One thing I try very hard to do after every game is approach the evaluation and apportioning of blame objectively. Rarely will you see me harping on the same thing week after week. There's a time to blame Michael Vick, for example, and a time to blame those around him. There's a time to blame Juan Castillo, and a time to give him a pass.
This week, for the first hours after the game finished, I couldn't figure out where to place blame. With 5 minutes left, the Eagles were up 10 points and had a 90 percent win probability according to Advanced NFL Stats. I'm sure I wasn't the only one anticipating a 4-2 record going into the bye, and a locker room full of optimistic players and coaches. The defense had held their ground against Calvin Johnson. The offense had started slowly but rebounded to take a commanding 4th quarter lead.
Then, almost inexplicably, the team collapsed. They had two offensive drives. Both flopped, one on a catastrophic scale. Both defensive drives were failures as well.
Plenty of blame to go around when something like that happens. Coaching, to start. Andy Reid deserves significant blame for allowing such a total failure. Castillo, who Nnamdi (Best Game As An Eagle) Asomugha seemed to point to for changing the play calling in the final minutes. Fletcher Cox for getting himself ejected. Nate Allen for getting himself hurt (kidding).
Ultimately, my ire falls on the units in the trenches. Reid has always said that you build your team from the lines outward. Somehow he's failed at that this year. The Eagles offensive line seems to be at a low point in Reid's tenure. A combination of injuries to two critical members, general lack of depth, a former first round draft pick who remains awful, and two generally solid guys having down years. Vick made two poor throws that resulted in interceptions, but otherwise played good enough to win. The offensive line nearly got him killed, though, culminating in a 3 play, -21 yard overtime opening drive.
The real head-scratcher is on the other side of the line, where the Eagles should be getting tons of pressure. As has certainly been parroted around Philadelphia by now, the defense has now gone 3 games without a sack. Just one, in the right situation, might have been enough to win yesterday's game. After the game, players like Cullen Jenkins and Darryl Tapp seemed as surprised as anyone else. They kept repeating mantras about teams using more protection, but there was little passion behind those excuses.
This team is now 3-3, which means that at least in the standings, they've made little improvement from last year's "unacceptable" performance. They better find some way to fix this, or the 2013 Eagles team is going to be the start of a new rebuilding era.
Photo from Getty.