In the ebb and flow of the NFL season, some games look better on paper than others. For the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday's Week 5 tilt against the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road in the Steel City was a red flag. Do I think the Steelers are a better team than the Birds? No, although I'd put them in the same class. But when you're coming off a prime time game where you retire a legend's number and narrowly edge the defending Super Bowl champs, who happen to be a division rival, and you're heading into a hostile environment to play a team that rarely loses at home and happens to be coming off their bye week, it's a red flag week.
Steeler fans will riddle the comment section with shots saying that all Eagles' fans do is make excuses, although I'm a singular fan writing at my own discretion without weighing the opinion or asking the permission of anyone else in Philly. The fact that this was a red flag game is not an excuse. The Steelers came in and, in a must-win situation to avoid going 1-3, did just enough to get out of there with a win -- a win they deserved because the Eagles continue to find ways to give games away.
The disappointment in the Eagles' loss in Pittsburgh Sunday isn't that they lost to one of the best organizations in the NFL, it's that despite all the red flags, they had every opportunity to win, go to 4-1, and establish residence at the top of what will be a knock down, drag out NFC East. They didn't get the job done. Good teams like the Steelers find a way to win games they should win. And at home off their bye, there are just a hand full of teams the Steelers shouldn't beat. Good teams like the Eagles will often lose games in these red flag situations. Great teams would take a lighter to that flag, go into Pittsburgh, and bury a team that played no better than well.
The Eagles have an identity crisis. To a man, I believe that they believe they're elite. They are sadly and woefully mistaken because they are so sadly and woefully mistake prone.
The mistakes start at the top with head coach Andy Reid and coordinators Juan Castillo and Marty Mornhinweg. As a head coach, you can't allow your team to be left with one timeout inside two minutes of a one-possession game. Reid allowed it. Mistake one.
As a defensive coordinator, although your base defense has played well, you have to be able to dial something up to put someone on your D in a position to make a big play. Castillo's game plan was much too conservative. Mistake two. It was as if he looked at Pittsburgh, a black and blue team from the black and blue division, and said, "No tricks. Your guys versus my guys." Well Juan, your guys were beaten at the point of attack by a running back playing his first game of the season in Rashard Mendenhall. Your guys were beaten at the point of attack by an offensive line that is the weakness of this Pittsburgh team. Your guys, who led the league in sacks in an otherwise dismal effort last year, haven't gotten to the quarterback in nine quarters running.
As an offensive coordinator, you have to put the ball in your best player's hands when you need a play. LeSean McCoy is by far the Eagles best player. Yes, I know the Giants stopped him three times from the one in Week 4, but I'm giving him the ball anyway. Michael Vick is erratic at best right now. While he still possesses an ability to make the big play, when I'm on the one, I want McCoy to have the ball. Vick had it. He fumbled. That's on Vick and Mornhinweg. Mistake three. Three strikes and you watch a field goal sail through the uprights and you pack up your gear and go home.
As for Michael Vick, he really didn't play all that bad. He made two huge mistakes. But these are the kinds of mistakes he's constantly made since the start of the 2011 season. Until he stops, the Eagles are nothing but a good team.
And good teams lose red flag games.
Pete Lieber is a freelance writer and a Philadelphia sports enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter at @Lieber14.
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