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Red Zone Issues Spoil Birds In San Diego

Jan 15, 2009, 7:38 PM EDT

The Eagles dropped an ugly but wild one out west today, which had Donovan McNabb attempt 55 passes for 450 yards and nearly rally the team from a 19-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately it was too little, too late for a club that failed to convert touchdowns on three trips to the red zone, including a first down from the 1 yard line.

Occasionally the calls coming from the sideline can be defended. That often was not the case today, beginning with Andy Reid's decision not to attempt 4th and goal from the 1 yard line. It's an almost automatic spot to go, given that failure to convert pins the other team in their own end zone anyway. Particularly down 14 already, it seemed like a peculiar place to take 3 points.

Their subsequent two trips to the red zone resulted in field goals as well, the second of which saw Reid abandon the running game on a key 3rd and 1 play. In fact, Philly backs carried the ball just 12 times the entire afternoon, and although the passing game was very productive, it doesn't make things any easier when the head coach goes into his shell like that.

Having said all of that, by the end the defense had an opportunity to stop the Chargers, and for the second week in a row, they failed to give their offense a meaningful chance with the football. A lot can be said for a poorly coached game costing them, but this unit that hasn't made it count when it matters most.

It's not entirely their fault. Injuries certainly have something to do with it. Chris Gocong was ineffective at middle linebacker today, and Moise Fokou could develop into an excellent player, but he makes too many mistakes and draws too many penalties. Sheldon Brown was also injured, which put career special teamer Dimitri Patterson in an even bigger role than expected.

And then there is Asante Samuel. When he is on, it's always a major risk throwing to his side of the field, but he costs them in so many other ways. Today it was a completely wide open 20-yard TD pass to match his general unwillingness to tackle. It ultimately wound up killing any chance they may have had on 3rd and 2 with 2:45 to play, when he "slipped" rather than try to keep Legedu Naanee from making it to the sticks.

It's not a terrible loss in the grand scheme of things. The Eagles slip to 5-4 in an NFC filled with 5-4 teams. The fact that it's another loss out of conference gives them a bit of an advantage over the rest of the group. Still, there are a lot of reasons for concern after the last two weeks. The penalties aren't going away, short yardage is suddenly an issue again, and now it's obvious their red zone problems haven't gone away. Add it all up with all the injuries, it doesn't appear things are moving in the right direction.

But it's too soon to quit on them, whatever you may be thinking after this one.


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