The Philadelphia Eagles’ loss to the Cardinals last night was a tough one, and it really does prove that the Eagles can’t consistently hang in there with the top teams in the league. But, the season is not over yet, and thus there is hope.
Hope is what holds together Eagles Nation, no matter how negative many of them are. It’s hope that they may just sneak into the playoffs and do well that keeps them coming back each week, me included. I like to be optimistic, but I also like to keep it real. This post will have a lot of both.
This is not going to be a typical recap of what happened. I’m assuming that anybody reading this either watched the game or clicked on the link to read my stream-of-consciousness opinion anyway. First off, I have to start with the stupid debate of quarterback. As I sit here angrily writing this too soon after the Eagles game to even think about what happened, I ponder the thought process that some people have in saying that the loss was Sam Bradford‘s fault. He did technically have three turnovers, and the two interceptions he through were absolutely horrible decisions. I am not in any way saying those were good throws. However, if Bradford’s performance is the first thing you’re blaming for the loss, you need to re-watch the game.
If you don’t like Bradford, then fine. Don’t like him. But in general, he has still continued to improve each week. He was facing one of the best defenses in the league and was trailing for most of the game, forcing Chip Kelly to rely on Bradford to throw a little more than normal. Bradford made a lot of great throws, including getting Zach Ertz more involved in the offense, something that should’ve happened months ago. Now, factoring in the three turnovers, it definitely wasn’t even a good game for Bradford. But if you’re just blaming the loss on him to fulfill your narrative that trading for him was a bad idea, then it’s time for you to stop. Please get over yourself.
The Eagles’ defense couldn’t stop anything holding a football running towards them. David Johnson was impersonating a legend made in heaven as he trounced the Eagles run D for 187 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Counting his receiving yards, he was over 200 total yards on the night. In all, the Eagles allowed 230 rushing yards on 39 carries to the Cardinals, an average of 5.9 yards per carry. With that high of an average on nearly 40 carries, it’s nearly impossible for the defense to get off the field. What was supposedly a strong run defense was Swiss cheese all night, getting blown off the line regularly on the way to a methodical beat-down on the ground.
The Cardinals won because they ran the ball and played good defense. That’s the bottom line. They made a couple mistakes on defense, such as Jordan Matthews‘ 78-yard touchdown catch in garbage time. But overall they kept the Eagles in check and forced turnovers at the right times. Any time you force four turnovers and don’t commit any, you have a good chance of winning.
And the turnover differential was key, don’t get me wrong. Bradford’s bad interceptions, including one that went for a touchdown, changed the game for the worse, and he deserves criticism for that. So maybe the turnovers were more important than I originally stated. But either way, if you think Bradford has regressed or not improved, just please stop. It’s just not the case.
The second big thing I have to address is the running back situation. Thank god the Eagles don’t have a quarterback controversy this year (I think any chance of that was put to rest with the way Mark Sanchez played in the three games he appeared in this year), but they are left with a sticky situation at running back. It took them all the way until Week 15, but DeMarco Murray was finally glued to the sidelines for the majority of the game, getting just two carries for three yards and no targets in the pass game. I. Am. So. Happy.
People will argue till the end of time whether or not this was a good decision to sign him. I really don’t care at this point, because that’s just not the argument anymore. It’s irrelevant, it’s a sunk cost. They have him and they’re not going to dare to cut him right now. So all they can do is treat him like a third string running back, because yes, he is indeed playing like the third-best running back on the team right now.
Ryan Mathews had a bad fumble where he got stripped from behind, but he still managed 58 yards on 11 carries, a 5.3 yards per carry average that is far above what Murray could ever do. Darren Sproles has struggled on the ground in the last two weeks, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Mathews needs to be the feature back right now. And not only that, but he needs to get the ball much more often. The Eagles didn’t have the luxury of choice by the second half when they were quickly facing a large deficit, forcing them to pass the ball more often than they probably hoped. However, in these next two games, they need to give the ball to Mathews a lot. I’m talking 18+ carries. Not just 11. If he’s going to average a first down every two carries, he has to get the ball a lot.
This next game against the Redskins is going to be the truest test of what this 2015 Eagles team is made of. They have been up and down all year, stumbling to a disappointing 6-8 record into Week 16. But facing the team that not only leads the division at the moment, but is the team that knocked them out of the playoff hunt last year is enough to make this one of the most important games of Chip’s career as an Eagles coach. He has received criticism for not getting it done in key games, but he has the opportunity to prove them wrong with a win over a division rival.
So Eagles Nation, let’s just put this loss behind us and keep moving on, because the most important games of the year are among us. Let’s just hope we get something to celebrate in the new year of 2016.
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