Breaking down the Eagles’ 24-21 win over the Cardinals while wondering what will come first – a cure for age spots or a Nick Foles interception:
THE PASS RUSH
The Eagles’ pass rush came up big Sunday. The defense matched its season-high for sacks with five and pressured Carson Palmer much of the game.
Four of the Eagles’ five sacks came on blitzes. The only one that didn’t was the first one by Trent Cole, who was part of a four-man rush with Connor Barwin, Bennie Logan and Fletcher Cox. Cole beat left tackle Bradley Sowell with an outside rush and knocked the ball out of Palmer’s hand, setting up the Eagles’ first touchdown.
Cole and Brandon Graham each had two sacks. Inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans had the other one. Ryans also played a role in the first of Palmer’s two interceptions. He came up the middle on a delayed blitz in the first quarter, forcing Palmer to underthrow his pass for Michael Floyd just enough to allow Nate Allen to intercept it.
Vinny Curry had another solid game. He only played 22 snaps, but had one quarterback hit and four hurries. He had pressure on Palmer on Ryans’ sack and got critical pressure on him on Palmer’s second- and third-down incompletions on the Cardinals’ final possession.
The Eagles have nine sacks in their last two games.
BY THE NUMBERS
--The Eagles lined up in two-tight end sets on 29 of their 73 (39.7 percent) offensive plays Sunday. The only game that they have used “12’’ personnel more was Oakland (30 of 57 plays). Nick Foles was 9-for-17 for 64 yards and two touchdowns out of two-tight end sets against the Cardinals. He was 12-for-17 for 173 yards and one touchdown with “11’’ personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 wide receivers). Just three of the nine receptions by tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek came out of two-tight sets. But two of those three went for touchdowns – Ertz’s six-yard scoring catch on the Eagles’ first possession, and Celek’s one-yard TD late in the second quarter.
--Last year, the Eagles and Chiefs had the worst turnover differentials in the league (minus-24), which had more than a little something to do with the fact that they combined for just six wins. This year, the Chiefs lead the league with a plus-14 turnover differential and the Eagles are tied for eighth at plus-7. And, oh yeah. The Chiefs are 9-3 and the Eagles are 7-5.
--The Eagles are 6-1 this season when they’ve won the turnover battle. The only game in which they won the turnover battle and lost was the Chargers in Week 2 (+2). The Eagles have turned the ball over just once during their four-game win streak and have just eight giveaways in their last nine games.
--Nick Foles completed six of seven passes for 62 yards on third down against the Cardinals. Three of his five sacks also came on third down. For the season, Foles has an impressive 102.2 third-down passer rating. Eight of his 17 sacks have been on third down.
--Foles completed both of his pass attempts in the red zone for touchdowns to Ertz and Celek. He is 16-for-22 with nine touchdown passes in the red zone.
--The Eagles ran a total of 26 plays on their final six possessions Sunday. Gained 35 net yards, had just five first downs – three on penalties – and ate just 11:49 off the clock on those six possessions.
--The Eagles have been outscored 33-0 in the fourth quarter of their last four games and still have managed to win all four.
THIS AND THAT
--The Eagles did a couple of things Sunday in an attempt to spread the Cardinals defense out and create some running room inside for LeSean McCoy. They lined up DeSean Jackson in the backfield several times, then put him in motion. They also moved right tackle Lane Johnson outside and lined him up as a quasi-tight end two or three times. The Johnson move got mixed results. McCoy gained five yards on a fourth-and-two play that kept a scoring drive alive one time they did it. Another time, Foles took a sack when the Cardinals jumped what was going to be a bubble screen to Riley Cooper on Johnson’s side.
--On Foles’ 25-yard completion to DeSean Jackson in the second quarter, Jackson lined up in the backfield with Chris Polk. Polk went in motion to the right. Then Jackson ran a wheel route to that side. He was covered by the Cardinals’ best corner, Patrick Peterson, but Jackson got a step on him and Foles threw him a perfect pass.
--Jackson’s best play of the game wasn’t even a ball he caught. It was a second-quarter incompletion in the end zone. Peterson had position and looked like he was going to intercept the ball. But Jackson managed to knock it away. The Eagles scored five plays later.
--Tight end Brent Celek had an excellent block on Matt Shaughnessy on a second-quarter bubble screen to DeSean Jackson that gained 14 yards.
--Larry Fitzgerald got a big assist from safety Patrick Chung on his 43-yard touchdown catch and run in the second quarter. Chung took a bad angle to Fitzgerald and ended up taking out Brandon Boykin, who was covering Fitzgerald, and then missing the tackle on the Cardinals wide receiver. Chung also had a costly missed tackle in the third quarter on running back Stepfan Taylor, who turned what should have been a three-yard catch on a first-and-20 play into a 29-yard gain. The play kickstarted an 80-yard touchdown drive.
--The 6-2, 225-pound Cooper deserves an Oscar nomination for the acting job he did convincing the officials he was interfered with in the end zone by 5-10, 185-pound Cardinals cornerback Jerraud Powers. Cooper got the call, giving the Eagles a first-and-goal on the one-yard line. Foles connected with Celek for a touchdown on the next play.
--Celek’s touchdown catch was a beautifully executed play. It was a shallow left-to-right cross. Cooper went in motion to the right on the play, then effectively blocked things up in the middle, which made it difficult for safety Tyrann Mathieu, who was responsible for Celek, to get over and cover him.
--One of the reasons the Eagles ‘ pass defense has been better this season has been the dramatic improvement in communication. There have been precious few blown coverages. You seldom see the defense looking confused or harried before a snap. But they did blow an assignment on the Cardinals’ last touchown Sunday, a three-yard pass from Palmer to tight end Jim Dray. It wasn’t a complicated play. Dray just lined up in the backfield and ran a straight route into the end zone. But the Eagles didn’t have enough defenders over on that side.
The biggest problem I had with the officiating Sunday was the inconsistency. For much of the game, the zebras let the two teams play. Then, in the fourth quarter, they started calling things that easily could have – and probably should have – been ignored, including the holding penalty on Kurt Coleman on a punt, the pass interference call on Roc Carmichael and the two defensive holding penalties on the Cardinals’ Tyrann Mathieu and Matt Shaughnessy.
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