Eagles' season teetering on brink of collapse after 'embarrassing' defeat

by | Senior NFL Columnist
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The Eagles need to fix what's wrong, though firing Juan Castillo hasn't exactly worked so far. (AP)  
The Eagles need to fix what's wrong, though firing Juan Castillo hasn't exactly worked so far. (AP)  

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles are in deep, deep trouble, and it's not too soon to say their season is imperiled.

We're not even halfway through the year, but consider this: The Eagles not only are stuck in a three-game slide, but they just lost by 13 points when they committed no turnovers for only the second time this year and when they were coming off a bye.

So what? So the Eagles were bulletproof after byes. In fact, they were 13-0 under Andy Reid until Sunday's 30-17 torching by the Atlanta Falcons, a loss Reid accurately labeled "embarrassing."

OK, so that can happen. But this can't: The defense that was the backbone of Reid's past teams absolutely cratered under new coordinator Todd Bowles, producing one of the most disgraceful performances -- maybe the most disgraceful performance -- of any Philadelphia defense in years. Players couldn't tackle, couldn't pressure the pocket, couldn't stop the run, forced no turnovers, surrendered big plays and couldn't make a third-down stop when it mattered.

In short, it flat-out stunk.

That wasn't supposed to happen under Bowles, who replaced the fired Juan Castillo, but it did -- with Philadelphia surrendering a season-high 30 points in a contest that wasn't a contest at all ... and that's why anyone remotely close to the Eagles should be concerned. Because they weren't just beaten; they were annihilated, with Atlanta scoring the first six times it had the ball, converting seven of its first eight third downs and three times producing drives of 12 or more snaps -- basically doing anything it wanted, when it wanted.

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"We didn't show up," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "Whatever we could do wrong we pretty much did it."

The defense that was supposed to improve under Bowles didn't. It regressed, playing so poorly you wonder what's next, with the Eagles traveling to New Orleans. But the Saints aren't this team's problem. The Eagles are. Because this team isn't good enough to beat most opponents right now, and I'm not just talking about what's going on with the defense.

The offense hasn't been right all season, yet Sunday's defensive collapse shifts attention away from an underachieving unit that can't produce points, especially early. You can look it up. The Eagles have exactly one first-quarter touchdown all season, and, sorry, that's not supposed to happen with this lineup.

Granted, the offensive line is missing its two top players (center Jason Kelce, tackle Jason Peters), but that's no excuse for the team's failure to produce more than 19 points in five of its seven games. This is: Quarterback Michael Vick commits too many turnovers and not enough big plays. Star running back LeSean McCoy doesn't get enough touches. Wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson aren't the downfield threats they once were, with Jackson -- who gained a megabuck extension in the offseason -- reduced to one touchdown. In fact, there is no downfield passing game.

So the offense isn't right, the defense just collapsed and a club that was supposed to have an abundance of talent is going down, down, down in the NFC East, with Sunday's humiliating loss a wakeup call for everybody.

Bottom line: The Eagles are in deep kimchi.

"This was a big game for us," said Vick, "and one we needed. Collectively, we need to win it all together, and we just found ourselves in a position where we didn't do it. We didn't play the way we know we can play. Like coach said, it was flat out embarrassing."

Vick is right to remind listeners that a response must come "from everyone; it's the 22 guys on the field and 11 guys on special teams." Right now, the Eagles aren't getting a response from much of anyone, and Reid can point the finger at himself -- he tried after the latest self-immolation -- but what's going on here has more to do with a football team that just may not be that good.

I know, Atlanta is the league's only undefeated club, so the Falcons must be doing something right. But they should've lost to Carolina and could've lost to Oakland. Plus, this was the right time and place to catch these guys. Atlanta is a dome team, but it was outdoors and playing in rain that preceded the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. What's more, the Eagles were coming off a bye, when they always, always, always have been at their best.

Yet it didn't work. In fact, it was Philadelphia's worst performance of the year, with disgruntled fans leaving in droves by the fourth quarter.

"This is a gut check," Jenkins said. "You can say the right things. You still can say, 'Yeah, we've got to work on this or work on that.' But we're just not doing it. It's as simple as that. We're just not doing it, and we've got to."

I would say that about sums things up.

Of course, now the question is: Where is there reason to believe Philadelphia can get its act together? I mean, the Eagles just fired their defensive coordinator, and they were worse on that side of the ball, not better there. And while the offense didn't commit a turnover, their playmakers continue to underperform, and maybe that's just what who they are, folks.

"This is fixable," said Reid, "and we've got to get it right."

Maybe. But anyone with suggestions is urged to contact Reid immediately. All I know is that there's a feeling of helplessness in Philadelphia, and there should be.

"You can go from the outhouse to the penthouse in one week," said Bowles, "and right now we're in the damned outhouse."

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