EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 17: Offensive lineman Todd Herremans #79 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on against the New York Giants on December 17, 2006 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Eagles defeated the Giants 36-22. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Each week we'll take a look at the decisive play that proved to be the difference between winning and losing.
For the first time in a long time, quarterback Michael Vick wasn't the problem. In fact, if you were to make of list of all the reasons the Eagles lost to the Saints on Monday night, Vick might not even make the top 10. Near the very top, however, would be backup swing tackle Demetress Bell.
With just over two minutes to go in the first quarter and two plays after the Saints' Patrick Robinson took a Vick tipped pass 99 yards for a momentum-killing touchdown, Herremans had to be helped from the field with an ankle injury. Bell, the former starting left tackle who had been benched for King Dunlap, replaced him and promptly contributed to the offense's demise.
It's not fair to place the loss on Bell, but he wasn't without blame. Midway through the fourth quarter with the Eagles trailing 28-13, and 10 plays into a 13-play drive, Bell was flagged for ineligible player downfield on a screen pass. A 1st-and-goal from the Saints' 5-yard line was now a 1st-and-10. Two plays later, Bell was called for a false start, and a play after that he was abused by Cameron Jordan and Vick was sacked. Facing 3rd-and-goal from the 22, tight end Brent Celek fumbled a Vick pass, drive over. And that was a microcosm of Philly's evening.
Yes, Bell struggled -- but he wasn't alone. In fact, the entire offensive line proved on national television that they're undermanned and outcoached. Starters LT Jason Peters and C Jason Kelce are on injured reserve, and RG Danny Watkins missed the Saints game with an ankle injury. Looking ahead, depending on Herremans' diagnosis, the situation could go from bad to dire.
Overall, the Eagles made five trips to the red zone and came away with a whopping six points. You're not beating anybody -- much less a high-powered Saints team -- with that kind of production.
“It’s really frustrating to gain 400-plus yards and lose by the score we did,” DeSean Jackson said via CSNPhilly.com's Reuben Frank. “If we gain that much, we should score at least 30 points.”
“To go 0 for five in the red zone is awful,” Celek added. “I mean, we’ve got to be way, way better than that. We’ve got to score at least four times. At least. It’s just execution. … Things get tighter down there. We’ve just got to execute. Everybody’s got to do their job. You can’t make mistakes.”
Perhaps most demoralizing, the Eagles devoted a lot of practice time to their red-zone offense.
“We had so many opportunities in the red zone, and we just didn’t capitalize,” Vick said. “And that’s tough. We worked on the red zone all week, and when you get down there, you’ve got to score points.”
There's aren't (m)any positives to take away from this loss; the Eagles were thoroughly outplayed in all phases, and it's almost certain that coach Andy Reid has reached the end of the road in Philly.
If you're a glass-half-full type, here's your glimmer of hope: the Eagles have five division games left and even at 3-5 are tied for second in the NFC East 2.5 games behind the Giants.
If you're less optimistic, here's the reality: forget a playoff run, this offensive line is going to get Vick killed.