This game was never going to be a pleasant afternoon in the Rockies for these Eagles. After Philip Rivers dissected their patchwork secondary in Week 2, we immediately wondered how bad things would get when the Eagles faced the elite quarterbacks, with no one being more elite than Peyton Manning. Now we know.
“We ran into a buzzsaw,” Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said after the game. Davis had left the locker room, possibly after turning in his belt and shoelaces. He spoke to reporters via the iPhone of a member of the media relations staff.
The Eagles became a part of the history that Manning is making, the same way Michael Spinks was part of the history Mike Tyson made or the rest of the field was part of the history Usain Bolt made in the Olympics. They have no choice but to accept that and find a way to move on.
The next three weeks are huge for Chip Kelly. After losing three games to the AFC West, by larger margins every week, Kelly’s Eagles play the New York Giants (0-4), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4) and Dallas Cowboys (2-2).
The Eagles have an opportunity to win all three of those games, which would get them to 4-3, restore their respectability and give the second half of the season meaning. All three games are against NFC teams and two are within the division, where the Eagles are 1-0. Since 1990, teams that start 1-3 have just a 14 percent chance to go to the playoffs, according to ESPN Stats & Information. But somebody is going to win the NFC East. It says so right in the rulebook. Until they lose games and ground to Dallas, the Eagles have a chance to be that team.
The offensive line is becoming an issue. Kelly laid the blame for the offensive struggles squarely on the pressure quarterback Michael Vick is experiencing. “We’ve got times where he is at the top of his drop and he’s sticking his foot into the ground and there’s pressure on him,” Kelly said. “That’s not on Mike.”
A quick history lesson: Two years ago, Andy Reid brought in longtime Indianapolis Colts assistant Howard Mudd to coach the offensive line. Mudd has a unique approach suited to slimmer, more athletic linemen. The result was a purge of players who just didn't fit. Could it be that some of the linemen here just don't fit Kelly’s own unique approach? Could it simply be that the players returning from injuries -- Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, Jason Kelce -- aren't at full health? Is it just a natural transition period?
“Someone who’s been playing fantastic for 52 plays, on the 53rd play makes a mistake up front,” Kelly said. “Somebody you expected to be picked up is creating penetration.”
Time will provide the answers, but there is enough of a body of work to start asking the questions.
There are no playmakers on this defense. Davis has been trying to scheme around the personnel he has while shifting the team from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base. The results were not very good through three weeks, and they were disastrous Sunday against the Broncos. No matter the scheme, though, a great player will find ways to make an impact: a sack on a crucial third down, a ball stripped from a running back or receiver, something. The Eagles just aren't getting those plays.
“We only have one way to go,” Davis said. “We have to get better. Everything about the defense has to improve. We have enough talent.”
Davis may or may not believe those words. The rest of us have to believe our eyes.