Further Review: Eagles' defense lacking in upstairs game

Posted: November 28, 2012

AFTER THOSE first two ridiculous first-quarter Carolina touchdowns Monday night, on which receivers were left uncovered by flummoxed Eagles defenders, I bumped into a fellow I know in the press box. Don't want to say who, because we weren't talking for the record, but it was a man who knows a lot about the Eagles and playing in the NFL, first-hand.

We talked for a bit about how every Eagles zone coverage is an adventure, 11 games into the season, how every blitz is a disaster, because the quarterback doesn't get sacked and the coverage on the back end invariably gets blown. I asked him the same thing I was to end up asking Andy Reid after the game: How do you practice all week for an opponent, then end up looking like you don't have a clue?

"Dumb players," the man said.

Reid gave a different answer, you'll be surprised to hear, about how it was his responsibility.

Dispirited defensive coordinator Todd Bowles skewed a little closer to the assessment of the guy in the press box.

"The first one was high school Cover 3," Bowles said. "The ball was thrown down the middle of the field. We gave up a touchdown. Inexcusable. The second one was inexcusable, too."

Tuesday, Reid said on the second TD, one defensive back was supposed to blitz. Two did. Under questioning, Reid acknowledged that rookie corner Brandon Boykin was the guilty party. Yet Boykin told the Daily News' Marcus Hayes after the game that he definitely was supposed to blitz on that play.

And so it goes. I asked Reid if the defensive players just weren't capable of getting it.

"I don't believe that," Reid said. "I'm going to take full responsibility for it. There's a way to get through, and I'm not getting that done right now."

In such a situation, Reid said, a coach must "keep trying different ways and making sure your communication is right, your teaching process is right, and presentation is right and that you're repping it in practice, and that you've narrowed down for the players the things they need work on, and you give it to them again in a situation in practice, that they can transfer that into the game."

Get back to us when you feel confident that's happening, Big Red.

Developing story lines * 

On Comcast SportsNet's "Daily News Live" Monday, I half-jokingly said that if Vinny Curry looked good in his first action of the season, someone should be fired for letting him sit inactive through 10 games. Well, Curry led Eagles d-linemen with five tackles, in just 21 snaps. "I love this game. This is my life. I work very hard at my craft. I just try to come out and show that," Curry said afterward. Tuesday I watched a couple of replays of Curry missing a sack of Cam Newton, getting up off the ground, and chasing Newton down at the line of scrimmage. Then I heard Jason Babin had been released. It's a start, I guess.

* Jake Scott, emergency guard, actually seems to be a pretty good player. So, where was he during the first nine games? When Scott signed 2 weeks ago, he spoke of having waited for the right opportunity. I think until a starting guard (Danny Watkins) went down, Scott didn't see this as that opportunity. I believe the Eagles inquired about him before that.

* I have to think Carolina kept falling for that fake high-snap play because Sean McDermott showed his players a lot of Dallas Reynolds tape. They figured a real screwup was coming sooner or later.

* Keep forgetting to mention that Alex Henery's 19 successive field goals are a franchise record. Wheee!

* Two points on that 55-yard Louis Murphy reception that set up Carolina's third-quarter touchdown: 1) It wasn't really pass interference on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie; and 2) DRC and Kurt Coleman were in perfect position, but neither could make a play on the ball. Against Louis Murphy. That's disturbing.

Who knew?

That releasing a 2011 Pro Bowl player could produce an eruption of joy across the Eagles' Twitterverse? A sampling of reaction to Jason Babin's departure:

"Can't wait for the 'Babining' at the airport Twitpic."

"Karma is a bitch #gorunwiththebulls."

"Obama's job-killing policies finally impacted Babin, who tried so hard to warn us."

Obscure stat

The Eagles are the only NFL team that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher this season. And why is that? Well, the last five QBs have posted 120-plus passer ratings against the Birds, something that had never happened in the history of the NFL. Just a hunch those facts are connected somehow.

Extra point

Had the Panthers not obligingly missed the extra point after their final touchdown, and were the season not already consigned to the dustbin, Andy Reid's decision to go for a two-point conversion, down 14-12 in the second quarter, would have been a bigger deal. The play failed.

Asked about this at his day-after news conference, Reid referenced the famous chart that tells coaches when to go for two - the one Rich Kotite had trouble reading in the rain. But the chart doesn't allow for timing. Many people feel it's silly to go for two in the first half, because it's unlikely the score will stay the same, hard to predict where ensuing field goals and touchdowns might take the margin.

Sure enough, the Eagles got a subsequent field goal and a touchdown, the Panthers got a field goal and two touchdowns, and the margin was about to become nine points with 4 minutes, 40 seconds remaining when Graham Gano shanked what he said was the first extra-point miss of his career, at any level of football. Going for two in the first half could have made it a two-possession game for the Eagles at the end.

Of course, Brandon Boykin fumbled the ensuing kickoff, at the end of his best return of the season, making it a no-possession game for the Eagles.

"People argue that you save it for the fourth quarter; I've been around a little bit. I kind of know how it works. That's what I chose to do there," Reid said Tuesday.

On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: eagletarian.com

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