Reid Has No Answer For Struggling Defense

The Eagles defense would appear to have the talent to succeed, but they've been constantly victimized. Sunday night, it reached epic proportions as the Colts ran their way to a 45-21 beating of the Eagles.

The Eagles' inability to stop the run has been elevated from a problem to a major concern after they gave up 237 rushing yards to the Indianapolis Colts Sunday in a 45-21 loss.

It was the third time in their last four games that the 5-6 Eagles have been torched for 200-plus rushing yards. In those four games, they've given up 801 rushing yards at an alarming 5.3-yard-per clip pace.

Fearful of getting filleted by Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson went with one less linebacker and an extra defensive back in the loss, which weakened the Eagles' run defense even further. But even when Johnson went with his normal 4-3 base package, Colts running backs Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes ran at will against the Eagles.

Addai rushed for 171 yards on 24 carries and had four rushing touchdowns. Rhodes added 68 yards on 15 carries. The Colts were so successful on the ground that Manning threw the ball a season-low 20 times, though he averaged 9.1 yards per attempt.

"We need to continue to work on our tackling," Eagles coach Andy Reid said of a defense that once was one of the best in the league at tackling.

"We just didn't make the plays out there. I'm going to step up and tell you it starts with us, as coaches, and I've got to continue to take a close look at that and make sure we're putting the right guys in the right positions. And then it comes down to guys making plays when they have the opportunity."

By Monday, Reid was a little less willing to accept all of the responsibility for the problems. "Each guy needs to start with himsels, amking sure he is doing the right thing and then us [the coaches] schematically putting them in the right position to do it, but I believe it can be fixed," said Reid at his Monday press conference.

The fact that safeties Brian Dawkins and Sean Considine recorded 17 tackles against the Colts tells you all you need to know about the playmaking of the Eagles' front seven.

"I thought we were aggressive, but we had too many blown assignments. It comes down to assignments and schemes," stressed Reid. "The mental part of it, I thought they were emotionally ready."

The Eagles' undersized front four is getting pushed around by opposing offensive lines and their linebackers can't get off blocks to make plays. That includes Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, who was noticeably down after the loss. For the first time, Trotter admitted that he doesn't see an answer for the Eagles' defensive problems. "If you had asked me three or four weeks ago, I'd have said ‘yeah' [we can fix it]. But it seems like we're in the same position every week, so I don't know anymore."

"It was very tough to find a way to stop (the run)," defensive end Trent Cole said of the Colts game. "It got to be too late (by the time we did)."

Defensive tackle Sam Rayburn doesn't believe the Eagles problems at stopping the run stem from a lack of talent.

"We definitely have the people to stop the run," he said. "We just didn't do it. They just found what worked and exploited it. They played better than we did."

Two weeks ago, the Eagles gave up 209 rushing yards to Tennessee in an ugly 31-13 loss. Jim Johnson said at the time that he wasn't concerned because the bulk of it came on a couple of big plays. But what he saw Sunday against the Colts had to concern him. Addai and Rhodes kept running through them.

Reid wouldn't say whether he'll make any defensive lineup changes next week when the Eagles face Carolina. But it certainly will be a consideration. The problem is - he doesn't have many attractive options. Shawn Barber likely would replace one of the two outside linebackers, either Matt McCoy or Dhani Jones. But Barber missed yesterday's game with an MCL sprain in his knee and it's uncertain whether he'll be able to play against the Panthers.

Notes From The ‘Nest…

  • QB Jeff Garcia sprained his shoulder when he was hit while attempting a pass in the fourth quarter Sunday. Coach Andy Reid has indicated that it's nothing serious and he should be able to play Monday against Carolina.
  • DT Brodrick Bunkley was deactivated Sunday after missing the team charter to Indianapolis on Saturday. He also will be fined.
  • WR Donte Stallworth, who was listed as questionable late in the week after aggravating his hamstring again, played Sunday, but wasn't very effective. He had just two catches for nine yards and alligator-armed a pass over the middle.
  • RB Brian Westbrook notched his third straight 100-yard rushing performance. Westbrook has 86 touches in the last three games, but is holding up pretty well to the pounding.

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