Bob Glauber's NFL hot reads: Eagles at a crossroads

Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, left, speaks with

Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, left, speaks with defensive coordinator Juan Castillo during morning practice at training camp at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. (July 25, 2012) (Credit: AP)

Bob Glauber

Newsday columnist Bob Glauber Bob Glauber

Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He

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After a second straight blown lead in the fourth quarter -- and the seventh such meltdown over the last two seasons -- Andy Reid had enough. The Eagles' head coach, whose job is on the line if his team doesn't make the playoffs, replaced an assistant coach for the first time since taking over the Eagles' helm in 1999. He replaced second-year defensive coordinator Juan Castillo with Todd Bowles, who had been the team's secondary coach.

Desperate move? Perhaps, but surely a necessary one. The Eagles' defense has underachieved through most of Castillo's 22 games on the job. The Eagles were 4-8 last year before winning their last four games to finish at .500. And with little improvement this year despite a high-priced veteran defense, Reid felt it was time to make the move.

Bowles, who came over from Miami after last season, is highly respected by his players and figures to be an improvement.

"The only way it can be different is on the scoreboard, so hopefully, if we come up with wins, it'll look different in the end," Bowles said. "The main goal is to get the victory however we've got to get it. We're going over self-scouting right now and we'll tweak things, depending on the game we're playing, that we need to tweak."

Bowles said former Giants, Patriots, Jets and Cowboys coach Bill Parcells has been a major influence on him. Bowles worked on Parcells' staffs with the Jets and Cowboys, and he was with the Dolphins when Parcells ran the team's football operations.

"Bill kind of taught me how to see the whole game and how to see the team as a whole," Bowles said. "He always wanted me to learn more than my position."

 

Megatron power reduction in Detroit

By this point last year, Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson had nine touchdowns on his way to 16 for the season. This year? Megatron has only one touchdown.

"I'm not really frustrated," Johnson told reporters. "If I was dropping touchdown passes, then yeah. But coverages have been dictating a lot of things down there . The touchdowns will come. We are still moving the ball, and that's all that matters."

Quarterback Matthew Stafford doesn't seem concerned about his No. 1 target's lack of touchdowns.

Johnson had what he thought was his second scoring pass of the year in last week's comeback win over the Eagles. But the score was nullified when officials ruled that he pushed off cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who went down hard on the play but exaggerated his fall, according to Johnson.

"There was hardly any contact," he said. "He would have been fined . That used to tick me off about the NBA, too."

 

Close calls

Close games are pretty much the norm in the NFL, but even more so this year. Last week, seven of 14 games were decided by three points or less, and through the first six weeks, 29.7 percent of all games have been decided by three points or less. That's on pace to break the 1997 mark of 27.9 percent as the highest single-season mark since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

 

Parity rules

Former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle was nicknamed "Parity Pete" because of his belief that the league will gain in popularity when more teams have a chance to stay competitive. That decades-old theory is still going strong, particularly this year. (graph)

Consider: All four teams in the AFC East are tied at 3-3. That's the first time since the 2002 realignment that all four teams in a division are tied in Week 6 or later. All four NFC East teams came into this week at .500 or better, and just one game separated first from last before the 49ers' Thursday night win over Seattle. (graph)

 

Shades of '85?

The 1985 Bears' defense featuring Hall of Famers Mike Singletary, Richard Dent and Dan Hampton is considered by many to be the best single-season unit in NFL history, helping Da Bears win Super Bowl XX that season.

No one is saying this year's Bears defense will match that performance, but they're certainly off to a flying start. The Bears are the first team in NFL history with five interception returns for touchdowns in their first five games.

"We know we win when we score on defense," said Bears coach Lovie Smith, a highly respected defensive coordinator before taking over in Chicago.

 

Quick hits

Through the first six weeks, 20 teams -- nearly two-thirds of the league -- are .500 or better. Say what you will about parity translating to mediocrity, but we submit that these tight division races will only make things more dramatic down the stretch and into the playoffs.

Kickoffs were moved up from the 30 to the 35 last year to increase player safety, but the return game is still alive and well. The league kickoff average of 24.7 yards is on track to break the record of 23.8, set last season.

Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker has 16 career games with at least 10 catches, tied with Marvin Harrison for second most in NFL history behind Jerry Rice's 17.

Bills general manager Bill Polian will be honored with a place on the Bills' "Wall of Fame" during todaySunday's game against the Titans. During his tenure from 1996-2003, the Bills went to four straight Super Bowls. Polian was also a Super Bowl-winning GM for the Colts.

In four career starts against the Texans, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is 4-0, including last year's playoffs. That streak is in jeopardy todaySunday, though, as the Ravens' undermanned defense goes against a Texans team in bounce-back mode after a home loss to the Packers. The Ravens do get linebacker Terrell Suggs, who has been activated after recovering from an Achilles injury, back in the lineup.

Former Fordham star quarterback John Skelton replaces the injured Kevin Kolb (ribs) and could be in the Arizona lineup for several weeks. Skelton is 8-4 as a starter, winning four of his last five starts.

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