Ah yes, the sweetest TLP editions come from the papers in New York, Dallas, and Philadelphia. Today, we have entries from two, different Philly publications. The first comes to you from the pages of the Philadelphia Daily News:
Anger reigns as Eagles’ season unravelsDAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis is taunted by Redskins’ Trenton Robinson after missed field-goal attempt at end of first half.
LES BOWEN, Daily News Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: Monday, October 5, 2015, 3:01 AM
LANDOVER, Md. – There is almost nothing you can say at this point that is too hyperbolic, no rant that is too far over the top.
We haven’t even raked up any leaves yet, and we’re raking the Eagles’ season toward the curb, at 1-3, 0-2 in the NFC East, 0-3 in the conference after yesterday’s wrenching, 23-20 loss to the Washington Redskins.
Chip Kelly looked glassy-eyed and stricken in the claustrophobic FedEx Field visitors’ interview room, nattering about “execution.” That’s one of those sports-speak words that doesn’t really mean anything specific, other than that people aren’t getting the job done, either because they lack talent, or because they aren’t being coached effectively.
“We’ve got to make plays,” Kelly said, when asked about the meshing of new parts. “We can’t delay the season. We’ve got to make plays.”
DeMarco Murray, asked if he needed more touches to make this painfully inconsistent offense look coherent, agreed that would be a fine thing. He said lots of other stuff about how he knew when he came to the Eagles that he wouldn’t get all the carries, and how he loves the offense, loves “playing with these guys,” but rest assured, this morning, Murray’s “we could have stuck with it a little more,” in reference to the running game, and “No, I’m not, I don’t think I am,” in reference to whether he is getting the ball enough – those will be the headlines. Murray gained 30 yards on his first carry yesterday, 6 on his other seven carries.
Outside linebacker Connor Barwin and center Jason Kelce, pros on whose shoulders much responsibility rests, were furious with themselves and with their team’s situation.
“This is professional football. You need to make plays. People need to step up and make plays. I need to step up and make plays. You need to be a competitor and know that you need to win in that situation at the end of the game,” Barwin said. “Our offense did a great job to put us in a position to win the game, and you guys all watched the game, we had a chance to win, and we didn’t do what we needed to do on that last drive.”
Said Kelce: “Right now, we don’t run the ball when we need to, we don’t pass block when we need to, and it’s a disgrace. We got some big runs and some big passes, but other than that, we didn’t have a consistent offense today, and we haven’t had one (this season).
“We’ve lacked complete consistency on the offensive side of the ball, and it all starts up front . . . All I’m worried about right now is getting the offensive line fixed . . . We’ve got to pass block better, we’ve got to run block better, we’ve got to communicate better. There’s just way too many mistakes, too many errors, especially at this point in the season. We’re costing our team wins right now, I think. We’ve got to get this fixed. We should have had it fixed yesterday. We should have had it fixed right from the beginning. It’s very frustrating right now.”
The Eagles lost because they watched Kirk Cousins take Washington 90 yards in 15 plays to erase a 20-16 Birds lead, the Redskins scoring the winning points with 26 seconds left, but really, they lost way before that.
They lost when they played a first half every bit as miserable as the one from the Atlanta game, or the Dallas game, the kind of first half that saps your defense and digs your grave unless you are extraordinarily lucky. The kind of first half good teams experience maybe once in a season, not three times in four weeks.
“We didn’t sustain anything in the first half offensively,” Kelly said after his team scraped and staggered for just four first downs – one awarded by penalty – while digging a 13-0 halftime deficit that could have been worse.
They lost because new kicker Caleb Sturgis missed a 33-yard field goal – extra-point length – and then followed that up by missing his first extra-point try, four points thrown away in a three-point game.
They lost because rookie wideout Nelson Agholor followed up his best play of the season with his worst: After reeling in a 45-yard Bradford bomb down the middle, one-handed, Agholor couldn’t control a Ryan Mathews pitch on a reverse, and gave the ball away – on the very next play after his catch.
“I gotta look the ball in, that’s all it is,” Agholor said. “The guy gave me an opportunity, put it there, and when the ball came to me, I didn’t look it in. I didn’t do my No. 1 job, which is receiving the football, whether it’s a reverse or a pass or whatever.”
They lost because, with a four-point lead and the ball in Washington territory twice in the final 10 minutes, they never got past the Redskins’ 45 and never built the comfortable cushion the reeling Redskins all but invited them to build. Washington is now 2-2 with a stirring comeback victory over a divisional opponent.
The Eagles lost because they generated almost no pass rush all day, and their $63 million corner, Byron Maxwell, left after suffering a quad injury three plays into the game. This put second-round rookie Eric Rowe on the field the rest of the way, and Rowe and Walter Thurmond ultimately couldn’t stop Pierre Garcon from catching the winning 4-yard touchdown pass.
They lost because their defense was on the field for 41 minutes, 8 seconds, repeatedly giving up third-and-long conversions, as it has tended to do for years now. Seventy-eight snaps for Washington, 32 runs and 46 passes, not including penalties. Forty-six snaps for the Eagles.
They lost because for the third time in four games, the opponent came out from the opening kickoff with a sharp, well-focused attack, and the Eagles came out like they’d been studying the wrong film all week.
“Obviously not, because we did it again today,” Bradford said, when asked if he had figured out why the team only plays one good half per game. Bradford belatedly got his much-discussed longball game going, hitting Riley Cooper for a 62-yard TD, and Miles Austin for a 39-yard score. He emerged with a 122.6 passer rating that could not have been more beside the point.
“It’d be great to play four quarters, because I think we could really do some damage if we played for four quarters,” Bradford said.
“When he had time, I thought he looked good,” Kelly said of Bradford, who was sacked five times.
They lost because, if you subtract the 30-yard Murray run and a Bradford 14-yarder, the Eagles rushed 16 times for 43 yards, 2.69 yards per carry. Jason Peters went down early to an aggravation of his quad injury, so new right guard Matt Tobin, starting for injured Andrew Gardner, ended up playing most of the day at left tackle, where he had not practiced during the week. Dennis Kelly played right guard.
(And yes, it still boggles the mind that after seeing pretty much this exact group labor painfully last season, the Eagles’ answer to strengthening their o-line in the offseason was to not draft anybody and cut Evan Mathis.)
Kelly said the o-line didn’t handle defensive movement very well in the first half (yet again), and he noted that it was just a six-man box that was stymieing his run game, the foundation of his offense.
“Sometimes we look great, and sometimes we look like we don’t know what we’re doing,” Peters said. He said he “re-strained” his quad.
The Eagles host New Orleans next week with none of those injuries likely to magically disappear, and quite possibly with another new kicker.
“We know we gave one away,” said outside linebacker Brandon Graham. He ripped a fumble loose that rookie inside linebacker Jordan Hicks recovered, leading to the go-ahead touchdown pass to Austin that made it 20-16, 20 seconds into the final quarter.
The Eagles’ pass rushers, though, managed a single sack, looking helpless on Washington’s final dink-and-dunk drive, and they sang a familiar postgame song – Cousins was taking short drops, throwing underneath, hard to get there in time.
Cousins’ 31 completions in 46 attempts were a career high and the most completions ever by a Redskins quarterback against the Eagles, which is really no big deal, because the teams have only played 161 times.
And, from the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Bradford’s frustration mounts with another loss
Mike Sielski, Inquirer Columnist
Posted: Monday, October 5, 2015, 3:01 AM
LANDOVER, Md. – Sam Bradford seemed committed to burying himself beneath his locker Sunday, so low did his head hang, so lost and lonely did he look in the quiet of that visiting locker room at FedEx Field. He sat there for a long time before pushing himself to his feet and trudging off to take a shower, the Eagles’ 23-20 loss to the Redskins still sending him to a place somewhere between frustration and bewilderment. The game hates Bradford right now. Whatever he does right isn’t enough, and whatever he does wrong is too much.
For a while Sunday, the script appeared to be writing itself. He had emerged from halftime, with the Eagles down by 13-0, a new quarterback: throwing two touchdown passes to tie the game, limping off the field late in the third quarter after spraining his ankle only to return and fire a third touchdown, 39 yards to Miles Austin, on the second play of the fourth quarter to give the Eagles a 20-16 lead. Here was Comeback Sam. Here was the guy the Eagles hoped he’d be when they traded for him in March, riding in to get them to 2-2, to get them a victory in the NFC East, to save their season. Here was, after four weeks of play from him that was at best inconsistent, a franchise quarterback.
But there were two late third-down throws that could have extended drives and that Bradford couldn’t complete – one that was behind Darren Sproles, one to Jordan Matthews that was knocked from his hands, either of which could have led to a field goal or touchdown that could have finished off the Redskins. So many could haves. And again, for the third time in four weeks, the entire offense was godawful over a game’s first 30 minutes.
“I wish I knew how to explain it because then we’d get it fixed,” said Bradford, who threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns. “It seems to kind of be the story of these first few games. We’re two completely different offenses. Once we get it going, we’re pretty good, but for whatever reason, it seems like there are times we just struggle to get it going.”
This first half was beyond a struggle. It was abject failure. The Eagles went 1 for 5 on third down. They had 44 rushing yards, 30 of which came on one carry by DeMarco Murray. Bradford went 5 for 10 for 75 yards. Yet for all the excuses that can feel so empty when it comes to explaining why Bradford hasn’t been a more productive passer, this time it was difficult to blame him.
The departure of left tackle Jason Peters to a quadriceps injury forced Chip Kelly to move Matt Tobin into Peters’ spot and to insert Dennis Kelly at right guard. If Kelly had wanted to test Bradford’s confidence by putting him in the most challenging of situations, he could have done better only by having no one pass-block at all Sunday. The Redskins sacked Bradford three times in the first half, and it was fair to wonder whether Kelly might replace him with Mark Sanchez, just to stop the waves from crashing on Bradford’s head.
Of course, Kelly was the one who had set the stage for that chaos, and the scene was a reminder of just how different his approach to building the Eagles has been from his predecessor’s. Once Andy Reid, a year into his tenure, recognized that the Eagles had a franchise quarterback in Donovan McNabb, he and the Eagles’ player-personnel people made solidifying the offensive line their No. 1 priority. They signed Jon Runyan. They cultivated enough depth that when center Bubba Miller was lost to injury, his replacement, Hank Fraley, remained the starter for the next 41/2 years.
Kelly did the opposite in the offseason. He tried to improve the skill positions. And if the decision to let guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans walk away was defensible, the inability to acquire upgrades wasn’t, especially when it came to protecting Bradford and his tear-prone left anterior cruciate ligament.
“We said, ‘We don’t care who the receivers are. If we don’t make [McNabb] comfortable and confident in the pocket, he can’t showcase what he can do,’ ” said a former member of the Eagles’ organization from the Reid-McNabb era, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We had checked the most important box, but we needed to make some additional decisions properly. You can say they haven’t done that.”
In fairness, during the second half Sunday the line bought Bradford enough time to find Riley Cooper on that 62-yard touchdown deep down the center of the field, to shed Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and hit Brent Celek for a 10-yard score, to loft that 39-yarder over the top to Austin.
“You guys act like we don’t want to throw the ball down the field,” Bradford said, parroting Kelly’s insistence that defenses have been taking deep throws away and the Eagles have been powerless to do anything about it. It was an answer with an edge, and it was good to see from Bradford.
That flash of firepower, though, only gave the Eagles the lead. It assured them of nothing. And as the Redskins tramped down the field on that 15-play, 90-yard drive for the decisive touchdown, the Eagles’ defense too dog-tired to stop them, Sam Bradford had to be left asking himself what the hell it’s going to take for him to get even with the game.