Eagles a Comedy of Errors in Thursday Night Blowout

Eagles a Comedy of Errors in Thursday Night Blowout

This was the definition of giving a game away. Every single
point the Cincinnati Bengals scored in a 34-13 win against the Eagles was the
direct result of a hilariously unacceptable mistake – and the act went
on just one minute into the game

• Second play from scrimmage: Jeremy Maclin is
tracked down from behind and has the football punched out by defensive end Carlos
Dunlap on a wide receiver screen. Cincinnati gains possession at the
Philadelphia 44-yard line, drives six plays for a touchdown. 7-0.

• Next series: Following a three-and-out, there is
some confusion getting the punt coverage unit on to the field with Clay Harbor running on late, so who knows whether they are even lined up correctly. Daniel Heron
drives Marvin McNutt backward into Mat McBriar, who winds up kicking the ball right off of his own man. The Bengals take over at Philly’s 11, leading to an
easy field goal. 10-0.

Having watched this team all season, you got the feeling it
was already over right there, seven minutes in. The Birds fought back though,
and actually controlled the action for the equivalent of one half of football.
Nick Foles got the team on the board with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Riley
Cooper, while a pair of strip sacks of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton by
Brandon Graham and Cullen Jenkins led to Alex Henery field goals.

You read correctly. The Eagles actually took a lead into the
locker room, one they still held 10 minutes into the second half. Then all of this happened in the span of
five plays from scrimmage.

• Midway through the third quarter: Eagles have good
field position at Cincinnati’s 47. Nick Foles takes a shot downfield, but the
ball is criminally underthrown to Jeremy Maclin. Leon Hall makes the easy
interception, and returns it 40 yards into Philadelphia territory to set up
another short march. 17-13.

• Next drive, two plays later: Nobody blocks
defensive end Wallace Gilberry as he shoots right up the middle unattended. He
disrupts Foles’ handoff to Bryce Brown, who has his eyes closed and has already
lost possession before there is even impact. Gilberry picks up the rock and
takes it in himself. 24-13.

• The very next play: Foles connects with Harbor on a sharply-threaded pass down the seam, where the target is greeted almost
immediately by defenders. Safety Chris Crocker puts his helmet on the ball then
recovers his own forced fumble, while a short return places them inside the red zone.

• The ensuing kickoff – seriously: Josh Brown
kicks the pigskin short and high in the air, sending it hurtling to earth into the breadbasket of Cedric Thornton on the coverage unit. He drops it, and
immediately boots it directly to Taylor Mays, who is already in field goal range.

All things considered, the defense played well. The front
four was the most active we’ve seen all season, sacking Dalton six times. Not
surprisingly, the coverage looked far better behind them, getting hands on
seven passes. It all took its toll on the second-year QB, who connected on 13
of 27 attempts for 127 yards, not to mention superstar wide receiver A.J.
Green, who was limited to six receptions for 57 yards. The two did connect for six
late in the game however on a goal-line pass that was nearly impossible for Dominique
Rodgers-Cromartie to defend.

Unfortunately, the offense could not capitalize on a couple of opportunities
to put some distance between themselves and Cincinnati. Foles was 12 of 24
for 145 yards in the first half, and had managed not to get sacked at all, but
the Birds were only able to convert one of their three trips to the red zone
into a touchdown.

Then things got out of hand. Due to all the turnovers, Foles
only had nine more attempts in the final 30 minutes, as the Bengals dominated
time of possession nearly 38 to 22. The rookie finished 16 for 33 with 182 in a
hopeless situation. It didn’t help that Brown was stifled for the second week
in a row, either. He gained 34 yards on 16 carries.

Those numbers were all pretty meaningless though compared to
the five turnovers and blocked punt that resulted in 34 points for their
opponents. Take away even half of those, and maybe this would have been a game.
Instead, it was a total humiliation.

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FIlm Review: What led to Eagles' poor run defense against Washington?

FIlm Review: What led to Eagles' poor run defense against Washington?

The Eagles have vowed to get better. 

They desperately don't want to have a performance from their run defense like the one against Washington, when they gave up 230 yards on the ground. 

Head coach Doug Pederson said the run defense is "a pride thing" and the guys responsible for the performance, Jim Schwartz included, say things will get better. The defensive coordinator cited bad angles as a reason there were so many missed tackles on Sunday afternoon. 

In all, the Eagles missed 10 tackles and gave up 156 yards after contact — both more than they had given up in the first four games of the season. 

Washington's rushing yards came in some big chunks. Here's a look at some of the key running plays from Sunday as we try to figure out what went wrong: 

This is a key 3rd-and-7 from the Washington 13-yard line. On this drive, Washington ends up scoring a touchdown to go up 14-0, but it doesn't happen without this key third down conversion. 

The Eagles collapse the pocket and force Kirk Cousins to his left. That's exactly what Schwartz said he wants, to force the quarterback to his non-throwing side. Everything at this point is working out perfectly. 

Here's the angle that's really troublesome. At this point, Nigel Bradham (circled in green) has Cousins in his sights, while Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham (farther behind) are in pursuit. Curry and Graham seem to let up in their pursuit when it looks like Cousins will go out of bounds. But he doesn't. 

Schwartz talked about bad angles, and this is the perfect example from Bradham. He overshoots it and when Cousins makes his cut back inside, all of Bradham's momentum is heading toward the sideline. Curry ends up making the tackle but tackles Cousins forward for a big first down. 

This next play was just a little counter draw that ended up going for a huge 45-yard gain. Rob Kelley takes the handoff, which looks to be going right. The entire Eagles' linebacking group bites hard. Still, right end Connor Barwin is free and has a chance to make the play. 

He doesn't. Just a missed tackle. 

Kelley finds some open field. Rodney McLeod is the next guy to beat and Kelley simply turns him around. You'll see Mychal Kendricks enter the frame. Kendricks showed great recovery speed to get back in the play and has a chance to finally bring the running back down. 

Nope. Can't do it. Eventually, McLeod recovers to bring him down. 

This last play ended the game on Sunday. The Eagles punted the ball away with the hope that their defense would stop Washington and give them the ball back. Instead, Matt Jones broke off a 57-yard run on 3rd-and-7. 

Jordan Hicks over pursues, probably thinking the run was going wide. But he loses his gap and Jones is off to the races. 

Once Jones gets past the first down, it doesn't really matter that it was a 57-yard run. It could have been an 8-yarder and the game was over. 

So what did we learn? 

Well, Schwartz was right. Angles absolutely killed the Eagles on Sunday. But when they have a guy wrapped up, they need to bring him down. Sure, that's not Earth-shattering, but they couldn't do it on Sunday and it led to a loss. 

Sixers to ease in Jahlil Okafor off bench, expect more from him on D

Sixers to ease in Jahlil Okafor off bench, expect more from him on D

The Sixers struggled to carve a clear role for Jahlil Okafor last season as he and Nerlens Noel split time out of position in the frontcourt. Brett Brown has a more clear picture of how to utilize Okafor in his second year, highlighted by goals and a shift to the bench. 

Okafor has been sidelined from preseason action because of his right knee. He underwent surgery to repair a meniscus tear in March and aggravated it during the final training camp scrimmage. 

Okafor said he felt “pretty sore” after scrimmaging Monday, his first since camp, and he was better after going through individualized training and work in the water on Tuesday. This setback has forced him to exercise patience. 

“I know I told you guys I wasn’t frustrated a few weeks ago, but at this point it has been frustrating because I’ve been doing all the right stuff and I want to see me back out there sooner,” Okafor said after practice Thursday. “But I can’t rush my body, I can’t rush my health. ... I would love to have the opportunity to be there for opening night and play in front of our fans. Right now it’s looking like that’s probable."

The Sixers plan to use Okafor in a reserve role to start the season. Okafor expects to be on a 12- to 15-minute restriction, similar to Joel Embiid, when he is cleared to play. 

“I think about it all the time, but I talk to him. We’ve talked about this for months,” Brown said of Okafor's coming off the bench. “It’s not anything that is going to surprise anybody. He’s been fantastic. ... I talked with Jahlil about a lot of things and that could be, to start the year it will be, a scenario.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in 2015, started 48 of his 53 games last season. He is approaching this year with realistic expectations given his restrictions and is not concerned about being out of the starting five. 

“I’ll be fine,” Okafor said. “That won’t be a tough adjustment for me. I came off the bench a couple of times last year.”

Brown’s focus is not necessarily on how Okafor starts the game, but how he finishes. He would like Okafor and Embiid to be able to play together at the end of games to give the team a fourth-quarter boost.

“If it ends up you’ve got Jahlil coming off the bench and he’s going against backup five men, you think you probably have an advantage there,” Brown said. “If he does anything, he scores the ball, he scores buckets, he gets points. You can see how that can be a really nice role for him and for us.”

Okafor led the Sixers in scoring last season with 17.5 points per game. Brown, though, is focusing on his defensive improvements. The Sixers are looking to play an uptempo system in which they will need Okafor to hustle on defense each possession. Okafor slimmed down and added muscle this summer to prepare for the season. 

“He has to be elite in two areas to me,” Brown said. “Transition defense first — A-plus-plus-plus, get back. If you’re tired, if you’ve got to conserve energy, it’s not that way. It’s running back on offense. We have to get him back on defense.

“Then he has to be better skilled, better drilled by me, [a] high level of accountability with pick-and-roll defense. ... You can go over to defensive rebounding (as) a close third, but those two things happen the most.”

Okafor expects to be more effective on the defensive end after getting adjusted to it as a rookie. 

“(I want) to be smarter on defense, knowing where to be,” Okafor said. “My first year playing in the NBA, it was just a lot going on. Everybody was so fast.” 

Brown sees a focused 20-year-old who is more disciplined and ready to embrace whatever role he is given this season. 

“I can’t wait to coach him this year," Brown said. "I think he’s going to come back and have a great year. His body tells me that, his attitude tells me that. He’s in a good place personally."