Eagles' Defense Takes Startling Step Backwards Without Castillo: A Fan's Take

Yahoo Contributor Network

The Philadelphia Eagles had all eyes on their defense when they faced the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 28. For two weeks, Eagles fans like myself had debated whether firing Juan Castillo would really work, and whether Todd Bowles could fix what ailed them. However, despite all of Castillo's flaws, he never let the defense get as bad as it got against the Falcons.

Even last year's Eagles didn't let an opponent score on its first six drives, or go without punting for 55 minutes. But while Castillo never let things get that bad, Bowles was another story, as the Eagles couldn't stop the Falcons en route to a 30-17 defeat.

After Atlanta converted third down after third down in a 16-play, nearly nine-minute opening drive, it was hard to see things getting worse from there. Yet the Falcons ate up several more minutes on their next drive, ending the first quarter with a 14-0 lead and over 13 minutes of ball control.

The Eagles had a brief window of opportunity when they came back and opened the second quarter with a touchdown. One stop by the defense could have put a band-aid on and given Philadelphia time to get on its feet. Instead, once Julio Jones burned past Nnamdi Asomugha for a 63-yard touchdown, the game was over then and there. For good measure, the Eagles then let the Falcons rack up three straight field goals to drain the rest of their life out.

For all of the defense's faults under Castillo, it never got ran over like it did by the Falcons, at least this season. Even their blowout loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 23 didn't get this embarrassing. But we can't say whether Castillo would have done better than Bowles, although it couldn't have been that much worse.

After so many narrow losses and tight games, maybe the Eagles were due for a spanking like this. Then again, Philadelphia had put the lid on more explosive teams like the New York Giants, Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens beforehand. Atlanta is now the best team in football, yet Matt Ryan and company hadn't been this overwhelming in over a month.

If Castillo was still on board and had coached in this game, then it would have been more than all right for the Eagles to fire him. Instead, because they fired him prematurely by about two weeks, the Eagles have no scapegoats to hide behind after this loss. Since they can't fire Bowles after a week, and since Michael Vick didn't turn the ball over - and since Jeffrey Lurie doesn't have the will to fire Andy Reid right here and now - there is no one to blame but the Eagles themselves.

Now it doesn't matter who runs the Eagles' defense, as the Falcons proved how weak and inconsistent it really is. And if the defense can't win close games - or keep them close to begin with anymore - then it virtually doesn't matter if Vick and Reid keep running things either.

Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.

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