- Ashley Fox
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PHILADELPHIA -- The people aren't happy. A lot of things have been said and done at Lincoln Financial Field, everything from insults to objects thrown, and never has the fan base turned on the head coach like it did Sunday during the Eagles' 38-20 loss to New England.
They were loud, and they were emphatic in their orders: "Fire Andy! Fire Andy!"
And then, in an action that spoke even louder than the words, the fans started leaving with more than a full quarter still to play.
The Eagles are a mess, and if there is one thing that Philadelphia fans don't appreciate, it is an underperforming team. This city craves a championship from its professional football team. It has been 51 years since the Eagles won a title. They have been to the Super Bowl only twice, in 1980 and 2004, and they came away each time empty-handed. Philadelphia loves the Phillies, but it obsesses about the Eagles, and to have the team go all-in to make a push to the Super Bowl and then end up 4-7 with five games to play is more than most fans can bear.
They are angry. And hurt. And out for the head coach's head.
Reid has his hands full. He benched star wide receiver DeSean Jackson in the fourth quarter after Jackson dropped two would-be touchdown catches. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and defensive line coach Jim Washburn reportedly were arguing on the sideline. The defense could not touch Patriots QB Tom Brady, who picked apart a secondary that often was playing six defensive backs.
Even though Reid had the NFL's leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, the coach gave McCoy the ball only 10 times for 31 yards.
And now, the Eagles have to head across the country to Seattle on short rest for a game Thursday night.
This team is too inconsistent to think it can now run the table and finish 9-7. Can it finish .500? Will it totally implode? And if it does, will Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie finally get frustrated enough to acquiesce to the fans' wishes?
I said a few weeks ago that Reid isn't going anywhere. It is as bad as it has ever been for him here, and there is a mountain of evidence that Reid has passed his expiration date in Philadelphia. The most egregious sign is his inability to find an adequate replacement for the late Jim Johnson and his arrogance in thinking his offensive line coach, Juan Castillo, was up for the job of defensive coordinator.
But I still believe that, when the season is over and Lurie evaluates Reid, the owner will look at the roster, including the quarterback he recently sunk $80 million into, and the coach's contract through 2013, and say, "Let's give him one more crack at this." He will give Reid a mulligan for this year, because of the lockout and the lack of practice time and the turned-over roster and whatever other excuse he wants to come up with.
That is as long as Reid doesn't lose the team the way he has clearly lost Jackson.
With Vince Young making his second consecutive start for the injured Michael Vick, the Eagles took a 10-0 lead but then could not adjust when the Patriots went to a spread offense out of the no-huddle. Brady smacked the Philadelphia defense in the mouth, and that was all it took for a mentally fragile team to fold. The Eagles have given up five fourth-quarter leads this season. Although they held on to beat the Giants last week, they panicked against the Patriots, trailed 21-13 at halftime and then 31-13 early in the third quarter.
"We thought we were going to be able to carry this momentum over, and it's like, 'Here it comes again,'" defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said.
The breaking point for the fans came when, trailing 31-13 and facing fourth-and-1 from the New England 2-yard line, Reid used an eight-man front -- and called a pass play.
Young rolled to his right but overthrew tight end Brent Celek in the end zone. Then, the first "Fire Andy" chant began.
There was more, of course. The Eagles committed 10 penalties for 60 yards, often giving New England help it didn't need. They were just 2-of-4 in the red zone and 4-of-13 on third down. They put relatively little pressure on Brady and allowed him to sit in the pocket and pick them apart.
So, the Eagles can't close, they're mentally soft, they can't make in-game adjustments and they're undisciplined, among other things.
Reid said he did not hear the fans chant "Fire Andy," even though it happened on two occasions. "The way we played," Reid said, "I can understand."
Will the team splinter now? Several veterans said that the players, not the coach, deserve the blame for the 4-7 record. They are the ones who make the plays, or don't.
But there seems to be a growing sense that not all the players on the 53-man roster feel that way. Reid benched Jackson two weeks ago for the Arizona game because Jackson missed a special-teams meeting. Then he sat him down against the Patriots after it appeared Jackson was unwilling to put his body in harm's way for the sake of making a catch.
Asked whether he actually benched Jackson, Reid twice said: "I just wanted to give the other guys an opportunity."
Jackson took the high road afterward, characterizing his relationship with Reid as "good" and acknowledging that he didn't have his best day.
"I have a job to do, which I get paid to do," Jackson said. "I have to go out there and give my best effort. Regardless of what happens, the dropped balls and all, it's not like it's happening on purpose. Everybody has things that they have to go through in life. Right now this is what I am going through to better myself. I will be all right."
But will the Eagles? Given their inconsistency and their inexplicable inability to win at home, where they have lost eight of their past nine dating to last season, there is no reason to think they can win their five remaining games to finish the season 9-7. Can they win one, or two, now that they must play for pride?
With their coach on the hot seat, will they all play together, for each other and for him, understanding that, as Jenkins said, it is the players who ultimately win or lose, not the coaches? Will they get that? Do they get that now?
"I don't know," Jenkins said. "That's a good question, because I think that's the way to turn it around, if teammates share that, but I'm not sure. I don't know if people are pointing the finger or trying to figure out what somebody else needs to do better, but we can't do that. We have to look at ourselves. Everybody needs to look at themselves and say, 'What can I do, or what our unit can do,' and it has to be an 'us' thing instead of people pointing fingers.
"I'm not sure. We'll find out soon."
What I learned from Week 12:
The Patriots might start slow, but they are finishing strong. In the first quarter of the first five games of the season, Brady was 32-of-39 for 451 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. In the first quarter of the next five games, he was 15-of-27 for 197 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception.
Against the Eagles in the first quarter, Brady was 5-of-7 for 47 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. On New England's second possession, he converted three third downs and moved the Patriots to the 4-yard line, where BenJarvus Green Ellis ran for a touchdown.
Brady was unstoppable in the second quarter, completing 8-of-13 for 166 yards and a touchdown. He finished 24-of-34 for 361 yards and three touchdowns, and has thrown eight touchdowns and zero interceptions in his past three games, all wins.
New England might not lose another regular-season game. The Patriots just annihilated a team that was supposed to have a secondary equipped to handle them, although one that was playing with a limited Nnamdi Asomugha in dime packages and was without Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. New England's remaining schedule: the winless Indianapolis Colts, Washington, Denver, Miami and Buffalo.
Brady's take on his performance against the Eagles: "I thought it was OK. I thought our execution was a little better. It's good to come on the road and get a win. It's a team that has obviously a lot of very good players, and I thought getting down 10-0 and then rallying and coming back like we did showed a little bit of mental toughness, which we've shown consistently through the year."
It is all Tebow, all the time, and understandably so, but don't overlook the Broncos' defense. Behind the undefeated Green Bay Packers, Tim Tebow is the story in the NFL. He is mesmerizing to watch, with his faulty mechanics and low accuracy -- and his refusal to let his team lose. The latest example is the Broncos' 13-10 overtime win at San Diego.
But Denver's defense has really come together in the past six games. According to ESPN's Stats & Information, the Broncos allowed 28.0 points and 385.8 yards per game in the first five games of the season, when Denver started 1-4. Since the bye week, the defense has allowed 20.0 points and 329.8 yards per game.
Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil have been sensational harassing opposing quarterbacks. During the Broncos' four-game win streak, Miller, the rookie, has 4.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss and 12 quarterback hits, while Dumervil has 5.5 sacks, four tackles for loss and nine quarterback hits. Miller's 4-yard stuff of Chargers running back Mike Tolbert turned a 49-yard field goal attempt in overtime into a 53-yard attempt that Nick Novak missed, setting up the Broncos' game-winning drive.
Tebow does an exceptional job protecting the football, but the Broncos wouldn't have won those games without the defense making big plays at crucial times.
Best to concentrate on your own work. Steve Johnson was unable to pull in two potential game-winning catches on the Bills' final drive against the Jets.
Johnson got himself into the conversation for most outlandish touchdown celebration by a wide receiver when, after scoring in the second quarter, he pretended to shoot himself in the leg, then flew like a Jet and fell to the ground in mock agony. It was a direct jibe at Plaxico Burress on the eve of the third anniversary of Burress' shooting himself in the leg at a New York City nightclub.
Johnson was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, which resulted in a botched kickoff that led to a Jets touchdown by, appropriately enough, Burress.
In the fourth quarter, needing a touchdown to win the game, Johnson let a perfect pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick sail through his outstretched hands. A few plays later, he could not readjust to pull in a pass thrown behind him in the end zone.
Johnson apologized after the game, saying of his penalty: "It was very stupid by me. ... I feel like it cost us the game."
He was right on both counts.
QB Andy Dalton is going to have a shot at Rookie of the Year honors, but he might not be the best rookie on his team. WR A.J. Green made three huge catches against the Browns that led to scores, none bigger than his 51-yard leaping grab that he took to the 2-yard line and that led to the Bengals' game-winning field goal.
Green finished with three catches for 110 yards. It was his third 100-yard receiving day this season.
Beanie Wells showed he can be an elite back. All he did on Sunday was set the Arizona Cardinals' franchise record with 228 rushing yards, the second-highest total by a back this season behind DeMarco Murray's 253-yard outburst for Dallas (also against St. Louis, in Week 7).
Wells had a 71-yard run to set up a first-quarter field goal, and he gave Arizona a 13-10 lead with a 7-yard TD run in the third quarter. He had a critical fumble in the fourth quarter that led to a St. Louis touchdown but made up for it with a 53-yard run that set up the game-winning field goal.
SLEEPING IN THE OFFICE
Issues that will keep coaches awake this week:
As is the case in Philadelphia, the wheels have come off in San Diego. With a 16-13 overtime loss to Denver, the Chargers have lost six straight games, their longest single-season losing streak since 2001.
Coach Norv Turner defended his decision to play for overtime against Denver, even though the Chargers had a timeout and the ball at their own 40-yard line with 1:08 left in regulation. He said he was protecting his quarterback, but he looked like a man who was afraid he is going to lose his job.
Bears OC Mike Martz has his work cut out for him. In Caleb Hanie's first start for the injured Jay Cutler, Hanie threw three first-half picks that led to six Oakland points in the Bears' 25-20 loss. Hanie looked jittery and unsure and acknowledged after the game that he was antsy.
But there are positives upon which Hanie can build. He completed 10-of-18 in the fourth quarter for 175 yards, including an 81-yard completion to Johnny Knox. The Bears get Kansas City this week, then travel to Denver before hosting Seattle. Even with an unproven quarterback, there should be two wins there to keep Chicago in the playoff hunt while Hanie gets acclimated and Cutler heals.
Wade Phillips' defense is going to have to carry the Texans. Houston's first-year defensive coordinator has done a remarkable job this season, turning a defense that allowed a league-worst 267.5 passing yards per game a season ago into one that is second in the NFL, allowing 175.8 passing yards per game.
With the likely season-ending injury to QB Matt Leinart, Houston is down to third-string quarterback T.J. Yates. He was serviceable against the inept Jaguars. But unlike Jacksonville, the Texans' next opponent, Atlanta, can score. The Falcons have won five of their past six games, and Atlanta QB Matt Ryan has thrown nine touchdowns and only two interceptions in in his past four games.
Houston has a big problem at quarterback, which puts even more pressure on Phillips and his D.
Indianapolis is hurtling toward a perfect season. If the Colts can't beat Carolina, just whom can they beat? They aren't going to win at New England this week or at Baltimore the next. That leaves Tennessee, Houston and Jacksonville.
Indianapolis lost to Houston 34-7 in Week 1 (albeit when the Texans had a healthy Matt Schaub), to Tennessee 27-10 in Week 8 and to Jacksonville 17-3 in Week 10.
The bet here is that the Colts match the 2008 Lions' mark for futility and finish 0-16.
RANT AND RAVE
A player who will be under review today:
Roger Goodell needs to send Ndamukong Suh a message and suspend him for multiple games. This is not about protecting the shield. It is about protecting players. For Suh, who clearly does not get the gravity of the situation, one game is not enough. Goodell needs to get Suh's attention and sit him for at least two.
ESPN reported on Sunday that league sources said Goodell will suspend Suh for at least two games and that the league is also considering requiring Suh to attend anger management courses.
That would be a good idea.
By now, everyone has seen the footage of Suh repeatedly smacking the head of Green Bay offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith and then stomping on his arm in the third quarter of the Lions' loss on Thanksgiving. There is no place in the game for that kind of behavior. Suh was unremorseful after the game, but on Friday night he released a statement in which he apologized, calling his play "a mistake" and "unacceptable."
In 27 games in two seasons with the Lions, Suh has drawn nine personal-foul penalties and has been fined $42,500. The fines obviously are not having the desired effect. Forcing Suh to miss multiple game checks at $82,000 a clip might get his attention. It is one thing to be aggressive and another to be dirty, and Suh crossed the line awhile back.
Suh is hurting himself and his team. If he isn't forced to change his behavior, he is going to seriously hurt another player.
Notable tweets from around the league:
"Im just being myself man I dnt regret being the real me 24/7 and u shouldn't either. I dnt knock yall for gettin at me like this. Ima G haaa" -- @StevieJohnson13, the Bills wide receiver.
Ashley Fox covers the NFL for ESPN.com.
The biggest stories from Week 12 begin in Philly, where some fans have turned on Andy Reid and the Eagles.