Posted: December 10th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 93 Comments »
I’ve talked about Nick Foles and the need to see him handle some adversity, especially in the 4th quarter of a game. A few of you have asked whether Sunday counts. The answer is yes and no.
Foles did have some tough circumstances to deal with on Sunday. The weather was frightful. The Lions led 14-0 midway through the 3rd quarter. The Eagles had poor field position most of the game. Not much was going Foles or the Eagles way.
That’s when he hit Riley Cooper for a gain of 44 yards and the offense instantly came alive. Foles hit DeSean for a 19-yd TD. He opened the next drive with a pass to Cooper in traffic and that turned into a gain of 25. The other big pass for Foles was the late play to Celek that allowed the Eagles to seal the game. Foles did make some key throws and certainly had a hand in the comeback.
But Shady McCoy is the reason the Eagles won the game. He and the OL took the game over. Still, let’s not dismiss what Foles did. He didn’t turn the ball over in the 2nd half. There weren’t bobbled snaps or hand-offs. Compare that to Matt Stafford. The Lions trailed 28-20 and were on the move when he failed to catch a snap and then failed to secure it on the ground. Critical mistake. He’s got to fall on that ball and give his offense a chance. Foles didn’t make spectacular plays to win the game, but he made the basic ones that kept the Eagles from losing it.
I still need to see Foles in more of a 4th quarter shootout situation. The Eagles are down 10 or 14 with about 10 minutes left and he’s got to make big throw after big throw. Foles doesn’t need to win the shootout game I’m talking about. He’s not playing defense so we can’t hold him responsible, but we need to see that he can lead the team to TDs in desperate situations. Teams that have a really good QB feel they are almost never out of a game.
Sunday’s game didn’t provide much in the way of definitive answers about Foles or the Eagles, but we got some pretty strong hints that they can handle tough situations.
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I love the fact that Chip Kelly isn’t a whiner. He doesn’t complain about officiating. He doesn’t complain about the schedule. He doesn’t complain about the weather. Chip reminds me of the parent who doesn’t make excuses for their kids. You teach them to deal with circumstances and pressure. Life isn’t always going to be fair. Rarely will it be easy. Don’t whine about that stuff. Do what you’re supposed to. Focus on the task at hand.
If you embrace excuses, you embrace failure.
This Eagles team has the right attitude. I really do hope they make the playoffs so we can see how they deal with a really good team. This is a different bunch than the group that KC beat and the Broncos blew out.
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Les Bowen wrote a good article today and talked about the effect of sports science on Sunday’s game. We can’t make any definitive conclusions since the Eagles are so secretive, there his no doubt that the Eagles dominated the 4th quarter. With that in mind, I enjoyed this bit from the article.
THE SNOW got deeper Sunday and the Eagles seemed to get stronger. The Detroit Lions, impenetrable defensively and able to do everything but score offensively through nearly three-quarters of the game, suddenly seemed frozen in place.
It was an amazing turnaround.
“This front seven for the Detroit Lions is just starting to take this game over,” said Fox play-by-play voice Kevin Burkhardt, with 6 minutes left in the third quarter, and Detroit leading 14-0.
Ah, not so much, Kevin.
Kev was a bit premature with that comment to be sure. And Les made a great point. You had an Eagles line with 3 players over the age of 30 dominating a pair of star DTs that are young. You would think the Lions, also coming off an extra break due to playing on Thanksgiving, would have been the fresher team. Sure didn’t look that way to me.
Is this a tribute to Mathis, Peters and Herremans taking such good care of themselves? Is this a result of sports science stuff? Is this partially due to the Eagles up-tempo offense which should help players to build stamina? Or is it maybe all 3?
I don’t know the answer, but I like what I’m seeing.
The Eagles are one of the healthiest teams in the league. I’m sure some of that is luck, but part of it has to be the new program. I hope Kelly and the players stay tight-lipped on this subject. This is the kind of stuff to keep secret.
I do wonder if we’ll see other teams adapt to the Eagles schedule of getting Monday off and practicing on Tuesday. And also going through a more serious practice on Saturdays. Whatever Kelly is doing, it is working.
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The Eagles-Bears game has been moved to Sunday night.
My sources tell me this is strictly being done to give Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey more time to figure a strategy for getting open against shutdown corners Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher.
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My PE.com column is a review of the Snow Bowl.
That 4th quarter was more fun than wrestling Megan Fox in a giant vat of chocolate pudding.
Posted: December 10th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 98 Comments »
The Eagles are in sole possession of 1st place in the NFC East.
Dallas got whipped by the Bears tonight, 45-28. And the game wasn’t even that close. The Boys are now 7-6 and a full game behind the 8-5 Eagles. Life is good.
Here is some fun from Twitter.
Right now the Cowboys have the 4th worst defense in the history of the NFL. They allow 30 more yards a game than the Eagles. Need some video proof of how bad they are? Check out this.
That video is highly entertaining.
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While seeing Dallas go down tonight was great, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Eagles still have 3 games to play. The team needs to keep winning.
Anyone remember the last time the Eagles won a big game in crazy 4th quarter fashion and then played the Vikings the next week? That was the horrible Tuesday night loss in 2010.
Word out of Minneapolis tonight is that Adrian Peterson will miss the game. Apparently the Football Gods don’t want the Eagles to face RBs. Andre Ellington was a late scratch for the Cards game. Reggie Bush got hurt in warm-ups on Sunday. Now AP is out. I’m assuming Bill Davis has a voodoo doll.
Or maybe these guys are just scared of Nate Allen.
Posted: December 9th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 100 Comments »
First up, Go Bears. Dallas is at Chicago for MNF. It is bitterly cold. Hopefully that will bring out the worst in Romo and the gang.
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Adrian Peterson says he’s planning to play on Sunday. I like hearing that. I want the Eagles to be tested as much as possible. AP is the Vikings one great player. I’d prefer to see him on the field.
For those who think I’m nuts, my point is that I don’t want the Eagles catching every break on the way to the postseason. I want the Eagles to earn this. If the Eagles do make the playoffs and have to face Marshawn Lynch or Frank Gore, wouldn’t it be nice if they could look back to a previous matchup with a big, physical RB?
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Some of you have asked about Jason Avant and his declining numbers with Nick Foles at QB. The first thing you have to realize is that the Eagles just don’t throw the ball as much. Nick Foles would need to complete 40 passes in each of the final 3 games to come close to last season’s completion total. There will probably be around 60 fewer completions. They have to come from somewhere.
Last year Foles and Avant had great chemistry. I thought they would be a good duo moving forward. This year the offense is just different. Foles is pushing the ball downfield and that means he’s going to Riley Cooper and DeSean Jackson.
Avant remains a terrific blocker and good slot receiver, but you want the ball going to Coop and not him. Avant has 11 career TD catches. Coop has 7 this year. Jason will move the chains, but he’s just not a playmaker. With fewer passes being thrown, you want more big plays.
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Should Chris Polk start to get some of Bryce Brown’s carries?
This is a tricky question. Brown has been hit in the backfield quite a bit. His rushing numbers are not all his fault. I don’t know if the coaches aren’t using him right or if Brown is slow i adapting to the new scheme.
Polk was perfect for the snow game. Polk is a downhill runner. He’s not going to cut too much and he won’t go down on first contact. He’ll push the pile and drag some tacklers.
I am all for anything that gets more RBs involved. I love Shady to death, but also like getting some touches for the backup RBs.
Wasn’t it great to see all 3 RBs handle the ball a ton yesterday and not fumble once? 39 carries. No fumbles. That is really impressive on a day when the Lions put the ball on the ground left and right. I won’t go so far as to say I fully trust Bryce Brown with the ball in critical moments, but he is being a lot more careful with the way he carries the ball.
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Earl Wolff is set to practice on Tuesday. That’s good news. Patrick Chung has been up and down. I’d love to be able to mix Wolff back into the lineup and see if he can help. Wolff played well before getting hurt.
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Posted: December 9th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 135 Comments »
This Eagles team is hard to get a handle on. They have a record of 8-5, but this is a very different team right now than it was in September or even October. The obvious difference is Nick Foles taking over at QB, but that’s actually just one piece of the puzzle.
The O-line is playing their best football of the season. It took a while for Todd Herremans to adjust to the RG position. He still has some struggles in pass protection from time to time, but is generally solid. RT Lane Johnson had some rookie moments early in the year. He’s now developed into a solid RT.
The defense is world’s better. They allowed 34.5 points per game for the first month. Since then, no team has scored more than 21 points in a game. The Eagles were dead last in scoring defense for a while. They are now all the way up to 13th. Amazing. Give some credit to Bill Davis and his staff for figuring out how to use the players. Give a lot of credit to the players, since they have gotten better all year long and really become playmakers.
Fletcher Cox started slow, but is now playing good football. Vinny Curry began the season as a spectator. He earned playing time and is now a key part of the defense. DeMeco Ryans took a while to hit his stride. Nate Allen looks like a legitimate starting Safety. Trent Cole has been very disruptive in recent weeks. Early in the season he was effective, but not making plays.
Think about P Donnie Jones. He is the anti-Sav Rocca. Remember how Rocca was always good for about 6 weeks and then as the weather cooled down, so did his punting? Jones had his 2 best games in late November/early December. And don’t underestimate the importance of his punting on the team’s 5-game win streak. He’s been a huge help to the defense by pinning teams deep.
And of course we do have to talk about Foles. St. Nick is now 6-1 as a starter. I think Foles has had his biggest impact in 3 areas. First, he protects the ball. Michael Vick did a solid job of protecting the ball. He only threw 3 INTs this year. But 2 of them came in the loss to KC, including a pick-6. Those INTs turned into 10 points. The Eagles lost that game by 10 points. I’m not saying the loss is all on him due to the INTs. Clearly there were many issues in the game. But the turnovers were costly. They played a big part in the loss.
Foles has 2 turnovers this year. He fumbled in the GB game. That didn’t result in any points. Foles threw a pick yesterday that did lead to a TD. But mostly Foles has protected the ball very well. He is making good decisions. There are some times when he will throw the ball into coverage and rely on his receivers to go get the ball or break it up. Most good QBs do that. You can’t expect every player to be wide open. The key is to be selective with these throws. Don’t make them at critical times. And do make sure that you are giving your guy a chance to get to the ball.
Red Zone success is the next area in which Foles has had major impact. The Eagles are 29th in this stat right now. They were 31st or 32nd under Vick. That doesn’t sound like much, but you do have to factor in that the Eagles have taken a knee in the RZ 3 times under Foles. There was a possession in the Tampa game when the Eagles just ran the ball and kicked a FG. There was no serious attempt to score a TD. That is 4 possessions when the Eagles were just working the clock.
Look at the RZ stats for both guys.
The rushing stats for Foles look funny, but remember that at least 6 of those are kneel-downs. Matt Barkley had 3 RZ knee-downs in one game.
The emergence of Riley Cooper is the final area in which Foles has had tremendous impact. It was like a light switch getting turned on. Rather than me trying to throw the stats at you, just go look at his gamelog. It is amazing the difference that Foles has made with Coop. I predicted Riley’s numbers would go up with Foles at QB, but even I didn’t expect this. The big difference is that Vick likes receivers to be clearly open. Cooper doesn’t get consistent separation. You must be willing to throw to him while covered. Foles will do this and it has paid off for both players.
Prior to Cooper’s emergence, the passing offense was going to sink or swim with DeSean Jackson. Now teams have to worry about both WRs. That has helped the whole offense. With Foles taking over at QB, it was almost like the Eagles made a trade for a good WR. Cooper has 7 TDs on the year and is 2nd in the NFL in yards per reception.
Back to the original question…how good is this team?
I’m always cautious of buying too much into a win streak. There is a lot of fool’s gold in the NFL, both past and present. All we have to do is look down I-95 to the mess that the Skins are. Just one year ago life was glorious in D.C. Team Shanny was brilliant. RG3 was a revelation. Jim Haslett and the defense still stunk, but for some reason that got conveniently overlooked. I think it is important to be skeptical of a team that starts to win more or play better than expected.
Peter King has the Eagles 8th in his latest power rankings. Is that really possible? The 8th best team in the entire league? This is where you have to separate the Eagles of the last 9 games from the team that got off to a 1-3 start. Since then, the Eagles are 7-2. They protect the ball. They score TDs. They come up with takeaways. They prevent TDs.
I think it would be easier to be comfortable with the Eagles if this team wasn’t 4-12 last year and so flat out awful for half the season. I think the slow start to 2013 sticks with us. I think we all still have that little bit of fear with Chip Kelly. Is Joe College going to get exposed in some way, shape or form? There is the whole Foles Factor. Is he really this good?
This Eagles team is not the 2012 Skins. That group started 3-6 before winning the final 7 games of the season. 5 of those wins came against NFC East teams. I don’t think I need to remind you how bad the division was last year. The Skins got hot at the right time. They still had an awful defense. They still had an OL that struggled to pass block. That team was a fluke.
Before the season I predicted 8 or 9 wins. I saw a good coach, enough talent for him to work with and a soft schedule. I did not envision the offense doing amazing things. I did not envision the defense going 9 straight games without allowing an opponent to score 21 points. Chip Kelly and his staff have done an amazing job.
Time will tell us just how good the Eagles truly are, but I do think it is time to accept the fact that this is a good team.
Posted: December 8th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 90 Comments »
Right now we’re all super happy with the Eagles big win over the Lions. Great game, right?
Yes and no.
The Eagles trailed 14-0 with 6:37 left in the 3rd quarter. That means that 2 1/2 quarters of the game were not much fun. The Eagles were out-played. Luckily, the Lions were sloppy and unable to take advantage of the situation.
It was the middle of the 3rd quarter when the Eagles did come alive and they pounded the Lions with points and yards like Mother Nature did with snow. The beauty of this is that the Eagles didn’t get a bunch of fluke TDs. They weren’t running back Lions fumbles or INTs for crazy scores. The Eagles offense just took over.
A deep ball to Riley Cooper woke the team up. Once that happened, there was no stopping the Eagles. The Eagles didn’t punt the rest of the game. Kelly and the coaches made some schematic adjustments to the offense. LeSean McCoy adjusted his running style. And the Biggies up front started to take over.
I was highly frustrated with Shady early on. He loves to run E-W. That can be frustrating on a good day, but it was torturous on Sunday. You can’t go sideways in snow. Players can’t make quick moves or cuts so they end up being easy to tackle. I don’t know if anyone talked to Shady or he figured this out on his own, but he started to run more N-S. He mixed in some cuts, but ran downhill for most of the 2nd half.
Once McCoy got going, the game became fun. Very fun. He got into a rhythm and the Lions struggled to tackle him. Heck, there were times when they struggled to get a hand on him.
These were basic run plays. This had nothing to do with the option or any tricks. The Eagles just fed him the ball and ran downhill. The Lions had no answer. Understand that the Lions had been red hot, allowing just over 240 rushing yards in the last 6 games combined. McCoy went for 217 in one game against them. It was also great to see Chris Polk and Bryce Brown contribute. They combined for 10-69 and a TD. The Lions had not allowed a run of more than 13 yards in recent weeks. The Eagles had a slew of them. Even Nick Foles ran for 20 yards on one play.
Give the Eagles defense a ton of credit. They gave up yards in the 1st half, but only 8 points. They came up with takeaways at key times to kill drives.
As for STs…a mess. I don’t want to rip the guys to shreds because of the conditions. The Eagles have covered punts and kicks well for most of the year. Jeremy Ross just lit them up today. Great job by him and his blockers. I didn’t see any holds or illegal blocks.
This really was a huge win for the Eagles. It put them atop the NFC East. That puts the pressure on Dallas and forces them to catch up when they take on the Bears on Monday night. The Eagles also hurt a potential Wild Card foe, in case the Lions don’t win the North.
One thing I love about the win is that the team never panicked. I was pretty friggin’ nervous for the first 2 1/2 quarters. The Eagles offense was struggling and Joique Bell was running well. Megatron wasn’t killing the Eagles, but he was making some plays. The Lions had been sloppy and my fear was that the Eagles had blown chances to make them pay.
Chip Kelly has this team playing with a clear head. They stay focused. They live in the moment. That is very impressive. Let’s remember that this team last year had players who would say things like “I know we lost, but I still think we’re a great team.” Guys seemed to fixate on their potential and their highlights.
This Eagles team isn’t worried about winning streaks, QB controversies or losing by 14 points in the 3rd quarter. They just keep grinding away. That’s exactly what Kelly wants. He doesn’t believe in big games. He doesn’t want peaks and valleys. Kelly is all about consistent excellence.
The Eagles aren’t there yet, but they are headed in the right direction. They’re winning at home and on the road. They just beat winning teams in consecutive weeks. The Eagles have faced good defenses and explosive offenses. This isn’t a bogus winning streak built on good timing or favorable matchups. The Eagles have become a legitimately good football team.
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Life is especially good right now due to the rest of the NFC East falling apart. Exhibit A, the meltdown in DC. Enjoy this write-up.
The Giants were officially eliminated from the playoff race today. They lost 37-14 and Eli Manning had an up and down showing.
If Dallas loses to the Bears tomorrow night, life will be close to perfect. Keep your fingers crossed.