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July 22, 2014, 7:24 am

Overhyped Eagles off to a 1-3 start

  • Written by ROB MAADDI
  • Published in Football

PHILADELPHIA — This Dream Team is a nightmare.

A popular pick to reach the Super Bowl after a free-agent spending spree brought several big-name players to Philadelphia, the Eagles (1-3) are last in the NFC East with a quarter of the season already over.

The Eagles' latest loss was their worst one yet. They wasted a 20-point lead in a 24-23 home loss to San Francisco on Sunday, and now have blown fourth-quarter leads in three straight games.

Coach Andy Reid doesn't seem to have an answer, except pointing the blame at himself. He's done that following nearly every loss during his 13 seasons in Philadelphia.

"I'm in the business of finding the problem and solving the problem," Reid said Monday. "I know we have good enough players and coaches to do it. I've seen enough glimpses of what this thing can be when it's operating right and it's important that we get it there."

Playcalling has certainly been questionable. For whatever reason, the Eagles can't score inside the red zone. They are particularly inept inside the 5. They've handed off to the fullback, tried quarterback sneaks and done everything but give the ball to their best runner, LeSean McCoy.

On a third-and-1 from the 49ers 1 in the second quarter, Ronnie Brown fumbled on a run-pass option. Brown, who ran the wildcat offense in Miami, got stuffed at the line of scrimmage. So, he turned around and inexplicably tried to throw the ball. It was recovered by San Francisco.

With Michael Vick and McCoy in the backfield and super wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin on the team, it's unknown why the Eagles would try a gadget play from the 1.

"I didn't do a very good job on that one," Reid said. "Maybe I should've called a different play there."

No matter the calls, players still have to execute and they've clearly been unable to do so. Fundamentals are also a problem. The Eagles were driving for a go-ahead score when Maclin failed to protect the ball and fumbled with just over two minutes left, allowing the 49ers to run out the clock.

"We all had high expectations and we still do," Vick said. "Don't get me wrong. It's still a long season and we just have to dig deep. We've got to dig deep. There's really nothing else to be said. It's self-explanatory. It's right there for everybody to see what is taking place, how it's been done, what hasn't been done and what needs to be done. I think that's just the bottom line."

Still, despite the red-zone struggles and two missed field goals by rookie kicker Alex Henery, the offense did enough to win. Vick threw for a career-best 412 yards and the Eagles racked up 513 total yards.

The major issue again was the defense.

Teams are having their way against the Eagles, especially in the second half. Philadelphia has been outscored 36-0 in the fourth quarter in the last three games.

Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo has come under heavy criticism for his schemes and the perception that he can't make necessary in-game adjustments. Reid's decision to move Castillo from his longtime spot as the offensive line coach to the defense sure looks like a huge blunder.

But Reid stood by Castillo and all of his coaches.

"The coaches will stay intact, but we have to thoroughly evaluate everything," Reid said. "Listen, I think Juan is doing some good things. If you ask the same question about myself and the other coaches and the players, there are some good things that we're doing and a lot of things we need to work on. I'm telling you it's not one person. It's all of us pulling this thing together and doing our jobs together."

The Eagles overhauled their defense in the offseason, starting with the firing of coordinator Sean McDermott. They made four significant acquisitions: cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, defensive end Jason Babin and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins. Babin and Jenkins are playing well. But Asomugha hardly looks like the two-time All-Pro who received $60 million in free agency. Perhaps he's uncomfortable playing in a system that requires him to play zone at times instead of man-to-man coverage, which he excelled at.

"Our issue right now is we are unable to close out games," Asomugha said. "We have to be able to close out games. You can't come into that last quarter and not be able to pull it out, especially when you're winning."

The Eagles head to Buffalo (3-1) next week to play the surprising Bills. They don't play another home game until Oct. 30 against Dallas.

By then, it could be a lost season.

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Notes: DE Trent Cole (right calf strain) and LT Jason Peters (left hamstring strain) both are uncertain to play against the Bills. Reid called both injuries "fairly significant." ... DT Antonio Dixon tore his triceps and needs surgery that will likely end his season. ... DE Juqua Parker (high ankle sprain) and DE Darryl Tapp (pectoral strain) are making progressing, Reid said. -- (AP)