NFL Preview - Carolina (2-8) at Philadelphia (3-7)|
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The matchup between the lowly Carolina Panthers and the
hapless Philadelphia Eagles could serve as the sequel to "Dead Man Walking."
"Dead Men Walking" starts filming in South Philadelphia on Monday night when
a hostile home crowd awaits the embattled Andy Reid, who will trot out his 3-7
Eagles against his old assistant, the equally troubled Ron Rivera, and his 2-8
"You go play," Reid said when asked what it will be like to play in front of
an angry mob. "You make positive things happen as coaches and players. Make
plays, make positive plays. Fans like that. That's what they want to see. I've
always said they're on the same page with all of us. When we're stinking up
they understand that. When we're doing well they understand that too."
All you really need to know about this game is both head coaches will likely
be looking for work in just over a month.
Reid's 14-year tenure in Philadelphia hit rock bottom in Landover back on Nov.
18 when Robert Griffin III threw for 200 yards and a career-high four
touchdowns on 14-of-15 efficiency, while rushing for 84 more as the Washington
Redskins dispatched of the reeling Birds by a 31-6 margin.
Making his first NFL start in place of the concussed Michael Vick, Nick Foles
finished a dreadful 21-of-46 for 204 yards and two interceptions for
Philadelphia, which has lost six in a row for the first time under Reid and
for the first time since dropping seven straight to end the 1994 season.
A pair of Alex Henery field goals accounted for all of Philadelphia's offense
against the 'Skins. LeSean McCoy, meanwhile, registered 67 yards on six
receptions and 45 rushing yards on 15 carries before leaving late after
absorbing a hit to the helmet.
"I know we're letting the fans down and the city down," Reid said. "I
completely understand that. I completely understand how they feel on this. I
feel it from the football team, our coaches and players. There are no excuses
National observers, who aren't around Reid on a daily basis, often wonder why
Philadelphia turned on a coach who has been so successful. But, the veteran
mentor has always struggled with the public relations aspect of his job,
upsetting the Philly faithful time and time again with his arrogance and
trademarked "I've got to do a better job" shtick.
The hubris was turned to 10 against Washington when Reid refused to admit his
mistake of leaving McCoy in the game late. Perhaps the Eagles' best player,
McCoy suffered a concussion when he was drilled by Washington safety Madieu
Williams with just 1:45 remaining in what was already a settled game.
"We were trying to catch up and win the game," Reid said when asked why McCoy
was kept in so late in a blowout loss.
Repeated calls for Reid's resignation during the week consumed the
Philadelphia market but the veteran mentor, who still has one year left on his
contract after this season, wasn't about to leave millions on the table and
made it clear he won't walk away
"I think that'd be a cop-out," Reid said of resigning. "That's not how I see
things. That's not the way I'm wired. We're going to keep battling and do it
as a team. I'm not going to tell the guys one thing and then do the other."
Things really aren't any better in Charlotte as the Panthers continued their
dismal season in Week 11, faltering late and blowing an 11-point lead in the
final five minutes of regulation before falling to Tampa Bay in overtime when
Josh Freeman found Dallas Clark down the left sideline for the deciding
touchdown in a 27-21 Bucs win.
Cam Newton finished 16-for-29 passing for 252 yards and a touchdown while
Brandon LaFell caught five passes for 93 yards and a score for the Panthers,
losers in two straight and seven of their last eight.
"This is as bad as it gets. We had every opportunity to win," said Rivera.
"When you have an opportunity to close it out with a four-minute offense you
can't take negative plays and unfortunately we did. You have an opportunity to
stop them and for whatever reason you don't recognize the formation and don't
make the play."
Rivera, who was Reid's linebackers coach in Philadelphia from 1999-2003,
admitted this week he didn't know if he would keep his job after the season
based on recent conversations with team owner Jerry Richardson.
"It's tough when you lose (because) things aren't as good as they are when you
win, obviously," said Rivera, who is 8-18 as Carolina's coach. "Food doesn't
taste right. It's difficult to communicate with people looking them in the eye
and talking to them."
The Eagles lead the all-time series with Carolina 5-2 and the Panthers have
lost all three meetings since winning at Philadelphia in the 2004 NFC
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Vick and McCoy have already been ruled out on Monday night, taking the Eagles
two biggest offensive playmakers off the field.
Foles remains the starter at quarterback and Bryce Brown, a talented but very
raw rookie running back, should get his first starting assignment since his
senior year of high school back in Kansas in 2009.
Add that to the fact Philadelphia has been missing All-Pro left tackle Jason
Peters (Achilles) all season and has subsequently lost center Jason Kelce and
right tackle Todd Herremans to injury and you'll understand just how difficult
it's become to move the ball on a consistent basis in Philly.
"It looks like he's more comfortable in the offense every week," Reid said
when talking about Brown. "He's doing a nice job in pass protection. That
wasn't his thing when he first came here. He's doing better there. Better
recognition of the blitzes. Then he's a patient runner and then when he goes,
he goes and he goes hard. He's a big body. A physical player."
Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott also once worked as Reid's
defensive chief before being replaced after the 2010 season.
"Sean is doing a nice job (with Carolina)," Reid said. "Their defense is
actually a very good defense. They've got two good defensive ends (Charles
Johnson and Greg Hardy), two veteran defensive tackles (Ron Edwards and Dwan
Edwards) that are big, strong, physical guys. Their linebackers are young guys
who can run around [with] very good quickness. Safeties are solid and the
corners are solid. They're good football players."
Six of the Panthers' eight losses this season have been by six points or less,
and Rivera's club has led in the fourth quarter of four of those games,
including last week's setback to Tampa Bay.
Carolina hasn't been able to finish and a lot of that can be traced to the
sophomore slump on Newton, who has thrown for nine touchdowns and rushed for
four after combining for 35 TDs as a rookie last season.
Newton will never get a better chance to turn things around. He will be
facing an Eagles pass defense which has surrendered 11 touchdown passes and
recorded no interceptions over the past four weeks. In fact, opposition QBs
have rung up a gaudy 143.6 passer rating against Philadelphia over that span.
Despite its poor record Carolina has been much more competitive than the
Eagles, who have been outscored 127-59 in four losses since their bye week.
"I don't know how it can get much worse," Eagles tight end Brent Celek said of
his team's troubles. "It makes me sick."
Unfortunately for Celek it can get worse and it probably will on national
television Monday night.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Panthers 20, Eagles 17
11/26 09:03:11 ET