The Redskins haven’t scored more than 17 points all season, and that’s exactly the total they notched against the Birds. So, once the Eagles hit 20—which happened with 4:08 to go in the first half—the game was all but over.
So what’s the problem? Well, for one, that’s almost all they got…and it's solely the offense's fault.
For the fifth time in six games, the Eagles’ defense played extremely well. Six sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception returned for a TD—par for the course, and the 17 points they allowed was the most this season outside of the New Orleans fiasco.
Sadly, the 27 they scored is the least in any victory…and only five points more than that fateful Saints game.
How bad was it? Of their four scoring drives, both touchdowns came as the result of DeSean Jackson burning the defense for a big play...and both field goals would have been three-and-outs if the drives didn't start inside the Skins' 35. Hell, one of those drives netted negative yardage.
Monday was just the first part of a tough pre-Thanksgiving stretch that still sees the Birds battle the Giants and Cowboys and travel to both San Diego and Chicago. But if they want to come through to December without being roasted like the Butterball you’re likely to put on your table, they need to follow three key steps.
STEP ONE: More Eagle, Less Wildcat
The Wildcat works in Miami because the guys running it are normally an integral part of the Dolphins’ offense. It doesn’t, however, work when it’s solely a gimmick—which it is in Philadelphia.
When the Eagles signed Michael Vick, they promised he would be less of a distraction and more of a key addition.
So far, not so good.
In four games as the lead ‘Cat in the pack, Vick has put up the following impressive numbers: nine rushes for 22 yards and two-of-six passing for six yards.
In the past, that would be a bad drive for Vick; instead, it’s the sum total of his season so far.
Vick is clearly not playing to NFL standards—teams know almost automatically to key in on him when he enters the game. Even though the Wildcat only accounts for eight to 10 plays a game, that’s eight to 10 plays that could be better suited to running the actual offensive playbook.
Plus, Vick’s activity relegates Kevin Kolb—who did throw for over 700 yards in two-plus games—to third-string duty, meaning he can’t enter the game until the fourth quarter. If something happened to McNabb, where would that leave the Eagles?
STEP TWO: Go West, Young Men
Whatever the Eagles do, they MUST make sure Brian Westbrook is healthy.
If that means keeping him in a hyperbaric chamber and feeding him nothing but raw meat, so be it. But despite what LeSean McCoy showed against Kansas City—and despite the electricity DeSean Jackson brings to the team—the Birds' offense still clearly relies heavily on Westbrook.
Even if he’s not on the field, the threat of him being in the lineup forces opposing teams to worry about him. That’s a good trait when your receiving corps has three key players with less than three years experience in the NFL.
Want proof? Take away DeSean Jackson’s huge run, and the Eagles rushed for 55 yards on 26 carries. That includes McNabb’s five for negative five yards, but even without that, they only averaged 2.3 yards per carry.
The Birds aren’t even close to a “three yards and a cloud of dust” team, but they need that threat with Brian Westbrook to have a chance to do anything against defenses that actually play defense.
STEP THREE: Ask and Someone Shall Receive
The receiving corps went from deep to perhaps the team’s biggest concern in three weeks. Hank Baskett and Brandon Gibson are gone and Kevin Curtis is injured. That leaves two young burners, a role player, a perceived bust, and a green tight end.
Outside of DeSean Jackson, there’s no consistency. Brent Celek had a couple big games but disappeared the last two weeks, Jeremy Maclin goes up and down and the combo of Reggie Brown, and Jason Avant has a total of 12 catches.
Someone needs to step up, and big. Whether it’s the continued maturation of Maclin, more success with Celek or Reggie’s return to glory, McNabb needs somebody—anybody—to throw to besides D-Jack.
The next 10 weeks will be perhaps the hardest stretch the Eagles have faced in quite some time.
But if they fail to count to three, they may go down for the count as a result.
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