio in the league, yet have just two interceptions in four games.

* All 15 of the Eagles' sacks have been recorded by their front four, including seven by Jason Babin.

Pass defense

In the Niners' first three games, Alex Smith had averaged just 168 passing yards. Against the Eagles, he threw for 291. In the third quarter alone, he was 9-for-9 for 179 yards and two touchdowns.

A seasonlong problem covering - and tackling - opposing running backs and tight ends continued in the loss. Twelve of Smith's 20 completions and 154 of his 291 passing yards went to backs and tight ends.

In the first four games, running backs and tight ends have 40 receptions for 478 yards and six touchdowns against the Eagles.

On Kendall Hunter's 44-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter, which preceded the Niners' first touchdown, Jamar Chaney abandoned his coverage responsibility on Hunter when Smith broke containment, and pursued Smith. As soon as Chaney committed, Smith dumped it to Hunter.

On Smith's 30-yard touchdown pass to Josh Morgan, the Eagles blitzed safety Jarrad Page and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha off the same side. With no inside safety help on Morgan, Asante Samuel, the corner on that side, should have been playing inside leverage on the Niners' wideout. But he didn't. He stayed outside, allowing Morgan to run a slant into the hole between him and linebacker Brian Rolle, and Smith delivered an strike. It helped that the blitz didn't work. Both Page and Asomugha were easily picked up.

On another one of the completions to a Niners running back, linebacker Brian Rolle was late getting over to pick up fullback Bruce Miller in the left flat, then tried to push the 250-pounder out of bounds rather than wrapping him up and tackling him. Miller stayed in bounds and picked up 15 yards on the third-quarter play.

The Eagles dealt with Niners tight end Vernon Davis in several ways, including putting Asomugha on him. Davis was targeted by Smith six times and had four catches for 45 yards and a touchdown. While Asomugha did a good job on Davis, he got beat by wide receiver Michael Crabtree on a 38-yarder four plays before Davis' touchdown. Asomugha has said several times in recent weeks that he knows teams are going to try to attack the Eagles' corners with double moves. Yet, he bit on one by Crabtree, who beat him with a stutter-and-go move. Asomugha caught Crabtree after the catch, then blew the tackle on him, allowing him to pick up 7 more yards. Asomugha's tackling skills with the Eagles have not been impressive.

Run defense

The Niners came in averaging 2.5 yards per carry. Even with Frank Gore playing with a sore ankle, they rushed for 164 yards on 25 carries against the Eagles. Gore had 127 yards on 15 carries.

One-hundred-thirty of the Niners' 164 rushing yards came in the first and fourth quarters. In the first four games, 391 of their opponents' 558 rushing yards have come in quarters 1 and 4. Opponents are averaging 6.6 yards per carry against the Eagles in the first quarter.

Key play that got overlooked

Niners linebacker NaVorro Bowman's impressive play on Vick on a third-and-3 play with 6 minutes left in the third quarter and the Eagles up 23-10. Vick bolted the pocket and looked like he was going to be able to outrun Bowman and pick up a first down. But Bowman took a good angle, made a diving tackle and held him to a 1-yard gain, forcing a punt. The Niners promptly drove 77 yards on five plays and scored on Davis' 9-yard TD catch to make it a six-point game.

Spotlight On . . . Jamar Chaney and Kyle DeVan

Neither of these guys had a very good game. Chaney, the starting middle linebacker, led the Eagles in tackles. But his fingerprints were on far too many of the Niners' big offensive plays.

There was Davis' touchdown catch. Playing inside leverage, Chaney was unable to stay with Davis, then failed to tackle him when he got his hands on him at the 3-yard line. There was his poor decision to abandon coverage on Hunter on his 44-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter. And there were the numerous times he was unable to get off blocks. Fullback Bruce Miller took him out of the play on Gore's game-winning 12-yard TD run. Earlier in that drive, Chaney couldn't get off a block by left tackle Joe Staley on a 21-yard run by Gore. And on the Niners' first possession, both he and Rolle were blocked, creating a huge running lane for Gore on an inside trap play that gained 40 yards.

DeVan played pretty well in the Eagles' first three games but struggled Sunday. He was involved in that ill-conceived Ronnie Brown goal-line play in the second quarter. DeVan was supposed to come across the formation from right guard and pick up linebacker Parys Haralson. But he tripped over somebody's feet and never made it, which allowed Haralson to come in clean and blow up the play. In the second quarter, he appeared to make an assignment error that allowed Niners left end Ray McDonald to come into the backfield untouched and get a hand on Vick. In one of his many Houdini acts Sunday, Vick spun away from McDonald and ended up completing a 29-yard pass to DeSean Jackson. On the very next play, DeVan again was supposed to come across the formation and pick up rookie linebacker Aldon Smith. But he failed to effectively block Smith, who sacked Vick for a 10-yard loss. DeVan also was called for holding on the play.

In the third quarter, McDonald, split the gap between DeVan and center Jason Kelce on a second-and-11 and blew up a handoff to LeSean McCoy. McCoy was promptly dropped for a 5-yard loss.

Late in the third quarter, with the Eagles facing a second-and-7 at the San Francisco 22 two plays after Vick's 61-yard completion to Jackson, DeVan was flagged for holding after McDonald beat him on an inside rush. Shortly after that, Alex Henery had the first of his two costly field goal misses.

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