This One's On Andy
The Eagles' head coach gave away what should have been a victory in Chicago.
Early this morning, at the end of a hectic day, your Eagletarian finally was given enough time with the stat sheet to figure something out:
The Eagles lost a football game Sunday night to a quarterback who threw for 17 net yards in the second half, and who looked like he needed a change of underwear every time the rush closed in.
Yes, they are singing Kyle Orton's praises along the shoreline of Lake Michigan this morning, because the Bears somehow won. Their four turnovers -- two picks and two Orton fumbles -- cost them a couple of piddling field goals. The Eagles turned the ball over twice, once leading to a touchdown. Advantage, Chicago, 7-6.
Remind me of this game, someone out there, please, the next time I pick the Birds and Andy Reid to beat anybody on the road, without Brian Westbrook.
Reid is the man who kept sending David Akers out to try to make 47- and 50-yard field goals, in a place they call the Windy City, even though it's been a few years since Akers consistently converted from such distances. He is the man who didn't want to run a quarterback sneak because of Donovan McNabb's contused chest, even though McNabb said afterward he would have done whatever was necessary to win, and even though it is hard to recall the last time McNabb got stuffed on a sneak. McNabb weighs 240 pounds and has the shoulders of a fullback. He can take the ball from Jamaal Jackson and lean forward to substantial effect, before the defensive line gets penetration.
Reid is the man who called four successive inside runs down at the goalline against a Bears defense that entered the day fourth against the run and 28th against the pass. Reid, the most pass-happy coach in Eagles history, watched McNabb go 4 for-4 on the drive that ended with Correll Buckhalter getting stopped short of the goalline on third and fourth down. (Buck barely functional, by the way, after getting kicked in the back making a tackle on the pick, which happened when DeSean Jackson broke off his route prematurely and went the opposite way from where McNabb thought he was going.) Reid did not call a pass, or even have McNabb roll out, on any of the four downs the Birds got following Tony Hunt's first-down catch at the 4.
It was Reid who never threw the challenge flag, though there were key refereeing decisions that should have been challenged. Here's one example: just before the two-minute warning in the second quarter, on third and 7 from the Bears' 28, Chicago rookie running back Matt Forte was given credit for a 7-yard pass reception and a first down. Replays sure seemed to show Forte's knees down before he extended forward with the ball and picked up the first down. Eagles defensive end Trent Cole said afterward he noted this, and was vocal about the need for review, which was not forthcoming. The Bears went on to score the touchdown that put them ahead for good.
To me, this debacle was all about Reid. McNabb was fine, especially for a guy with a bruised chest. The pick he threw wasn't his fault. The Eagles outgained the Bears, 340 net yards to 256. But they converted just 2 of 13 third downs, which is what happens when you don't have the weapons to get it done when the going is tough. And when your playcalling is all over the place.
Blame Jim Johnson if you want, for letting Orton throw three first-half touchdown passes, something that should have never happened. But Johnson's defense allowed three points in the second half, and took the ball away three times. The Bears gained all of 60 yards after halftime. Reid kept pushing the wrong levers from beginning to end, on an evening when he had little margin for error, without Westbrook, and the Eagles lost.
There will be a lot of positive spinning from NovaCare this week. You'll hear a little about what a good team the Bears are (from this perspective, they looked mediocre, at best) and a lot about how the Eagles continue to show their potential, how good they will be on that happy day when they put it all together.