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The Philadelphia Eagles' defensive player had barely left the parking lot outside of Lincoln Financial Field after Sunday's 30-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons when he came to the conclusion that so many people are making about his team.
"I won't say we quit because I don't believe in that," the player said, trying to find just the right way to mince the words while still making his point. "No way we quit. No way, no how."
Then came the inevitable hesitation.
"We didn't have no passion and you have to have passion in this game," the player elaborated. "You have to want to throw everything you are out on that field on every play. You have to feel like you're playing with your teammates and for the fans and your coaches. Nothing, nada. No energy, no passion."
This is what happens when a team doesn't believe in its leader. This is what happens when players think they are no longer part of something greater than the individual. This is what happens when a leader throws somebody under the bus rather than take a bullet.
And that, right now, appears to be the view of Philadelphia coach Andy Reid, who fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo two weeks ago in a move that smelled of self-interest.
The Eagles' game Sunday was a Waterloo moment, a time when the tide clearly turned against Reid. Prior to getting manhandled by Atlanta, Reid had been undefeated (13-0) when coming off a bye week. Additionally, the Eagles had regularly scored against Atlanta in meetings the previous two seasons.
But before this game was barely a quarter old, Atlanta was up 14-0 and the Eagles never seriously challenged again. The Falcons were up by at least a touchdown the rest of the way and usually up by at least two scores.
The Falcons had their way with the Eagles. Whether that was long drives (Atlanta opened with a 16-play, 80-yard drive that gobbled up nearly nine minutes) or quick strikes (wide receiver Julio Jones caught a 63-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter), the Falcons did as they pleased in this game.
"The media was getting on [Castillo] because he didn't make adjustments in the fourth quarter, but what's the difference now? We can't stop them in the first quarter," the player said, growing angrier and angrier.
Here are the winners and losers for Week 8:
The flipside of Philadelphia's defeat was the impressive performance by the Falcons, who truly controlled the Eagles for the first time in their three recent meetings. In 2010, the Falcons were no match for the Eagles and their great athleticism. Last season, the Falcons beat the Eagles in Atlanta, but it was a game in which they hung on (35-31) and did so only after quarterback Michael Vick was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter. The Falcons improved to 7-0 after beating the Eagles this season, but the deeper point is that Atlanta appears to be a drastically different team than the one that couldn't really control the tempo of these games the previous two years.
• The good folks in Indianapolis were a little miffed this week at all the attention directed at Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. Strong sentiment is that No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck continues to get overlooked, particularly in discussion about who will be the NFL offensive rookie of the year. Fact is, Griffin is like watching a James Brown concert. You don't know what's going to happen, but it's going to be awesome. With Luck, it's didactic. But when it comes to winning, Luck is now ahead of Griffin, four to three. Ultimately, that's all that really matters.
• Congrats to Atlanta wide receiver Drew Davis, who played in his first game after being activated this week from the practice squad. Davis christened his career with two catches on the opening drive of the game, including a 15-yard scoring reception. When asked where Davis came from, quarterback Matt Ryan answered, "Oregon." Ryan relented when the reporter said, "Yeah, got that, I meant figuratively." Said Ryan: "He's a guy who has kept at it and at it. He has been really focused on getting better, even when there wasn't an immediate payoff. That's hard in this business, but he was ready and we had a great design for him on that first drive."
• There had been some murmurs that the Miami Dolphins might be willing to part with backup quarterback Matt Moore, who lost the starting job to rookie Ryan Tannehill in training camp. However, when Tannehill was knocked out of the game Sunday with a bruised knee, Moore stepped right in and was ready. Moore completed 11 of 19 for 131 yards and one touchdown pass as the Dolphins hammered the New York Jets and improved to 4-3.
Cleveland Browns rookie Trent Richardson, who some thought might miss time with bruised ribs, showed why some scouts graded his toughness as off the charts. Richardson played despite the pain and finished with 122 yards on 24 carries, including the only touchdown in a 7-6 win over the San Diego Chargers. Richardson had only 8 yards on eight carries last Sunday when he got hurt, but responded with his fifth rushing touchdown and a season-high rushing total.
• Quarterback Matthew Stafford led the Detroit Lions to their third comeback victory of the season (that's all of the Lions' victories, as a point of fact). Stafford was particularly good in this game, throwing for three touchdowns and running for a fourth as the Detroit scored 28 points. That's the most that Seattle has allowed all season as Stafford showed no fear against that tough crew. Stafford threw 49 times, but was sacked only twice as he played with great poise and decision-making.
• A week after having five drops in a narrow victory over Cincinnati, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace was much better as he caught seven for 62 yards. That's not exactly dramatic stuff, but it was part of the way that the Steelers patiently peppered Washington's defense to take control with 27 points in the first three quarters en route to victory.
Pittsburgh fans can enjoy the fact that the Steelers limited quarterback Robert Griffin III to only 16-of-34, but it wasn't necessarily all the work of the Steelers' defense. The Redskins' receiving corps helped out with at least four dropped passes, including a possible touchdown pass that wide receiver Leonard Hankerson botched in the first half. That was a critical play that kept the Redskins from getting some much-needed momentum in the first half. Throw in the other drops and you had some obvious plays that could have made that game much more competitive. It marked only the second time in eight games that Washington has been held to less than 23 points this season.
• Speaking of Griffin, Mike Shanahan needs to cut this overuse of him. Yeah, we all know that Griffin III is a fantastic athlete, but he had another six carries in this game and continues to take a lot of undue shots. On Sunday, Shanahan went so far as to use Griffin as a receiver on a deep trick pass from wide receiver Joshua Morgan. The ball was batted away by Pittsburgh cornerback Ike Taylor (now, that's some respect from the Steelers) as Griffin collided with Taylor. The play would have been great if it had worked, but there's a point of diminishing returns with Griffin (who was even called for offensive pass interference).
• Of all the head coaches who might fall into the two-point conversion trap early in a game, you'd think that Jacksonville Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey would be one of the last. At one point in his life, Mularkey spent three years working as a marketing rep for IBM. Yet he fell to the temptation of trying to tie the game with 17 seconds left in the first half after closing within 14-12. Why is that a big deal? By the fourth quarter, Green Bay was able to build a 24-15 lead (the eventual final score), turning it into a two-score game instead of a chance for Jacksonville to tie the score late. Basically, with few exceptions, coaches are better off when they don't play for two points until the fourth quarter.
As much respect as I have for Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff, Sunday was a bad day. Westhoff's unit had two brutal plays. The first was a blocked punt that turned into a touchdown. That's the second block against Jets punter Robert Malone this season. Next, the Jets attempted an early onside kick that really didn't fool anybody as the Dolphins recovered it. The blocked punt was important as Miami built a 20-0 lead by halftime and cruised the rest of the game.
• Indianapolis Colts linebacker Jerry Hughes pulled a true loser's move Sunday after he combined to tackle Tennessee quarterback Matt Hasselback on a play just before halftime. As Hasselback tried to get up after the play, Hughes pulled his legs out from under him so Hasselback fell to the ground again. Yeah, it wasn't the most vicious thing to do, but it was useless and was the kind of play that easily could have drawn a personal foul if the refs had seen it. Cheap, loser move.
• Kansas City Chiefs center Ryan Lilja continues to have a brutal season. Lilja, a former guard, has been part of four bad exchanges with quarterback Matt Cassel that have resulted in turnovers. That's a big part of the 25 overall turnovers the Chiefs have had through their first seven games. Cassel, who came in when Brady Quinn left with an injury, was part of another one of those exchanges Sunday against Oakland.
• Speaking of Quinn, this guy can never seem to get things going. Given a chance to start for the second time since 2009 on Sunday, he was hurt after only four throws. While I still don't think Quinn is the answer for the Chiefs (or really anybody on the roster), it would be nice to see him get a real, extended shot. Quinn, a first-round pick in 2007, has played in more than three games in a season only once in his career.
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