Lesson Time

Posted: December 19th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 35 Comments »

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

_


  • Rambler

    I have pretty much taken the “down the middle” approach with how I see this team this year. They definitely have exceeded expectations, so as the year has progressed (especially during the 5 game win streak), I have raised my hopes a bit. And I also like to look at each game as a microcosm of that… never putting too much stock into a win, and never getting too down with a loss. So my quick viewpoint on last week’s defeat is one of “meh.” To me, what is of paramount importance is that they come out on Sunday night and play a much crisper game with better execution. I know they are capable of that, and definitely should win against the Bears. Now, will they simply do what they did not do last week and take charge of the game? This week’s response is what I am most curious to see. What kind of character does this team have, especially during a late season playoff run? I believe in the leadership, but am still waiting to fully believe in the players’ talent/execution. Really excited to find out how the end of the season ends up, and I have not felt that way in several years about this team.

    • TommyLawlor

      This week will be really interesting. Can’t wait to see how this team responds.

      • SteveH

        So many people are eager for the game to arrive, and yet all I feel is a looming sense of doom. Obviously I’ve been well trained by the Eagles to expect the worst.

    • P_P_K

      I’m with you. If we win the Division and our season extends into the playoffs, even one game, my pre-season expectations will have been vastly surpassed and I’ll be thrilled.

  • Vick or Nick

    “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.”

    I agree they played poorly. BUT the game did expose holes that were overlooked past 5 weeks. Namely pass rush and coverage.

    Eagles don’t have the talent to really shut down opposing offenses. But they need to do a better job of sticking to their assignments. And make offenses earn every yard and touchdown. Gave up too many big plays.

    2 things they can do better:
    1. Tackle
    2. Better awareness on down/distance football.

    The pass rush is what it is. You can’t expect a dramatic improvement in that department. We get occasional push from the lineman, few moments from OLBs, and some pressure from MLB blitz through A gap. There is no area of reliable pass rush as of now. With a secondary like ours pass rush needs to be there and get home.

    • TommyLawlor

      I don’t think the MIN game showed us anything we didn’t already know. The problem is that so many guys made mistakes in the same game. And they all seemed to be crucial mistakes.

  • RobNE

    Interesting article here: http://mcnabborkolb.com/ suggesting the OL is not that good. Generally, along with the theme of this post (and winning the GD Superbowl), this year is about evaluating the talent. We’ve discussed whether player A needs to be replaced, and there seem to be very, very few players we leave off that discussion. QB down to punter.

    Also, barstool sports had a video of the comeback against the Giants. Good stuff, fun to watch.

    • TommyLawlor

      Brian used stats to make his case so you have to think about what he’s saying. I gotta say that I don’t buy the notion that the Eagles OL is worse than last year. I can’t wrap my head around that.

      The Eagles have key young pieces in Kelce and Johnson. They do need more youth, especially at OG.

      • shah8

        Oh, I’ll say it straight out. That’s insane. If that were true, the backfield would have been healthier in 2012. The real issue is probably a side effect of the offensive system, and especially with Foles at the helm (because of all the crashing DEs and OLBs). There is also the issue of Kelce being light and Herremans declining a bit, but all OLs go through transitions and issues like that.

        Now, with all of the thinking done to think why the sentiment is wrong, I think it *does* point out, using recollections according to the FO stat definition of ALY, that stuffed runs are a very serious issue, like that BB run where he lost eight yards against Ari. Again, very boom and bust, given the rushing yardage we have.

    • Rambler

      I get what he is trying to convey, and I think I have a less positive view on the Eagles offensive line performance this year than most fans. However, you probably have to chalk this article up as a “Lies, damned lies, and statistics” sort of analysis.

    • Andy124

      The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

  • Vick or Nick

    Questionable penalty. But just watch the explosion off the edge. Eagles have shown tendency in the past to trade up if they really like someone and the player falls.

    Barr is the ideal OLB pass rusher we need. Myles Jack also very underrated.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPpjQvRekkQ

    • Insomniac

      Barr needs to have a poor combine like Jarvis Jones did in order for him to be in a position for us tor trade up for him. Most likely it would be Mack that we would trade up for since Barr’s stock is way too high as of now.

      • Anders

        Most people have Mack over Barr right now.

        Also there is 0% chance Barr has a Jones like combine consider his whole game is about his athleticism

        • D3FB

          Exactly Barr could have an off day and he’s still gonna run in the 4.5s.

        • Insomniac

          I won’t say he can’t have a bad combine but he can be not as athletic as expected.

          • Anders

            Most people I have seen prefer Mack because he is more ready (those people are types like me, not ESPN types, so take it for what it is worth).

            I would be shocked if Barr had a bad combine. It would kill his stock a lot because his best selling point is raw athletic ability like Jordan, Mingo and JPP

    • TommyLawlor

      Jack is hardly underrated. Big time star as a Freshman.

      • Anders

        UCLA LBs are all very good.

        • D3FB

          Love to see us take a late round/UDFA flyer on Zumwalt. He’s 6’4 230. Is willing to take on blockers, but doesn’t always win due to strength issues. UCLA sometimes lines him up outside to rush the passer. Isn’t great at it but could fill the Casey Matthews role while he develops. Could be a great player to have as a developmental prospect. He still has a lot of room to grow into his frame and could be a monster ILB, in the big people beat up little people mold.

          • Anders

            I wouldnt mind Zumwalt as an UDFA.

            There is some nice ILB prospects with size this year and I hope we get one of them.

          • D3FB

            Yea alot of late round talent around for us to pick up. Zumwalt, Glenn Carson, and James Morris are the three I really think could be nice fits.

    • D3FB

      Barr is going to go top 10. It would require way too much to move up and with alot of holes on this team it wouldn’t be a wise use of draft capital.

  • ACViking

    Looking back at last Sunday, maybe Kelly should rested the starters on both offense and defense for the Week 16-17 stretch run.

    • TommyLawlor

      Where’s my time machine?

      • ACViking

        An Alex in Wonderland question, maybe.

  • Iskar36

    “Resting starters in Week 16 to keep them ready for the season finale is something I can’t recall hearing about in the past.”

    If I recall correctly, didn’t Dallas rest their starters in a game against us a few years ago in week 16 before playing the Giants in week 17 for the division? I think the starters played the first series or so, but then got pulled, but of course, I may be remembering wrong.

    • BlindChow

      Yes, that was 2011. The Giants won their game midway through the first quarter of the Eagles-Cowboys game, so they pulled the starters. We were so close to a shut-out on that one…

      • Mac

        Was that the Romo helmet punching game?

  • eagleyankfan

    This team isn’t good enough to rest their starters. None of these players are veterans of their own offense/defense. Why rest when they are still learning. And after getting your ass kicked last week? resting players is a topic for the media and fans and that’s about it….

  • Andy124

    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.

    Well said.

    • fran35

      The thing is, I was actually excited to have Foles playing and see a QB who could methodically move down the field. 5-7 yeard slants and such. Foles was good at it, then he got the big play syndrome, as did our playcalling. I would like to see shorter drive sustaining passes that methodically break a team’s will.

  • Daniel Norman Richwine

    This article is why few are 100% behind Foles as franchise QB. Can he win a game even if nothing is working?

  • Mike Roman

    Two things:

    1. F*ck Bret Favre
    2. No way would I rest the starters. First of all, the closer you are two Seattle in the seeding, the longer it will take until you face them. Secondly, this team isn’t good enough to take a week off. They need all of the reps and momentum that they can get going into the post season.

    So in my opinion, play for the #3 seed first. If you get the opportunity to rest a few guys after that (I’m sure Shady doesn’t need the practice), so be it.

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