- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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What it means: Well, if you thought the Eagles still had a shot at the playoffs (and for the record, I did not), I'd like to hear you try and convince me now. The Eagles now need to win their remaining five games just to get to 9-7, and on Sunday they didn't look like a team capable of winning two of them. The Eagles once believed they could be one of the elite teams in the NFL this season. The Patriots just showed them what such a team looks like. This was the first game all season that the Eagles really didn't have a chance to win. This time, they got outplayed, outcoached, outclassed and outmuscled. This banged-up, wrung-out Eagles team didn't belong on the same field as the Patriots.
Andy Reid's not helping himself: I assume Reid wants to return to coach the Eagles again next year, but he's started to coach like a guy who wants to get fired. The persistent refusal to lean on LeSean McCoy, who's one of the best running backs in the league, is a symptom of career-killing stubbornness. The Eagles were up 10-0 in this game, and though they showed while building that lead that they could beat the Patriots in the deep passing game, everybody knows the best way to keep Tom Brady from beating you is by keeping him off the field. Once you get your lead, it might not be a bad idea to switch to a run-heavy offense -- especially when you're the No. 1 running team in the league, your running back is leading the league in rush yards, and your quarterback is a better runner than he is a thrower. McCoy should have had more than 10 carries. The Eagles sure as heck should have run the ball when they had fourth-and-one from the Patriots' two-yard line in the third quarter. Ride the defensive schemes all you want, but even with their starting quarterback and best wide receiver out, the Eagles have weapons that could be helping them win games on offense, and they're not using them.
That all for D-Jax?: The worst individual performance of the game on offense was that of wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who needed to play big with Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin out and instead dropped two touchdown passes. Vince Young wasn't throwing the ball so well that he could afford to have receivers dropping the ball, and Jackson's drops were crushing. He watched the final series from the sideline, leading to reports that Reid benched him for poor performance. That contract extension Jackson thought he was getting once upon a time is looking more and more like a pipe dream. The question now is how big a factor he'll be in these final five games.
Defense shredded: The Eagles' defense held up fine early, getting pressure on Brady and dominating the physical battles the way they did against the Giants a week ago. But once the Patriots shored up the protection and got Brady some time, he was able to pick apart a diminished Eagles secondary. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie missed the game with an injury, and fellow cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was clearly limited due to his knee injury. Add in an awful game by safety Nate Allen and more stubbornness by a coaching staff that insists on playing soft zones and giving receivers cushions, and you have a recipe for disaster on the back end of the defense. Brady found the soft spots in the defense and put on a clinic.
Oh, and by the way: I'm not buying his garbage-time stats as evidence Young should start over a healthy Vick. Just because he's way down the list of blame for what happened Sunday doesn't make him Johnny Unitas. I'd say he's helped himself if he wants to convince some other team he can be a starter for them next year, but I don't think he's a better player than Vick is, and I don't think he should play ahead of him once Vick is able again.
What's next: The bad news keeps on coming. The Eagles get exactly three days off before their next game, which is on Thursday night all the way across the country against the Seahawks in Seattle. The good news I guess is that the Seahawks are 4-7. But if you're the Seahawks, you see a 4-7 team coming in and think you've got a shot. Yeah. That's what the Eagles are right now.