Eagles home losses merely reflect quality of visiting opponent

Posted: November 13, 2013

EVERYBODY has an opinion about why the Eagles are 5-1 on the road this season, but have lost 10 home games in a row, dating back to Sept. 30, 2012. Players are starting to reflect the popular idea that something is critically different when the Eagles play on the road.

LeSean McCoy was asked about it on the radio last week and asked whether his questioner noticed the lack of booing from the Oakland fans, even after their team had fallen far behind. (Had I been the questioner, I might've asked Shady whether he noticed the thousands of seats in the Raiders' stadium covered by a tarp, and whether he really thought he'd prefer that atmosphere.)

But enough with the fans-booing bit. Here is my revolutionary theory about the homefield problem: It has nothing to do with the mood of the crowd or players being uptight or what color visor Chip Kelly wears. I say it has to do with when and where the Eagles have played teams they can beat. No curses have been placed on the Linc by the ghost of Juan Castillo. There has been no disruption of the karmic force by those wind turbines that make the stadium look like a Klingon battle cruiser.

Let's start with the fact that six of those losses came last season, when the Eagles finished 4-12 after a 3-1 start. Math majors might notice that the Birds lost every game, home and away, after Sept. 30., except for their Dec. 9 trip to Tampa. Isn't it uncanny that the Eagles beat the Bucs in Tampa both last year and this year? It almost makes you think that maybe Tampa is a bad team or something! And that the result might have been exactly the same had either of those games been played in Philadelphia.

Also, if booing bothers you, then how is it that you win on the road, where the stadiums are filled with fans of the other team, who tend to boo the Eagles?

Then you get to this season's home games. Turns out that Kansas City still hasn't lost to anybody, anywhere, and that the Eagles hosted San Diego and Philip Rivers at a point at which Bill Davis' defense was an absolute mess. Playing the winless Giants on the road turned out to be a better deal than playing them again at the Linc 3 weeks later, after they had a win and got some key players back, and with Matt Barkley having to step in and quarterback the home team most of the game. Go figure.

The only home loss I can't explain is the Nick Foles meltdown game against the Cowboys. I don't think anyone can explain that.

But I do predict that with four remaining home games, we ought to be able to stop talking about this problem before the season ends. Though it would be nice to switch that Vikings game to the Linc, just in case, and maybe play the Bears or the Lions on the road.

* The Eagles completed two passes to tight ends Sunday. One was on the very first snap, to Brent Celek. The other came on the final drive, to James Casey. In between, nada.

* Watching the TV replay, Fox spent a lot of time on Clay Matthews and that weird cast thing encasing his right hand, which looked like a bomb from an old “Road Runner” cartoon. Watching live, the only time I noticed Matthews was when he got flagged for roughing Nick Foles.

* The first time Jason Peters left the game, looked to me as if LeSean McCoy accidentally kicked him in the back of the head. The second time, when Peters suffered the quadriceps injury, he abruptly stopped blocking Datone Jones, who sacked Foles, taking the Birds out of field-goal range.

* Strong job by Roc Carmichael forcing Andrew Quarless out of bounds just short of the first-down marker, blunting an early Green Bay drive. I talked in the airport yesterday with some Eagles fans who thought Carmichael had played poorly, mainly because he didn’t turn his head, causing him to incur a pass-interference penalty that could have been a pick, with better awareness. I thought he gave a decent accounting of himself. If a young corner can cover and tackle, ball awareness ought to develop as he plays more.

* I dunno if it was not having Bradley Fletcher on the other side, or what, but Cary Williams regressed terribly at Green Bay. Couldn’t tackle, couldn’t cover.

* You had to be named Jeremy Maclin to catch as many as seven touchdown passes for the Eagles in 2010, 2011 or 2012. Through 10 games in 2013, DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper have seven apiece.

That you could outscore opponents through 10 games, 252-244, while giving up 29 more first downs (242) than you’ve gotten (213)? That must be what they mean by big-play offense.

 

NFL.com commentator Gregg Rosenthal notes that the Eagles are the only team of the modern era to make it to 10 games with a .500 or better record without having won a home game.

That lack of a challenge on the Packers’ longest gain of the day, the 36-yard, second-quarter completion on which Jarrett Boykin’s hand hit out of bounds before he got his second foot down, was just egregious, and Chip Kelly's explanation yesterday was alarming.

Kelly said the coaches in the press box didn’t have access to the broadcast feed and saw only one view of the play, which obviously didn’t show Boykin out of bounds. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened in the NFL; it often seems replay confusion reigns, unless you’re at home, where the video scoreboards make sure everybody in the building knows the home team might want to challenge, and why. But NFL rules do say both the home and away coaches must have access to the network feed, direct from the production truck.

I see two possibilities here: The NFL doesn’t do a good job of making sure the replay playing field is level, despite what its rules say, or Chip was just fibbing yesterday to cover up for assistants who weren’t paying attention and flat-out blew the replay.

I think the whole challenge system is silly. Have an official upstairs who can review anything he wants. Allow coaches to ask him to review something, if they feel he has overlooked something. End of controversy.

On Twitter: @LesBowen

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