Breaking down Sunday’s 23-21 win over the Bucs while wondering how it’s possible that neither Randall Cunninham nor Donovan McNabb had a rushing touchdown as a rookie, and Nick Foles, who couldn’t beat either of them in a 40-yard dash if they gave him a 35-yard headstart, does:
EAGLES’ PLAN OF ATTACK
The Eagles used more three- and four-wide receiver formations Sunday than in any game this season because, well, as you saw, the Bucs aren’t very good at defending the pass. In their first 12 games this season, the Eagles used three- and four-wide sets 62.5 percent of the time (508 of 813 offensive plays). On Sunday, they used them 93.1 percent of the time (68 of 73 plays).
Nick Foles was 20-for-32 for 226 yards and two touchdowns throwing out of three-wide receiver sets against the Bucs, and 9-for-15 for 137 yards out of four-wide sets. He was 3-for-4 for 18 yards out of two-wide receiver sets. All six of Foles’ sacks came out of three-wide receiver sets.
Trailing by 11 points with 7:15 left in the fourth quarter Sunday, Foles engineered back-to-back 72- and 64-yard touchdown drives that gave the Eagles their first win in two months and helped them avoid the franchise’s first nine-game losing streak since 1968. A quick look at those final seven-plus minutes:
The Eagles kick-started the first scoring drive with a bubble screen to Jeremy Maclin that picked up 24 yards. Maclin got good blocks from tight end Clay Harbor, left guard Evan Mathis and left tackle King Dunlap that helped spring him. On a third-and-10 at the Tampa 48, Foles again went to Maclin, who got behind safety Mark Barron. The rookie was sacked six times Sunday, but he got good protection on that play, particularly from Dunlap. The time from snap to throw was 3.47 seconds.
Foles came up big on third down Sunday, completing 10 of 15 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown. The TD pass came on a third-and-seven at the Tampa 11 at the tail end of that drive when he found Harbor in the back of the end zone to get the Eagles to within six.
Foles got some good protection from his guards and center, who gave him room to step up and then get out to his right, where he found Harbor. The time from snap to throw on the play was 4.84 seconds. Foles was very close to being across the line of scrimmage when he let the ball go, but he wasn’t. Because it was a scoring play, it was automatically reviewed by the replay official.
On the two-point attempt, Foles tried to do the same thing he did on the touchdown play, stepping up and then moving to his right. But ex-Eagle Daniel Te’o-Nesheim got penetration on right guard Jake Scott and was able to get his hands on Foles. Running back Dion Lewis was open at the goal line, but because of the pressure from Te’o-Nesheim, Foles’ throw was low and fell incomplete.
The Eagles needed their oft-maligned defense to stop the Bucs so that the offense could get one last scoring opportunity, and it came through. It allowed Doug Martin, who became the first running back to rush for 100 yards against the Eagles this season, to pick up a quick first down on an 11-yard run. But then the Eagles shut the Bucs down. Bucs coach Greg Schiano gave them a little help by deciding not to throw the ball. Safety Colt Anderson had a big play when he drew a holding penalty on center Ted Larsen on a run by Martin. Anderson, starting in place of injured Kurt Coleman, had a solid game both against the run and the pass. It will be interesting to see whether Reid and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles stick with Anderson even when Coleman, who has played poorly this season, is ready to return.
Foles and the offense got the ball back at their own 36-yard line with 2:44 left. On second-and-six, Foles was sacked by Bucs defensive end Michael Bennett, who got around right tackle Dennis Kelly. But Foles converted yet another third-down play. He stepped up to avoid an outside rush and found Maclin open for a 23-yard gain. The time from snap to throw was 3.28 seconds.
On a third-and-10 at the Tampa 40, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg called another wide receiver screen to Maclin. The play gained nine yards, leaving them with a do-or-die fourth-and-1. Foles, who earlier in the game became the first Eagles rookie quarterback in 36 years to score a rushing touchdown, picked up the first down himself, using a nice block by Mathis on Te’o-Nesheim to pick up three yards.
With the Eagles out of timeouts, Foles quickly spiked the ball to stop the clock with 35 seconds left. They got a free five yards on the play when the Bucs were flagged for having 12 men on the field. That gave the Eagles a first down at the Tampa 23.
Foles misfired on a throw to Riley Cooper, then threw the ball out of the end zone on the next play when he couldn’t find anyone open. That left 22 seconds on the clock and 23 yards still to travel.
Foles then made one of the few poor throws of the afternoon, forcing a pass to rookie Marvin McNutt, who was playing for the first time this season. McNutt was covered by cornerback Danny Gorrer, who almost intercepted the pass. That made it fourth-and-five with just 16 seconds left.
The Eagles went with a three-wide receiver, two-back set on the next play to provide Foles with a little extra protection. He found slot receiver Jason Avant down the middle for a 22-yard gain to the one. Foles and the rest of the offense sprinted down and snapped the ball in time for the rookie quarterback to spike it and stop the clock with two seconds left.
The Eagles lined up in a three-wide receiver set with Riley Cooper, Maclin and Avant all on the left side and tight end Clay Harbor on the right. After getting a look at the Eagles’ formation, the Bucs used their final timeout.
After the timeout, the Eagles didn’t show them the same look. They went with three wide receivers again, but Cooper now was the lone wideout on the left side. Maclin and Avant were on the strong side with Harbor.
Maclin was matched up against cornerback Leonard Johnson and ran a quick out route. Foles had wanted a movement play so that he would have clear throwing lanes. He took the snap, ran five steps to his right and drilled the ball to Maclin, who caught the ball just inbounds to win the game.
SPOTLIGHT ON……THE CORNERS
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: DRC has not had a good season. But Andy Reid had a little chat with both of his corners last week about their poor play and lack of effort. DRC responded with one of his best games of the year.
He made his presence felt right out of the gate, breaking up a pass for wide receiver Vincent Jackson and showing uncharacteristic aggressiveness in coming up to defend a short pass to Mike Williams. Early in the second quarter, on a second-and-26, he made a nice play to break up a deep pass down the middle to Williams. Those are the kinds of plays the Eagles envisioned him making when they traded for him. Utilizing his speed, wing span and leaping ability to take away the deep ball.
Later in the second quarter, DRC again went out of character, putting a big lick on Bucs tight end Dallas Clark on a 19-yard completion. On the same possession, he made a nice tackle on rookie running back Doug Martin, stopping him for a two-yard gain on a second-and-10 play. He even avoided a stiff-arm by Martin to make the tackle.
In the third quarter, he had excellent coverage on Jackson on a deep ball, forcing an incompletion. In the fourth quarter, he broke up a pass to tight end Luke Stocker. All in all, a very good day for him.
Nnamdi Asomugha: I give Asomugha a lot of credit for coming back and playing in the second half Sunday after injuring his neck early in the second quarter. He could have called it a day and watched the rest of the game from the sideline, but he didn’t.
Trouble is he didn’t play very well after he returned. He gave up a 13-yard completion to Mike Williams on the Bucs’ third offensive play of the second half. Then, after Damaris Johnson’s muffed punt gave the Bucs the ball at the Philadelphia five-yard line, Asomugha was beaten by Williams for a one-yard touchdown catch. Williams boxed Asomugha out in the end zone and easily caught the scoring pass from Josh Freeman.
Later in the third quarter, Nnamdi gave up a 40-yard completion to Jackson on the scoring drive that put the Bucs ahead, 14-10. On the same drive, he got blocked by Freeman on a nine-yard cutback run by Doug Martin.
Last but not least, on the Bucs’ final touchdown drive, he gave up a 29-yard completion to Jackson on a third-and-seven play. Again, Asomugha let Jackson get inside position on him.
The Eagles are going to have difficult decisions to make on both Rodgers-Cromartie and Asomugha after the season. DRC will be an unrestricted free agent, and it’s not likely the Eagles are going to offer a guy as flaky and as inconsistent as him a big contract.
As for Asomugha, it’s pretty obvious he is on the downside of his career. He is scheduled to make $15 million next year. The Eagles have no intention of paying him that much. They’ll likely ask him to restructure his deal. If he refuses, they’ll likely eat the $4 million in guaranteed money he is owed and release him. But cornerbacks don’t grow on trees.