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Eagles starting to show their desperation

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 05:38 AM

Callahan

Eagles starting to show their desperation

11:27 PM, Nov. 8, 2012



PHILADELPHIA — The failed special teams trick play Monday night against the Saints not only didn’t work for the Eagles, but the gimmick call is also a microcosm of this muffed season.

The design play by special teams coach Bobby April on the throwback across the field that went for a touchdown to Riley Cooper only to be called back when Brandon Boykin committed an illegal forward pass truly punctuates the ineptitude of the first eight games on many levels.

Bravely looking back to the New Orleans game, which is like playing catch with sharp knives, the background for the failed trick play, which is the poster play for the season, is the Saints scored to take a 28-13 lead with 1:26 left in the third quarter. Then, Boykin fielded the kickoff at the 4-yard line, but threw the ball to the 7-yard line to Cooper, who had been laying down in the end zone.

This one play showed the Eagles failure this entire season on four levels: desperation, preparation, execution and repetition.

The first level is the most critical. If the season weren’t on life support, Reid never would have told April to dial up the throwback on the kickoff. But, Big Red knows the season has lost any traction to just reach last year’s mediocre mark of 8-8, which of course “isn’t good enough,” according to owner Jeff Lurie.

If Reid felt Michael Vick could march the offense 80 yards in 12 plays against a historically bad Saints defense, well, he never would have called for the throwback. But, as you know, desperate times calls for desperate calls. And Reid already played one desperation card with the firing of defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. Right now, the Eagles are more desperate then a band of starving Desperados with their last drop of water in the desert.

The preparation, especially the last two weeks when the Eagles were gashed by Atlanta and New Orleans from the opening kickoff, appeared as if they didn’t even practice. The focus of the Eagles looks lost by pregame warm-ups. Really, where do you start when analyzing disaster of the game plan and play calling this season? It’s like trying to explain how a hurricane hits the Jersey Shore, followed by a November nor’easter delivering snow.

The throwback play also wasn’t prepared properly. April said the play is in each week, but acknowledged he wished they had practiced it more for New Orleans. Ouch.

“We thought that just the way the Saints deploy their coverage and so forth that this would be a good time to bring it out,” April said Thursday. “So, we haven’t practiced it a lot, and that’s on me.”

Then, there is execution, or more precisely the failed execution of Boykin throwing the ball ahead of him instead of behind, which also captures the failures of this season.

Reid repeatedly says he has to put the players in better position. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg espoused the same meaningless mantra Thursday only to sound like he is campaigning to be the next head coach here.

Guys on both sides of the ball have been put in position to make plays. The defensive line not getting to the quarterback or the secondary not tackling isn’t because they aren’t in position. The defensive line actually lines up in the Wide Nine to get to the quarterback. They just aren’t executing.

“We’ve got to make plays; we’re in position,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said.
The final flaw of repetition perhaps is the scariest and saddest aspect of the failed throwback that mirrors the season. Usually, repetition is good. But, for the Eagles it only means repeated mistakes.

April said he would use this throwback play again this season, which can only mean the kickoff coverage team probably will intercept the throwback pass for a touchdown after seeing Cooper lying down in the end zone.

But, this would fit nicely into the repeated mistakes this season, easily seen when Mornhinweg continued using an empty backfield against the Saints with the same results of Vick scrambling when not sacked.

“I have felt it was one of our strengths up until the last ballgame,” Mornhinweg said.

There is another common thread coming from this season to the failed throwback. There are excuses for both.

As for the throwback, April said: “There’s a lot of moving parts to that deal and it takes a lot of cooperation.”

Not to be outdone, Mornhinweg offered his own excuse for the failures in the Red Zone.

“They have the 12th man and I’m talking about the end line, so things are happening quick,” he said.



Reach Kevin Callahan at kcallahan@gannett.com