I know I’m late. These SNF/MNF games are killing me when we’re also discussing coaches getting fired and star players getting cut. Anyway, I once again focused on the key young players so this isn’t a typical review and should be less painful to read.
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I was a happy man at halftime on Sunday night. The score was 17-10. The offense had just driven down and kicked a FG. The defense was playing okay. Bryce Brown was doing his thing and Nick Foles was off to a solid start. Life was good. At the end of the 3rd Qtr, the Eagles led 24-17. With 9:51 left in the game the Eagles still held a 27-24 lead.
Then Dallas scored an offensive TD and a defensive TD and put the game away. Barf.
I know losing helps the Eagles get better draft position, but I really did want them to beat Dallas. Losing to the Cowboys is never a good thing.
The game was encouraging because of the way the offense played. The young guys scored 27 offensive points, a season high. They responded to Dallas scores 4 different times by scoring themselves. That’s a great sign. All of the scoring drives covered at least 50 yards. The points didn’t come off gimmicky plays or great field position from turnovers. These were legitimate scoring drives. That’s important because you can build off them. Seeing Foles hit Maclin for the long TD in the first Dallas game was fun, but you can’t count on wide open guys 40 yards downfield. The drives in this game were successful because of offensive execution, not defensive breakdowns.
The game was discouraging because the defense couldn’t even slow Dallas down in the 2nd half. Tony Romo was 10-10 with 3 TDs after halftime. No matter what the offense did, the defense couldn’t make it hold up. No sack. No big play. No takeaway.
There isn’t a lot to say about coaching. Marty put together a terrific gameplan for Foles, Brown, and the offense. Why couldn’t he have done this back in … Week 1? I was really mad after the opening drive. The coaches were trying to run wide and that’s dumb vs Ware & Spencer. They started going upfield after that and Brown had a great game. I had no issues with Bowles. The players just aren’t executing on defense.
FOLES – 22-34-251. TD, no INTs. Good game. Easily his best start yet. Played smarter. Better mechanically. Vastly improved footwork. Was more confident. Got the ball to his WRs and also hit them downfield.
* Hit Celek up the middle early on. Took a big shot on the play by a blitzer that came free. Nick didn’t flinch. Good read, accurate pass.
* The best throw was a pass to Avant that set up the field goal late in the half. That pass required downfield accuracy and touch. Foles had to put the ball over the intermediate defenders and in front of the deep cover guys. The pass needed loft, but not too much or the deep defenders would be able to break on the ball. Foles also had to get the ball out on time so Avant could catch it before getting to the sideline. That play gained 29 yards. This was a real NFL throw.
* Foles other real standout pass was a touchdown to Riley Cooper. Foles was aggressive on the play and gave Cooper a chance to make a play. You must be wisely aggressive in the red zone. You can’t rely on wide open receivers. Foles threw the ball into coverage, but did so in a way that Cooper could make a play while the pass wasn’t likely to be picked off. The CB wasn’t looking back, but Cooper was. Cooper made the catch and Foles had his touchdown. I love the fact Nick wasn’t tentative. You must be confident in yourself and your receiver to take that chance.
* Foles showed the ability to throw from various platforms. QBs would love to be able to drop back and throw from a clean pocket, but that’s not reality. Foles was able to be creative when needed. There was a screen pass to Brown where Nick threw a push-pass. It wasn’t pretty, but was effective. Looked more like a game of hot potato than football. Foles scrambled left late in the game and was able to hit Avant for a good gain. There were several play-action passes where Foles threw wide to Celek. Nick used almost a side-arm motion on these passes and that play was effective all game long.
* RAC yards were a big part of the offense. Foles hit Cooper on a slant pass that went for 16 yards on 3rd/12. Maclin caught a pass on a crossing route that gained 21 yards and set up a score. Damaris Johnson got 13 yards on a WR screen. Avant got 9 yards on a WR screen. Foles hit his receivers on time and gave them a chance to gain yards.
* There was only one deep ball, a throw to Mac late in the half. The pass was a couple of yards off target, but I liked it. Foles made the read quickly and didn’t hang the ball up in the air. He got the pass out quickly and threw it more on a line. The accuracy with his receivers on deep balls definitely needs work. This was progress, though. In other games we’ve seen him hesitate before getting the ball out. Can’t do that in the NFL. Gives the S a chance to get over.
* There were some issues. Felt like the pressure of the game started to get to Nick in the 4th Qtr. He had Cooper wide open for a good gain and bounced the ball to him. Wasn’t a question of arm strength. Was all about confidence and mechanics. You could see that Nick was really mad at himself after that.
With the score tied at 24, the Eagles drove down the field. There was a 3rd/3 play from the DAL 24. Foles threw for Clay Harbor in the corner of the endzone. Celek was wide open down the middle of the field. Wide open. Easy 1st down and probably a TD. Can’t miss guys that open on such key plays.
On the 2-point conversion attempt at the end of the game, Nick made an easy play hard. He had Brown wide open just a couple of yards from him. He had another receiver at the back of the endzone. Nick should have thrown the ball to Brown. Instead he went for the other guy. Bad read. He compounded that mistake by making a bad throw. No points with 2 guys open, one for an easy pass.
The Eagles were down 38-27 with 3:50 left. Foles forced a pass into coverage and it should have been picked off. Easily could have been a pick-six as well. Tough situation, but you can’t make mistakes like that.
Later on that drive the Eagles faced 4th/13. Nick threw a short pass to Celek and hoped he could run for the 1st down. There was some room, but Celek only got 10 yards. You cannot throw short of the chains in that situation. You must get the ball to a receiver who is near the sticks or past the line to gain. Hoping for RAC yards on 4th/long is fool’s gold.
LEWIS – 2-14. Best run went for 11 yds. Ran through a tackle attempt by Ware. Impressive strength, balance.
B BROWN – 24-169-2. Long run of 39. Another amazing game. Once again it was Brown’s combination of size and speed that was so impressive. Cowboys safety Danny McCray came up quickly on a run play and expected to tackle Brown for a short gain. Oops. He didn’t take the correct angle and Brown got by him for the gain of 39 yards. Brown impressed in other ways. He once again showed good vision, finding holes and cutback lanes. He ran through initial contact, which is exactly what you want from a bigger back. Those guys need to play big. The one huge (and I do mean huge) negative was another fumble. Brown fumbled late and Dallas ran it back for a score. That put the game out of reach. He must work on this problem. Brown is extremely talented. He needs the ball, but the coaches must be able to trust him.
* There was an early run where Brown did a spin move and really extended the ball away from his body. Made me super-nervous. Nothing happened, but Brown simply can’t be reckless like that.
* Had a great run when Dallas got penetration and should have nailed him for a loss. Spun away from that guy, went wide and deep and had enough speed to get upfield for a good gain. Shocking to see that play from a 225-pound RB.
* First TD run used speed to get wide and into the endzone.
* Second TD run was supposed to go left, but Bryce saw a hole up the middle and hit it. Easy score. Good vision, burst.
* Did a good job of mixing his runs. Stuck with the play at times. Also cut back at times. Didn’t get greedy with cutback runs.
* Had one highly frustrating play. Got the ball on a short pass. Turned to go upfield. The replay from the endzone angle showed what Brown saw. There wasn’t any defender between the hash marks. Not a single one. Brown saw a LB to the right. He decided to go wide and try to get around the guy. Dumb. With his speed, he should have just gone straight up the field. Huge play right there and he over-complicated it.
HAVILI – Quiet game.
CELEK – Good game. 7-73. Up and down as a blocker. Ware beat him to the inside on the first play and knocked the crap out of Foles. Brent did have some good blocks. Helped on Brown’s second TD.
HARBOR – Caught one pass for 3 yds. Only played 15 snaps.
MACLIN – 3-38. Had one big play. Caught pass on a crossing route and got 21 yards on the play. Frustrating part is that he went to the ground too easily and made no effort to get by the tacklers. Did notice him giving better effort as a run blocker. That’s a step in the right direction. Was open for deep ball late in the half, but the pass was a bit off target.
AVANT – First game back and he played well. Forgot just how good he is in the slot. 4-79. Blocked well. Had key block on Brown’s second TD run.
COOPER – 2-31. Gains of 15, 16. Impressive TD grab. Wasn’t open per se, but was looking for the ball and got one arm around the CB. Was able to secure the ball with that arm. Looked like the ball may have hit the CB’s arm to slow down before Cooper got control. Targeted 5 times. With a couple of better throws, could have had 4 catches and an even better game.
D JOHNSON – Only 1-13 as a receiver. Quick screen. Did a good job moving through traffic and getting up the field.
DUNLAP – LT. Solid game. Probably benefited from lenient officiating. Looked like he got away with hands to the face at least once. Ware was not happy. Got upfield on screen passes. Solid job in pass pro.
MATHIS – Good game. Had the key block on Brown’s first TD, a run to the left. Mathis sealed the edge. Had a good block on the second TD as well. Mathis got his hands on the outside of the LB. Some call that holding, this crew didn’t. Did a good job all game long.
REYNOLDS – Really improving player. Reynolds had a real good block on a run late in the half. He snapped the ball at the 17-yard line. He went and blocked a linebacker at the 25-yard line and sustained the block beyond the 30-yard line. That’s good mobility and excellent effort. Brown gained 20 yards on the run and jump-started a field goal drive. Didn’t have to face Jay Ratliff and that helped a lot. Regularly did a good job of blocking on the second level. Sold in pass pro.
SCOTT– Another good game. Has really stabilized the RG spot.
KELLY – Good game as a run blocker. Effective pass blocker. He doesn’t have great feet. He gets off balance at times. Spencer got the best of him with power moves a couple of plays. Kelly needs to do a better job of using his hands to get on the rusher aggressively. Initiate contact rather than catching the rusher. Kelly does play the angles well and uses his hands to keep rushers from getting by him. I’m really impressed with his run blocking. He can seal on runs to his side. He does a very good job on plays away from him, “washing” defensive linemen to the inside and creating potential cutback lanes for Brown. Kelly is very active. He’s big and has a physical style. He wants to pound on defenders. You see hints of Jon Runyan in him. With improved strength and experience, Kelly will become more confident and aggressive.
Kelly does get TE help on some pass plays. They aren’t afraid to leave him alone on the edge, but try not to do it too much.
COLE – Quiet game. Had 1/2 sack and a tackle. Got pressure on other plays, but not with any consistency.
LANDRI – 1 TFL, 1 tackle.
JENKINS – 1 TFL, 1 tackle. Cleanly beat the RG and had Romo for a sack, but couldn’t seal the deal.
TAPP – Had 2 tackles. Played both sides. For some crazy reason he was in the game for 24 snaps.
GRAHAM – Started at LDE. 1.5 sacks. Got the best of Doug Free on a regular basis. Graham loves to bull rush and that is Free’s biggest weakness so the matchup favored BG. Does have to do a better job of keeping contain. Dallas tried end around that should have gotten a big gain, but the WR dropped the ball. Graham flew down the LOS. Good hustle, but undisciplined. Was in on 6 tackles.
COX – Played only 20 snaps. Tailbone injury was bugging him.
HUNT – Got back on the field, but only for 8 snaps. He was productive. Tackled RB for minimal gain on his first play. Drew holding call on Free on the next snap. Later blew up a run by driving Free backward. Why the heck wasn’t he on the field more?
THORNTON – Pretty good game. Had a couple of tackles, but was disruptive. Hustled in pursuit of the ball.
CURRY – Backup RDE. Only credited with 1 tackle. Didn’t do much as a pass rusher.
KENDRICKS – 6 solo tackles. Inconsistent player. Some run plays he will fire upfield and look terrific. Did a good job on the 4th/1 play. Very aggressive and did his best to stuff that. Other times he is slow in filling the hole or gets stuck on blocks. This isn’t a huge deal since he’s a rookie, but it would be nice to see him be more consistent with the good plays. Had a chance to blow up a RB after a catch over the middle. Mychal hit him and they sort of fell to the ground awkwardly. I was hoping Mychal would light the guy up. Didn’t happen.
RYANS – Pretty good game. Had 4 tackles, including a TFL. Solid vs the run. Did look lost a couple of times on pass plays. Cowboys WRs were so fast that Ryans was ineffective in trying to tackle them when they were on the move.
JORDAN – Typical. There were a couple of plays where he was in the wrong gap or got blocked too easy. Other plays he was good vs the run. Had a TFL. Made one huge mistake. Lost contain on 3rd/1 run that went for long gain. Needed to stay wide and play outside-in. Saw the RB go up the middle and moved in to help. RB bounced wide and Akeem wasn’t there to do anything. Huge moment in the game.
ALLEN – 6 tackles. Had some solid moments in man coverage, but was lost when playing off the ball. There were some plays when I wasn’t sure if Nate or Kurt was at fault. Dallas had success with lining Jason Witten on the right side and then having him run a deep cross. This resulted in a couple of big plays. Nate really struggled with tackling in space. Looked hesitant and sure played that way.
COLEMAN – 5 tackles. Some coverage issues are listed above. Tried to break up a pass to Dez Bryant down the right side, but was half a step slow in getting there and when he did, the contact had little affect. Got hurt when trying to tackle Witten late in the game.
NNAMDI – Played a lot of press-bail. This is when the CB is up on the WR, but then bails deep at the snap to keep from getting beat deep. Nnamdi led the team with 7 solo tackles. That tells you the ball was coming that way, often on short throws. He struggled to stop guys. Nnamdi has a bad habit of planting his feet and letting the receiver run to him. Dumb. Must go attack. Did the same thing on a run play and let the RB come to him. If Chris Speilman saw these plays, his head might explode.
DRC – 3 tackles, 1 PD. Had some awful moments. Actually had excellent coverage on Bryant a couple of times, but didn’t play the ball and gave up big gains. Had a couple of bad plays where he was off the WR and then failed to make the tackle after the catch. This resulted in a couple of TDs. Gave poor, poor effort on both. No sense of urgency. The most embarrassing was a short play inside the 10 when he let Bryant run him over for easy TD.
BOYKIN – 1 tackle. Quiet game.
MARSH – Played 4 snaps on D.
MCBRIAR – 2-78. 1 inside the 20.
HENERY – 2 of 2 on FGs. Had 4 touchbacks. Good game. Came up a bit short on onside kick. Good height. Needed an extra couple of feet.
KOR – Boykin was 3-65 with a long of 22. Didn’t make great decisions on bringing the ball out.
PR – Damaris had a 98-yd PR. This is good and bad. You almost never want the returner fielding the ball that deep. It was okay in this situation since the Eagles were trailing by 11 points with less than a minute to go. That’s the time to take a risk and see if you can make a play. Johnson used a good juke move to get through a couple of defenders and then had room to run up the sideline. Casey Matthews blocked the Punter. DJ showed his lack of long speed as he was never able to pull away from the Punter. Did go all the way for the TD.