Staff writer Steve Fini looks back on five players who had an impact in yesterday’s 24-23 loss at the hands of the 49ers.
The Eagles followed one of their worst regular season losses in recent years with an even worse performance Sunday. Don’t expect a breakdown filled with gushing praise.
Alex Smith (QB/49ers) – Another mistake prone quarterback who has a breakout game against the Eagles’ defense. Smith, who has been the downfall of the 49ers in recent years, came up “big” against the Eagles’ trillion dollar defense.
Even though he took a beating, he never made the play that killed his team. He guided the 49ers to 21 unanswered points in the second half, including a game-winning drive in what may have been his most impressive start as a professional to date.
As Philadelphia Daily News football scribe Paul Domowitch noted, 154 of the 49ers’ 291 receiving yards were by tight ends and running backs–that’s smart, efficient play by a quarterback who knew his opponent’s weakness and took advantage of it. (For the season, Domowitch points out, running backs and tight ends have 40 receptions for 478 yards, and six touchdowns.)
Michael Vick (QB/Eagles) – Over 400 yards passing, 75 yards rushing, and two touchdowns…and he doesn’t get the win. This was NOT Vick’s fault. Despite a mounting list of injuries, Vick was very good on Sunday. He made plays when they needed to be made. When a team loses, it’s natural to blame the quarterback. And Vick has to take at least partial blame for conducting an offense that scored only three second half points.
Still, he made strong throws, cut down on his mistakes after the first quarter, and was the parimary reason his team built a 23-3 lead. Keep in mind that it wasn’t Vick who called the horrendously designed goal line plays, nor did he blow a 20-point lead.
Kyle DeVan (RG/Eagles)– An offensive lineman has a good day when he goes unnoticed, so if I’m adding DeVan’s name to this list, it’s not a good sign. DeVan was terrible in this game. On the Ronnie Brown goal line debacle, it was Devan who was blown off the ball. What’s more, if Danny Watkins, the Eagles first-round draft pick, can’t beat out DeVan for a starting spot, then what a terrible pick he was for a team in “win-now” mode.
The interior of the Eagles’ offensive line has been getting pushed around on short-yardage plays for much of the year, but DeVan’s ineptitude stood out. Not only did he struggle with his blocking, he was flagged for critical penalties, too.
Danny Watkins, if you’re reading this (and you’re not), get your head out of your ass. Experts called Watkins the next Jon Runyan. Fine–let’s see it. Or better yet, let’s see Jamaal Jackson at center and maybe Jason Kelce at guard. Or King Dunlap. Or Howard Mudd himself. I think Mudd on a “Rascal” could get a better push on third and goal.
Patrick Willis (LB/49ers) – If someone told me that I could choose any player in the NFL to add to this Eagles team, it would be him. He is the best middle linebacker in the game and completely changes how other teams have to play the 49ers. LeSean McCoy has been running rampant on every team the Eagles have played, yet he had no running room in this game. He wasn’t even able to get loose on passes.
He carried the ball only nine times and was a non-factor for much of the game. Willis’ size/speed/instincts combo parallels the skills of Ray Lewis. Even if he doesn’t make the tackle, teams are so concerned about him that it allows their other players to roam free.
Navorro Bowman is a really good young linebacker for the 49ers and he played well Sunday. I just don’t know how great he would be, or any of the other 49ers defenders for that matter, if they didn’t have Willis on the field with them.
Andy Reid (Eagles Head Coach) – Anyone watching Eagles games can see a complete lack of identity, cohesion, and urgency.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg can’t find ways to get Desean Jackson the football without having Vick throw deep into double coverage. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo looks completely lost when it comes to putting his players in a position to be successful. This team is on ten different pages and it shows as they squander leads late in games.
This all comes back to one person, though. That person is head coach Andy Reid. I’ve backed him more than most people, but the one thing I can’t get past is that he picked these coaches and wanted to sign these players. He went into this year with a bulls-eye on his chest, and the Eagles stand at 1-3 after four weeks. He needs to step up and take control of the offense (if Mornhinweg is really calling plays) or find a new defensive coach if Castillo–the guy he hand-picked, can’t handle the job. Or at some point, though as impossible as it may seem, he’s going to lose his.