Breaking down Sunday’s 27-13 win over the Packers while wondering whether Jeff Lurie has considered changing the name of the Linc to FedEx Field this week:
The Eagles are 5-5 and tied for first place in the NFC East and that’s great. Their defense took on a legitimately good running attack and held the Packers’ Eddie Lacy and James Starks to a collective 2.8 yards per carry, and that’s also great.
Their offense put up 400-plus yards for the eighth time in 10 games, LeSean McCoy and the running game awoke from a month-long slumber, and Nick Foles threw some more touchdown passes and extended his interception-less streak and notched his fifth 100-plus passer rating in his last six games, and that’s also great.
But I’m going to focus on the one thing the Eagles didn’t do so well Sunday, because if they’re going to beat the Cowboys to the finish line in the NFC East, their pass defense has to be better, a lot better, than it was against the Packers.
That wasn’t Aaron Rodgers out there at Lambeau. That was Seneca Wallace for one series until he injured his groin, and then Scott Tolzien, who was signed off the practice-squad earlier in the week.
Tolzien, playing in his first NFL game, was intercepted a couple of times by the Eagles, once on a very nice play in the end zone by Brandon Boykin and the other on a deflection. But he also averaged 7.2 yards per attempt, had five completions of 20-plus yards, completed 71 percent of his passes and was sacked just once.
I know they were missing one of their starting corners, Bradley Fletcher, and I know they lost two more starters – linebacker Mychal Kendricks and safety Earl Wolff -- to injuries early in the game. Still, Scott Tolzien shouldn’t be able to do that to a playoff-calibre defense, even a gimpy one.
Defensive coordinator Bill Davis was proud of the way his unit shut down Lacy and Starks. But he knows they gave up too many plays in the passing game.
The Eagles’ strategy against the pass this season has been to not deny the deep ball and rely on sound tackling to limit yards after the catch. It’s a sound strategy given the coverage limitations of some of their personnel.
Since the Denver fiasco in Week 4, they’ve done a good job of executing that game plan. But Sunday they slipped.
Their tackling on the back end was inconsistent. Right cornerback Cary Williams, who spent most of Sunday’s game on the left side because of the absence of Fletcher, had one of his poorer games of the season, although he did tip a Tolzien pass that was intercepted by DeMeco Ryans.
Williams gave up a 36-yard completion to rookie Jarrett Boykin in the second quarter that should have been challenged by Chip Kelly. And Boykin gave up a 30-yarder to Jordy Nelson late in the first half that set up the Packers’ first points, a 26-yard Mason Crosby field goal.
Fortunately for the Eagles, referee Mike Carey and his crew let their DBs play, or the damage could have been a lot worse and the game a lot closer.
Williams was targeted 13 times by the Packers and gave up nine catches for 113 yards. Williams’ target-to-catches ratio usually is high because he plays a lot of off-coverage, giving up the short hitches and bubble screens and outs, but limiting the yards after the catch.
But he seemed to be playing softer than usual Sunday and had a couple of missed tackles that turned what should have been negligible gains into double-digit-yard completions.
Also, for the most of the game, the Eagles didn’t get much of a pass rush on Tolzien. They had just one sack (by Vinny Curry) and a handful of hurries. Defensive end Trent Cole has done a good job against the run this season, but he’s been a non-factor going after the quarterback. He didn’t get a sniff of Tolzien on Sunday. The Eagles went into the game ranked 29th in the league in sacks per pass play. One sack in 45 pass plays against the Packers isn’t going to improve that ranking.
The Eagles didn’t blitz a lot – just 14 times on 46 dropbacks by Tolzien and Wallace. And they weren’t terribly effective when they did. Tolzien and Wallace were a combined 9-for-14, but for only 56 yards.
BY THE NUMBERS
--Nick Foles completed three of four passes of 20-yards or more Sunday for 132 yards and three touchdowns. For the season, he’s an impressive 13-for-23 for 480 yards and 11 touchdowns on throws of 20-plus yards. Not bad for a guy who isn’t supposed to be able to throw the deep ball.
--Some other pertinent Foles numbers from Sunday: he was 3-for-4 for 65 yards and a touchdown when the Packers blitzed, he was 2-for-4 for 33 yards, no TDs and three sacks on third down, and he was 0-for-2 in the red zone.
--Foles doesn’t have enough pass attempts yet to be listed in the NFL’s official passer rankings. But if he did qualify, he’d be first in passer rating (132.5), first in yards per attempt (9.2), first in touchdown percentage (11.8), first in interception percentage (0.0) and 11th in completion percentage (63.2) right now.
--LeSean McCoy wasn’t the only Eagle who had a big rushing day Sunday. Foles had a career-high 38 yards on eight carries (including three game-ending kneel-downs for minus-3 yards) and notched three of the Eagles’ 11 rushing first downs. He’s averaging 5.5 yards per carry in his last three starts.
--The Eagles rushed for 204 yards against the Packers. It was their third 200-plus rushing game of the season. They rushed for 263 yards on 49 carries in their Week 1 win over the Redskins, and had 264 yards on 26 carries in their Week 3 loss to the Chiefs.
--The Eagles were only the second team this season to hold the Packers under 100 rushing yards (99). The 49ers held them to 63 yards (on 19 carries) in Week 1.
--With his 155-yard performance against the Packers, LeSean McCoy has a 61-yard lead over Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch in the NFL rushing race. McCoy has 932 yards to Lynch’s 871. A breakdown of McCoy’s rushing yards this season:
1Q: 53-237 (4.5)
2Q: 46-196 (4.3)
3Q: 57-328 (5.7)
4Q: 37-171 (4.6)
1D: 98-452 (4.6)
2D: 68-371 (5.4)
3D: 25-103 (4.1)
4D: 2-6 (3.0)
Left: 67-336 (5.0)
Middle: 51-237 (4.6)
Right: 75-359 (4.8)
11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE): 144-721 (5.0)
12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE): 49-211 (4.3)
THIS AND THAT
--Nate Allen is quietly having a very good season. He’s been dependable in coverage and has developed into a solid tackler. If rookie Earl Wolff continues his improvement and Patrick Chung can stay healthy and be productive, the Eagles might not need to take a safety early in the draft. But those still are a lot of ifs.
--A play in Sunday’s game that underscores the difference between McCoy and 99 percent of the other NFL running backs: an inside run on the Eagles’ third possession late in the first quarter. He takes the handoff from Foles, runs into a wall and bounces it outside left and runs for a 20-yard gain after escaping from Packers safety Morgan Burnett in the backfield.
--Allen Barbre, who replaced injured left tackle Jason Peters, had a solid game, highlighted by a nice block on the Packers’ blitzing safety, M.D. Jennings on Foles’ 55-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson. Jennings came inside of tight end Brent Celek. Barbre alertly picked him up and knocked him in the direction of the end zone. He also did a nice job of neutralizing one-handed Clay Matthews on Foles’ 45-yard touchdown throw to Riley Cooper.
--The zebras missed a blatant facemask penalty on Packers defensive end Mike Neal against McCoy on a second-and-one run on the possession after Brandon Boykin’s interception. It would have given the Eagles a first-and-goal at the nine. Instead, they ended up with a third-and-4 at the 21, which led to a missed 39-yard field goal by Alex Henery.
--Brandon Boykin had very good coverage on Jordy Nelson on the 30-yard completion that set up a Mason Crosby field goal at the end of the first half. But the 6-3 Nelson has a nearly five-inch size advantage over Boykin, and he took advantage of it on that play. Boykin did a nice job of holding Nelson to a one-yard gain on a short pass right after that.
--Chip Kelly has repeatedly praised tight end Brent Celek’s blocking this season. Celek showed why the praise has been deserved in the third quarter with a terrific block on an inside run by McCoy that went for 18 yards.
--There clearly was a coverage breakdown by the Eagles’ on Brandon Bostwick’s 22-yard touchdown catch from Tolzien. Initially the responsibility of safety Patrick Chung, Bostwick ran a wheel route up the field. It’s not clear whether Chung was supposed to stay with him or cornerback Roc Carmichael was supposed to pick him up. It was one of the rare coverage screw-ups the Eagles have had in recent weeks. That’s what happens when starters get injured and are replaced by people who haven’t taken many first-team reps.
--It was funny to watch Vinny Curry run and put his arm around umpire Chad Brown immediately after sacking Tolzien in the fourth quarter. Since Tolzien’s helmet flew off on the play, Curry probably was worried he was going to get called for roughing the passer.
--For the first time this season, the Eagles played a dime (six defensive backs) package Sunday. It was precipitated mainly by the knee injury to Kendricks. Bill Davis preferred to go with another DB – safety Colt Anderson – rather than keep Kendricks’ replacement, Najee Goode, on the field in obvious passing situations. But because of all the snaps his defense is playing, Davis wants to start giving his two inside ‘backers – Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans – an occasional breather. He can do that by taking one of them out and playing dime.
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