Breaking down the Eagles’ impressive 45-19 win over the Jets while wondering whether all North Korean leaders go to heaven:
With 102 rushing yards against the Jets, LeSean McCoy heads into the final two games of the season just 60 yards behind league rushing leader Maurice Jones-Drew of Jacksonville. Jones-Drew has 1,334 yards, McCoy 1,274.
McCoy has his work cut out for him. Jones Drew has had 17 or more carries in 13 of the Jaguars’ 14 games, while McCoy could get a lot of work or a little in the Eagles’ last two games depending on which way the wind in Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg’s gameplan is blowing.
With Tennessee and Indianapolis left on the Jags’ dance card, Jones-Drew will be facing softer defenses than McCoy the next two weeks. The Titans are ranked 20th against the run, the Colts 30th.
The Eagles have the Cowboys and the Redskins left. The Cowboys are eighth against the run, the Redskins 17th. But McCoy had big games against both teams the earlier this season, rushing for 185 yards in the Eagles’ 34-7 win over the Cowboys and putting up 126 in their 20-13 win over the Redskins.
McCoy continued to establish himself as one of the league’s top short-yardage runners against the Jets. He converted four of six short-yardage situations (two yards or less) into first downs or touchdowns. In the Eagles’ last nine games, he has converted 28 of 36 short-yardage situations.
Reid and Mornhinweg have developed enough confidence in the short-yardage prowess of McCoy and the offensive line that they are doing a much better of job of resisting the temptation to get cute and throw the ball in those situations. On the two occasions Sunday when the Jets stopped McCoy in short-yardage situations, R&M came right back with another McCoy run. On the first one, he picked up a first down that kept alive a drive that would result in Michael Vick’s 11-yard touchdown run. On the second, he used a great block by fullback Owen Schmitt to score his third touchdown of the game, putting the Eagles up 35-13.
The Eagles’ young linebackers and safeties have taken a lot of heat for the team’s defensive breakdowns this season. But they turned in a solid effort against the Jets. A quick look at how a couple of them played:
--Kurt Coleman. The second-year safety had one of his best games of the season. He forced the first quarter fumble by Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes that Juqua Parker returned 47 yards for a touchdown to give the Eagles an early 7-0 lead. He broke up a second-quarter pass in the end zone for Plaxico Burress. And he broke up yet another pass for Burress early in the third quarter.
--Casey Matthews. The much-maligned rookie linebacker, who has resurfaced in the Eagles’ nickel package the last two weeks after losing his starting job early in the season, had a good day. After the Jets’ reeled off 33 yards on four straight Shonn Greene runs on their first possession, they tried a screen pass to LaDainian Tomlinson. But Matthews did a terrific job of recognizing the screen, beating the block and dropping Tomlinson for a four-yard loss. On a third-and-12 play in the second quarter, Matthews made another nice play on a pass to Tomlinson, stopping him for a six-yard gain on third-and-12 and spoiling one of the Jets’ five red-zone opportunities. The Jets, who came into the game ranked first in the league in red zone offense, converted just two of five red-zone tries against an Eagles defense that was ranked 32nd in the red zone.
THE FORMATION GAME
Reid and Mornhinweg have more offensive formations and personnel groupings than Imelda Marcos had shoes. Against the Jets, they used nine different formations.
On their first possession, they used five different formations on five plays. One-back, two tight end. Three-wide receiver, two-tight end. Three wide, one-back, one-tight end. Two-back, one-tight end. Four-wide receiver, one-back.
Their most oft-used set Sunday featured three wide receivers, one running back and one tight end. They lined up in it on 27 of their 58 offensive plays. It was the Eagles’ most productive run set against the Jets. LeSean McCoy rushed for 78 of his 102 yards and two of his three touchdowns out of the 3-1-1.
Tight end Brent Celek had five catches for a career-high 156 yards and a touchdown. Those five catches came out of four different formations. He had 11- and 6-yard receptions out of a three-wide, one-back, one-tight end set. Had his 73-yard catch and run out of a two-wide receiver, one-back, two-tight end set. Had a 38-yard reception out of a three-wide, two-tight end set. His 26-yard touchdown catch came out of a two-wide receiver, two-back, one-tight end set.
THE AMAZING MR. BABIN
God knows where Jason Babin would be right now if Jim Washburn hadn’t walked into his life, but it sure as hell wouldn’t be three sacks south of Reggie White. In his first six seasons in the NFL, Babin had a total of just 17 ½ sacks. Then he met Washburn last year in Tennessee, recorded 12 sacks and went to his first Pro Bowl. In 14 games this season playing in Washburn’s wide-nine, he’s got a league-best 18. He needs three in the Eagles’ last two games to tie White’s franchise record of 21.
Babin, who had three sacks Sunday against the Jets and three the week before against the Dolphins, is only the 10th player in NFL history to record three or more sacks in back-to-back games.
His first sack Sunday came on a second-and-seven play in the first quarter. The Eagles came with a four-man rush and Babin beat Jets right tackle Wayne Hunter around the edge. His second also came in the first quarter on a third-and-eight play. The Eagles showed just two down-linemen, but ended up bringing six rushers. Babin, initially lined up about eight yards off the line of scrimmage, creeped up closer right before the snap, then looped around Cullen Jenkins, who had lined up at left end, and sacked Mark Sanchez for a 10-yard loss.
Babin’s final sack came in the third quarter on a third-and-twelve play, also out of that two-down-linemen look. Tackles Jenkins and Mike Patterson lined up with their hands on the ground. Babin and right end Trent Cole initially started about five yards off the line and looped around after the ball was snapped. Hunter should have picked him up, but he reacted too slowly.
The Eagles’ other sack was recorded by Phillip Hunt. Linebackers Brian Rolle and Akeem Jordan blitzed on the play and Hunt, who had lined up at right end, looped inside and came free.
A breakdown of the Eagles’ 46 sacks this season:
By Down By Quarter
1st Down: 15 1st Qtr: 9
2nd Down: 12 2nd Qtr: 14
3rd Down: 17 3rd Qtr: 9
4th Down: 2 4th Qtr: 14
--Neither Mike Vick nor the offensive line played very well in the Eagles’ win over the Dolphins last week. But they rebounded with excellent performances against the Jets. The line did a good job of protecting Vick, who wasn’t sacked, and blocking for McCoy. Vick, who kept deserting the pocket in Miami, displayed much better patience and decision-making Sunday.
A good example was his 26-yard touchdown pass to Celek late in the first quarter. Vick stayed in the pocket and waited for Celek to get open, even as Jets linebacker Calvin Pace was bearing down on him Vick ended up taking a big lick from Pace after he let the ball go. Fullback Owen Schmitt missed a block on Pace on the play. He came across the formation to block the linebacker, but appeared to trip over one of his linemen’s feet.
On a play in the third quarter, Vick moved around to avoid the rush, but again, didn’t take off and kept his eyes downfield. He ended up completing a 16-yard pass to tight end Clay Harbor. Vick had just seven incompletions in 22 attempts.
--Vick scored his first rushing touchdown of the season on an 11-yard run early in the second quarter. The Eagles had lined up in a four-wide receiver set with Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin on the left side. Both ran routes to the middle, taking their defenders with them. After left tackle Jason Peters sealed off linebacker Aaron Maybin for him, Vick had clear sailing.
--Another defensive player who has been the target of a lot of criticism this season, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, put together his second strong game. After Asante Samuel left the game late in the second quarter with a hamstring strain, DRC replaced him at left corner and played very well. He deserves a big part of the credit for Jamar Chaney’s third-quarter interception. Rodgers-Cromartie jumped a slant route on Santonio Holmes and got his hand on the pass from Mark Sanchez, knocking it into the air for Chaney to pick off.