PHILADLEPHIA — Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg had a simple solution Friday for the array of problems that have cropped up during the team’s three-game losing streak.
The players just need an attitude adjustment.
“Excellence is all about attitude and a certain mentality,” Mornhinweg said. “Those things are tough to explain, but it’s a certain attitude that we are the baddest men on the field.
“The last ballgame (a 30-17 loss to Atlanta), we were just a little too careful with our mentality. We have to be loose and free and not afraid to make mistakes. We have to be aggressive, aggressive, aggressive.”
As quarterback Michael Vick expressed Thursday, the lack of aggression was definitely a problem for the Eagles’ offense against the Falcons.
Having committed 13 turnovers in the previous six games, Vick said he played very cautiously on Sunday. As a result, he did not throw an interception or lose a fumble, but he also failed to generate enough big plays to win. He threw for just 191 yards and one touchdown and his longest gain was a short pass that wide receiver DeSean Jackson turned into a 32-yard gain by twisting away from Falcons cornerback and ex-Eagle Asante Samuel.
“I think I was just trying to cater to certain things and trying to be what everybody wanted me to be,” Vick said Thursday. “The most important thing now is I have to let it go. I have to get my swag back.”
Getting off to a good start offensively would help. The Eagles (3-4) have been outscored by a combined 40-7 in the first quarter this season and 87-38 in the first half.
If the Eagles are ever going to end their offensive slump, Monday night’s game at New Orleans would be the time. The Saints (2-5) have the worst-ranked overall defense in the NFL, allowing 304.6 yards per game. They also rank 30th among 32 in scoring defense with an average of 30.8 points per game. Every opponent has scored at least 24 points.
“First of all, we’ve got to do a better job tackling,” Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said Thursday in a phone interview. “We’ve got to play better on defense or it’s going to be a long year for us.”
The same can be said for the Eagles’ defense. Although the unit has played well for most of the season, it delivered an awful performance against the Falcons in their first game under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Atlanta scored touchdowns on its first three possessions and added field goals on their next three. The Falcons didn’t punt until the fourth quarter.
The Eagles ended their sack drought with two against Atlanta, but with nine total sacks they are still well behind last season’s pace, when they tied for the league lead with 50 sacks. Their eight takeaways are tied for fewest in the NFC.
They have a tough challenge ahead. Saints quarterback Drew Brees leads the NFL with 2,310 passing yards and is second in touchdown passes with 20.
“It wasn’t frustrating for me personally,” Bowles said Friday. “It was frustrating that we lost. It was frustrating that we didn’t play the way we normally play. But you write it off as a bad game and you look forward to the next week. As a whole, our defense has to get it done.”
The entire Eagles team has to get it done or their chances of making the playoffs could be in jeopardy. At 3-4, they are still in contention, considering only six NFC teams have winning records. But a few more losses could not only drop them out of the race, it could mean the start of an ugly season for the players, coach Andy Reid and the fans.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie stressed before the season that another 8-8 record like last season and a failure to make the playoffs would be unacceptable.
“We’ve gone through some hard times as a ballclub in the past and then have come out of it and played well down the stretch,” Mornhinweg said. “Last year (when the Eagles won their last four games), it was too late when we put it all together. We’ve got to put it together now. We’ve got to get going here.”
Extra points: Free safety Nate Allen (strained hamstring) did not practice Friday. If he cannot play against the Saints, David Sims — not Colt Anderson — will take his place. Sims, who was acquired in a trade from Cleveland on Aug. 31, was inactive for first game but has played on special teams the last six. He has yet to play defense in a game.
Wide receiver Mardy Gilyard (strained hamstring) also did not practice and was ruled out for the game. Rookie Damaris Johnson will be back as the Eagles' punt returner. Guard Danny Watkins (ankle soreness) sat out practice again, making it more likely that rookie Dennis Kelly will start for the second straight week.
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