By Kevin McGuire
The Philadelphia Eagles are fading quickly in what should be an NFC East Division just waiting to be taken by the horns. The Eagles let a win slip away in the final minutes as Washington marched right down the field on a worn out Eagles defense and the offense started on empty from the start. There is not much that can be given a positive spin following the Eagles’ 23-20 loss down I-95 as the Birds are now 1-3 and in a real deep hole that is only getting tougher to climb out of.
Once again, as has been the theme of the season, the Philadelphia Eagles ran no more than four plays on each of their first three possessions of the game against Washington, and had to punt each time. That is no way to take the pressure off the defense early on, especially when the Redskins ran 23 plays on their first two drives. When the Eagles offense did hit on target, it counted and reminded those watching that the Eagles can make some good things happen on offense. Sam Bradford had a 62-yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper and a 39-yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin, and he had a red zone touchdown pass to Brent Celek as the Eagles appeared to get on track in the second half. But that was not enough to overcome a messy first half and the Birds were forced to punt on their last two possessions with a chance to pad the lead.
Bradford’s line looks better than it really was with 269 yards and three touchdowns. DeMarco Murray did get on the field this week, but his eight rushing attempts went for just 36 yards, which was considerably better than his first two games this season but still a far cry from the kind of production the Eagles thought they would get out of him. More blame gets put on the offensive line here, as the line continues to struggle in run blocking.
Defense: Letter D
One of the biggest concerns about the defense since Chip Kelly arrived as head coach of the Eagles has been keeping the defense out on the field too long. Often this season that blame can be put on the offense not sustaining drives. Today, though, the defense could not get off the field on either of Washington’s first two possessions of the game. Fortunately, the defense held Washington to just two field goals despite being on the field for 20 plays pretty much right from the start. Washington picked up 25 first downs on the Eagles defense, and the game winning touchdown was scored at the end of a 15-play, 90-yard drive in the final minutes of the game. Maybe the defense was gassed.
Special Teams: D
The Eagles were forced to pick a kicker off the free agent line this week after losing Cody Parkey to injury. They may head right back out to the shop to see what is available after new kicker Caleb Sturgis missed a field goal and an extra point attempt. That was enough to cost the Eagles the game, as it turned out. Punter Donnie Jones continued to be reliable with his duties and Darren Sproles returned a punt 45 yards, but that was all you could say about the special teams. When you lose a game by three points and the special teams left four points off the scoreboard, that is not a good look.
Is the blame for a 1-3 start falling on Chip Kelly the coach or Chip Kelly the general manager? That continues to be a bit of an even dose of failure with four game sin the books. Kelly the GM crafted this roster to his liking, and Kelly the coach has been unable to prove why those moves were beneficial to the team. Gambles and roster cuts and trades have simply not lived up to the expectations Kelly seemed to have. There may be some who believe Kelly will pan out, but time is running out as supporters are jumping for life preservers in the Schuylkill River. The NFC East is not completely out of reach but now the Eagles are already 0-2 in NFC East play and sinking quickly with an abysmal and unreliable offense leaving a defense out to dry. No matter which role you wish to blame more, the fault lies on Chip Kelly.
The Philadelphia Eagles look to rebound next week against the New Orleans Saints. What should have been a probable win is no longer one that can be put in Sharpie. The way the Eagles are playing, no game left on the schedule may be a definite win, which is bizarre.
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.