“[I]t’s not what anyone expected from the golden-armed redhead on opening day.” — Mary Kay Cabot on Brandon Weeden
“I did not see a guy that was starry-eyed. Not at all. … I’m not discouraged at all.” — Pat Shurmur on Brandon Weeden
“Aw, man, I gotta get out of Cleveland. I gotta get out of Cleveland.” — Michael Vick on Cleveland
If you wondered how the Eagles finished 8-8 last season despite a roster supposedly loaded with talent, or if you wondered what coaching tree Pat Shurmur was plucked from, you’re wondering less after watching Philly average over 5 yards per carry yesterday with one of the league’s best running backs (even with three plays of 10+ yards called back on penalties), yet insist on calling 60 pass plays to 23 runs. After the Browns pulled within four points in the third quarter, the Eagles went three straight series without a single rushing attempt, resulting in two three-and-outs and a throw by Michael Vick straight into the arms of D’Qwell Jackson, who returned the interception for a touchdown. This kind of imbalance in play calling is something Eagles fans have been “lament[ing] for over a decade,” and here’s Philly head coach Andy Reid’s response to the latest round of complaints:
“We thought we saw some things there for the pass game. They were giving us some coverages that we thought we could take advantage of. We hit the one before the half and thought we could come back and get them again there.”
Naturally folks want to be excited about a “heroic” performance by the Browns defense, so if you’re following: A heroic defense allows its opponent to gain 456 yards of offense (more than all but one defense in the NFL allowed in Week 1 — i.e., “second worst”), including by getting rolled up for a 90-yard touchdown drive with a six-point lead in the game’s final minutes when a hold would have guaranteed a win. This same heroic defense couldn’t stop the run at all, allowing its opponent to gain more than 5 yards per carry. Yet despite that the heroic defense’s opponent didn’t need to put the ball in the air at all to average a first down every two plays, the opponent’s head coach was so tantalized by some weakness he saw in heroic defense’s pass coverages that he couldn’t resist airing it out even though his quarterback had been playing like an epileptic toddler all afternoon.
So it’s not just that remotely sober play calling by Reid would have resulted in an Eagles blowout, it’s that even a D-minus performance by Vick probably would have, too. Which isn’t to say the Browns shouldn’t be congratulated for mostly catching the ball when Vick threw it to them.
If you didn’t see it yourself and don’t want to take it from us, here’s Zac Jackson at Fox Sports Ohio: “Vick threw into double and triple coverage all day.”
And here’s Andrew Kulp at The 700 Level: “[On two of Vick's four interceptions, he] twice had a comfortable pocket, made a bad read, and proceeded to throw right into coverage.” [Another one of the picks bounced off of Jeremy Maclin's hands right into Joe Haden's.]
Cf., Mary Kay Cabot at the Plain Dealer: “[T]he ball-hawking crew picked off Michael Vick four times[!!!!!!!!!]”
Oh, hey, Brandon Weeden. Good luck finding a worse performance by a Browns quarterback in history, and note that Pat Shurmur isn’t discouraged at all, because he’s not allowed to be. Which is sure to continue to play well in the Browns locker room.
The good news about yesterday is that we saw what people mean when they talk about how hard it is for a team to finish 0-16 in the NFL. There will inevitably be those weeks when your opponent will do everything they can to give you the game like the Eagles did yesterday. The bad news is that the Browns still couldn’t take advantage, and 0-16 is as much in play as ever. Andy Reid won’t be the only one to see some coverages to take advantage of on yesterday’s tape.