PHILADELPHIA — Eagles coach Andy Reid’s streak of success in games after regular-season open weeks came to an ugly end at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
Reid had never lost after having a week off in the regular season, having won 13 in a row from 1999-2011. The Eagles didn’t come close to making it 14 straight, suffering a 30-17 loss to the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons.
A few thousand fans didn’t attend the game and the stands were virtually empty by the end of the third quarter, when the Falcons led 27-10. The quick departures may have been due to the looming threat of Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the East Coast, but the Eagles’ effort may also have contributed to their early exits.
“I understand (the fans leaving early),” Reid said. “That was an embarrassing performance.”
Nothing went right for the Eagles (3-4), who suffered their third straight defeat.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and company tore through the Eagles’ defense, which was playing its first game under defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Bowles was promoted from secondary coach two weeks ago after Reid fired Juan Castillo.
The Falcons (7-0), the league’s only undefeated team, scored on its first six possessions. Ryan, a Philadelphia-area native and Wildwood summer visitor, threw three touchdown passes in the first half. He completed 22-of-29 passes for 262 yards and a 137.4 efficiency rating.
“For us to come out and play like that was very disappointing,” Eagle cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. “But that’s not on Todd; that’s on us. Our backs were against the wall and we still just flat-out got beat.”
Despite their many problems in the first quarter — the Falcons jumped to a 14-0 lead — the Eagles provided a glimmer of hope for the fans who did show up when running back LeSean McCoy’s 2-yard touchdown run cut the gap to 14-7 with 8 minutes, 23 seconds left in the first half.
The Falcons wasted little time in regaining the momentum. Julio Jones streaked past cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and Ryan hit his wide receiver in stride for a 63-yard touchdown.
“What happened today was not indicative of Todd as much as our inability to do the things we’ve been doing so well this season, like tackling and covering (receivers),” Asomugha said. “For us to come out and play the way we did, it’s very disappointing. Obviously, they are a good team, but we are a good team, too. I’m in a state of disbelief that this happened.”
The Eagles’ offense wasn’t much better.
Aside from McCoy’s two touchdowns, quarterback Michael Vick and company accomplished very little. Vick committed no turnovers but also failed to generate any big plays. He completed 21-of-35 passes for 191 yards and one touchdown.
Although Reid did not mention it, Vick indicated after the game that he might be headed to the bench in favor of rookie quarterback Nick Foles, perhaps as soon as the Eagles’ game in New Orleans next Monday.
“It’s obvious (Reid) is thinking about making a change at the quarterback position,” Vick said.
The Eagles have to make some changes if they want to save the season.
A team that was expected to challenge for the NFC East title and perhaps even make it to the Super Bowl is struggling. Unless it can find a way to get back into contention, this could be Reid’s last season with the Eagles.
“Of course I’m disappointed because I hate to lose,” middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “But we don’t feel like the season is slipping away or anything like that. We can easily turn this around. All it takes is one win and you go from there. But we have to turn it around right now. The sense of urgency has to happen right now.”
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