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By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter declared a State of Emergency beginning 5 p.m. Sunday. It coincided about the same time a state of emergency was declared on the Philadelphia Eagles, possibly marking the beginning of the end of the Andy Reid era.
Karma was all around. And it was all bad. With 5:18 left in the first quarter of the Eagles’ embarrassing 30-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the first crescendo of boos began sprinkling down on Lincoln Financial Field. It was with 5:18 left in the fourth quarter against Detroit two weeks ago when the Lions burned through a 10-point Eagles’ fourth-quarter lead to begin the Reid countdown.
The Falcons remain the NFL’s only undefeated team—and proved they are legit, moving to 7-0, while the Eagles’ 2012 death knell began pounding louder, dropping to 3-4, losing their third-straight game and suffering their first loss under Reid after the bye week.
This benchmark defeat also may have revealed that Juan Castillo wasn’t to blame after all for the Eagles’ many defects. New defensive coordinator Todd Bowles went after Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, who shredded the Eagles’ blitz packages for 198 yards passing and three touchdowns—in the first half. The Penn Charter graduate finished completing 22 of 29 for 262 yards and three touchdowns.
Atlanta amassed 392 yards of total offense, scored on its first six possessions and converted its first six third downs.
Maybe firing Castillo wasn’t the answer, though Reid had no regrets.
“No, I did what I did and [what] I thought was right at the time,” Reid said about letting Castillo go. “I know we need to get better [on defense]. We’ve got to be able to get off the field on third down. We’re going to stay aggressive. That’s what we were in those situations. That’s how it’s going to be.”
The Eagles were far more aggressive on defense than under Castillo, sending linebackers after Ryan, who easily picked them apart. Probably because nothing was disguised.
Each time the Eagles brought pressure, Ryan effectively countered that with screens.
“There were definitely some keys on tape the way they lined up with their linebackers, we knew we were able to call out a lot of things,” Falcons’ center Todd McClure said. “The way their linebackers were cheating on certain blitzes, we knew when they were coming. We knew they weren’t going to change too much. It’s tough to do in one week. Even though you have a bye week, we knew they were going to be the same defense, but have a few wrinkles. They had a few safety pressures and secondary pressures, but it’s hard to change a whole bunch in a week’s time. One of the keys was getting the running game going.”
With :32 left in the first quarter—that’s :32 left in the first quarter—fans began packing their belongings and heading for the exits. And they weren’t looking to get a head start on the bathroom lines. It appears the Eagles have lost the city. Whole sections in the upper bowl were vacant after halftime, no doubt wanting to get a jump on Hurricane Sandy.
They had good reason. The game was over by halftime.
By then, Atlanta had forged a 24-7 lead. Ryan was 17 for 20 passing, for 197 yards and threw touchdown passes of 15, 3 and 63 yards. The Falcons successfully converted six of their first seven third downs, and pounded the Eagles’ “revamped defense” for 80-yard, 51-yard and 73-yard scoring drives on their first three possessions.
“I look at the first half and it was definitely getting off of the field on third downs, I mean I don’t know how many penalties we had as far as defensive holdings, just shooting ourselves in the foot,” Eagles’ safety Kurt Coleman said. “Early in the game [there was some confusion on defense]. It’s a feel-out process and I think Atlanta was giving us a little bit of different looks. I don’t think that hurt, that we weren’t in the right places. We just didn’t make the plays.”
Eagles’ rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks had a tough game. He didn’t start, replaced by Casey Matthews, for “disciplinary reasons,” then went out and was terribly exposed. Kendricks was bit by three penalties, twice flagged trying to keep up with future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez. So were cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
On the Falcons’ first possession, Ryan connected with a wide-open DJ Davis for a 15-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone in what appeared to be a coverage mix up between Rodgers-Cromartie and safety Coleman.
“They went fake rocket-and-go, through the film study, I hadn’t seen them do that 15 yards and beyond; they did that from five yards out but not 15,” Coleman said. “I think it was just that [Rodgers-Cromartie] saw it one way, [Brandon] Boykin saw it another way, and I saw it another way. We just weren’t on the same page as far as the back secondary on that one. They had a good game plan, but let’s not kid ourselves. We had them in third-third on several situations. I don’t know what the stats say, but we had them where we wanted them. We knew what they were doing a lot of the times. We had to figure out a way to get off the field.”
Ryan stung Asomugha when he hit Julio Jones for a 63-yard touchdown.
With 5:35 left to play, 54:25 into the game, Atlanta punted for the first time, after scoring on its first six drives (three touchdowns, followed by three field goals).
Offensively, the Eagles were equally as inept as their defense. Michael Vick often had to scramble behind the patchwork offensive line, which started rookie Dennis Kelly at right guard in place of Danny Watkins, out with a chronic sprained ankle. It didn’t matter. Kelly looked as lost as Watkins.
By halftime, Atlanta had outgained the Eagles with 252 total yards of offense to 94. The Falcons had 17 first downs to the Eagles’ eight.
With 7:18 left in the third quarter, Cedric Thornton provided a momentary burst when he picked up the Eagles’ first sack since Week 3, taking down Ryan for a five-yard loss on a second-and-11.
Two plays later, the Falcons ended their fifth possession on a Matt Bryant 29-yard field goal, giving Atlanta a 27-10 lead with 6:10 left in the third quarter.
But the game was far removed from being competitive.
As Hurricane Sandy began making her presence known, the rains finally scattered away the remnants of the diehards at Lincoln Financial Field. The stampede began with 4:46 remaining in the fourth quarter.
In the end, public-address announcer Dan Baker’s voice echoed as the final seconds ticked away in a near-empty stadium.
“We have to find a way to win,” Coleman said. “We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and find a way to win. We have nine games left and we have to come back. I’m not giving up. I still believe we have what it takes to move forward. We have five division games left. We have time, but the time has to be now.”
The lethargic showing was enough for a dejected LeSean McCoy to question whether or not this version of the Eagles has any pride. “Not at all,” McCoy said. ”At least if we did, we didn’t show it. I’m just saying what it looked like. How we played, how the game ended, I didn’t see any pride. I didn’t see any heart. This is the whole team, myself included. We didn’t get it done today.”
The whole thing marked the most damaging regular-season loss of Reid’s 14-year tenure. It was a humiliating, thorough trouncing. And it may have forced Tammy Reid to begin thinking about packing the good china and silverware.
Shady’s Scores … RB LeSean McCoy scored two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) and now has five total on the season. It was his fourth time scoring via rush and reception in the same game and his ninth multi-touchdown outing … McCoy has reached the end zone in ten of his last 11 home games … He has also scored a receiving touchdown in each of the last three contests. The last Eagles running back to do so was Brian Westbrook in 2005 … McCoy has 25 touchdowns in his last 22 games … His 30 career rushing touchdowns rank sixth in franchise history.
Mac Attack … Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin has accumulated 215 receptions and 2,924 receiving yards in his career, which are the third-highest totals ever by an Eagle in his first four seasons. He trails Keith Jackson (242) and DeSean Jackson (230) in receptions and DeSean Jackson (4,096) and Mike Quick (3,864) in yards.
Moving on Up … WR DeSean Jackson (263) surpassed Fred Barnett for the second-most receptions ever by an Eagle in his first five seasons. He trails Mike Quick (273) for the record … Jackson also passed Ben Hawkins for 13th on the team’s all-time receptions list … QB Michael Vick (8,230) moved past Bobby Thomason and into seventh place on the team’s all-time passing yards list.
Birdseed … DT Fletcher Cox and T/G Dennis Kelly each made their first-career start … DT Cedric Thornton registered his first-career sack … K Alex Henery has made 11 field goals in a row. He tied Chris Boniol for ninth on the team’s all-time list with 36 career field goals … The offense has scored points on their opening drive of the second half in six of seven games this season (two touchdowns, four field goals).
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.