Mike Shanahan did something Eagles fans have urged Andy Reid to do for the better part of a decade. He took the pressure off of Donovan McNabb by running the ball early and often, and it led to a 17-12 victory. Throughout the game, Shanahan and his staff outcoached Reid and company thoroughly.
With all of the focus on McNabb coming into today’s contest, Shanahan and company ran the ball on 9 of the first 11 plays from scrimmage. “You get into a throwing game, especially here, in this environment with the crowd, usually you’re in for a long day,” Shanahan said. “So you have to establish the run and kind of build some play action off of it.”
Shanahan’s plan worked to perfection, as Washington gouged Philadelphia for 57 yards on the first 9 rushes of the game, including a 12-yard score by Ryan Torain on the Redskins first drive. The ground game set up a 31-yard touchdown from McNabb to Chris Cooley on Washington’s second drive, giving them a 14-0 lead that would hold for the entire game.
While the Redskins came out firing on all cylinders with 14 of their 17 points and 102 of their 293 coming on their first two drives, they didn’t generate much offense from there. Washington’slead held though, thanks to an excellent defensive game plan.
The Redskins entered the game with the 31st ranked pass defense, but held the Eagles to just 164 yards through the air through the first three quarters, with most of the Eagles gains coming late in the game. “They came out and played a lot of cover two,” Reid said. “Jim Haslett did a great job today. They played soft cover two, they were deepening up the corners and deepening up the linebackers.”
Reid also admitted that the defensive strategy caught the Eagles a bit off-guard. “They played a little bit of it [in the first three games], but not as much as they did today,” Reid said.
Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin echoed those feelings. “They kind of threw a little curve ball at us. Basically they said, we’re not going to let you get behind us, simple as that,” he said.
The coverage kept the Eagles from making big plays, with their longest completion being a 31-yard gain on a dump off from Michael Vick to LeSean McCoy that the Eagles running back broke for a big gain. Philadelphia’s wide receivers didn’t catch a pass of more than 17 yards, and even that gain came on a ballthat Jason Avant caught underneath and turned upfield.
Backup quarterback Kevin Kolb, who took over after Vick’s injury, said the key against that type of coverage is to execute well and not make mistakes on the passes underneath. “We have got to execute there a little better when we have the shots and then if not we’ve got to not make the mistakes whenever they do force us to check it down,” Kolb said.
On top of the strategies that Shanahan used to out-coach Reid, Philadelphia’s staff admitted the team didn’t come into today’s contest with the right level of intensity. “We’ve got to come out and breathe fire,” defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. “We didn’t do that. We played on our heels, we played passive and then we came out in the second half and played more aggressive, Eagles-style football. We’ve got to make sure we start faster next week.”
Reid was also concerned with his team’s 8 penalties for 80 yards. The Eagles are currently tied for second in the league with 319 penalty yards through four games. “There were way too many penalties, period,” Reid said. “We have to be way more disciplined than that. Normally we are, but again that falls on me and I have to take care of that.”
If the game plan and preparation weren’t enough of an issue, Reid compounded the problems by bungling a time management situation after a lengthy challenge and a timeout, allowing his team to take a delay of game that cost them a chance to go for it on 4th and 1 at the goal line.
Reid’s explanation revolved around a change in the spot of the ball, which affected his play call, but the Eagles didn’t notice the spot until they headed onto the field with fewer than 15 seconds on the play clock. After a rambling response that was neither here nor there nor anywhere in between, Reid summed it up in two words. “I goofed,” he said.
Reid also goofed after a fumble by LeSean McCoy on which his running back was ruled down. Tight end Brent Celek frantically motioned to the sidelines for a quick play-call, but none was forthcoming. Enough time passed for Shanahan to challenge, and the Eagles lost the ball.
At the end of the day, the Eagles lack of discipline and intensity and Reid’s poor game management were the main reasons they lost to an inferior Redskins team. On a massive stage at home, it’s hard to justify a lack of physicality and energy, but Andy Reid’s answers were the same as always.
The head coach is easily one of the two best the Eagles have had over the last 50 years and has won 118 games in Philadelphia, more than any of his predecessors. But he’s also uttered a familiar phrase all too often, perhaps more than 118 times. Reid used it again tonight.
“I have to do a better job of putting the guys in position,” Reid said.
Yes, he does.