Lack of touches for LeSean McCoy not to blame for Eagles' loss
Jeff McLane, Inquirer Staff Writer
Posted: Tuesday, November 13, 2012, 1:37 AM
Nine out of 10 times when Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg are criticized for their unbalanced play-calling, it is justified. But after Sunday's 38-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys it was not. LeSean McCoy had only 16 carries, so the gut reaction may have been to scream that the running back was underutilized and that's why the Eagles lost.
Reid's explanation on Monday was that he spotted McCoy because he was still sick and didn't practice much last week. But setting that aside, the decision to give the tailback limited touches was not egregious. When the Eagles led late in the third quarter, 17-10, McCoy had 12 carries for 62 yards. The offensive game plan - one that featured mostly quick throws to compensate for a weakened offensive line - had worked well until that point.
After Dallas evened the score at 17, the Eagles called for a pass on the first play of their next possession. Nick Foles threw an interception, but the Cowboys were called for defensive holding. On the first down do-over, McCoy ran 2 yards up the middle. Perhaps Mornhinweg could have gone to him again, but he called for a pass on second down and Foles was pressured and threw the ball away. On third down and long, Foles dropped back again but was hurried and chucked the ball out of bounds.
The Eagles were forced to punt and Dwayne Harris scored on a 78-yard return.
Down by seven on their next series, the Eagles threw on first down, with Foles hitting Brent Celek for 14 yards. McCoy got the ball on the subsequent first down and gained only 3 yards. Foles dropped to pass on second down and threw a slant to DeSean Jackson, but the pass was behind the receiver, the ball was tipped, and Brandon Carr of the Cowboys returned the interception 47 yards for a score.
Down by 14 with 12 minutes, 19 seconds left, the Eagles understandably tilted toward the pass. They didn't score on their first possession, but punched it in on their next one. McCoy rushed two times during the drive - for 9 and 6 yards - and it could be argued that he could have seen the ball more often on the previous possession. But McCoy's lack of carries was about sixth or seventh on the list of why the Eagles lost this one.
Rewind the tape
Harris' game-turning punt return for a touchdown occurred, first and foremost, because of a complete breakdown by Bobby April's punt coverage team. But when you slow down the tape, several Eagles stood out for the wrong reasons. Linebacker Casey Matthews took a poor angle on Harris, overran the play, and appeared to ease up as the returner raced by. Same thing with linebacker Jamar Chaney - bad angle, slow recognition, and a lack of effort. Mat McBriar did little to try and corner Harris out of bounds, but it's difficult to pin much blame on a 33-year-old punter with a bum foot.
In the spotlight
1. We know how tackles King Dunlap and Demetress Bell played Sunday. They were abysmal. But how about rookie Dennis Kelly in his third straight start? He wasn't as bad, but he had plenty of struggles. Kelly missed a block on McCoy's third carry of the game. He failed to pick up Ernie Sims blitzing from the A gap when the linebacker hit Michael Vick and apparently caused his concussion. Kelly didn't stay with his block long enough on a McCoy run on third down just before the half. He had plenty of problems containing Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff in the second half. He also failed to pick up a twist from defensive tackle Anthony Spencer that led to a sack, a forced fumble, and a touchdown that sealed the game.
2. The Eagles defensive line showed signs of life, but mostly for reasons other than the play of Jason Babin and Trent Cole. The starting defensive ends were non-factors again. Babin played 28 snaps but failed to make a single play that made the stat sheet. He had trouble getting off blocks all game and was hardly double-teamed. He failed to bring Tony Romo down during the Dallas quarterback's Houdini-like scramble in the third quarter. Cole was a little more active, but he was exploited in the running game when Felix Jones scooted by the charging end for 15 yards in the second quarter.
3. After a couple of subpar performances following the bye, Nnamdi Asomugha had perhaps his strongest game in coverage. Romo targeted the Eagles cornerback only once all game with a short slant to Dez Bryant to open the third quarter that was batted away. Asomugha missed another sure tackle when Jones took a screen pass and scored from 11 yards out. He wasn't the only one who failed to bring down the tailback, but Asomugha had him lined up. He did a fine job of containing Lance Dunbar to a short gain earlier in that drive.
What Andy said
On whether he still had the same passion as a head coach he had early in his career:
"Yeah, I do. I love what I do."
What Andy meant
"Yeah, to anyone else that may be listening - cough, the Chargers, cough - I do. I love what I do."
Jeff McLane Inquirer Staff Writer
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Posted 13 November 2012 - 09:42 AM