Day-After Dissection: Eagles-Colts

The Eagles beat Peyton Manning for the first time in his career. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

This one was for the old man.

This one was for Jim Johnson, who didn’t live long enough to see his defense do what it did Sunday. He didn’t live long enough to see it beat Peyton Manning.

"This is sweet,’’ defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said after the Eagles intercepted Manning twice and sacked him 3 times in a dramatic 26-24 win over the Colts. ``Sweet. Sweet. We battled (Manning) for a lot of years. I know Jim always wanted to get him. He’s a great player. But our players got him. They got him today.’’

For many of the Eagles’ young defensive players, Johnson, who died 2 summers ago after losing his battle to cancer, is a distant memory. But not to McDermott. And it was clear Johnson was on his mind yesterday after the win.

Johnson had a lot of success in his 10 years as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator. But he never could tame Manning.

Three battles, three decisive KOs. Manning’s Colts scored 124 points in those 3 games against the Birds, and the quarterback who recently was voted the eighth greatest player in NFL history pretty much did whatever he wanted to against the old man’s defense. Seven touchdowns, 1 interception, a .695 completion percentage. A double-digit yards-per-attempt average (10.7). A 132.3 passer rating.

On Sunday, that finally changed. Using many of the tricks he learned from Johnson, McDermott had a terrific gameplan against Manning. Kept him off-balance with an assortment of blitzes and coverages and fronts.

It was only the second time in Manning’s last 42 regular-season starts that he’s been sacked more than twice in a game.

After giving up 14 pass plays of 20-plus yards in the previous 3 games to Kerry Collins, Matt Ryan and Alex Smith, the Eagles allowed just 3 to Manning Sunday – a 33-yarder to wide receiver Blair White, a 20-yarder to running back Donald Brown and a 22-yard screen to tight end Jacob Tamme.

They tackled and covered as well as they have all season, limiting the Colts’ yards after the catch and neutralizing their wide receiver and tight end screen game. They held wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon to 7.5 yards per catch. They held Manning to 5.65 yards per attempt. It was only the ninth time in the last 3 years that a defense has held him under 6 yards per attempt.

They held Manning, perhaps the best third-down quarterback in history, to 3 completions in 8 attempts on third down. Just 2 of those completions produced first downs.

The very same defense that came up so small in the fourth quarter 2 weeks ago against Collins and the Titans, held Manning to 11 completions in 20 attempts in the fourth quarter Sunday.

Somewhere, the old man was smiling.

Just My Opinion
Sunday’s game was further proof that Michael Vick is the right quarterback at the right time for the Eagles. While Andy Reid tried to suggest that the offensive line played pretty well Sunday against the Colts, the truth is, that with the notable exception of left tackle Jason Peters, who did a good job of neutralizing the Colts’ Dwight Freeney, the protection was poor.

If Kevin Kolb had been at quarterback rather than the elusive Vick, the Colts would’ve had at least twice as many sacks as the three they ended up with. Vick converted three critical third downs with his legs and also was able to extend plays by getting outside the pocket and giving DeSean Jackson time to put double moves on defenders.

This isn’t meant as a criticism of Kolb, who has proved he’s a starting-caliber NFL quarterback. It’s meant as criticism of the line. Vick is one of the few quarterbacks in the league with enough mobility to not only survive behind this unit, but flourish.

Most Important (non-scoring) Drive
That would be the 12-play fourth-quarter Eagles possession that ate up nearly 7 minutes of the clock after the Eagles had taken a 9-point lead. They got the ball with 12:45 left in the fourth quarter and didn’t give it back to the Colts until there was 5:57 left, reducing the Colts’ possessessions and scoring opportunities.

Did You Notice?
* The excellent cutback by LeSean McCoy on his 62-yard run on the Eagles’ first possession.

* The inside route by tight end Brent Celek occupied Colts free safety Antoine Bethea just long enough to create space for Michael Vick to hit DeSean Jackson for a 9-yard TD on the Eagles’ third offensive play.

* Peyton Manning’s first interception was caused as much by the pressure he got from the Eagles’ front four on the play as by the alertness of Asante Samuel. The throw was so poor that if Samuel hadn’t picked it off, free safety Nate Allen, who was right behind him, would have.

* One of the big things Vick has learned from Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg is to throw the ball away if there is nothing there. That was evident on the Eagles’ third scoring drive on third-and-goal from the Indianapolis 3. With 2 pass-rushers bearing down on him and no one open, he threw the ball through the end zone rather than force a risky pass to a covered Jackson. That wasn’t his MO back in his Atlanta days. But it’s a big reason he ran his streak of consecutive attempts without an interception to 154 Sunday.

* While Samuel missed the tackle on tight end Jacob Tamme on the 3-yard bubble screen on the Colts’ first touchdown, give the cornerback points for his aggressiveness. He beat the block on the play and got to Tamme, but tried to tackle him too high. A year ago, he wouldn’t have even tried to make that play.

* How easily Vick ran by Colts linebacker Gary Brackett on his 24-yard third-and-9 run in the second quarter that kept alive an Eagles scoring drive.

* The Colts took advantage of the Eagles’ nickel personnel package on Javarris James’ 7-yard touchdown run up the middle late in the second quarter. The Eagles had defensive end Darryl Tapp playing tackle. The Colts ran right at him. Complicating matters was the fact that middle linebacker Stewart Bradley wasn’t able to get off his block.

* Nick Cole, who replaced concussed Max Jean-Gilles at right guard early in the game, got beat by defensive tackle Eric Foster on his late second-quarter sack of Vick that helped the Colts get the ball back in time to kick a field and take a 17-16 lead into the locker room at halftime.

* Winston Justice struggled all day with the edge speed of Robert Mathis, who beat him several times to the outside. Justice was flagged for holding Mathis on Vick’s 44-yard touchdown throw to tight end Brent Celek. But Justice had no choice. If he didn’t grab Mathis, he would’ve sacked Vick and possibly forced a fumble since he was coming at him from the southpaw’s blind side.

* LeSean McCoy, who had 27 receptions in the previous 4 games, had just 3 catches for 8 yards against the Colts. That’s mainly because he had to stay in block so much. He only had 19 touches Sunday, but probably took a worse pounding than if he had had 30 touches.

* Note to message board commenter ``toe bee,’’ who couldn’t understand my praise of Dimitri Patterson in light of the fact that Reggie Wayne, the man Patterson covered much of the game, caught 11 passes Sunday. ``I never thought I’d see the day when a WR catches 11 balls on a CB and it’s called an impressive performance by the CB,’’ he said. ``Strange metrics, Domo. This used to earn the CB the `toast’ nickname.’’ Well, toe bee, let me explain it to you. The key number you need to pay attention to is not a receiver’s total number of receptions but his yards per catch average. Patterson and the Eagles held Wayne, who had been averaging 13.1 yards per catch, to 7.5 yards per catch.

By the Numbers

* In the 15 quarters that DeSean Jackson and Michael Vick have played together this season, Jackson has 21 receptions for 433 yards (20.6 yards per catch) and 3 touchdowns. In 13 quarters with Kevin Kolb, he’s got 5 catches for 71 yards (14.2) and 1 touchdown.

* Michael Vick, who finished with a 93.8 passer rating Sunday, has had a 90-plus rating in all 5 of the games he’s played in this season.

* Forty hundred fifty-four of the Eagles’ 1,100 rushing yards, or 41.3 percent, have come from the quarterback and wide receiver position.

* For the second straight year, the Eagles had 21 touchdown drives in their first 8 games. The difference is in the type of drives. Last year, when they were a quick-strike attack, just 3 of their 21 TD drives were 7 plays or more. This year, 11 of their 21 TD drives have been 7 plays or more.

* Through 8 games, 215 of the Eagles’ 528 offensive plays, or 40.7 percent, have been run plays. That’s the highest run frequency since 2006, when the Eagles ran the ball 42.1 percent of the time.

* The Eagles gave up a season-high 6 first downs via penalties against the Colts. Previous high was 4 against the Falcons in Week 6.

* The Eagles have averaged 17.8 points in the first halves of their 5 wins, and just 7.3 in their 3 losses.

* The Eagles have held their last 4 opponents to an impressive 3.2 yards per carry after allowing 4.4 yards per carry in their first 4 games. Opponents have averaged just 2.8 yards per carry in the first quarter in the last 4 games.


To read our earlier posts from today, click here.