Can't blame everything on the Eagles coaches

Posted: December 12, 2011

Here are some observations and ruminations about the Eagles' victory over the Dolphins on Sunday:

 MIAMI - Sometimes, it really does come down to players.

Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo had Nnamdi Asomugha in the right position on the Dolphins' first drive - lined up one-on-one with Miami's top receiver, Brandon Marshall on a third and 11.

The Eagles' 6-foot-2 cornerback ran with the Dolphins' 6-foot-4 receiver to the back corner only to get beat over the top by a beautiful throw from Matt Moore. The pass was perfect, and Marshall made a great catch in the back of the end zone, showing why he is so dangerous.

But Asomugha is supposed to be elite at his own job. Marshall is the kind of receiver he was brought in to stop. He hasn't delivered on expectations, and while Castillo has earned plenty of criticism, sometimes it's up to his top players to deliver.

Early holiday present?

Maybe it was a gift from one embattled coach to another. Because there's really no other way to explain Miami's decision to try a 55-yard field goal late in the first quarter.

Up to that point, the Eagles had gained just 32 yards on three drives and couldn't get any momentum. The Dolphins defense was stifling. The smart play would have been to punt and pin Philadelphia deep again. Instead, Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter missed and Eagles quarterback Michael Vick took over within sight of the end zone.

Give Andy Reid's group credit. They took advantage of Miami's blunder to tie the game at 7-7. They also added to the reasons that Tony Sparano is likely on his way out as head coach.

Reid tried to return the favor later when his punt team tried a throwback across the field - DeSean Jackson to rookie Curtis Marsh - resulting in a fumble that gave Miami great field position.

Not to worry: The Dolphins' Matt Moore was sacked by Jason Babin on the next play and gave the ball right back. This time, the Eagles drove for a score and a 24-7 lead.

Forced to scramble

Welcome back, Michael. It took only one play for Vick to get hit after missing the previous three games with broken ribs.

The Eagles quarterback, who vowed last week to start sliding to avoid taking unnecessary hits, spent a lot of the first quarter on his back. It wasn't always his fault, but Vick left the pocket a tad early on two of the three sacks he took in the first 15 minutes. His offensive line missed a few blocks and Vick had to improvise and scramble.

Did he slide? No. But there wasn't much room for Vick to give himself up on those runs.

Clutch play

On a third-and-goal from the Eagles' 2-yard-line in the third quarter, defensive tackle Derek Landri knifed through the offensive line to blow up a Miami run and force a field goal.

Instead of pulling to within 10 points, the Dolphins were still down 14, and Landri showed the kind of grit that made him a training-camp standout. It was one of several big plays Landri made in short yardage situations.

He's not a star. He won't make highlight reels, and he's not an every-down player. But when Landri has been on the field this year, he has given everything he's had, and he's often provided the right push at the right moment.

Reid was right

It could have been a momentum-changer. It could have signaled the start of another fourth-quarter collapse by the Eagles. But Andy Reid pulled out his red hankie, challenged a fourth-down spot and won - again.

The Eagles coach has won 7 of 12 challenges this season. This one came early in the fourth quarter with the Eagles ahead, 24-10, but the Dolphins driving. Miami faced fourth and one on their own 47, however, and went for it.

Quarterback J.P. Losman fumbled the snap and appeared to be short of the marker. But when the officials measured, the Dolphins had a first down. Reid, though, challenged and won.

"That's the time you should probably use one whether you're right or wrong," Reid said. "It's that close."

In this case, Reid was right.

Just like Dawk

The Eagles have taken a lot of hits for letting super safety Brian Dawkins walk away a few seasons ago, but Kurt Coleman held his own Sunday as he battled to remain the starter and become the "new" Dawkins.

The second-year Ohio State grad did a nice job intercepting a pass by Moore in the second quarter and returning it 35 yards to the Dolphins' 1 to set up an Eagle touchdown.

That was Coleman's fourth interception of the season. Which Eagles safety last had four interceptions in a season? Dawkins in 2006.

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