By MATTHEW WATERS Staff Writer — email@example.com ________
Last season seems like it was just weeks ago, especially when the same mistakes and inefficiencies lead to losses.
The Eagles lost their first game of the preseason Friday night to the Cincinnati Bengals 22-9, and it’s easy to figure out who contributed to their score. Kicker David Akers went 3 for 3 on the night, finishing what the offense started but could never finish.
The first two drives were stagnant for the Eagles’ first-team offense, with two straight three-and-outs, with the second ending because running back LeSean McCoy couldn’t convert a third and one. The next series lead to first down thanks to two back-to-back catches by wide receiver DeSean Jackson, but a third and nine attempt to Jeremy Maclin went south as he caught the ball, stretched for the sticks and had the ball knocked loose by ex-Eagle Dhani Jones.
Quarterback Kevin Kolb, who finished 11 for 17 for 126 yards, did everyone the pleasure of stating the obvious during a sideline report.
“We need to get a couple first downs and get into that rhythm,” he said. “I think that’s what I think will kick-start an offense a lot of times. If we had gotten a couple of five or six play drives, it would help us.”
That’s why you appreciated Maclin’s efforts to get the first down, even though he lost the ball. On the next drive, Kolb went back to Maclin again on third and four. This time, the pass was only two yards, and Maclin had to force the issue again — and fumbled again. The Eagles recovered, but still had the punt and lost Maclin for the rest of the game because of a shoulder contusion. Everyone knows contusion is just doctor speak for a bruise, but on an offense that hasn’t gotten it’s feet under them just yet any injury is a bad one.
The next two drives by the offense lead to field goals by Akers, though the final drive should have been capped by a seven-yard touchdown from Kolb to wideout Jason Avant. But offensive lineman Jason Peters drew an illegal formation penalty for not lining up on the line of scrimmage, and Akers came out to hit the 25-yard field goal after the Eagles couldn’t score on third and long.
Kolb looks at the first-team offense’s performance as a learning opportunity.
“What I like is that we’re getting a lot of different looks,” he said. “We are seeing a lot of different things, so we’re learning every single day. We’re learning every game. That’s what you want right now, especially with a young group, including myself. We want to learn every time we’re on the field. We learned a lot today and we can get better from it and it’ll help us during the season.”
Someone needs to tell him they can learn while scoring touchdowns as well.
On a positive note, the first-team defense got a true test tonight thanks to the Bengals’ offensive weapons in quarterback Carson Palmer, running back Cedric Benson and the narcissistic wide receiver duo of Chad Ochocinco and newly acquired Terrell Owens. Even with star cornerback Asante Samuel out with one of his trademark hamstring injuries, the first teamers let up just one touchdown on a two-play drive in the second quarter that was made possible by a 43-yard reception by Philadelphia’s favorite ex-receiver Owens.
Aside from getting burned on that one play, the Eagles defended well with two interceptions and a lot of hard hits. Safety Quentin Mikell was the star on defense Friday with five tackles, all solo, and a 15-yard interception.
“Well, ideally you want to hold them to zero points,” Mikell said of the Bengals’ offense. “But, at the end of the day we just want to see us flying around, making plays on the ball, getting turnovers and getting big plays. And that’s what we’re about.”
The tone for the defense was set on the second drive for the Bengals. Gaining ground through the air and with the ball in Benson’s hands, the Bengals looked as though they were destined for at least three points when cornerback Dimitri Patterson stepped in front of Owens and intercepted a pass to return it close to midfield. Mikell said Patterson’s play put the defense in motion for the night.
“Yeah, anytime you get turnovers and big plays, that’s what it’s about on defense,” he said. “No doubt about it, man. That’s a good offense, they’ve got some good receivers and I think we had a pretty good game. We had a couple picks and made some plays. They had one play on us but we came back. So, that’s what we want to see at this point in the year.”
In less relevant news, backup quarterback Michael Vick went 1 for 5 for six yards with two interceptions, for a stellar passer rating of 0.0. Third stringer Mike Kafka didn’t do much better, going 4 for 12 for 29 yards and another two interceptions for a 2.8 passer rating. Both quarterbacks stats dropped sharply from the first game against Jacksonville, and many fans who were clamoring for Vick to get a chance to start after his performance last week were surely quieted Friday night.
As for the rookies, wide receiver Riley Cooper had a quiet night with two receptions for 22 yards while Brandon Graham made his way into the stat sheet for the first time as an Eagle with three tackles including two for losses, one being a thunderous sack on backup QB J.T. O’Sullivan.
The Eagles take their 1-1 record to Kansas City next Friday to face Matt Cassel and the Chiefs.