Random Eagles Thoughts: 1-2, Time of Possession, and Mike Vick

Random Eagles Thoughts: 1-2, Time of Possession, and Mike Vick

On Being 1-2

Expectations are on a roller coaster. They started low before the season got underway, climbed exponentially after the Eagles throttled Washington in Week 1, now we’re down in the dumps after consecutive losses. All the while, how good this team actually is likely still lies somewhere in between.

That said, their 1-2 record isn’t as bad as it seems. They lost to San Diego on a last-minute field goal, which any number of single plays could have prevented from happening—Alex Henery missed a field goal for the Birds; Mike Vick made a poor throw to James Casey in the end zone that the tight end couldn’t handle; DeSean Jackson had one long touchdown called back on a penalty, couldn’t quite haul in another, while his momentum carried him out of bounds on a third.

Then despite turning the ball over five times against Kansas City, it took the Chiefs until the fourth quarter to put the Philly away. These were both winnable games, which is good from the standpoint that at least the Eagles are competing.

And if you look around the NFC East—which some would dub the worst division in football—the Birds are not in bad shape. Dallas is 2-1, but New York and Washington are both 0-3, and have looked completely pathetic in the process. When you factor in both of Philly’s losses were out of conference, those actually might not matter much if they turn things around in upcoming weeks.

Chip Kelly’s offense is working. The Eagles’ offense is ranked second in the NFL with 461.7 yards per game, and would take over first if the Broncos don’t eclipse that number on Monday night. The defense not surprisingly remains a work in progress, but they’ve held up their end of the bargain in two of three games so far, taking advantage of a rusty RG3 in Week 1, and keeping Kansas City out of the end zone until the fourth quarter last Thursday.

Chances are the Birds are staring at 1-3 with a trip to Denver this weekend—yet another out-of-conference matchup—but given the state of their division, not to mention the fact that they haven’t looked like pushovers by any means, and there’s little reason besides their record to feel any worse about the Eagles than you probably did coming in. Remember, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year anyway.

On Time of Possession

No, losing time of possession was not to blame for either of the Eagles’ back-to-back losses, at least not directly. Philadelphia has been doubled up in TOP for two consecutive weeks, which has led to many reminders that head coach Chip Kelly doesn’t care about this particular statistic, thus he must be wrong.

Well, I’ve got news for you, but most teams probably aren't going to win time of possession after they turn the ball over five times the way the Birds did against Kansas City. It wasn’t an issue of Chip’s offense moving too fast, preventing his own defense from catching a breather. Michael Vick and co. couldn’t go more than a few plays without coughing up the football or punting it away.

Versus San Diego, the defense couldn’t get itself off the field. The Chargers were going on long scoring drives from the opening kickoff. The Eagles couldn’t stop them late, but they couldn’t stop them early either.

I don’t agree with Kelly that time of possession doesn’t matter at all. It certainly can make the difference, and the fact that the clock was not on Philly’s side these last two games certainly didn’t help. However, people are seriously jumping to conclusions about the up-tempo offense hurting the defense. What’s hurt the defense are Philip Rivers and a lack of consistent execution by the offense.

Context is important with any stat. If the defense is wearing down because they’ve been on the field too long, there are reasons other than because Chip wants to go fast.

On Mike Vick

I was a little surprised at how quickly many were to jump off the quarterback’s bandwagon after last Thursday’s performance. Vick was responsible for three of Philadelphia’s five turnovers by himself, including a pick-six that his team was never quite able to recover from, and the 11-year veteran looked indecisive and erratic. There was nothing reassuring about his passing line: 13-of-30 for 208 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT.

This was the sort of game I came to expect from Vick long, long ago, so that certainly wasn’t what caught me off guard. It was that some were already posing the question how many more chances would the four-time Pro Bowler get?

It’s odd because most would agree Vick played well in the first two games, certainly good enough to win either one. He hasn’t been perfect this season, missing some throws here or there—it’s not nitpicking, his underthrown pass to James Casey in the end zone against San Diego might have cost his team that win. But prior to Thursday night, Vick hadn’t tossed a single interception either, and you certainly wouldn’t lay their first loss at his feet.

Then there’s the fact that the Eagles’ offensive line was pretty abysmal against Kansas City. It doesn’t account for all of the poor play under center, for instance the pick-six at the game’s outset. It’s a lot harder to mount a comeback though when the other team is dominating the line of scrimmage.

Could Vick’s job be in jeopardy? If he starts stringing together a bunch of poor outings like this last one, then sure, but it’s a little soon to be calling for Nick Foles’ number. Anybody can have one bad game, and as of now that’s all it is for Vick as far as Chip Kelly is concerned. Let’s see how No. 7 responds to the adversity in the weeks ahead.

Best of MLB: Indians rally off Papelbon, stun Nationals, 7-6

Best of MLB: Indians rally off Papelbon, stun Nationals, 7-6

CLEVELAND -- Francisco Lindor pushed an RBI single through Washington's drawn-in infield with one out in the ninth inning, and the Cleveland Indians rallied for three runs in their final at-bat to stun the Washington Nationals 7-6 on Tuesday night in a matchup of two first-place teams with sights on October.

Down two runs and three outs from their losing streak reaching a season-high four games, the Indians rallied against Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon (2-4), who did not get an out before he was pulled by manager Dusty Baker.

With the bases loaded, Lindor fisted his base hit into right field and danced his way up the first-base line as the Indians celebrated an improbable victory.

Bryan Shaw (2-4) got two outs in the ninth and picked up the win as Cleveland won its first home game since July 10 (see full recap).

Cardinals take first game of doubleheader with Mets, 3-2
NEW YORK -- Jedd Gyorko homered again, hitting a two-run drive off Noah Syndergaard that sent the St. Louis Cardinals over the New York Mets 3-2 Tuesday in the first game of a doubleheader.

Gyorko connected for the sixth time in eight games, giving him 13 this season. The Cardinals lead the NL in home runs with 137, matching last year's total.

The Mets played at home for the first time since the All-Star break and lost in a matchup of NL wild-card contenders. Citi Field was nearly empty at the start, a day after a rainout forced the twinbill.

Carlos Martinez (10-6) gave up a two-run homer to Rene Rivera and left after the fifth inning with a 3-2 lead. Three relievers finished, with Seung Hwan Oh getting his fifth save in six chances.

Syndergaard (9-5) has won only one of his last five starts (see full recap).

Colon, Mets top Cards, 3-1, for doubleheader split
NEW YORK -- Bartolo Colon pitched three-hit ball for seven sharp innings and the New York Mets overcame another home run by Jedd Gyorko to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 Tuesday night for a doubleheader split.

Gyorko homered in both ends and has connected seven times in nine games. His two-run shot helped St. Louis win the opener 3-2.

Colon (9-5) struck out eight and walked none. After Gyorko homered in the second and Alberto Rosario doubled in the third, Colon set down 14 of his final 15 batters.

Addison Reed worked the eighth and Jeurys Familia closed for his 36th save this year and 52nd in a row during the regular season.

White Sox avoid Chapman, down Cubs 3-0 behind Shields
CHICAGO -- James Shields allowed four singles in 7 2/3 innings, Adam Eaton homered and the White Sox stayed unbeaten since Chris Sale's suspension by beating the Cubs 3-0 Tuesday night in Chicago's crosstown rivalry.

The Cubs lost their second straight and never got to use new closer Aroldis Chapman hours after he joined the team and struggled answering questions related to an altercation last year with his girlfriend.

Shields (5-12) struck out five and continued an impressive turnaround from a terrible first three starts after being acquired from San Diego last month. Nate Jones finished the eighth and David Robertson worked the ninth for his 24th save in the White Sox's fourth straight win since their ace was sent home for destroying throwback jerseys.

Jose Abreu had two hits, including an RBI single in the first off Kyle Hendricks (9-7) that ended his streak of 22 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run (see full story).

Jerad Eickhoff's 'outstanding' start wasted by Phillies in shutout loss to Marlins

Jerad Eickhoff's 'outstanding' start wasted by Phillies in shutout loss to Marlins

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — The Phillies enjoyed a three-week stretch before the All-Star break when they were the best hitting team in baseball.

In the final 19 games before the break, they hit .308 with a .871 OPS. Both marks were tops in the majors over that span. They averaged 5.63 runs per game in that stretch.

The run of sturdy offense created some excitement and anticipation heading into the second half of the season. But that excitement and anticipation has now dissipated. Since coming back from the break, the Phillies’ offense has retreated back to invisibility.

The Phils were blanked, 5-0, by the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night, wasting a terrific start from Jerad Eickhoff (see Instant Replay).

After the game, manager Pete Mackanin was peeved.

“The only thing positive I can say about this game is Eickhoff,” Mackanin said. “He was outstanding. He had a great curveball, hit his spots, pitched well. It was a pitchers' duel up until the end. I’m real happy about that. 

"But that’s about all I’m happy about.”

Marlins starter Tom Koehler and a trio of relievers held the Phillies to just four singles.

Phillies hitters struck out 10 times. They have averaged 9.5 strikeouts in 12 games since coming back from the break and hit just .208. They are averaging just 2.75 runs in the 12 games since the break and carrying a 4-8 record.

“Poor plate discipline,” Mackanin said. “Poor plate discipline. Swinging at too many bad pitches. We get ourselves out too often. That’s about all I can think of.

“Koehler pitched well. But we helped him out a lot. We didn’t give him a chance to walk us. We swung at too many bad pitches. That’s our problem. We just get ourselves out too often. That’s what it boils down to.

“If you’re a free swinger who’s going to hit 30-plus home runs and drive in 100 runs, that’s acceptable to me. But if you’re not a power hitter, it’s unacceptable. You’ve got to make adjustments. You’ve got improve on it. You’ve got to work on it.”

Peter Bourjos offered his thoughts on the Phillies’ offensive struggles since the All-Star break.

“It's almost like it was probably bad timing for that break,” he said. “Everything was rolling. We were swinging the bats really well. Everyone looked comfortable in the box and feeling good and it's tough right now. You can see what there was with the offense. I think it's going to come back. We just need to get back into the rhythm that we had and everything's going to be all right.”

Eickhoff scattered five hits and a run over seven innings. He walked one and struck out eight, a big improvement over his previous start when these same Marlins tagged him for nine hits and six runs in five innings.

“I was more aggressive,” Eickhoff said. “It’s amazing what being aggressive will do for your game and how hitters will react. I threw my fastball inside and that set up my curveball so much more.”

The poor run support was nothing new for Eickhoff. He entered the game receiving an average of just 3.53 runs per game, 10th worst in the majors.

It was a scoreless game until there were two outs in the sixth. That’s when Giancarlo Stanton swatted a two-out RBI single to right, scoring Martin Prado from second. Stanton’s hit rolled untouched through the second base area because the Phillies’ defense was shifted to the pull side.

“We’ve got to play a shift on him,” Mackanin said of baseball's most fearsome power bat.

The game got out of hand when the bullpen was tagged for four runs in the eighth. Ichiro Suzuki stroked career hit No. 2,997 to get the Marlins’ late rally started.

In the first inning, Suzuki launched a long drive to the gap in right-center. Rightfielder Bourjos ran the ball down and made a terrific catch while crashing into the wall. He left the game with a jammed right shoulder and could miss some time (see story).

Instant Replay: Marlins 5, Phillies 0

Instant Replay: Marlins 5, Phillies 0

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — Jerad Eickhoff pitched seven innings of one-run ball, but still came away with a loss as the Phillies were shut out, 5-0, by the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night.

Giancarlo Stanton drove in the Marlins’ first two runs with a single and a double.

Stanton gave the Marlins a 1-0 lead with a two-out base hit to right field against Eickhoff in the sixth inning. Stanton’s groundball hit rolled through the second base area, which had been vacated by the shift.

The Marlins blew the game open with four runs against the Phillies’ bullpen in the eighth.

The Phillies are 4-8 since the All-Star break and 46-56 overall.

Starting pithing report
Eickhoff scattered five hits and a run over seven innings. He walked one and struck out eight.

Miami manager Don Mattingly pulled Tom Koehler after the right-hander pitched six shutout innings and had allowed just three hits. Koehler walked one, struck out five and threw just 73 pitches. He exited with a 1-0 lead.

Koehler pitched eight innings of two-run ball in a win over the Phillies last week.

Bullpen report 
Andrew Bailey was charged with three runs in the eighth.

Mike Dunn, David Phelps and Nick Wittgren completed the shutout for the Marlins. 

At the plate
The Phillies had just four hits, all singles, and struck out 10 times. They were 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position and are 1 for 13 the last two nights.

Stanton had been just 3 for 35 against the Phils this season before his shift-beating RBI hit in the sixth. He hit the ball much harder in the eighth inning when he clouted an RBI double to right-center against Bailey.

Adeiny Hechavarria padded the Marlins’ lead with a two-run single in their four-run eighth inning.

Ichiro Suzuki’s eighth-inning single left him three hits shy of 3,000 in his big-league career.

Health check
Rightfielder Peter Bourjos injured his right shoulder making a catch against the wall in the first inning and left the game (see story).

Minor matters
Ranger Suarez, a 20-year-old left-hander from Venezuela, pitched a seven-inning no-hitter for the Phillies’ Single A Williamsport club on Tuesday night.

Up next
The series concludes on Wednesday afternoon. Zach Eflin (3-3, 3.40) pitches against Miami lefty Adam Conley (6-5, 3.58).