BY PAUL MANCANO—It’s been a week of doubt, hurt, and distrust for Eagles fans. Following a frustrating loss to 49ers on Sunday, in which the already legendary Chip Kelly offense seemed to have missed the flight from Philly, Birds fans just want someone to blame. The problem is the fault lies with all too many; Kelly, the offensive line, LeSean McCoy, Riley Cooper, Nick Foles, to name a few. After a loss like that, it’s hard to find any silver linings in Chip’s playbook.
So what do you, Bob the Eagles fan, do after such a loss? Move on. And what better way to forget about an infuriating loss than taking on Austin Davis and the St. Louis Rams.
Fresh off an early bye, St. Louis sits at 1-2 on the year with the sole win coming against the lowly Buccaneers. They’re 27th in the league in total offense and 12th in total defense (both ranked by yards). But against the Vikings, Bucs and Cowboys, the undrafted rookie Davis has looked pretty much how you would expect a quarterback to look against the Vikings, Bucs and Cowboys: very good. He’s converting 72% of his passes with three touchdowns to three interceptions—all without wide receiver Tavon Austin. Their defense is still young, but has great potential.
Certainly there are some reasons for concern in this one. Every Philadelphia sports journalist itches at the opportunity to bring up the Joe Webb game in 2010, using it as a prime example of an “any given Sunday story” staring a terrible quarterback in a “trap game.” The story repeated itself last year in an embarrassment at the hands of Matt Cassel in Metrodome last December. Could this be another trap game?
To put it bluntly, no. The Eagles are too angry about the loss in San Fran to play with a lackadaisical attitude this Sunday.
What worries me more, however, is the speed at which this team can bounce back.
We saw how it took two straight games of offensive impotence against the Cowboys and Giants in October of last year before the team unstuck itself from the rut. Against Dallas, Nick Foles played his worst game as a pro before a concussion forced into the game an equally terrible Matt Barkley in his stead. The next week, Michael Vick basically rolled himself onto the field in a wheelchair against New York before Barkley once again quieted his praisers with another poor performance. In those two games, Shady McCoy rushed for a combined 103 yards on 33 carries. As Chip named Foles the starter against the Raiders, the fans panicked. Then Foles threw seven touchdowns and the Eagles went on to win five straight.
All to say, it’s happened before, and the Eagles have overcome it before.
How will this year’s team respond to an offensive power outage? Will Sunday’s game play out like last year’s Giants game or Raiders game?
Our panel of Meese weighs in:
THE ’CUSE MOOSE (Paul Mancano)
Eagles 20, Rams 17
On the day of Lane Johnson’s return, we will finally see the defending rushing champion in midseason form. And it’s a good thing too, because I think Foles will struggle again. His recently slow decision-making will allow him to be gobbled up by St. Louis’ front seven. On the defensive side, the Eagles are pounded by the run yet again, meaning the undrafted Davis won’t have much to do for the day. Ultimately, it’ll come down to the leg of Cody Parkey in the fourth quarter, and for the second time this year, he’ll get it done. Before the season started, I predicted a three-point Eagles win. I stand by that point spread, but after watching the Eagles struggle to put up points, I’m looking at a lower score.
CHIP JIM KELLY
Eagles 28, Rams 17
This game will be won in the trenches. (It’s a cliché but it’s actually true this time, I promise). With the return of Lane Johnson, the Eagles will get some better blocking up front, helping out the Birds’ passing and running game. Foles will have more time to make decisions and throw without ending up on his back every play, and the receivers can and will get open with the extra time. Shady will need to find holes to run through. It’s an absolute must. The Rams passing defense is the third-best in the league, but their run defense stumbles in at thirtieth. This is something the Eagles absolutely have to take advantage of in order to grab the win. However, if the Eagles defense plays like it did against the 49ers, the much weaker Rams will have a tough time putting points on the board. After a tough loss in Santa Clara (you know, where the 49ers pretend San Francisco is), the Eagles will without a doubt get back on track with a win at the Linc. I mean… this is the team that got absolutely manhandled by the Vikings in Week 1. Looking for a big win here for the Eagles, hopefully one that can get the playoff chase back on track after a depressing loss to the Santa Clara 49ers.