Another game, another sluggish start for the Eagles offense.
I cannot say that this was unexpected, as the Eagles offense has failed to score a touchdown in the first half for the fourth time this season. I can say however, that this is the first time it is not Sam Bradford‘s fault. He finally looked comfortable in the pocket and was making some nice throws throughout the evening. The Eagles receivers on the other hand, could not have been worse last night. This is a group that most people knew were below average, but the amount of dropped passes lat night was disgraceful. Jordan Matthews, whom I thought would have a great year after catching 8 touchdowns a year ago, looks like he has forgotten how to catch. The first pass that went his way went right through his hands and for an interception. In the second quarter, Bradford threw a perfect pass that went right off of his hands which could have been a first down. It almost seems like it is a mental problem for him at this point. I did not think I would see a game where Miles Austin would be the Eagles most reliable target. That was the sad reality last night as he was second on the team in receptions behind Zach Ertz. It is really just unfathomable that Chip wanted to invest all of that money into DeMarco Murray, who by the way, is not their most effective runner, and let Jeremy Maclin walk. I can see the rationale of not paying Maclin $13 million but it would have been spent better there. This receiving corps is the worst the Eagles have had since Freddie Mitchell, Todd Pinkston, and James Thrash.
I am also on record criticizing Chip Kelly for neglecting the offensive line and I bashed them for how bad they played. However, over the last couple of games they have done their job. Even with Jason Peters going down last night, Bradford was kept relatively clean. Matt Tobin stepped in and played as well as you could have asked. They have played so well that only Eli Manning and Andy Dalton have been pressured more than Sam Bradford this year.
Possibly my biggest issue with the game was the lack of involvement for Ryan Mathews. In the third quarter Mathews ran for a 63 yard touchdown which was the only score for the Eagles. He would finish the game with 6 carries. I cannot begin to understand why he is not more involved in the offense. He was the leading rusher last night and has averaged 6.1 yards per carry. If you remember back to week 3 when they played the Jets, Murray was inactive. This was coming off the Cowboys debacle in which the Eagles rushed for SEVEN yards. Mathews goes out against the best run defense in the NFL and rushes for 108 yards on 24 carries. He would also add a receiving touchdown in that game. The fact that your most effective runner only gets six carries in a game is astonishing to me. There have been reports that Ryan Mathews was injured, but Eagles writer for CSN Philly Reuben Frank disputed that right away.
The defense had its moments last night but was pretty average overall. They forced three interceptions on Cam Newton which is turning into their calling card. They have now forced a turnover every game this year. They also allowed their first 100 yard rusher for the first time since Frank Gore ran for 119 yards in week 4 last year. There were two plays in particular that defined the game, and was a like a microcosm of the season. On first and goal, Bennie Logan gets a neutral zone infraction. One the very next play, he gets another neutral zone infraction. Bennie, you are lined up over the ball! This ended up leading to a Cam Newton touchdown run. He has played very well this season but that is just inexcusable.
In the end, the Panthers were the better team. They took advantage of the Eagles deficiencies just like an undefeated team should do. All of these issues discussed comes back to Chip Kelly the GM and Chip Kelly the coach. He is the one that paid for Murray over Maclin essentially. He is also the one who is not utilizing his personnel the best way he can. Over the second half, Kelly has got to become a better game manager and game planner. This is the division to be in at the moment with no one really taking control. Coming out of the bye the Eagles will take on the Dallas Cowboys, in another must-win game.