Absolutely a bizarre game. The Eagles ran a couple of nice plays, but Jeremy Maclin fumbled the ball on the second one. That set up a Cincy TD. The Eagles then went 3 & out. The punt was blocked and the Bengals added a quick FG. Before the 1st quarter was even half-way over, the Eagles were down 10-0.
From that point until the 5:44 mark in the 3rd Qtr, the Bengals were limited to 64 yards. That’s outstanding defense. The Eagles gained 179 yards and scored 13 points in that stretch to take the lead and control of the game. The Bengals did move the ball in the late 3rd. With 90 seconds left in the 3rd Qtr the Eagles still held the 13-10 lead.
That is when the bottom fell out. Before you could blink, the Eagles turned the ball over every way imaginable and the Bengals scored TDs left and right. The score quickly became 34-13 and the game was over. Time was left, but it was over.
On Thursday night I was pretty down. The explosion of mistakes was painful to watch. I didn’t have high expectations going into the game, but to see that many guys screw up that many ways…it just overwhelms you with a sense of craptasticness. You forget the good plays and obsess on the mistakes, all 237 of them. I re-watched the game over the weekend and came away feeling a lot better. The mistakes were still there, but I wasn’t blindsided by them. That allowed me to feel good about the things that did go right.
And there was stuff to be happy about. I know that sounds insane when you just lost 34-13, but the DL played a terrific game. DRC played well. The OL kept Geno Atkins under wraps. Colt Anderson almost picked off a deep ball intended for AJ Green. Emil Igwenagu made his debut and had some good moments. Bryce Brown ran for more than 6 yards. Don’t get me wrong. This wasn’t a game where anyone came away happy. The mistakes were huge and numerous. They killed us. My feeling is that mistakes can be corrected (by a new coaching staff). I was focused on the potential that some players showed.
This was one of Marty Mornhinweg’s worst games of the year. He was very conservative on some 3rd down calls. He threw deep on other plays. I don’t know if he feared the Bengals pass rush (#1 in sacks) or what. Odd calls. Many people were upset at a failed shovel pass. The call worked. Brown just dropped the pass. There was a play-action pass to a backup OL, Matt Tennant. The play design worked, but the pass was dropped. Still tried to run wide too much. Some of this is on Brown for choosing to go wide, but not enough runs up the middle were called. The one highlight call was the fake WR screen that turned into a big play to Maclin. Great call.
Defense had a nice plan. No issues there.
Not much to say about Big Red.
Bobby April…another clusterfudge. I am utterly shocked at how such a good coach can put out such a bad product.
FOLES - 16-33-182. 1 TD, 1 INT. Sacked once. I won’t call it a bad game by Foles, but it was disappointing. He was facing a Top 10 defense on a short week so I didn’t expect him to throw for 380 and lead us to tons of points, but I did expect a better showing. I know some people think he did play poorly. That’s fine. Can understand that opinion. My take is that Nick played pretty well before things went sideways.
He was 12-24-145 at the half. If Matt Tennant caught the pass that Foles threw to him in the endzone, those numbers would have been 13-23-146 with 2 TDs and the Eagles would have lead 17-10. That would have been a good showing. The OL dropped the pass and things went down. Where Nick is at fault is his 2nd half showing. He was only 4-9-37 and had a bad, bad INT. You can argue that his INT was the turning point in the game. The Bengals had been lifeless for quite a while at that point. The pick and long return jump started their offense.
The INT was a bad throw. Nick was trying to go deep to Maclin. Mac was sorta open, but Nick once again tried to make a touch throw. He needed to step into the throw and make it more direct. Passes that have a bunch of air under them can be picked off. DBs have a chance to find the ball and then go for the pick.
2 big areas that Nick must work on: 1) deep balls 2) Red Zone play. We’ve talked about the deep balls quite a lot. In the RZ, Nick is erratic. Sometimes he hesitates and misses open guys. Other times he rushes his throws and is either off target or has made a poor decision. This is an issue that all young QBs must deal with. Nick isn’t special in this regard, but it is critical. You must be able to score TDs in the RZ if you want to win games.
* Foles threw 2 “push passes”. This is when there is traffic around and instead of using a normal motion he flips the ball forward, almost with a pushing motion. One went to Havili, the other to Harbor. I like the fact Nick can be creative when it’s needed.
* The final play of the 1st half was a copy of the game-winner from the Tampa game. Cincy had probably seen that play 50 times. No way it was going to work. Don’t know if Nick pushed for that. He did throw it so the ball wouldn’t be picked off.
* I didn’t like Nick throwing the ball to Harbor on a downfield route when Clay was matched up with a good CB. Clay was bigger, but I don’t like that matchup.
* I did like lining up Harbor out wide inside the 10 and throwing a slant to him. Nick put the ball on his back hip, which is a safe location. Putting the ball out front is risky since there are so many DBs in a congested space. Clay made the catch on the move and almost scored. Effective throw.
* Havili was running wide open in the middle of the field on the 3rd down pass when Foles forced the ball to Harbor down the sideline.
* Harbor was wide open over the middle on blitz where Foles tried to get ball outside and it was tipped. Clay was practically begging for the ball and there was a better throwing angle.
* Nick took a couple of hits where I thought for sure the ball would come loose. He definitely is a big strong guy that can take a shot and hold onto the ball.
LEWIS - 1-3 running. 1 for -4 receiving.
B BROWN – 16-34 on the ground. 1-11 receiving. Fumbled again and it was returned for a TD, again. Ugh. Bryce has developed 2 bad habits. His ball security is the primary issue, but he’s also become enamored with running outside (Shadyitis). We call a lot of outside runs, but they aren’t all designed to be bounced as wide as possible. Bryce did have some nice runs in the game. He’s struggled the last 2 weeks, but that is more due to playcalling and blocking, not a sudden lack of talent.
The fumble technically was Foles, but it is Brown’s duty to secure the ball when it is handed to him. He focused on getting hit and didn’t secure the ball. Can’t have that. Evan Mathis was beaten by a DT and that led to the play, but Brown has to secure the ball and take the hit. That is non-negotiable. He did the same thing back in the Ravens game. Just like a receiver must make the catch before he starts to run, Brown must get control of the hand-off before he worries about getting hit or making moves.
IGWENAGU - Pretty good game. Played both TE and FB. His highlight was a block of the Bengals’ Rey Maualuga that opened a good hole for Bryce Brown. That came with him at fullback. Igwenagu did have one big mistake. Right after that highlight block, he lined up at tight end on the right side. The run went left and Igwenagu had a good initial block. Dion Lewis cut the play back to the weakside and Igwenagu grabbed his defender and held. That pushed the drive back out of field goal position and the offense never threatened again. Igwenagu showed he can play, but you can’t have critical mistakes like that. Played 13 snaps.
HAVILI - 1 catch for 8 yds. Only played 11 snaps. Had a couple of good blocks.
HARBOR - With Celek out, Harbor had a major opportunity. Up and down game. Targeted 6 times, 3-30 as a receiver. Had a deep ball thrown his way, but wasn’t able to make the grab. Caught a slant in the RZ and almost got in for the score. Had an odd RZ play. Nick threw for Maclin, but Harbor was in the vicinity and thought the ball was for him. He put up his hands, but couldn’t make the grab. Mac wasn’t really open so it is good that Harbor deflected the ball. I give him credit for a good pass break-up. Worst moment came in the 2nd half. Caught a ball over the middle in traffic. Was hit and fumbled. Wasn’t an easy play, but if you want to be an NFL TE you must be able to make that grab and take the hit. Harbor was banged up in the game. You could see him struggling to move at times so I give him credit for toughing it out and staying on the field. Wth Celek out, there was no other real option.
MACLIN - 4-73. Involved in a couple of negative plays. Caught a pass on the second play of the game and started to run upfield. Was swinging the ball away from his body and had the ball stripped from behind. Reminiscent of his fumble vs SF last year that ended a comeback bid. Both times DEs hustled downfield to knock the ball loose. Can’t have that. Mac went deep for a pass. He got by the CB, but the ball was way short and the CB picked it off. Mac looked awkward as he started to pursue. I was frustrated with him, then remembered seeing him limp off the field earlier. Highlight play was when he got wide open on WR screen fake. DBs bit up, Mac ran by them. Looked like he had open path to the endzone. Mac didn’t think he could make it so he cut back to the middle. Fast guys should run straight and make the defense catch them. Did get down deep.
AVANT - 3-44. Long gain was 25 yds. Also had catch for 16. Jason ran a terrific route on the catch for 25. Used a great move to fake inside and cut back outside. The CB got totally off balance and Avant was wide open. On the other long catch, the ball was up high and he had to reach back for it as well. Impressive grab.
COOPER - 3-20 with a TD. Came wide open over the middle for the score. Barely broke the plane, but he did. Had a pass thrown his way on early 3rd down, but Pacman kept that from happening. Pacman hit Riley’s arms so that he couldn’t reach for the ball. Got away with PI. Later on Riley and Pacman got into an argument in the endzone and Pac got in a head bump that drew a penalty flag.
D JOHNSON – No catches or targets.
DUNLAP - Effective night as pass blocker. Run blocking is all over the place. Had good block on run play near GL. Pushed DL to the inside, then got piece of LB and gave Brown room to the the 1st down. Made a dumb mistake on 3rd Qtr draw play. Saw blitzing LB. Got piece of him with 1 hand, then went for outside rusher. Play was going to the other side. Outside rusher had nothing to do with the play. If King gets more of the LB, Brown had room to run. Instead, TFL. Ugh. Dunlap struggles on runs to his side when he has to control the edge.
MATHIS – Did a good job of controlling Geno Atkins. Was able to move laterally and ride him wide as needed. Also strong enough to anchor when Atkins tried power moves. I liked the fact he sustained blocks so well. Atkins has a great motor. You can’t let up. Even when Atkins had him beat, Mathis rode him wide. Good seal blocks on several runs to his side. Had two bad plays. We went to run to the left. Evan saw the DT to his outside and made a quick move to block him. At the snap, the DT shot to the inside and was free into the backfield. This was Brown’s fumble play. I don’t think Evan was really at fault so much as the DT guessed right, but you would prefer Evan at least get a hand on the guy to slow him down. Also gave up a sack. Came on a stunt in the 4th Qtr. Picked the guy up initially, but couldn’t control him and Nick held the ball a bit on the play.
REYNOLDS - Solid game except for a couple of mistakes.. Had a good block of LB on Brown’s reception that went for 11 yds. Had a couple of good run blocks when he pulled to the left. Had an illegal snap penalty that hurt us. 1st/GL from the 2 moved to the 7. Had to settle for a FG on that drive. In the 3rd Qtr Dallas failed to make a block on screen pass. Lewis lost yds. Dallas just didn’t get out wide enough on the play.
SCOTT - Good game. Faced Atkins plenty and controlled him most of the time. Did get a holding call on a play when Atkins drove him straight back to Foles. Smart hold.
KELLY - Solid showing. Kept his DE under control most of the night. Problem is that Kelly needs to engage and sustain blocks. He tends to position himself between the rusher and the QB. That’s okay, but it is better to really control the rusher by getting your hands on him. Didn’t have any standout run blocks, but did okay. One sloppy play came on Mac’s early fumble. Kelly tried to shove the DE to move him and then get upfield to block. The shove didn’t do anything and Dunlap was able to chase Mac down and make the strip. Dennis must be more forceful on these plays. He must get stronger in the offseason. It is critical to make the initial block successfully.
COLE - Good game. So glad to see him bounce back. He struggled in the Tampa game. The Eagles made a tactical adjustment and moved him out a bit wider this week. It wasn’t out back to the nine-technique, but the wider alignment did help. He was able to get a head of steam and then go inside, outside, or over the blocker in front of him. Cole finished with five solo tackles and a sack. I loved the fact he was so active against the run. Tampa handled him with tight ends on multiple plays and that had me nervous. Trent wasn’t getting the best of crappy blockers. He played well. Sack came when CuJo and he ran a stunt and Trent was free to the inside.
GRAHAM - Had the best game of his young career. He had 2.5 sacks and a FF. Beyond the numbers, Graham was a force off the edge. He drew at least three holding calls. He gave right tackle Andre Smith fits. The Bengals had in a backup for a play and that guy got a holding call. Graham was relentless in pursuit. One of his solo tackles came on the other side of the field. Dalton scrambled to his left and Graham was there to tackle him and limit the play to a short gain. Graham used speed, quickness, and strength to win his battles. Smith isn’t the most fit player in the league (Antonio Dixon could beat him in a sit-up contest) and Graham took advantage of that. He fired off the ball and used a good rip move to stay low and get around Smith on multiple plays. Graham got him off balance and then mixed in the bull rush. There were a few plays when Graham drove Smith backward several yards, despite weighing maybe 75 pounds less.
The Bengals have run the ball well, often to the right side. Graham had a solid night in run defense. He took on Smith on some plays, tight ends on others. Graham was able to hold his ground. He got penetration at times and was disruptive. There were a couple of plays when his aggressiveness got the best of him and he was out of position. It was great to see Graham play like this. He was productive. He was confident. You could just see how happy he was. Next challenge is to show he can play well on a regular basis.
I was happy with Graham when watching the game live. He was even better on the re-watch.
COX - Good game. He had 1.5 sacks and was a disruptive force all night long. Cox used power to continually drive blockers back at Dalton. This led to sacks for other players as well as some hurried throws. Cox got his sacks by using quick moves to the inside. Cox did miss on a couple of sacks in the game. This is one area of his game that does need some work. Finishing plays is tough for the big guys because quarterbacks can be so elusive. Cox was solid against the run. It was a lot of fun to see how effective Cox and Graham were.
JENKINS - Pretty good game. Had a sack, FF, and 2 solo tackles. Moved around quite a lot. The sack came with him starting at LDT and then looping around the RDT and RDE. That’s a long distance runaround, but it worked. Got in the backfield a few times.
LANDRI - Quiet game. Played 34 snaps, but not credited with any tackles, sacks, or hits. Played a lot of NT and ate up some blocks, but was too quiet.
TAPP - Had one moment of note. Recovered the fumble from Jenkins hit late in the half. Had a chance to return it, but wasn’t able to go far.
HUNT - 1 tackle. I only noticed him at LDE. Did okay vs the run. Took inside slants and was able to get to the ball or into the middle of the play.
THORNTON - 4 solo tackles. 2 TFLs. Remains inconsistent, but continues to show big time potential. Question I keep asking is whether he could start next year or would be best as a #3 DT. Not sure yet.
CURRY - Backup RDE. 1 solo stop. Didn’t flash much as a pass rusher. Was hoping to see more.
KENDRICKS - Played his second game at the weakside spot. I thought he was up and down. He broke up a pass and generally covered well. PBU came on a crossing route to the TE. Eagles used him on TEs quite a bit. Kendricks did have a TFL on a run play to his side. His run defense was hit and miss. There were times when he was too passive and got stuck on blocks. Other plays he was aggressive and won the one-on-one battles. The lowlight moment was when Andy Dalton put a move on him and ran in for a TD. Barf. RG3, Tannehill, or Kaepernick? Okay. Dalton? Not good. Kendricks was just a bit out of control on the play, but can’t be sloppy near the GL. The talent is there. He must be more consistent.
RYANS - Had 9 tackles and a PD, but I was somewhat disappointed. There were too many plays when Ryans was getting blocked more than 5 yards downfield. He wasn’t always quick to get off blocks. DeMeco did make his share of plays so it isn’t fair to say he had a bad game, but we needed better run defense from him.
CHANEY - Second start at SAM. Led the team with 7 solo tackles. Had some very nice plays. Also had a couple that made me want to bang my head against a barbwire fence. First Cincy play was a run to the outside. Chaney was way too passive and got sealed. Easy gain of 29. LBs can’t catch blocks. Must engage and stuff blockers. Later on lined up on the LOS. Attacked the FB and blew him up. Actually knocked the guy out of the game. Chaney can do that stuff when he’s focused and plays aggressively. Had some other plays where I have serious questions about whether he was in the right gap. Did make a couple of nice tackles.
ALLEN - 5 total tackles. PD. Didn’t have a lot of significant moments in the game. Seemed to have a solid game.
ANDERSON - 5 total tackles. PD. Highlight play was when he almost picked off a deep ball to AJ Green. Colt went up high and played the ball, but could not hold onto it. Seemed to have another strong game, assignment wise. Covered well. Did have a couple of missed tackles. They led to additional yards on key plays.
NNAMDI - Pretty good game. No tackles. Seemed to cover well. Did break up a pass.
DRC - Had another good showing. He went up against A.J. Green most of the game. Green did have one touchdown ( a great catch over DRC), but was limited to 6 catches for 57 yards. Normally he’s more of a gamebreaker than that. DRC broke up one pass. He had a chance for a couple of interceptions, but wasn’t able to make either play. The Eagles just can’t seem to buy an interception right now. DRC made life tough for Green. He did give up 6 catches, but they weren’t easy. When you face an elite receiver you rarely are going to shut him down. The goal is to limit his damage and make him work for his catches.
BOYKIN - Quiet night. Cincy didn’t work the slot very much.
MARSH - Didn’t play much.
MCBRIAR - 6-258. Had one punt blocked. That wasn’t his fault.
HENERY - 2 of 2. No touchbacks.
PR – Johnson was just 1-6.
KOR – Boykin had a long return of 30 yards.
* First punt blocked. McNutt just got driven back to the P. Simple as that. One player was late on the field, but shouldn’t have affected McNutt’s block attempt. McNutt must be able to hold his ground better. He was getting shoved around by a backup RB, not DeMarcus Ware.
* Casey Matthews credited with 3 tackles.
* We found out that Cedric Thornton isn’t a good KOR. The Bengals tried a pooch KO. Big guys are taught to catch the ball if needed, but to get out of the way and let someone else make the grab if possible. Seems like Thornton should have moved. The ball hit him and he had no chance to secure it. Painful lesson, for him and us.
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Jimmy Bama and I recorded a show where we recapped the game and discussed a few other things, as we always do. Should Matt Tennant be the Eagles new RZ weapon?
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Over the weekend I put together a list of book ideas, for buying, giving, or asking for over the holidays. The list is in this post for anyone who missed it.