Marcus Hayes: Eagles' woes a tale of self-destruction

Jason Avant is brought to the ground by Louis Delmas after a 17-yard reception in the second quarter.
Jason Avant is brought to the ground by Louis Delmas after a 17-yard reception in the second quarter. (DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: October 16, 2012

BEING MEDIOCRE, and that by just four points, brings the blood to the cheeks of the Eagles with pride.

Road losses to a flawed Cardinals team and a debilitated Steelers team preceded Sunday's collapse to the one-win Lions. Dispatched quickly in overtime, headed into a bye week of shame, the Birds fumed and promised better.

"Not where you want to be. Not 3-3," said No. 3 receiver Jason Avant.

Last season, in a locker room devoid of established leaders, Avant, essentially a backup, delivered an address to the team that sizzled and snapped.

A rash of penalties, a propensity for turnovers and a general lack of focus put the Eagles at .500. A little worse luck and they could be 0-6; they won their three games by a total of four points.

Sunday, standout rookie defensive tackle Fletcher Cox punched a Lion during a PAT kick and was ejected. The Lions, toothless to that point, proceeded to score a touchdown and two field goals with Cox in the locker room.

Quarterback Michael Vick threw two more interceptions and was part of another costly fumble.

So, a similar dressing down might be coming from Avant next week when the Eagles regroup, hoping to avert a shattered dream season. He offered a preview of his sermon's theme:

"It's just undisciplined. That's the bottom line. It's undisciplined football. An undisciplined team at this point. Six games in, it's embarrassing. That's the word.

"Embarrassing. For coaches. And veteran players.

"With the mind-set of, 'Me before the team,' in certain instances. And we need to address that before we play another ballgame."

No one has played harder, or more hurt, or with more focus, than Avant has in his seven seasons. He is a contact magnet. He lives over the middle. He wears ice bags like they're jewelry.

He's a lot like offensive lineman Todd Herremans, a tough, versatile veteran who is maddened and angered by the team's shoddy performance to date.

Embarrassed, too?

"Yeah. It's definitely undisciplined at this point," Herremans said. "A disciplined team would be able to go out there and run the ball, run the clock out with 5 minutes left."

Good point.

The Eagles held a 23-20 lead with 3 minutes, 32 seconds to play. A 6-yard pass and a fruitless run set up third-and-4 with 2:41 to play. The Eagles called for a pass. Ndamukong Suh batted the ball down. The clock stopped. The Eagles punted.

The Lions got the ball back at their 32 with 2:27 left, with two timeouts and the 2-minute warning. The pass might have meant a huge, game-ending gain, but a running play would have ensured that the Lions would lose either the timeout or the 2-minute warning.

But the play failed, leaving the defense to try to stop the Lions as time dwindled. They would have to do so without Cox, their best lineman to date. Because Cox got mad, because he got pushed.

"We have to be able to walk away from confrontations on the field," Herremans said.

He routinely walks away from defensive linemen who have shoved him in the back or tried to slap his helmet off his head.

Cox did not walk away.

Neither did fiery receiver DeSean Jackson, who, after he fielded a punt late in the second quarter, smacked Travis Lewis in the face.

No call was made.

Jackson caught three of his five passes for 58 of his 74 yards in the second half, in which he should not have even played.

There was a time when Andy Reid would not have stood for these sorts of shenanigans. Wait. Is Andy Reid still the coach of this team?

Outsiders aren't the only ones wondering.

"The interesting thing about it is, Coach Reid is such a disciplinarian," cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. "And there are times in the game where that becomes an issue. It makes no sense."

Certainly, Avant and Herremans and Asomugha are not without blame. But, generally, their errors are physical miscues made in the moment. Seldom do Avant or Herremans or Asomugha fail to execute the basic maneuvers in a play.

Such as, say, failing to go in motion, the way Jackson failed to go in motion late in the first quarter. Vick yelled and gestured at Jackson, but the play's timing was ruined. Unseasoned center Dallas Reynolds fired a shotgun snap early at Vick, who wasn't looking. If Jackson does what he's supposed to do, if Vick isn't yelling at him, Reynolds doesn't snap it and the turnover doesn't happen.

Discipline. Detail.

That turnover happened at the Lions' 29. It took points off the board.

That turnover was, of course, unsubtle.

Subtle errors are killing the Eagles, too.

"There's a lot of little things going on right now that might not seem like they're very integral to getting wins, but they are," Herremans said. "Those are the things we need to work on."

Things like, oh, leaden-legged left tackle Demetress Bell pulling to the right side more quickly during the Eagles' beloved shovel-pass play. On third-and-1 early in the second quarter, Bell failed to ambulate fast enough. LeSean McCoy ran into him for a 3-yard loss.

A little thing.

A big lost possession.

A huge lost home game.

"We're in a position where you're losing games at home," Avant said. "You want to win all your home games and be 50 percent on the road. That's 12-4."

Well, 12-4 seems out of the question.

That would mean a 9-1 finish.

That would almost certainly mean a win in 2 weeks against undefeated Atlanta and probably running the table in the final five games against the NFC East. They're 1-0 in the division, a two-point win over the Giants.

Their biggest win to date.

Chugging along averaging almost three turnovers a game, worst in the conference, another 8-8 finish seems more likely.

Five hundred, for a team with Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jason Babin, Trent Cole, Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Oh, and franchise coach Andy Reid.

Talk about embarrassing.


Contact Marcus Hayes at hayesm@phillynews.com.

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