One of the benefits to last Sunday’s butt-kicking is that we got to see the Eagles play from behind. We saw Michael Vick do that vs KC and Denver. We saw Foles/Barkley/Vick do that vs Dallas and the Giants. But that was before the team started winning games and playing good football. Sunday was a new experience for the winning Eagles. They suddenly found themselves as the hunters and not the hunted.
Other teams cut down some big deficits on the Eagles and turned blowouts into tight 4th quarter battles. Unfortunately, the Eagles weren’t able to do the same thing. They did cut a 27-9 deficit down to 27-22, but the team could not build on that. The Vikings then outscored them 21-7 in the final quarter and won the game going away.
The defense gave up 126 yards and 3 TDs in the 4th quarter. 2 of the TD drives came on a short field, but that shouldn’t matter. The Eagles were in a desperate situation and they could only force one punt at the most critical stage of the game. And the only way the Eagles did get a stop was with the aid of a somewhat questionable taunting call against the Vikings. That drive opened with a 31-yard pass play so the Vikings flipped the field even though they did end up punting.
The offense wasn’t much better. They had 2 drives with the Eagles trailing 34-22, which is still a winnable game. Not likely, but plausible. The offense went 3 and out on both drives. Those 6 plays netted the Eagles a total of … 0 yards. They didn’t flip the field. They didn’t do anything.
The Vikings went up 41-22 and then the Eagles did respond with a late TD. I was glad to see that. Nick Foles and the guys could have just buried their heads in the sand, but they kept battling. That’s important to see.
It did appear the offense got off track in the 2 previous possessions. Foles and his receivers were suddenly out of sync. The blocking was far from ideal. One of the big keys for me late in games is just to see the offense get 1st downs. Brett Favre always preached the importance of moving the chains. Going for big plays in those situations is low percentage. Take what the defense gives you, which is normally lots of underneath stuff. Foles seemed more interested in chunk plays. That is a focal point of Kelly’s offense, but either Nick or the coaches probably should have considered changing that up. The one huge play the Eagles got in the 4th quarter came on a short dump pass to DeSean that he turned into a long gain.
I’d love to see the Eagles have late leads the next few weeks and have to worry about running the ball and working the clock, but if the team does fall behind, they can use some of the lessons they got from Sunday’s game.
The 2013 Eagles are doing a lot of learning. They are new to Chip Kelly’s offense and Bill Davis’ defense. They are dealing with success for the first time in a couple of years. They’re dealing with pressure games for the first time since 2010. This group of players is learning how to play together. There have been tons of changes just in the last 2 years.
Every game is a lesson.
There are plenty of smart veterans around, but remember that they are dealing with Chip Kelly for the first time. He has a different way of looking at things. You can bet he’s got an interesting perspective on how a team should play when trailing late in the game. Each game is a chance for Kelly and his staff to show the players something new.
I know some people think the Vikings game exposed holes in the Eagles and they are in trouble down the stretch. I don’t feel that way. The Eagles played poorly on Sunday. If they just executed better on a handful of plays, that game could have been significantly different. I’m not saying the Eagles would have won, but the score would have been close enough that there would have been equal pressure on both teams and that could have changed things.
I think the Vikings have built up some real mental and emotional toughness through all the close games they’ve played in recent weeks. That edge paid off in the 4th quarter. The Eagles were lacking in that regard on Sunday. Think about recent games.
OAK – The Eagles led 49-13 in the 4th quarter. Raiders scored a late TD and game ended 49-20.
GB – The Eagles led 27-10 in the 3rd quarter. The Packers added a FG to cut that game to 27-13. Then GB got the ball near the GL. They were stopped, but were inches from only being down 27-20. Final score was 27-13.
WAS – Eagles were up 24-0 in the early 3rd quarter. Skins cut it to 24-16 and had driven deep when Boykin sealed the win with an INT.
ARZ – Eagles were up 24-7 in the 3rd quarter. The Cards scored a pair of TDs to cut it to 24-21. Arizona got the ball back late and went 4 and out to lose the game.
DET – The Eagles trailed 14-0. They tied it before the Lions took at 20-14 lead. The Eagles then went up 22-20. They added another score to lead 28-20. The Lions were on the move when they fumbled and the Eagles scored again to seal the game, 34-20.
The Eagles played 2 great 4th quarters, against GB and DET. The Packers haven’t been able to stop the run since October and the Lions defense was hurt by the snow. Both times Shady McCoy carried the team on his back (or feet).
Most of the 4th quarters involved the Eagles playing sloppy football and holding on for dear life. If the Eagles make the playoffs, that won’t be good enough. They must be able to execute well and play smart football in tight situations. We won’t know just how much he Eagles actually learned from the loss until the next time they trail by 10 or more points in the 4th quarter. It won’t bother me if they want to save that situation for 2014. I kinda like this playing with a lead stuff.
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The great Reuben Frank wrote about the great Keelan Johnson. Johnson will have a chance to show what he can do on STs. I hope he’s not on defense because that will mean the starters are all healthy and playing well.
I’m really looking forward to the return of Earl Wolff.
Brandon Boykin is on track to play this Sunday. That’s more good news.
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Sunday night’s game could be meaningless in terms of division titles. If Dallas wins, that means the NFC East will be decided in Week 17 when the Eagles play the Cowboys. If the Lions lose and the Packers win, the NFC North title would be decided the final week when the Bears and Packers play.
Chip Kelly has already said that no matter what, his starters will play.
Marc Trestman got the same question and gave a less firm answer. He did point out the fact that Sunday night’s game could be key for the #3 seed. Right now the Eagles have that spot with the Bears at #4. Should the Bears win, that would obviously change.
Resting starters in Week 16 to keep them ready for the season finale is something I can’t recall hearing about in the past. I doubt it happens for either team, but it is at least an interesting question for coaches to consider.