Philadelphia Eagles vs. Denver Broncos: Takeaways from Philly's 52-20 Loss
The very first takeaway from the Philadelphia Eagles' humiliating 52-20 loss to the Denver Broncos is that was difficult to watch. If you're a Philadelphia fan of any kind, you must be some kind of masochist to watch the Birds fail in literally every phase of the game for 60 consecutive minutes.
Yeah, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and his receiving corps are incredible. That doesn't explain how the defense completely shut down a Chip Kelly offense featuring Pro Bowlers Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson, or how the head coach's starters on offense were outscored 14-13 by Denver's special teams.
It was the most awful kind of game you could imagine, even if you thought the Eagles had no chance to win from the start. Seemingly everything that could have gone wrong did, and teams simply can't give Manning that many chances to beat them and expect to be in the game at the end.
No surprise, most of our initial takeaways should detail why Eagles fans will be requesting entrance into a witness protection program on Monday—because if you saw it, this one will come back to haunt you. However, there are a few silver linings that should prove it's also not quite the end of the world.
Did We Mention Peyton Manning Is Kinda Good?
The Eagles were not expected to win this game to begin with, and you could see why. Peyton Manning is better than he's ever been—if you can believe that—and he's having his way with any defense he encounters.
One of the greatest quarterbacks of all time completed 28 of 34 attempts for 327 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. Manning has now completed 75 percent of his passes this season for 1,470 yards, 16 touchdowns and still zero interceptions. Zero! For all intents and purposes, he is perfect this season.
If the score hadn't been 52-20, you could almost excuse the Eagles for losing to the guy. Heck, you still can. Honestly, what could they have done to stop him?
LeSean McCoy Is Hurting
Running back LeSean McCoy carried the ball 16 times for 73 yards on Sunday. He had his signature juke move going, although the explosive big plays were missing, as "Shady" recorded a long gain of just 15.
A lot of that was the Broncos, who entered the game with the NFL's top-ranked run defense. The huge creases that McCoy has had every other week simply were not there for the most part on Sunday.
Then again, while it doesn't explain his average performance (by his standards), it was quite clear McCoy was not 100 percent going into the game. He left the game for an Eagles possession in the first half, which was reportedly due to his getting the wind knocked out. Then later, he was caught on camera grimacing after a carry.
That sounds like it has something to do with the ankle McCoy injured 10 days ago against Kansas City. Yeah, he's toughing it out and the impact on his ability may be minimal, but best guess here is it's definitely still bothering him. Birds fans better hope it doesn't linger much longer.
DeSean Jackson Marginalized in Passing Attack
For the second week in a row, the opposing defense was able to all but erase wide receiver DeSean Jackson from the offensive game plan. In Week 3, Kansas City limited "DJacc" to 62 yards on three receptions. Week 4 was even worse, as Jackson hauled in just two receptions on six targets for 34 yards.
Once teams take care of Jackson, the Eagles haven't had much to work with. The top receiver for Philadelphia on Sunday was tight end Brent Celek, who led the club with three catches and 57 yards. The only touchdown went to special teamer Jeff Maehl—in garbage time via backup QB Nick Foles.
Teams taking Jackson out of the game is nothing new and has frustrated the Eagles offense the past few seasons. In the past, though, it had Jeremy Maclin to pick up the slack, but unfortunately he was lost for the year to a torn ACL back in training camp.
There is no question the Birds have really missed Maclin the past couple weeks, as nobody else seems to be able to get open on a consistent basis.
What Pass Rush?
Peyton Manning hasn't been sacked more than 21 times in a season since 2002. On average, he's typically sacked right around twice per game. He gets the ball out fast and reads most blitzes, so he's difficult to pressure.
That said, the front seven for the Eagles was essentially invisible on Sunday. Cedric Thornton was credited the club's lone sack on the day, while Fletcher Cox was the only other defender who even registered a hit on the quarterback. That's two hits on 35 dropbacks.
It's not like it stopped the run either. Denver had 33 rushes for 141 yards and a touchdown, and its 4.3 yards per carry would've been better were it not for garbage time.
I'm not a defensive coordinator. I don't know how you get a pass rush on Peyton Manning, who doesn't care if you blitz or not, he is carving you up. That said, the Eagles didn't have any at all 99 percent of the time, and against the Broncos receivers, that's going to put any secondary in an impossible situation.
Special Teams Are a Complete Mess
Anybody who spent one day at Eagles training camp could immediately notice the emphasis on special teams. Different facets were practiced on a daily basis, typically in multiple periods. The quality of the unit even played into many of the Eagles' roster decisions this summer.
It has not equated to success in that phase of the game, I'm sorry to report. Philadelphia has been having problems on special teams almost every week, and they all came to a head on Sunday.
For starters, the Broncos scored two touchdowns on special teams—one on a kick return, another on a blocked punt. Alex Henery also missed a field goal, couldn't be trusted to kick a 55-yarder and wasn't able to boom kickoffs out of the end zone even in the Mile High air.
That same Mile High air caused punter Donnie Jones to boot a few kicks into the end zone.
Overall, special teams are far from what cost the Eagles the game, but they did not do anything to help stave off the Broncos either—or the Chiefs...or the Chargers.
Chip Kelly Played It Safe
"Big Balls Chip" was one of Chip Kelly’s more off-color nicknames from his time in Oregon. He had no problem going for it on fourth down or for the two-point conversion in almost any situation.
Yet as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, Kelly elected to play it safe on several instances in the astounding loss to the Broncos.
There was the 4th-and-5 in the red zone where he opted to take the three points. There was either a 4th-and-6 or 55-yard field goal where he instead took a delay-of-game penalty and punted the ball away. And there was passing up a two-point conversion that would've tied the game in the second quarter for the safe extra point.
Not one of these plays mattered even remotely in the grand scheme—heck, every last one of them was arguably the right play. There is no question, though, that Chip Kelly called a conservative game against the Broncos in Week 4, for better or worse.
NFC East Still Up for Grabs
So the Eagles' record fell to 1-3. This season clearly is going nowhere fast. In fact, it's over.
Except Philadelphia is in the NFC East, a division that is a powerhouse no more.
The Dallas Cowboys fell to 2-2 with their loss to San Diego on Sunday. Washington managed to get its first win of 2013—against the Raiders—and the Birds own a win on them. The New York Giants are 0-4—and not the improving kind of 0-4.
Did the Eagles look like a team that has any business competing for a playoff spot on Sunday? Of course not, but it was only one game. The fact is they play in awful division, and anything can happen over the final 12 game. If you had any faith to begin with, try to keep a bit of it going forward.
Rebuilding vs. Super Bowl Contender
A few things are fairly obvious and don't require expanding upon. Peyton Manning picked the Birds secondary clean. Michael Vick was nowhere near capable of keeping up, fewer weapons or not. The Broncos are significantly better than the Eagles.
Well, that last one was a given before the two teams even kicked off. Denver was a Super Bowl favorite heading into this season, whereas most folks didn't pick Philadelphia to win more than six or seven games.
Painful as days like this are, the Eagles are rebuilding and happened to run into an elite squad early in that process. They lack a franchise quarterback, their defense doesn't have the personnel for the scheme they are running, and the depth is a weakness due to years of bad drafting.
Chip Kelly can still turn this around and make the Eagles competitive the rest of the way—their schedule is about to get a lot easier, so that should help. But mainly, losses like this are part of a lengthy process. You can only hope a year or three from now that they come out on the other end able to hang with anybody.
Or perhaps even be on the other side of this type of stomping.