So What Was and Was Not a Big Deal in Eagles' Sunday Night Loss to Falcons?

So What Was and Was Not a Big Deal in Eagles' Sunday Night Loss to Falcons?

Not all losses are created equal. There are losses in which one team gets plain outplayed in practically every aspect of the game, and never really has a chance at winning. Then there are losses in which two teams match up fairly close with one another, and the final score comes down to the bounce of a ball, or a timely big play. Sunday night was the latter.

The Eagles lost. Even though they did a ton of things extremely well, they also executed poorly on enough plays that it wound up costing them the game. Their uneven performance isn't even that shocking given the sloppy outing they had a week ago, only last night, they were facing an opponent who was poised to take advantage of the many mistakes.

As is usually the case in any hard-fought battle that was given away, some of what happened on the field was a disturbing trend. Then again, some of it was a temporary lapse in concentration, or plain misfortune. After the jump, we'll explain which matters are likely to rear their ugly heads in the future, and which ones we need to forget about as quickly as possible.

Michael Vick's Concussion
On a positive note, Vick was much more efficient throwing the football on Sunday compared to a week ago. On the down side, he got injured. Who had Week 2 in the pool?

It's difficult to make the point this is not a big deal. Concussions are serious business, and there is a good chance Vick will miss a minimum of one game. At best, he's probably a coin flip for the Giants.

Having said that, he was hurt on a freak play. Of all the hits he's taken and will take in the future, shots from his own teammates are the kind I am least worried about. The other tiny bit of good news is Mike Kafka was actually impressive, and Vince Young could be available as well. Their depth lessens the loss of a Vick in the short term.

Of course, we also have no idea as to the severity of Vick's concussion at this point. Maybe he plays Sunday, maybe he misses one game. Maybe he misses a bunch. Until we find out exactly to what extent Vick is injured, it's not wise to conclude one way or another about its gravity. INCOMPLETE DATA

Turnovers
Much of Vick's success last season was predicated on his going the first half of the season without committing a single turnover. Not coincidentally, when he gave it away seven times in the final six games, suddenly they were a .500 team getting bounced out of a post-season bye, needing a miracle to defeat a division rival, and ultimately seeing their season end much too early.

The issue does not look like it's going away any time soon. Vick turned it over three times, and even if you erase the first fumble which wasn't his fault, the other two were bad. The fumble while scrambling toward the end of the first half cost them an opportunity to at least attempt a reasonable field goal, maybe even sneak six, while the interception in the third quarter was simply a terrible decision, whether the defender actually picked it off or not. (More on that a little further down.)

Add in a lost fumble against the Rams last week, and the giveaways are really starting to pile up. In the NFL, you have to win the turnover battle, period. Vick needs to be better at protecting the ball, period. VERY BIG DEAL

Dropped Passes
Jeremy Maclin's drop to kill the Eagles' best shot at retaking the lead late in the fourth quarter was certainly the most memorable, but far from the only one. DeSean Jackson dropped a touchdown. Jason Avant and Brent Celek dropped first down passes. It was an epidemic on Sunday night, and almost every one of them hurt.

Jackson and Celek letting a few get away is nothing new. Maclin and Avant, on the other hand, is slightly more out of the ordinary. Even though Maclin torched the Atlanta secondary for 173 yards, when every one of the primary receivers has a key drop, it's a concern. Unfortunately, you just have to take the good with the bad to a certain extent. SORT OF A BIG DEAL

Offensive Line
I was surprised to see anybody thought they were the issue on Sunday night. Peria Jerry was allowed to walk into the backfield to force Vick's first fumble, but other than that one play, they were solid. They opened holes, and gave quarterbacks time to operate. Don't believe me? McCoy averaged 5.2 yards per carry, and the Falcons recorded zero sacks.

I suppose if this group isn't perfect, somebody is going to assume it's a problem area. They still have to eliminate those awful negative plays, but for the majority of the night, this group got the job done. NOT A BIG DEAL

Defense
The next two sections will detail specific areas of the defense, but first let's look at the group as a whole. Specifically, the Falcons first three touchdown drives all began in Eagles territory--two following turnovers, another after a short punt.

That doesn't mean the defense should give up a touchdown every time either. The Falcons reached paydirt all five times they took the ball inside the red zone, and both of their scoring drives in the fourth quarter went 80 yards.

However, it wasn't an all-around terrible effort. The Eagles caused tons of negative plays, harassing Matt Ryan in the pocket, keeping Turner in the backfield most of the night, and conceding nothing to their wide receivers.

If the crazy offensive numbers around the league are any indication, conditioning appears it may be an issue after the lockout, which favors the offense. The Birds may have run out of juice at the end, contributing to the big plays that led to Atlanta's fourth quarter comeback. The defense doesn't deserve a pass, as we'll reveal in a moment, but there were enough positives to take away that it wasn't completely horrendous either. NOT TOO BIG OF A DEAL... YET

Run Defense
Remove Michael Turner's game-busting 61-yard run from the equation, and the Pro Bowl runner carried 20 times for 54 yards, good for merely 2.7 yards a pop. Even a large portion of those yards (40) came on a handful of nice runs in the first quarter. The rest of the night, Turner was frequently bottled up in his own backfield or for no gain.

Overall, it was not a bad night defending one of the league's most powerful ball carriers. Unfortunately, once he gets going, he can be a load, and that huge gainer changed the complexion of the game. We can't pretend it didn't happen, but we also should not discount how well they defended him the other three quarters. Still, they need to have a complete game against the run before we deflect blame too much, so for now... SORT OF A BIG DEAL

Covering The Tight End
The linebacker everybody seemed to be least concerned about entering this season was Jamar Chaney, but he got schooled in this one. It wasn't just him. The safeties were of no use as well against future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, but when Chaney was moved from his natural position in the middle to strongside linebacker, the thinking was he had the athleticism to keep up with tight ends. Well, Gonzalez is pushing 40 years old, and it just wasn't happening here.

Frankly, this is scary, mostly because there are no obvious solutions. Worse, teams will more readily expose this flaw than ever with the inability of wide receivers to consistently find openings against the Eagles' all-world corners. The biggest takeaway from this game should be they still have major issues in this aspect, and Juan Castillo desperately needs to find a way or the play
er to lock it up. BIG, BIG DEAL

Challenges/Clock Management
First, the challenge that wasn't. In hindsight, it's easy to say the Eagles should have challenged Vick's interception, because it did in fact hit the turf. However, it did not appear any of the players on the field were emphatically indicating the ball was trapped, and none of the initial replays provided an angle that would merit a challenge. Indeed, Andy Reid said after the game they did not have a look.

With that in mind, I'm not sure how angry anybody should be. It's a situation where the head coach is damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. If Reid challenges on a gamble and it turns out to be a clean play, you are complaining about how he blew it again.

As for the usage of timeouts when the offense had the ball late in the game, my guess is that was so Reid could talk to his quarterback in crucial 3rd and 8 and 4th and 4 situations. Let's not forget, this was Kafka's first meaningful game experience ever in the NFL. It's not necessarily a bad idea to take some time and make sure everybody is on the same page.

It is what it is. Reid has made enough truly disastrous errors in the past, his infamy has taken on a life of its own, to the point where the man can't call a timeout in any situation without at least one person questioning its use. In this case, it's awfully easy to be an armchair QB, but you also have to consider the realities of the position. NOT A BIG DEAL

Overall
Let's look at the big picture. The Eagles were on the road, against a team that won 13 games last season, who are now 21-5 in the Georgia Dome since 2008. The Falcons were embarrassed last week, and desperate not to fall in an 0-2 hole.

The Eagles scored 31 points on offense, and that was without Vick for over a quarter of action. The defense, except for one lapse, showed marked improvement against the run, and successfully blanketed one of the best wide receivers in the game.

There were a lot of positives here, marred by a few huge negatives. Nobody is happy after a loss, but they dominated in several phases. The Falcons just needed it more on Sunday night, and were able to take advantage of the plays Philly left on the field. It happens, and as long as some of these mistakes can be corrected, the Eagles should continue looking like a serious contender, even when they wind up holding the short end of the stick. Losing in Week 2: NOT A BIG DEAL.

Flyers, at this point, should sell a few valuable veterans ahead of deadline

Flyers, at this point, should sell a few valuable veterans ahead of deadline

Dave Hakstol’s Flyers returned home from Vancouver on Monday not quite resembling conquering heroes.

Sure, they salvaged two points from their three-game trek to Western Canada, but for a team that supposedly sees itself as a wild card, that just ain’t gonna get it done.

The Flyers required at least four points — ideally, five — from the trip to give us some proof they’re a legit contender for the wild card.

Right now, their wild-card hopes remain on life support.

Yes, they’re only two points behind Toronto. Thing is, the field of wild-card contenders have officially caught up and even passed them.

When the Flyers left for the trip, they were even in points with the Maple Leafs while holding down the 9-seed in the Eastern Conference. Toronto had the second wild card.

Hakstol's team is the 11-seed now. Toronto, Florida and the New York Islanders are ahead of them with games in hand.

This trip should offer enough evidence to general manager Ron Hextall that his team is still floundering.

There are no moves Hextall can initiate at the trade deadline that will guarantee a playoff spot without mortgaging the future.

Since their return from the All-Star break, the Flyers are 3-5-1. Those numbers don’t suggest they’re headed to the playoffs.

And even if the Flyers were to qualify as the second wild card, they would face a very early exit against the Washington Capitals.

Again.

At this point, with the March 1 NHL trade deadline staring Hextall in the face, he has to be a seller at the deadline.

If you trust Hextall’s long-term plan of patience, you understand that what this is about is preserving assets and preparing young players to be integrated into the system next year and the year after, and the year after that.

Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto are two unrestricted free agents who could help someone else right now.

Streit has been strong this season on the power play, which is his forte. He’s the perfect deadline rental.

Even if Hextall would like to have Streit’s veteran leadership on the blue line next season on a one-year, low salary to “tutor” Robert Hagg or Sam Morin or Travis Sanheim, he could still move Streit now and re-sign him later this summer.

Del Zotto, at 26, will get a nice return in draft picks or a prospect. Del Zotto is going to want a big contract this summer (he’s making $3.87 million now).

There’s no incentive for Hextall to go that direction given the sheer number of young, outstanding defensive prospects in the system that will be arriving shortly, all of whom come with very low salary cap hits.

Don’t blame Hextall for not getting involved in the Matt Duchene/Gabriel Landeskog saga that is going on in Colorado. GM Joe Sakic is asking a lot.

Hextall seems reluctant to part with any future prospects or young players just to get the same in return.

Much of the fan base has been saying for a while now it’s time to move team captain Claude Giroux. He's in the midst of his fourth consecutive season in which his numbers have declined, and in some respects, dramatically from his two best seasons — 2011-12 (93 points) and 2013-14 (86 points).

Yet there is no indication from Hextall or anyone in the Flyers' organization that such is even being contemplated.

Or that the organization feels Giroux’s leadership abilities have been assumed by Wayne Simmonds, who is arguably the most popular Flyer, two years running now.

Hextall still sees veterans such as Giroux, who is only 29, as a player who would help the transition of younger pups coming along — Travis Konecny, German Rubtsov, Nick Cousins, Jordan Weal, etc. — and he also believes Giroux can recapture his offense.

In short, Hextall is not going to tear his roster apart nor is he going to make a blockbuster trade next Wednesday. But he will likely try to sell veteran assets that make the team younger in some way.

Which is the correct thinking for the Flyers now and right into this summer, as well.

Why the Eagles should ignore big names and buy low at wide receiver

Why the Eagles should ignore big names and buy low at wide receiver

It won't be a surprise if the Eagles go after a big name wide receiver.

The team's receivers were a disaster last year. There's the fact that among the Eagles' receivers, Jordan Matthews' 11 yards per catch led the group (minimum 10 catches). Matthews' also led the receivers in touchdowns with four. The team dropped 24 Carson Wentz passes, the fourth-most for a quarterback last season.

So Alshon Jeffery or DeSean Jackson would be a no-brainer, right? Maybe not.

At the moment, the Eagles' cap situation isn't ideal. Surely they'll take a few more steps to clear space, but signing a high-priced receiver isn't the right way to allocate that money.

Jeffery and Jackson have their pros and cons. Jeffery had two elite seasons in 2013 and 2014, but his last two seasons have been mired by injuries and a PED suspension. Despite being 30, Jackson still has the ability to stretch the field, but his red flags are well-documented. According to Sprotrac, Jeffery is scheduled to become the sixth-highest paid receiver, while Jackson will be the 19th-highest paid.

Sure, there are other options. Veteran Kenny Britt enjoyed a renaissance season under new Eagles receivers coach Mike Groh in L.A. and he's still only 28. He's also coming off a 1,000-yard season and could cash in on that. There's also Kenny Stills, who is only 24 and coming off a season where he averaged 17.3 yards a catch and caught nine touchdowns for Miami. Terrelle Pryor is still learning the position but finished with 77 catches for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns for the Browns.

Any of those guys makes the Eagles' offense better immediately. But in reality, just about any decent receiver would make this group better. Howie Roseman is better off buying low in free agency and building the receiver corps through the draft.

CSNPhilly.com Eagles Insider Reuben Frank recently highlighted the lack of success the Eagles' have had in signing free-agent receivers. The list is basically Irving Fryar and a bunch of guys. While the occasional trade (Terrell Owens) has worked out, the Eagles have been better off drafting receivers.

Looking ahead to the draft, this receiver class is extremely deep. There may not be the elite talent of the 2014 receiver class, but there are plenty of intriguing players to explore. In the first round, Clemson's Mike Williams or Western Michigan's Corey Davis could be available to the Eagles. Oklahoma's Dede Westbrook or Eastern Washington's Cooper Kupp could be there in the second. Even in the middle rounds, guys like Louisiana Tech's Carlos Henderson, Western Kentucky's Taywan Taylor and ECU's Zay Jones could be impactful.

As far as free agents go, the Eagles have other options beyond the big names. Kamar Aiken of the Baltimore Ravens is an intriguing name. The 27 year old had a breakout 2015 (75 catches, 944 yards, five touchdowns) followed by a disappointing 2016 (29 catches, 328 yards, one touchdown). He lost snaps to a healthy Steve Smith, free-agent signee Mike Wallace and former first-round pick Breshad Perriman. The Eagles can buy low on Aiken and hope his production is similar to 2015.

Kendall Wright, also 27, had a breakout season in 2013 (94 catches, 1,079 yards) but has fought injuries and inconsistencies over the last few seasons in Tennessee. Then there's Brian Quick from the L.A. Rams, another 27 year old who hasn't quite put it together. He had a career year in 2016, hauling in 41 catches for 564 yards under new Eagles receivers coach Mike Groh.

The Eagles' best bet would be to take a flyer and buy low on one of these receivers and dig deep on this draft. Aiken or Wright and two rookies could help overhaul the position and create serious competition.

Can the Eagles count on Roseman to deliver the next Irving Fryar? The safer bet is him delivering the next DeSean Jackson... instead of the actual DeSean Jackson.