More Sports:

September 15, 2015

Eagles have enough goats to fill a petting zoo

The Eagles’ opener wasn’t the sort of disaster that dooms a season, but there is no way to see much of a silver lining in the experience.

Instead of starting their season with the expected fireworks on offense, the Eagles opened with a fizzle in Atlanta on Monday night where they could not complete a connect-the-dots comeback against the Falcons.

There were more than a few characters who could wear a set of goat horns, starting with kicker Cody Parkey who missed a 44-yard field goal that would have given the Eagles a late lead, and a likely victory that turned into a 26-24 loss.

Parkey is the obvious candidate to be pinned with the loser label, but there was also a pair of horns on the head of head coach Chip Kelly. It was Kelly who did not engineer a game plan to run the ball consistently with DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews, and it was Kelly who did not have his team fully cranked and filled with high octane for the first game of the season.

There is also enough video evidence to paint some horns on Jason Peters, the prestigious lineman who really struggled in the first half, leading to a mountain of pressure on quarterback Sam Bradford.

On the other side of the ball, there are some fire-tinged horns in order for Byron Maxwell, who was torched by Atlanta receiver Julio Jones. Then again, the bigger horns might be in order for defensive coordinator Billy Davis who continued to allow that coverage scheme.

It was very obvious from the start that Atlanta’s first-year coach Dan Quinn knew Maxwell all-too-well from their days in Seattle, and he was more than happy to watch Jones toy with Maxwell. The final tale of the tape showed Jones with a couple of touchdowns and nine catches for 141 yards.

So, there you have the tale of woe, all of which led to a 17-point deficit in the first half. And a missed field goal.

On the other hand, the Eagles arrived in the second half with a swagger and a version of an offense that was more expected. Bradford sliced and diced the Falcons defense, and he used Jordan Matthews and Sproles as lethal weapons.

For a long stretch, the Eagles offense whirred through every possession and it appeared it would overcome the slow start. Mind you, the Eagles still did not use Murray and Ryan Mathews as the downhill runners that were supposed to stabilize the offense.

There were some good signs in the second half, but the NFL is a bottom-line business, and this is one that should have been in the win column -- and a loss like this in September can really hurt in December.

And that confidence in the running game came into play late when Kelly chose to attempt the field goal rather than go for a fourth-and-one. Depending on your point of view, it was a choice that was either obvious or curious.

You can lean to the choice as obvious because the Eagles would take a lead if the field goal was good, and you’ve got to take the lead that late in the game. There was also the fact that the Eagles had done a pretty good job of tamping down Atlanta’s defense in the second half.

The other side of the argument is that Parkey struggled in preseason, and well -- this is a Chip Kelly team -- and Chip Kelly is a guy who goes for it. Get the first down, use the clock to your advantage, and don’t put the ball in the hands of Matt Ryan with enough time to win the game.

The opinion here is that Kelly made the safe choice by going for the field goal. The Eagles defense had been solid in the second half and given a chance to take a lead, there was every reason to believe it could halt the Atlanta offense.

You can feel good about the Eagles pulling themselves back into the game, but you can not be blind to the fact that kicking is a huge part of winning in the NFL and the Eagles have a problem.

You also have to be concerned that the Eagles could not game plan against Julio Jones, nor could they really upset Ryan in the pocket.

There were some good signs in the second half, but the NFL is a bottom-line business, and this is one that should have been in the win column -- and a loss like this in September can really hurt in December.