Offensive: Eagles offense held without a touchdown for second straight week

Offensive: Eagles offense held without a touchdown for second straight week

As bad as things got in Andy Reid’s final season in Philadelphia, never did the Eagles go two full games without scoring a touchdown on offense. Even without 80 percent of the starters along the offensive line, even with LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson missing in the end, whether it was Michael Vick or Nick Foles under center, Reid’s system always managed to result in some points.

Chip Kelly’s uptempo offense was leaving opposing defenses in the dust through much of the first six games this season, but all of a sudden the production has been ground to a halt. Don’t let the seven fool you in the 15-7 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday—that lone TD was scored by their special teams, a gift from a bad snap.

That means Philadelphia’s offense was good for just three points over the last two weeks at home against their two most-hated division rivals. Even that lonely field goal was largely a result of good field position from an interception.

You can’t lay the blame on the quarterbacks this week either. Michael Vick did his best to play, but the hamstring wouldn’t let him. The injury left the four-time Pro Bowler a sitting duck in the pocket, as he completed 6 of 9 passes for 31 yards with an interception and a sack before exiting the game in the second quarter. After the game, Chip admitted Vick aggravated the injury during the game.

The offense improved somewhat under Matt Barkley, but only marginally. The rookie managed to get the Eagles across midfield a handful of times, but none of those drives ended with points. Barkley completed 17 of 26 for 158 yards, was sacked three times, and threw a desperation interception on the Birds’ final possession.

Perhaps had Barkley been put in a better position to succeed, the outcome would have been different. Vick took the majority of the first-team reps in practice this week even though he was never 100 percent. Barkley may have benefited from the extra work, and instead was asked to come in and lead the offense from behind as a reserve.

It’s too bad, because the Eagles didn’t need exceptional quarterback play to win this game. The defense once again did a great job, holding the Giants to five field goals on the afternoon. Throw in the special teams miscue, and even just one touchdown and one three-pointer would’ve been enough to win.

Kelly’s in-game decisions were no better. When Barkley led the offense to New York’s 2-yard line on his first series, the head coach inexplicably called a timeout then called a passing play rather than try to pound LeSean McCoy in there. The fourth-round pick rolled left and was eventually chased down and stripped when he couldn’t find an open receiver, ending that scoring threat.

Chip Kelly was also incredibly inconsistent with his decisions on fourth down. At one point, the Eagles attempted to convert a 4th-and-9 rather than attempt a 50-yard field goal. Later in the game, they opted to punt from inside Giants territory rather than go on 4th and 4. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to any of it.

Same with the play-calling. For a coach who claims he’s not glued to any one system, Kelly can’t seem to find a way to hand the ball to Shady without the read-option concept coming into play. The Giants were not worried about Barkley—or Vick for that matter—taking off with the football at all. At one point on 3rd and 2, McCoy ran an outside zone read rather than diving straight ahead. The play was stuffed in the backfield.

McCoy finished with 15 carries for 48 yards for a 3.2 average. It’s the fourth time in five games the All-Pro back has found running lanes few and far between.

This is not the first time some of Kelly’s game-time decisions have come under scrutiny, but this entire week seems to have been mishandled from a coaching standpoint. From the situation with the quarterbacks, to play-calling that simply wasn’t working, it’s hard for anybody to make the claim he put his team in the best possible situation to win the game.

Not to run him out of town or anything. The Eagles didn’t score any touchdowns in games 2 and 3 of the Andy Reid era way back in 1999, and that worked out well for everybody. Chip Kelly needs to make some major adjustments though. Sorry, he probably doesn’t have the franchise quarterback to fit his system yet. The offense still needs to work somewhat.

With the Eagles’ loss, their record falls to 3-5 this season. Their losing streak at the Linc has now reached 10 games, which is a total embarrassment for this organization. Next week they’ll leave the unfriendly confines of home for Oakland, in a game I’m sure fans are all very excited to watch.

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Phillies' right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration -- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos (see Instant Replay).

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to be better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez said.

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- Four people were killed Sunday when bus carrying Dallas Cowboys staffers but no players collided with a van on a northwestern Arizona highway.

The fatalities were passengers in the van, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr said. But the bus occupants emerged uninjured.

"All on the bus came through OK with some bumps and bruises," Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple (DAHL'-rimp-ul) said in an email.

Dalrymple said the bus was only carrying members of the franchise's staff but would not say how many. There were no players on board.

The two vehicles collided in the afternoon on U.S. 93, about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, according to DPS.

The crash shut down at least one lane of the highway that serves as the main route between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The bus was on its way to a Dallas Cowboys fan event in Las Vegas. Charles Cooper, manager of GameWorks entertainment center in Vegas, said the session with 50 to 75 fans was scheduled for 3 p.m. PDT. People were already waiting when the president of a Las Vegas Cowboys fan club called to relay news of the accident. The event was subsequently canceled. Cooper says the team mascot was supposed to appear.

After the Las Vegas stop, the bus was scheduled to go on to Oxnard, California for the team's training camp. Members of the organization typically take a bus two weeks before the camp starts and make stops along the way.

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson may be staying in the NL East past the trade deadline. 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Phillies are scouting the Marlins' minor league teams in advance of a possible Hellickson deal. 

This comes on the heels of a report from a radio host in Miami that Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen may need Tommy John surgery. Chen left with an elbow sprain during Wednesday's loss to the Phillies and was placed on the disabled list. Ironically, Chen was starting against Hellickson, who will face Jarred Cosart in place of Chen on Monday.

Hellickson's value rebounded significantly this season after struggling in Arizona and Tampa Bay the last few seasons. After dealing with a shoulder injury, Hellickson pitched to ERAs above 4.50 in each season from 2013-15, leading to the Diamondbacks trading him to the Phillies for limited value. 

However, in 20 starts, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, bringing a 3.84 ERA over 119 ⅔ innings into Monday's scheduled start. He also has a nearly career-best strikeout rate and has regained his signature command that made him a strong performer with the Rays.

The Phillies are aided this trade deadline by a lack of starting pitching options available on the market. With many teams in contention looking for an additional starter, Hellickson is an attractive piece who could help a team in a pennant race.