The result is obviously a disappointment, and once again there’s a lot to discuss. I’m going to structure this with bullet points.
– The benefits of Bayesian Analysis. Before the season, I had the Eagles as a 9 win team (maybe 9.1 if we’re being exact). Before this game, I had the Eagles as a 9 win team. Now, I STILL have the Eagles as a 9 win team. Remember we’re talking “value” not actual wins, but the point is you should never forget your original beliefs. Human thinking is subject to a LOT of different cognitive biases, among which is the Recency Effect. In short, people usually overweight more recent experiences and underweight older events. This will need a full post, but the quick point for now is that the Eagles look very much like the team we expected to see. If we are searching for the team’s “true” value, the game today is just one piece of evidence, which must be added to our prior information and viewed in context with everything we “know”. The Eagles lost a game they should have won; yet that’s no reason to panic.
– The offense is SCARY good. The Eagles’ offense played a rather poor game. Sloppy penalties, dropped catches, overthrown passes, a missed field goal. And yet, the Eagles still scored 30 points. If those mistakes are cleaned up, the team very easily could have scored 40+. That’s extremely encouraging. I expected the Eagles offense to be very good, but it looks as though it can exceed my expectations. Last season, just two teams averaged more than 30 points per game (Patriots and Broncos). I think the Eagles, this year, can get very close to that mark.
– Bill Davis needs to improve. The defense was terrible, and much of that is due to low talent and bad play. However, it looked to me like Davis could have attacked the game much differently. The biggest disappointment, and ultimately the biggest reason the Eagles lost, was the play of the Defensive line. I said pre-game that pressure was going to be the key to the game, and clearly the Eagles failed in that respect. The players share some blame, but after a certain amount of time, that blame shifts to the DC. This is pending a full All-22 review, but it looked like there were a LOT of A gap blitzes (right/left of the center). They didn’t work, but Davis kept calling them.
After it was apparent the Eagles couldn’t get pressure with either 4 pass-rushers or the blitz, Davis should have changed tacks. How about moving to the 4-3? I saw it once or twice, and it’s possible I just missed a few other times, but given that the team’s personnel still best fits the 4-3 alignment, that should have been a 2nd half staple.
I know what a lot of you are saying. Nate Allen is terrible and the CBs were bad (besides Boykin, who had a solid game). However, Nate Allen is not a long-term guy. Presumably, the CB corps will see some upgrades next offseason as well. That leaves Davis as the only “long-term” guy we need to worry about.
This was going to be ugly for the defense regardless of what Davis did; but I had hoped to see a few more in-game adjustments, if for no other reason than what they were doing wasn’t even coming close to working.
– Chip Kelly screwed up the End-game. Lost in the speed of the game was Chip Kelly’s poor late-game management. In short, on their final drive, the Eagles should not have been in the no-huddle offense. At that point, it’s clear the defense can’t be relied on to get a stop. Additionally, given the situation, running clock would likely have forced the Chargers to burn a TO or two. Chip stayed with the no huddle, and in doing so left more than enough time for SD to move into game-winning FG position. That was an unforced error, and one that cost the team dearly.
Also, while more subjective, Chip’s play-call on the one snap Nick Foles played was puzzling. Foles’ strength is his short-medium accuracy and pocket presence. Given 2nd and 10 in the red zone, the Eagles just needed to pick up a few yards, hopefully giving a re-entered Vick a manageable 3rd down. Instead, the call was an end zone fade. With Foles coming off the bench cold, it was a very strange call to make.
In theory, Chip should improve with experience. However, it’s not as if these are situations he hasn’t faced before. In his first true “pressure” test, Kelly failed.
– This week’s game against the Chiefs is BIG. If you’ll recall my preseason “roadmap to 9 wins”, the first benchmark was after week 3, at which point the team needed 2 wins. I explained that it really doesn’t matter which 2 teams the Eagles beat (though the Redskins would be nice), just as long as they came out 2-1. Obviously, to hit that mark, the team needs to beat the Chiefs.
– The Silver Lining. Part of my confidence in the Eagles performance this year lay in the fact that the NFC East is not a terribly competitive division. I expected the Redskins to be good, but figured the Cowboys and Giants were both coming into the season overrated. Through two weeks, things could not have gone better for the Eagles. As I’m writing, we’re 2:30 minutes away from a Giants loss, meaning all 4 NFC East teams dropped games today. 8 wins might take this division this year.