Andrew Perna. 21st September, 2009 - 1:30 pm
There was one huge question mark heading into Week 2 of the NFL season. Would the Philadelphia Eagles be able to beat the New Orleans Saints and their high-powered offense with Kevin Kolb starting at quarterback?
Kolb answered that question very early Sunday afternoon when he connected with wide receiver DeSean Jackson on a 71-yard touchdown pass on the team?s first offensive drive.
Soon after, however, it became apparent that Philadelphia?s defense, which absolutely dismantled Jake Delhomme and the Carolina Panthers in Week 1, looked more like a JV squad than the elite unit they resembled one week earlier.
Let?s run this week?s routes and make sense of what went down at Lincoln Financial Field.
Hitch: Opening Drives
For the second straight week, the Eagles allowed their opposition to reach the end zone on the first drive of the game. Marching down the field just as the Panthers did in Week 1, the Saints culminated their opening drive with a 15-yard touchdown reception by receiver Marques Colston.
Against Carolina, the unit bounced back and allowed just three more points all afternoon en route to a 38-10 season-opening win. Obviously, that was not the case against the Saints, who possess the league?s most potent offense through the first two Sundays of 2009.
Slant: Kolb Delivers
Kolb?s numbers look both good and bad when viewing them on paper, but the truth of the matter is he played much better than many expected in his first-ever NFL start. I, for one, had very little faith in the Houston alum, calling for Andy Reid to give the start to veteran Jeff Garcia, who I felt would give the Eagles the best chance to improve to 2-0 on the season.
We can?t project how Garcia would have done, but it?s unlikely that he would have vastly outperformed Kolb, let alone engineered enough offense to overcome the 48 points that New Orleans hung on the heralded Eagles? defense. I would like to apologize to Mr. Kolb for my lack of faith. Based on what he showed in his first start, beating the Chiefs shouldn?t be an issue should he start as expected in Week 3.
While he obviously made some poor throws (i.e. the three picks) only two throws really stood out in my mind following the loss.
-- The first was Kolb?s worst pass of the afternoon. At his own 8-yard line, Kolb missed Jackson on 3rd-and-5 with a pass that was sure to result in a first down. Kolb missed his target by several feet, stopping the clock and forcing the Eagles to punt with roughly 90 seconds left in the first half. Two plays after the punt, Brees found Colston on a deep pass for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown. Instead of entering the half tied, or with the lead, Philadelphia trailed.
-- The second came after the Saints scored on a Brees pass to Heath Evans, set up by Ellis Hobbs? fumble on the second half kickoff. With New Orleans energized by the turnover and ensuing touchdown, Kolb made a poor throw intended for Jackson that was intercepted close to Philadelphia?s end zone. A little over a minute later, Mike Bell carved through the defense for a 7-yard score. Before a majority of the crowd had returned from their bathroom and beer runs, the Saints had a commanding 31-13 lead.
Regardless, he threw for two touchdowns and 391 yards against the Saints, fairing better than Matthew Stafford in his first NFL start against New Orleans just a week before.
Post: Special Teams
Even without Hobbs? fumble to start the third, I would have picked on Philadelphia?s play on special teams. They committed five penalties on kicks/punts, many of them needless illegal blocks and all of them unacceptable. As I mentioned last week when slamming Jackson for drawing a flag for excessive celebration, the Eagles are supposed to be one of the most disciplined teams in the NFL. They are tied with the Rams and Buccaneers with eight penalties per game this season, sixth most in the league.
Fade: Inspector Gadget
Midway through the second quarter I lost count on the number of different offensive packages and formations coach Andy Reid used against the Saints. In theory I get what he was trying to do, keep the defense on their heels with an unproven quarterback, but Kolb proved early that he could stand in the pocket and made a pass when the offensive line gave him enough time. He was hurried often, but rarely did Reid?s gadget plays produce much.
Late in the third quarter Brian Westbrook, lining up at quarterback in the Wildcat, missed fullback Leonard Weaver on a sure-touchdown pass. The throw was high and Weaver wasn?t able to complete what would have been an impressive, juggling catch. You can?t fault either Westbrook or Weaver, and two plays later Kolb found Jason Avant in the end zone on a traditional play out of the shotgun.
Leave the offensive wrinkles for when they are needed, not when trialing by three touchdowns and using a green signal-caller. I realize Reid may have been simply trying things out in a game-situation against a live defense, but it would have been nice to see him give Kolb full confidence in leading the team.
Cut: The Jekyll and Hyde Defense
A handful of sacks and seven takeaways against the Panthers had many listing the Eagles as one of the best defensive teams in the league yet again. The only reason many even gave Philly a chance to defeat New Orleans without Donovan McNabb was that Brees and Co. surely wouldn?t be able to explode as they did in Week 1 against Detroit. They were right; the Saints actually scored MORE against the Eagles.
No one expected Sean McDermott?s defense to hold the Saints to 10 points and fewer than 250 yards of total offense, but I figured they?d be able to limit them to the 20s while giving the offense a chance to win the game.
However, the defense couldn?t out-leap Colston, keep up with Devery Henderson or Reggie Bush or tackle Bell. The unit isn?t as good as we saw it against the Panthers, nor is it as bad as it was against the Saints. They are probably somewhere inbetween, with the personnel to make big plays when needed. Akeem Jordan?s tip interception was a thing of beauty and Quintin Mikell is turning into a capable leader.
They are relatively young and I thought they had a nice dose of speed, but they looked a step slow against the Saints. Bush and Henderson simply out-gassed Philadelphia?s defenders on multiple occasions, which is a weekly occurrence for New Orleans. The men in gold-and-black were simply too fast for those in green.
Andrew Perna is Deputy Editor of RealGM.com and co-host of RealGM's Radio Show. Please feel free to contact him with comments or questions via e-mail: Andrew.Perna@RealGM.com. You can also follow Andrew on Twitter: APerna7.