Bob Ford: Eagles not close to getting it right

Posted: December 02, 2011

SEATTLE - It's important to understand just who the Eagles lost to on Thursday night in their final meaningful football of the 2011 season.

They lost, 31-14, to a Seattle Seahawks team that was without most of its starting offensive line, without its only dependable receiver, and with a quarterback playing hurt who isn't any bargain when he's healthy.

They lost to a team with a defense that managed to cough up a home game to Rex Grossman and the Washington Redskins four days before dragging their sorry 4-7 butts onto the field again to play a team that was allegedly scratching and clawing for its life.

If a supposedly great team falls in a dreary December Northwest forest, does it make a Puget Sound?

Not this time. The Eagles went quietly and with less animation in Seattle than you'll see from the average overcaffeinated local bouncing down the sidewalk on the way to work. They punched in, they punched out, and now they can stop the charade.

This is not a team so very close to getting it right. It is not a team that will regain its balance, rip off four straight wins, and close the season with a burst into the playoffs.

This is a team that can't beat the Seattle Seahawks when it matters.

The eight losses in 12 games this season have come for a variety of reasons, but many of the familiar ones were on display against the Seahawks. In the first half, as they fell behind 17-7, the Eagles gave the ball to LeSean McCoy just seven times against a team that isn't very good at stopping the run.

Why? A fine question. It isn't as if the Eagles should be layering more weight on backup quarterback Vince Young, who isn't capable of bearing the burden. Young would throw four interceptions against the Seahawks, including the backbreaker in the fourth quarter that was returned for a touchdown.

Young tried a pass in the flat to McCoy on that one, but tried it without the benefit of actually looking at McCoy first. If he had, Young would have noticed the presence of linebacker David Hawthorne, who was minding his own business standing right next to McCoy when Young threw him the football the way Santa tosses candy from the last float in the parade.

There's no sense in blaming Young, who is only on the field by accident. The things the Eagles have done on purpose are far more telling. The defense, which is built around the prideful notion of getting sacks, got three more, but not a single takeaway. And all that hurly-burly rush to get to the quarterback did is what it has done all season - expose a middle of the field that is soft against the run and vulnerable to short passes.

If Tarvaris Jackson can pick you apart, there is something terribly wrong with your defense. Jackson didn't have to do much, but that was because the Seahawks took pressure off him by running the ball well. The result was a 13-for-16 night for Jackson, and, in the end, an easy win.

It wasn't all that dramatic a final act for the Eagles, and the closing of the show will now be followed by four dress rehearsals for the benefit of the bottom line and little else. There were no fights on the sideline among the coaches. There were no helmets being thrown or water bottles tossed to the ground. Aside from DeSean Jackson's weekly posturing, which is impossible to decipher, it just looked like a football game between two losing teams that one of them happened to win.

It didn't happen to be the Eagles this time, but that is often the case when the first offensive play of the night ends with an interception and so does the last one. In between, it was just more bad football from a team that began as strangers in late July and effectively ends the season in early December the same way.

We hardly knew them? They appear to have the same problem with each other.

Someone surely will say that with four closing wins and an 8-8 record, the Eagles still have a remote chance to make the playoffs as champion of the lousy NFC East. For whatever it is worth, Andy Reid will doggedly cling to that and stubbornly repeat the same maddening garbage about staying focused and sticking with the job at hand.

Well, let them say it and let him say it. The Eagles aren't making the playoffs because they aren't good enough and they didn't want it enough. They have players with a lot of talent and players with a lot of heart. The problem is they don't have too many of them in the same body.

So, this is how it ended. Not with a bang, but with a slow crumpling, and with four games yet to be endured. They dressed and got to the airport and crossed the country in the still, dead night, hearing nothing above the long drone of the engines except the echo of their empty promises.


Contact columnist Bob Ford

at bford@phillynews.com, read recent columns at www.philly.com/bobford.

 

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