Saturday, December 20, 2014

Day-After Dissection: Eagles-Browns

Breaking down the Eagles’ 17-16 Week 1 win over the Browns while wondering how many live animals possibly are living in Jason Kelce’s beard:

Day-After Dissection: Eagles-Browns

Michael Vick threw two touchdowns and four interceptions against the Browns on Sunday. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Michael Vick threw two touchdowns and four interceptions against the Browns on Sunday. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Breaking down the Eagles’ 17-16 Week 1 win over the Browns while wondering how many live animals possibly are living in Jason Kelce’s beard:

Michael Vick was very fortunate to get out of Sunday’s game with just four interceptions, because that number very easily could’ve been eight. That’s right, eight.

Linebacker Craig Robertson, who had one of Browns’ four interceptions, very nearly picked off a careless second-quarter pass to LeSean McCoy. Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson almost did the same with a third-quarter pass to Jeremy Maclin.

Cornerback Joe Haden would have had his second interception of the night in the fourth quarter had wide receiver DeSean Jackson not knocked the ball away from him. And on the play right before Vick threw the game-winning touchdown to tight end Clay Harbor, Vick put an end zone pass for Maclin right into the hands of linebacker L.J. Fort. Luckily for the Eagles, Fort wasn’t able to hang on to it.

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Three of Vick’s four interceptions were by linebackers, as were three of his four near-interceptions. He repeatedly seemed to have trouble seeing linebackers in coverage, probably because he was staring down his receivers most of the game and not paying much attention to where the defenders were.

Andy Reid attributed Vick’s awful performance against the Browns to the rust caused by taking just 12 preseason snaps. But there was more going on Sunday than that.

Rust is poor timing with your receivers. Rust is not being as accurate as you’d like.

Rust ISN’T failing to go through your progressions. Rust ISN’T bolting the pocket when your protection still is adequate. Rust ISN’T forcing balls into the places Vick was forcing them into Sunday

In defending Vick Monday, Reid turned to his tried and true ``everybody has a piece of that pie’’explanation. And to a degree, he’s right. Football is a team game. There were some protection breakdowns up front, though not as many as it might’ve seemed from the way Vick was bolting the pocket. And while LeSean McCoy did rush for 110 yards, he didn’t have one of his better games as far as picking up the blitz.

Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron is not a big blitzer. But he made an exception against Vick, attacking him with weakside blitzes by linebackers, safeties, cornerbacks and beer vendors.

Vick completed just 8 of 17 passes for 135 yards and one interception when the Browns sent extra rushers Sunday. Last year, he was one of the league’s lowest-rated passers against the blitz, completing just 56.7 percent of his passes against extra rushers. Eleven of his 14 interceptions came against the blitz. He had a 65.5 passer rating when teams blitzed him.

He’d better figure out how to deal with it, because he’s going to be seeing it a lot this season.

SOME NUMBERS

--The Eagles averaged a puny 3.7 points per 100 yards in Sunday’s win over the Browns. That was the lowest average of any of the league’s Week 1 winners heading into Monday night’s doubleheader. The next lowest was the Cowboys, who averaged 5.5 points per 100 yards in their 24-17 win over the Giants. ``You start looking at 456 yards of total offense and then you’re not putting it in the end zone,’’ Andy Reid said Monday. ``That’s ridiculous there.’’

--The Eagles had another 54 yards of offense, including 30 rushing yards by LeSean McCoy, negated by penalties against the Browns.

--Michael Vick completed 8 of his first 10 passes and 6 of his last 10 passes. In between, he was 15-for-36.

--The Eagles ran 28 more pass plays (58) than run plays (30) against the Browns. That’s their biggest pass-to-run differential since their 38-20 loss to the Patriots in Week 12 last year when they ran 32 more pass plays (58) than run plays (17).

--DeSean Jackson had three catches for 68 yards in the first quarter Sunday and just one catch for nine yards the rest of the game.

--McCoy, who finished with 110 rushing yards on 20 carries, had five runs of nine yards or more, including three runs of 13, 15 and 22 yards.

--Vick had a 69.0 third-down passer rating against the Browns, which was a little better than his overall passer rating (51.0). He completed 9 of 14 third-down passes for 65 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception.

--The Eagles’ used two-tight end formations on 28 of 88 offensive plays against the Browns, or 31.8 percent of the time. That’s slightly higher than last year when they used two-tight end sets 29.7 percent of the time. Tight ends Brent Celek and Clay Harbor were targeted a combined 14 times by Vick and had a collected 7 catches for 81 yards and 1 touchdown (Harbor).

--The Eagles activated five of their six defensive ends for Sunday’s game. Starters Trent Cole and Jason Babin got the bulk of the work. Cole played 41 of 59 snaps and Babin 40, according to Pro Football Focus. Darryl Tapp was next with 21, followed by Phillip Hunt with 15 and Brandon Graham with just five snaps. Cullen Jenkins led all defensive tackles with 42 snaps played.

SOME OBSERVATIONS

--Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who was harder to find than Waldo during the preseason, turned in an excellent performance against the Browns. He was credited with five tackles, but actually had six. And every one of them was a big stop. He stopped tight end Ben Watson short of a first down on a third-and-four completion late in the first quarter, got in the backfield and dropped rookie running back Trent Richardson for a one-yard loss on a third-and-one in the second quarter, tackled Richardson for another one-yard loss later in the second quarter on a second-and-10, held him to a one-yard gain on a second-and-10 in the third quarter, collaborated with tackle Cullen Jenkins to drop Richardson for a three-yard loss on a first-and-goal at the 7 late in the third quarter, and tackled Richardson for another one-yard loss in the fourth quarter. Richardson finished the game with just 39 yards on 19 carries.

--The Eagles were penalized 12 times for 110 yards Sunday, including five offensive holding infractions. Most of them were legitimate, with the exception of a second-quarter holding call on center Jason Kelce that negated a 17-yard run by LeSean McCoy.

--Michael Vick’s two best throws Sunday came on back-to-back plays just before the end of the first half. He hit Jeremy Maclin with a pretty 46-yard throw down the left sideline, then drilled an 18-yard scoring strike to Maclin with 17 seconds left in the half to give the Eagles a 10-3 lead. The scoring play was an excellent call by offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Maclin was lined up wide right with DeSean Jackson in the right slot. Jackson ran an inside route, which drew safety Eric Hagg toward him and gave Maclin enough room to execute an outside-inside move on cornerback Joe Haden. Maclin turned Haden around and Hagg wasn’t able to get back in time to help.

--Center Jason Kelce showed his athleticism on a 15-yard cutback run by McCoy early in the fourth quarter. Kelce got to the second level and sealed off Browns middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, which opened a cutback lane for McCoy.

--Fullback Stanley Havili only played 14 offensive snaps Sunday, but he and tight end Clay Harbor came up big on McCoy’s do-or-die fourth-and-one run with two minutes left in the game and the Eagles trailing by six. The two of them created the seam on the right side that allowed McCoy to gain three yards and a first down at the Cleveland 20 yard-line. Five plays later, Harbor caught a four-yard touchdown pass from Vick to put the Eagles ahead.

Paul Domowitch Daily News NFL Columnist
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