Unfortunate ending to a really entertaining season, but can’t say it was that surprising. In fact, the only surprise is in how little blame there is to be placed (as long as you’re not a WIP lunatic). The fact is, the Eagles played a relatively good game yesterday. The problem is, so did the Saints. Clearly both teams were very evenly matched and the Saints just happened to be winning when the music stopped. Tough break, but don’t overreact. Picking it apart a bit:
– A lot of people on Alex Henery’s case, which is a little unfair. I’m certainly not a Henery fan (and think he’ll have to compete for a job next year), but we can’t pretend that a 48 yard kick in 20 degree weather is an easy shot. For example, look at this chart from an article at AdvancedNFLStats.com from 2012:
I’m not exactly sure what the data set is, but assuming it’s reasonable, that means the kick was, at best, a roughly 50/50 proposition. If anything, Chip might deserve a bit more blame for kicking it instead of going for it.
The lack of touchbacks hurt as well, but again, kicking in 20 degrees is difficult, and I’m not sure how many other kickers would have done much better (definitely some, but my guess is not a lot).
– Nick Foles took a bad sack just before the previously mentioned FG attempt. Again, though, it’s pretty hard to be mad at that. He’s a young player who made a mistake due to inexperience. It happens. He also looked like he missed a few opportunities downfield, but I can’t say that with much confidence without an All-22 review. Regardless, when you play a low-risk game, you’re going to miss some of those shots. That’s part of the trade-off for not throwing any interceptions.
– The kick-coverage killed them at the end of the game. The Eagles were one of the weaker STs units in the league this year. So not surprise there. Once again, it’s hard to blame the team. The roster just isn’t that deep, which we’ve known for a while. That hurts STs. Another draft or two should fix that, it just wasn’t possible to do in one offseason.
– Roc Carmichael was victimized on a key 3rd and 12, and had a terrible mistake in punt coverage (when he kicked the ball into the End Zone). But….it’s ROC CARMICHAEL! This gets back to team depth. If the roster was deeper, Carmichael wouldn’t have been on the field, and maybe those plays get made. CB depth has to be near the top of the list for offseason needs, so I expect that to be remedied as well.
– The offense was very inconsistent, and downright nonexistent early on. The Saints, though, were the 10th ranked defense by DVOA coming into the game. They were missing Kenny Vaccaro, but the fact is, that was a good defense. Putting up 24 points isn’t a great performance, but it’s also not bad. The Saints allowed more than 24 points just four times this year.
– Riley Cooper had a bad drop. No real defense here, other than to say that all WRs drop passes sometimes. Also, the Eagles still took the lead after that play. It was a bad mistake, but no team is perfect (the Saints certainly had some similar mistakes as well).
There were other issues as well, but the overall message is: the game unfolded pretty much as we expected. I’ll soon start going through the season in more detail and we can talk about what improvements should be made (I’ve got some different ideas than most), but for now, you should feel encouraged, despite the loss. Here:
– Your 2nd year, 6’5″ Quarterback just and one of the greatest seasons (albeit abbreviated) in the history of the league.
– You have perhaps the best coach in the league (outside the untouchables like Belichick, Payton, Harbaugh).
– The rest of the division is a mess, and there’s very little chance that the Eagles don’t open as NFC East favorites next season.
– Nick Foles is 24 years old. LeSean McCoy is 25. Zach Ertz is 23. Brandon Boykin is 23. Fletcher Cox is 23. Mychal Kendricks is 23. Lane Johnson is 23. Jason Kelce is 26.
That’s a pretty good “core”. Add in potential contributors Bennie Logan and Earl Wolff (both 24), and I’m not sure there’s a team better positioned for the next 5-6 years than the Eagles.
Moreover, D-Jax is only 27. So is Connor Barwin.
Lastly, Chip Kelly is only 50 (young in HC years), and just won 10 games in his first year.