Sunday, October 28, 2012
Halftime thoughts: Eagles look a mess
By Dan Graziano
PHILADELPHIA -- Well, it appears as though Juan Castillo was not the Philadelphia Eagles' problem.
Eagles coach Andy Reid fired Castillo 12 days ago and replaced him as defensive coordinator with Todd Bowles. But in their first game after the bye week, the Eagles' defense has been tissue-paper soft, allowing the Atlanta Falcons to score on them in almost every conceivable way en route to a 24-7 halftime deficit.
Atlanta opened the game with an 80-yard touchdown drive that took 8:44 off the clock, then got the ball back almost immediately and took 4:18 more off the clock to score a second touchdown. And after the Eagles mounted a long drive of their own to cut the score to 14-7, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones for a 63-yard touchdown pass for the Falcons' third touchdown.
If there's any good news at all it's that the Eagles haven't turned the ball over (mainly because they've barely had it), and that they finally did get a third-down stop on the Falcons' final drive of the half, limiting the unbeaten Falcons to a field goal. And the Eagles do get the ball to start the second half. But none of that is going to matter if the defense can't find a way to get off the field. The Falcons were 6-for-7 on third down in the first half, and that doesn't even count the brutal Jason Babin defensive holding penalty that kept the opening drive alive on a third-down play.
Ryan was 17-for-20 for 197 yards in the first half. Six different Falcons have caught passes, three for touchdowns. The Falcons appear to be picking on Nnamdi Asomugha, who was beaten by Jones for the long touchdown, but Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and linebacker Mychal Kendricks have had plenty of their own problems in coverage, especially with penalties. The Eagles still don't have a sack.
All in all, the Falcons have so far looked like the best team in the league (which, the records say, they are), and the Eagles have looked confused. Castillo's firing was a desperate act by Reid, especially considering that his offense had been a bigger problem in the first six games than his defense had. A loss would drop the Eagles to 3-4 in a season in which they almost certainly need to reach the playoffs in order to save Reid's job. He is 13-0 in his career in games immediately following the bye week, but right now he needs a monster second-half comeback to make that 14-0. And if he doesn't, the firings that happen after this season might not be his call.