Todd Bowles unable to solve Eagles’ defensive issues so far
Following their last game, a 26-23 overtime loss to the Lions in which they blew a 10-point lead late, the Eagles fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and replaced him with Todd Bowles. Philadelphia’s first half on defense under Bowles: 252 total yards and 24 points allowed against Atlanta. Juan Castillo’s defense allowed 20.8 points and 330.8 yards per game.
Is there a Plan C here?
Not that the Eagles are alone this season in being torched by Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense, but any boost they hoped to get with a coaching change over their bye week never arrived. Ryan had as many incompletions as touchdown passes in the first half: three. Ryan finished 22-of-29 for 262 yards and those three touchdowns in a 30-17 Atlanta win.
The Eagles also failed to come up with a sack of Ryan prior to halftime, making their relatively strong effort against the run (55 yards on 19 carries for Atlanta) mostly meaningless.
Things were bad enough when Philadelphia left Drew Davis all alone for a 15-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. The most glaring example of the Eagles’ issues, though, came on a 60-yard Ryan-to-Julio Jones scoring strike in quarter No. 2. On that play, Jones just ran by top Eagles corner Nnamdi Asomugha down the sideline, then outraced Philadelphia’s safety help for an easy six points.
The situation improved only slightly after halftime. While the Eagles held the Falcons to just six points combined in the third and fourth quarters, Atlanta still scored on its first two scoring drives, grinding out long, time-killing drives.
The first possession was a 13-play, five-minute effort that resulted in a Matt Bryant field goal; the second ate up 4:19 and 10 plays, then culminated in another Bryant kick. Each of those drives also involved big plays — Jones hauled in a 37-yarder en route to Bryant’s third-quarter FG, and Jacquizz Rodgers broke free on a 43-yard run later.
Philadelphia finally forced Atlanta’s first punt of the game with 5:40 to go in the fourth quarter, with the Falcons still on top 30-17.
This all circles back, however, to the point many people made in the first place when Castillo was first: Philadelphia’s problems appear to go deeper than just needing a change on defense. Counting the fourth quarter of the game vs. Detroit and the first half Sunday, the Eagles allowed 41 points in 45 minutes of game action.
But prior to that, Philadelphia held three of its first five opponents under 20 points and did not allow more than 27 in any game.
The offense has been and continues to be a real issue for the Eagles. That was still the case Sunday, despite Philadelphia actually holding onto the football — the Eagles did not commit a single turnover.
Andy Reid likely needs to make the playoffs to keep his job, so with the Eagles at 3-4, is there another huge move around the corner? Among the choices would be benching Michael Vick in favor of rookie Nick Foles.
Right now, the Eagles don’t have a lot of answers. And that includes on defense, where Bowles’ arrival did little to pick up Philadelphia.