Eagles vs. Steelers: Biggest Winners and Losers for Philadelphia from Week 5
For the first time since Matt Bryant hit one from 62 yards out, the Philadelphia Eagles have lost a game on a last-second field goal.
This time, it came courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Shaun Suisham from 34 yards out to give them a 16-14 win and drop the Eagles to 3-2 on the season.
Philadelphia remains atop the NFC East due to a head-to-head tiebreaker with the New York Giants, but the good news pretty much stops there. The Eagles offense was totally dominated by the Steelers defense—and themselves—and the problems with kick return coverage reared its ugly head once again.
The defense was once again solid as evidenced by the final score, but even Juan Castillo's unit had its own struggles.
All in all, it was a difficult game to watch regardless of your allegiance. The game was sloppy in nearly every way imaginable and neither team played up to snuff.
Picking a few losers from this game will be easy. Trying to justify calling a few guys a "winner" will be much more difficult.
Winner: Colt Anderson
Let's start this off on a positive note and begin with our first winner, Colt Anderson.
Once again, Anderson proved just how valuable he really is to Philly. His absence was very obvious as the coverage units immediately began to suffer, and its improvements taking place the very week he returns is no coincidence.
Anderson is to special teams what Jason Peters is to the offense.
Against the Steelers, Anderson made an incredible play in coverage to pin Pittsburgh deep against its own end zone, then showed an incredible knowledge of the rulebook later on in the game.
Not to get overly complicated, but on a punt, the NFL rulebook essentially gives the receiving team a freebie attempt at a return if a member of the kicking team touches the ball before downing it.
Knowing this, Anderson stood around a group of Steelers players waiting to down a punt that was rolling slowly in their favor. Anderson knew if one guy simply touched the ball and walked away thinking that was good enough, he could grab the ball and attempt a return with no consequences.
Even if he fumbled, the ball would go back to the spot the ball was touched.
Rules like this are often over the heads of NFL players, so it's great to see someone who knows the rules and obviously has made it a point to make himself invaluable on special teams.
Loser: Michael Vick
It's normally very difficult to peg one guy as being responsible for the loss of an entire team, but when a player just gives the ball away like Michael Vick did against the Steelers it becomes extremely hard to put the loss on the entire team's shoulders.
Vick carelessly fumbled twice on back-to-back running attempts, the first of which came on about the one-yard line and cost the Eagles a chance at three points, at the very least.
Since they only lost by two, it's hard not to point the finger at Vick.
It's all made worse when we look back and see Vick got away with a bonehead move earlier in the drive when he slid head-first and let the ball pop out. Had a defender not inadvertently touched his leg, Vick wouldn't have had the opportunity to fumble in the red zone.
He would have just done it sooner.
Vick's turnovers were going to bite them sooner or later, and that's exactly what happened against Pittsburgh.
Winner: All Unemployed Special Teams Coaches
Thanks to the team's inability to cover kicks or punts, and then being unable to get anything going on their own returns, any unemployed special teams coaches is a potential winner.
Reid has proven in the past he's not afraid to part ways with a coach and replace him.
If Bobby April can't get these guys to turn it around and start playing better during the third phase of the game, there could be a few open interviews soon.
Who knew the Eagles would miss Jon Harbaugh this much?
Loser: The Entire Defensive Line
What in the world happened to the Eagles pass rush?
Last season, it was basically the only thing the defense could count on. The front four was definitely going to bring down the quarterback a few times at least if nothing else, and that would help the linebackers and secondary get more opportunities to make plays.
So far in 2012, however, the Eagles are runners-up for fewest sacks in the NFC through five weeks with seven, beating only the New Orleans Saints who have six sacks.
They are usually in and around the quarterback's feet, but that's not good enough from a defensive line that was supposed to easily lead the league in sacks.
Whether it's some new personnel getting more reps in lieu of current "starters," a cut-down on the rotation or both, something must be done to get these guys to bring down opposing quarterbacks the way they did last season.
Winner: Casey Matthews
When Mychal Kendricks was forced to leave the game with an ankle injury, the already-infamous Casey Matthews was the one called to duty.
Normally, it would have been Brian Rolle, but he was recently cut after last week's special teams debacle.
The second Matthews hit the field, there had to be a collective groan in and around Philadelphia. The disaster of his starting stint during his rookie year is still freshly burnt into the minds of every Eagles fan and was pointed at all year as a testament to what little value Andy Reid places on linebackers.
But surprisingly enough, Matthews filled in nicely.
On his first two plays, he had two tackles. That's certainly not shabby for a guy who might have had two career tackles entering this week.
Loser: Mychal Kendricks
The rookie had been fairly impressive through the first quarter of the season, but Mychal Kendricks took several steps back against the Steelers and finally played like a rookie.
Kendricks got confused by the Steelers' routes and looked totally lost when the Eagles were playing zone. He twice allowed Ben Roethlisberger to fake him out using the option and missed upwards of five tackles.
He was also incredibly slow to react even when he was around the play and was really nothing but a liability.
It's hard to get on the rookie too much because he is just that, but the Eagles had to be hoping he would maybe wait to crash back to earth during a game in which the offense was finally clicking.
I guess he got sick of waiting on them.