Postgame Perspective: Can’t call it a slow start anymore

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From the very first drive, you had a sense that it was deja vu all over again.

It was.

The Eagles failed to score until the fourth quarter. By the time they did, the deficit was 13. When they finally managed to get the ball into the endzone, Dallas was conceding the touchdown.

If the Eagles loss to the Seahawks, a game where one of the NFL's best and most dynamic offenses met the Legion of Boom and the NFL's best defense, was the beginning of the end for the Eagles 2014 playoff hopes, then Sunday's 20-10 loss to the Cowboys was Chip Kelly's darkest hour as Eagles head coach.

It is no longer suitable to call this a slow start. A slow start, as it was in 2014, is not showing up for much of the first half, then managing to win in the second half and carry that momentum to wins in the weeks ahead. This is bad football. It was the worst we had seen under Kelly since his hiring. And it has the Eagles looking up from an 0-2 record for the first time in nearly a decade.

There's a reason this loss and last Monday's season-opening loss is more concerning than the other losses. When the Eagles lost in Kelly's first two seasons at the helm, it was evident that the offense could score with the best of them, but the defense couldn't keep the opponent's offense off the field.

So the Eagles lost games because they didn't control the possession game, because they gave up too many big plays, because they couldn't cover opposing wide receivers.

Now, the Eagles have lost two games because of offensive miscues, mistakes and pure lack of both execution and communication.

"Nothing worked today," Kelly said. "It's execution and coaching. We're not doing a good enough job."

Perhaps the biggest reason for this lack of success is an offensive line that has more holes than Swiss cheese. It was another brutal game for Andrew Gardner and Allen Barbre, the two new additions to the starting line. But realistically, all of the offensive line should be held accountable for giving the Eagles running backs no chance to succeed.

DeMarco Murray has a total of 11 yards on 21 carries in two games. Think about that. Think about what the Eagles gave up to get that.

Let's look at the trade off.

The Eagles opted to send LeSean McCoy to Buffalo. They signed Murray and Ryan Mathews, a tandem that has 25 yards in two games.

They traded McCoy to acquire Kiko Alonso. While his interception in Atlanta was magnificent and he has played well, he suffered a knee injury in Sunday's loss. The Eagles had no update following the game other than an MRI has been scheduled for Monday.

Nick Foles was traded for Sam Bradford. Bradford has two touchdown passes and four interceptions in two games. Foles is 1-1 and has two touchdowns and no interceptions through two games.

It's not a matter of comparing the players Kelly traded for the ones he acquired. As he said in his postgame press conference, it's not talent, it's execution.

That is true. This is a relatively new team playing with each other for the first time. But that is what the preseason was for.

This was a must-win game for a team that needed to prove that Monday's first half was nothing more than a slow start. Turns out, it isn't a slow start after all. It was two horrendous football games from the side of the ball that is supposed to be Kelly's specialty.

"I think our defense played outstanding today," Kelly said. "Our offense didn't play at all. Everybody on offense needs to get it together."

Part of it is obviously on the execution of the players and that's understood. There were far too many mistakes again for a team that is supposed to be in playoff contention. But this is coaching and far beyond.

Chip Kelly was given the chance to call the shots and make this team his own, to construct the roster that he felt best fit his scheme and what he brings to the Eagles. And he did just that.

He signed the up-and-down rushers. He acquired the quarterback that doesn't need to move around but just release the ball quickly. He revamped the defense, which to this point, has allowed 39 points — excluded the special teams touchdown allowed on Sunday — in two games, an average of 19.5 per game.

What Kelly ignored was the need for blockers and targets for Bradford. Bradford, Murray and Co. can't get time or space because there is no attack up front to combat opposing defensive lines. When Bradford does get time, he has no real weapons to target.

Look, Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor have the potential to both grow into great receivers. But at the end of the day, they have a combined 20 games of NFL experience. That leaves Bradford with Riley Cooper, Josh Huff and Miles Austin

In the next six days, as the Eagles evaluate this loss and look ahead to the New York Jets, it is gut-check time, a time to look in the mirror. Jobs will be on the line with every play starting next week, and any small mistake could cost a player his job.

As Kelly said, all will be evaluated, including the coaches. From top to bottom, this team has been a disgrace from Day 1, an embarrassment to even be in the race.

And, yet, they will be in the race. Because it is only Week 2 and despite Dallas holding a 2-0 record, they have lost their top quarterback and wide receiver for the foreseeable future. It will be wide open, and Kelly's group can make a run, but only with the necessary improvements, only with the proper preparation, communication and execution.

But at this point, it can't be called a slow start anymore. Not a 0-2. Not with only 25 total yards rushing from the two running backs that were signed to be the biggest ground threat in football. Not with a coach that risked it all, and so far, hasn't proven that those decisions bear the fruits of victory.

Kevin Durso is managing editor for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.

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