In a lot of ways, the Eagles lived up to expectations.
Everyone was predicting them to lose big to the juggernaut Broncos. The 52 points they allowed were the most in 40-plus years. Peyton Manning threw for 327 yards and four TDs. He was out of the game with less than four minutes left.
The Eagles were only down 21-13 at halftime, then it all came crashing down. Mike Vick finished 14-of-27 for 248 yards (41 rushing) before giving way to backup Nick Foles in garbage time. Foles went 3-of-4 for 49 yards and hit Jeff Maehl on a 6-yard touchdown toss.
Overall, here’s what went wrong:
1. The King of the Slot.
There is no denying that Wes Welker is the best slot receiver in the game, maybe all-time. The crafty veteran must have been licking his chops when he looked over and saw second-year corner Brandon Boykin matched up against him. Welker abused Boykin often in this one and finished with seven catches for 76 yards, and a pair of scores. Welker’s second TD grab was a beautiful pitch-and-catch from Manning. He beat Boykin off the ball, then tip-toed in for six.
2. Kicking it into third gear. Credit the Birds for playing a competitive first half. It was the third quarter when the wheels completely fell off. Manning came out of the locker room firing on all cylinders, leading three straight touchdown-scoring drives. When the dust had finally settled, the Broncos had racked up 18 first downs in the quarter and the scoreboard showed a lopsided 42-13 with 22 seconds still left in the quarter.
3. Special teams gone wild. The unit has caused the Eagles fits ever since John Harbaugh left town. Yesterday, they gave the Broncos a free touchdown after Trindon Holliday took a kickoff return 105 yards in the first quarter. Then, to start the fourth quarter, Steven Johnson blocked a punt and raced into the end zone to put the final nail in the coffin. Plain and simple, you just can’t give the Broncos free scores. For the Eagles, it was another slow day for return man Damaris Johnson, who fielded just two returns all day — one for 21 yards, another for 26. And kicker Alex Henery’s struggles continued as he whiffed on a 46-yard attempt late.