By Kevin McGuire
The Philadelphia Eagles were looking forward to opening the new home schedule at Lincoln Financial Field against the NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys, but for the second week in a row the Eagles were on the wrong end of the final score. The Eagles, now 0-2, have plenty of work to do if they are going to make a rare run to the NFL postseason. The history is now heavily against the Eagles with odds to reach the playoffs, but the NFC East can still be won if Chip Kelly and the Eagles figure out a way to flip a switch.
For the second straight week the Philadelphia Eagles were abysmal on offense for one-half of play. Unlike the previous week down in Atlanta, this time the Eagles offense never got in a flow. By the time the slow and painful death came to be final, the Eagles managed just 226 yards of total offense, with seven rushing yards. Running back DeMarco Murray had every right to be livid about the rushing production as he ended the day with just two rushing yards on 13 carries. He was routinely stopped behind the line of scrimmage as there was no blocking from the offensive line in front of him. Sam Bradford was the team’s leading rusher with nine yards. Bradford did not have a good day throwing the football either, completing 23 of 37 attempts for 224 yards and a touchdown, with a pair of passes being intercepted. Jordan Matthews added some garbage yardage and a score late in the game but he had some key drops earlier in the game as well. The Eagles converted just two of 13 third-down conversion attempts and was on the field for just 19 minutes 30 seconds.
The Eagles were forced to punt on each of their first seven possessions, with no drive going more than four plays. The most promising drive of the game ended with an interception from Bradford into the hands of Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee, in his direct line of sight in the end zone. The Eagles also lost a fumble on a premature snap. Bradford had no clue the ball was coming on the first play after the Eagles defense came up with a fumble recovery at the Dallas 30-yard line. The Eagles offensive line is atrocious two games into the season, and there is not a whole lot that can be done about it. The line simply has to get better, and quickly.
The Eagles defense did just about everything it could to keep the game within reach in the off chance the offense could find some life. Mostly a result of the lack of offense, the Eagles defense was on the field for 40 minutes and 30 seconds in the game. The defense came out playing well, forcing Dallas to a pair of three-and-outs to start the game and then stood firm on a goal line stand on the third Dallas possession to force a field goal. The defense did get burned late by Cowboys backup quarterback Brandon Weeden in the fourth quarter, with Terrance Williams hauling in a 42-yard touchdown pass to pretty much put the game on ice with a 20-3 lead in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles defense managed to hold Dallas to just four third down conversions out of 12 opportunities, and the defense forced a pair of turnovers. While it did knock Tony Romo out of the game with a fractured collarbone, the Eagles defense only recorded one sack in the game. That does not seem like enough for the Eagles to win a division game, but credit the Dallas offensive line for playing well as well. The Eagles were unable to rattle Weeden upon his entrance into the game, which was unfortunate.
The Eagles defense showed some improvements from the Week 1 loss at Atlanta, and it was most certainly not the reason the Eagles dropped to 0-2.
Special Teams: D
One of the biggest plays of the game came at the expense of the Eagles special teams. A punt blocked by Dallas was picked up and returned for a touchdown, giving Dallas a 13-0 lead early in the third quarter. Punter Donnie Jones could not have done much of anything to prevent the punt from being blocked, and he took a shot on the return as well. There simply was not enough protection in front of him. Jones punted the football six times for a total of 302 yards and one punt inside the Dallas 20-yard line.
Last week’s goat, second-year kicker Cody Parkey, was perfect when called upon for a late extra point attempt and a fourth quarter field goal from 46 yards out. There was no reason to pit any blame on Parkey this week. There was just one special teams return from the Eagles in this one, with Josh Huff returning a kickoff 21 yards. Special teams never had a chance to have much of a positive effect on the game.
Chip Kelly is going to be eviscerated this week, and the criticism is well deserved. The offseason moves made by Kelly have blown up on the field at the start of the regular season. There may be time to turn things around, bu the Eagles have dug an early hole and now must begin taking manners into their own hands while they still can. The first part of the team that needs to be addressed is the offensive line. Without the offensive line, Murray will be ineffective running the football. Kelly must also be sure he is using Murray properly. Murray needs to be able to run the football north and south, rather than east-west.
Kelly also has to start mixing up the playcalling. Too many times he got caught running the same or similar plays with the hope things would work out. The offensive line simply is not suited to gamble like that at this point in time. Unless something is done to improve the offensive line, the defense is going to continue to be gassed by being on the field for two-thirds of an NFL game. The Eagles were also penalized far too often to win a game (although Dallas was penalized more).
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.