Postgame Perspective: Slow start more troublesome than final demise

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A missed field goal from 44 yards for Cody Parkey is most definitely a cause for concern. So is an interception through the hands of who is supposed to be your No. 1 receiver.

These were the small pieces of the Eagles final demise in a 26-24 loss to the Falcons.

But it was a slow start — 35 yards of offense in the first quarter and just three points through 30 minutes — that was the real problem. The lack of execution as a whole is a much greater cause for concern than any miscues that happened at the end of the game.

"It was a tale of two halves," head coach Chip Kelly said. "We played a lot better in the second half, but we did not come to play in the first half. We played well enough in the second half, but it was too late. We put ourselves in too big a hole."

Defensively, it was a collective struggle. There was no pressure on Matt Ryan. As a result, he had plenty of time while Julio Jones and Roddy White found openings in the Eagles secondary.

That still doesn't excuse some of the secondary. Walter Thurmond and Malcolm Jenkins played strong games in coverage, despite Jenkins dropping two interceptions. The real standout for all the wrong reasons was Byron Maxwell. Signed in the offseason to handle the bulk of coverage on opponent's star receivers, Maxwell struggled mightily against Jones.

"We battled out there," Maxwell said. "They just have some good receivers and they know how to get open and get the football.”

Once the Eagles got the pass rush going, things did change. The Falcons were held to just six points in the second half, both on field goals. Ryan didn't look comfortable having to deal with a front-seven that was starting to wear down the Falcons offensive line.

Offensively, the struggles were similar. Sam Bradford wasn't in rhythm early. The running game disappeared as the offensive line struggled to create space for both DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews. There were way too many penalties. On one Eagles drive — one they incidentally scored on — five penalties slowed the progress.

And drops.

Right down to the final play, which slipped through the hands of Jordan Matthews, the Eagles dropped way too many passes, chances to extend the drive, chances to eat up more yardage, chances to score.

"I think that it shows the fight we have on offense," Bradford said. "The one drive, the [13]-play drive, I don’t know how many penalties we overcame on that drive, but we just kept going. I think it’s a credit to our guys. Sometimes on offense, you get a penalty and it really puts you back. You kind of stall out. We kept fighting and kept running through them."

We could spend all week, right up until Sunday, looking at the 4th-and-1 decision to kick the field goal with a kicker who's confidence may not be there and an pass through the hands of the top receiver on the team. But ultimately, the slow start was the reason those moments even became magnified.

A slow start forced this team to play rapid-fire football for two quarters, doing everything they could to erase the deficit. 

In the end, they still should have survived it. Self-inflicted wounds thwarted a second comeback.

If there was anything fans, and opponents, of the Eagles learned, it's that slow starts will haunt this team, because trying to rely on the defense when the offense is giving nothing back is not how they are built to win. 

All of a sudden, there have to be a couple of teams who had much better weekends feeling a lot better about their future meetings with the Eagles, knowing several things could rattle this team.

Knock out their running game and they become one-dimensional.

Burn their defense with quick slants up the middle.

Have a strong offensive line? Hold the front-seven at bay and someone is bound to get open with time.

Those are all worrisome.

"We just made so many mistakes, dumb things, guys tripping, stupid mistakes," Jason Kelce said. "There’s a lot we need to clean up."

So the 2015 season starts on a sour note, and quite honestly, you can't help thinking that this is "Dream Team" all over again.

It's only one game, and there is still plenty of time to make adjustments and correct flaws. But after only one game, a rivalry game on Sunday may have just become a must-win.

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

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