Breaking down the Eagles’ 20-13 win over the Redskins while wondering how many cases of Red Bull Jim Harbaugh goes through in a week:
SPORTLIGHT ON. . . TODD HERREMANS
The seven-year veteran made just the sixth start of his career at left tackle Sunday because of injuries to Jason Peters and King Dunlap. As with his earlier move from left guard to right tackle, he made a seamless transition
He got off to an inauspicious start when he was flagged for a false start on the second play of the game. He also was called for a hold in the third quarter. But aside from that, he played very well.
Herremans was a big part of the Eagles’ first scoring drive on their second possession. He made a nice block on linebacker Brian Orakpo to open a running lane for LeSean McCoy on a sprint draw that gained seven yards on a second-and-nine. Three plays later, he had not one, but two blocks on an 11-yard first-down run by McCoy. First, he pushed linebacker Rob Jackson upfield, opening a run lane for McCoy. Then he moved upfield in front of running back and flattened safety Oshiomogho Atogwe.
Herremans capped the drive off with the key bock on Mike Vick’s screen pass to tight end Brent Celek for a seven-yard touchdown. He took linebacker Rocky McIntosh completely out of the play, allowing Celek to catch the ball at the 10 and run in untouched for the score.
On the Eagles’ second scoring drive, Herremans’ block on defensive end Stephen Bowen, along with tight end Brent Celek’s wham block on Orakpo, opened a cavernous run lane for McCoy that helped him gain 21 yards and give the Eagles a first down at the Washington eight-yard line. On the next play, he put another Redskins defender on the ground on Dion Lewis’s seven-yard run. He also helped create the edge for McCoy on his one-yard touchdown run.
Herremans also teamed with left guard Evan Mathis to get the push on Vick’s game-clinching first down on a quarterback sneak with two minutes left in the game and the Redskins out of timeouts.
--The Eagles didn’t abandon the wide-9 Sunday, but they used it less, particularly on first down, when they lined up in a tighter, more traditional four-man front, and also moved their linebackers up closer to the line of scrimmage.
Most of the rushing yards the Eagles have given up this season have come on first down. In the first five games, opponents averaged 5.6 yards per carry against the Eagles on first down. Four hundred thirty-nine of the 701 rushing yards they had given up in the first five games came on first down. On Sunday, they held the Redskins to just 13 yards on seven first-down carries.
--While this is not meant to diminish the impressive job the Eagles’ did against the run Sunday, it needs to be mentioned that the Redskins lost their left guard -- Kory Lichtensteiger – and their left tackle --Trent Williams – to injury early in the game. Lichtensteiger tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee and is out for the season. Williams has a high ankle sprain and likely will be out for at least three weeks.
--Three running backs – the 49ers’ Frank Gore, the Falcons’ Michael Turner and the Bills’ Fred Jackson – have rushed for 100 yards against the Eagles this season. As defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins correctly pointed out after the game, those three guys aren’t exactly chopped liver. ``If you look at what some of these backs have done against other teams, those guys aren’t just doing it to us,’’ Jenkins said. ``They’re going out and doing it consistently.’’
Sunday was clear evidence of that, Gore, Turner and Jackson all had 100-yard rushing performances in their respective games. Collectively, they rushed for 401 yards, averaged 6.9 yards per carry and had four rushing TDs. The Giants’ Ahmad Bradshaw, who rushed for 86 yards on 15 carries against the Eagles in Week 3, had 104 yards and three rushing TDs Sunday in his team’s win over the Bills.
In six games, the Eagles have started three different left tackles (Jason Peters, King Dunlap, Todd Herremans), two different right guards (Kyle DeVan, Danny Watkins) and two different right tackles (Herremans, Winston Justice). While offensive line coach Howard Mudd’s unit has allowed a few too many hits on Vick and has struggled in short-yardage situations, they have allowed just nine sacks in six games, including two on Sunday. They are tied for fifth in the league in sacks per pass play. That’s not too shabby.
Sunday could have been ugly. The Redskins came into the game with 16 sacks. They have an excellent edge-rushing tandem in linebackers Brian Orakpo and rookie Ryan Kerrigan, and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett likes to blitz. A lot.
Herremans was making just his sixth career start at left tackle and rusty Winston Justice and his still-not-right knee was starting at right tackle.
But Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg devised an excellent gameplan to help the line. For starters, they ran the ball a lot. LeSean McCoy had a career-high 28 carries. Michael Vick threw the ball 31 times, but using three-step drops and sprint-outs, he got the ball out quickly.
Vick hung on to the ball for more than three seconds on just four of his 31 attempts – on his game-opening deep incompletion to DeSean Jackson (3.09), on his 22-yard completion to Jackson on the Eagles’ first scoring drive (3.44), on his 26-yard completion to Jeremy Maclin on the Eagles’ third scoring drive (3.28), and on his 59-yard completion to Maclin in the third quarter. On both of the passes to Maclin, the Eagles used a two-tight end set for extra protection. Vick got the ball out in less than two seconds on 18 of his 31 passes.
REX’S FOUR PICKS
A breakdown of Rex Grossman’s four interceptions in Sunday’s loss to the Eagles:
No. 1: first quarter, 3rd and 16 at the Philadelphia 38. Redskins went with an empty backfield. Eagles were in their one-linebacker dime package for what would be one of the few times in the game. End Jason Babin and tackle Trevor Laws ran a stunt, with Babin going inside and Laws coming around the outside. Laws got enough pressure on Rex Grossman to force him to throw off his back foot. The pass was intended for tight end Fred Davis deep down the middle of the field. Safety Kurt Coleman, who was playing centerfield, made a terrific play, leaping over Davis to grab the ball.
No. 2: second quarter, 1st and 10 at the Washington 15. A deep pass down the middle of the field to wide receiver Jabar Gaffney off a play-action fake. Gaffney had a step on the Eagles’ other safety, Nate Allen, but Grossman’s pass was slightly underthrown, enabling Allen to pick it off.
No. 3: third quarter, 2nd and 12 at the Philadelphia 20. Redskins were in a four-wide receiver, one-tight end set. The tight end, Davis, ran a skinny route to the five yard-line, but Coleman was right on his hip. The pass never should have been thrown, and certainly not where Coleman could get to it. The safety stepped in front of Davis and picked it off.
No. 4: third quarter. 3rd and 9 at the Washington 39. Grossman was flushed out of the pocket by right end Darryl Tapp. Running to his left, he threw across his body and tried to hit Gaffney near the sideline about 20 yards downfield. Coleman again stepped in front of the receiver and intercepted it.
--One of the key early moments of the game was that snap over Mike Vick’s head on second-and-12 from the Philadelphia 16 on the Eagles’ second possession. Vick picked up the ball at the goal line and threw it out of bounds, leading some to think he was going to get called for intentional grounding. But replays showed that after he picked up the ball, he moved about three feet outside the tackle box before throwing the ball away. The point became moot when Redskins linebacker Rocky McIntosh was called for roughing the passer, giving the Eagles a first down at the 31.
--Nnamdi Asomugha’s big hit on tight end Chris Cooley on a third-and-two play on the Redskins’ second possession reminded me of Sheldon Brown’s lick on the Saints’ Reggie Bush on a similar play in a 2006 playoff game.. The one difference was Bush never saw Brown coming. Cooley had a chance to turn and face the Eagles corner after he caught the ball. Asomugha made a technically perfect tackle on the play, getting leverage and drilling Cooley in the chest with his shoulder, not his head, and wrapping him up. The tackle is going to have some long-term benefits for the Eagles. Cooley broke his hand on the play, needs surgery and will be out indefinitely.
--Assuming Jason Peters is able to play against Dallas after the bye, Todd Herremans will go back to right tackle and Winston Justice will go back to the bench. A reporter asked Reid Monday about the possibility of Herremans moving back to his original position, left guard, and Justice staying at right tackle. But Justice didn’t play well enough Sunday to convince anyone, particularly offensive line coach Howard Mudd, that he deserves his 2010 starting job back. The three-step drops and sprint-outs to the left side that Vick used Sunday, as well as a heavy dose of two-tight end sets, helped minimize Justice’s rustiness. But he made several poor decisions, including one on a third-and-goal play at the Washington 10 when he let linebacker Ryan Kerrigan come in completely unblocked, even though there was no one else on that side of the formation who could possibly have picked him up, Vick had to hurry his throw to Jeremy Maclin, and it fell incomplete, forcing the Eagles to settle for an Alex Henery field goal.
--Asante Samuel has two problems when it comes to tackling. The first is he doesn’t like to do it. The second, and one that could eventually wind up ending his career prematurely, is he doesn’t know how to do it. His third-quarter head-down tackle attempt on tight end Fred Davis, knocked him out of the game for a few plays with a lower back injury. But it just as easily could’ve been a concussion or a broken neck.
--Andy Reid denied that Vick had any concussion symptom when he had to leave the game in the third quarter with what both Reid and the quarterback said was dirt in his eyes.
Reid suggested that Redskins linebacker London Fletcher was trying to get Vick taken out of the game in the third quarter when he started waving for the Eagles’ training staff to come out onto the field, which might be the case.
But Fletcher wasn’t the only one waving. Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson also called for the training staff to come out, as well as referee Bill Leavy.
If Vick had dirt in his eyes, he didn’t seem to be in a big hurry to remove it. After Vick got up off the ground, Fox game analyst Brian Billick said ``they’re holding him up like a punch-drunk boxer.’’
Vick left the game, but returned for the next series, which would seem to mean one of two things: 1) Vick indeed did only have dirt in his eyes; or 2) the Eagles have discovered a cure for concussions – Vince Young.
--The Eagles have been successful this season with those tight-end wham blocks to open holes for McCoy against 3-4 fronts. They started using them in the first Cowboy game last year, with Clay Harbor coming across the formation and taking out DeMarcus Ware. Harbor and Brent Celek had several more effective wham blocks Sunday, including two by Harbor on McCoy’s 11- and 7-yard runs on the Eagles’ final possession, which allowed them to run out the clock.