Saturday, April 19, 2014
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Eagles-Packers: What did we learn?

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It wasn’t pretty, but the Eagles escaped Lambeau Field with a 27-13 win over the Packers. It’s difficult to say if the win was a strong one. The Packers were without Aaron Rodgers and backup Seneca Wallace left with an early groin injury, making way for Scott Tolzien, who was playing in his first NFL game. Here are some observations:

Eagles-Packers: What did we learn?

Eagles Brandon Boykin intercepts a pass intended to packers Jordy<br />Nelson in end zone. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Eagles Brandon Boykin intercepts a pass intended to packers Jordy Nelson in end zone. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It wasn’t pretty, but the Eagles escaped Lambeau Field with a 27-13 win over the Packers. It’s difficult to say if the win was a strong one. The Packers were without Aaron Rodgers and backup Seneca Wallace left with an early groin injury, making way for Scott Tolzien, who was playing in his first NFL game. Here are some observations:

-- Nick Foles once again put up some pretty impressive numbers. He completed 12 of 18 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns and finished with a 149.3 passer rating. The next interception he tosses will be his first on the season. I wrote exclusively about Foles, how he played and the quarterback situation in my column for the newspaper. But here’s a quick summation of how I feel: It’s pretty clear Chip Kelly is getting near the point when he’s just going to have to name Foles his starter for the rest of the season. He’s now won two in a row with Foles at the helm, and while the competition hasn’t been great, going back to Michael Vick may be counterproductive. I still insist Vick is better suited to Kelly’s offense, but Foles has been more efficient running the up-tempo.

-- The jury is still out on Foles, though. He wasn’t especially sharp against the Packers, but he really didn’t need to be as dominant as he was last week against the Raiders. LeSean McCoy and the running game were rolling and Tolzein threw two costly interceptions. Foles got lucky on the deep pass to DeSean Jackson that was underthrown. He said he threw to Riley Cooper short on the first touchdown, knowing he would be the only one to get it there, but there were several other dubious throws. All that being said, he was effective as a game manager and even ran eight times for 38 yards, three times picking up first downs. We don’t know much more about Foles after the game, but he certainly did not regress.

-- McCoy was excellent. He looked like the Shady from the first four games of the season. Kelly and the Eagles said they didn’t do much different to spring McCoy free. It just looked like he had that extra gear today, sometimes taking runs that had broken down and getting outside for big gains. When McCoy is cooking, the Eagles become a very dangerous, two-pronged offense. He finished with 155 yards on 25 carries. He did impressive work on the Eagles’ final drive. The Packers appeared to be worn down – or had given up – and McCoy and the offensive line pounded them to kill over nine minutes off the clock.

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-- The Eagles o-line weathered the loss of left tackle Jason Peters, who left with a quadriceps injury in the first quarter. Allen Barbre jumped into for him and didn’t seem to have any significant breakdowns. I still have to watch the replay to get a better read on the line’s play, but McCoy’s day suggested a strong performance. Foles had enough time in the pocket, too. He was sacked three times, but they seemed to fall more on the quarterback than the protection.

-- Riley Cooper continued his torrid pace with Foles at quarterback. He’s now caught 15 passes for 393 yards and six touchdowns with Foles; eight passes for 93 yards and one touchdown with Vick. He dropped an early pass, but rebounded. He slipped two defenders, came back on the ball and made a diving catch on Foles’ short pass. Cooper then rolled into the end zone untouched for the 45-yard score. He later found a gaping hole in the Packers’ zone and Foles hit him for a 32-yard touchdown. Jackson finished with four catches for 80 yard and a gift touchdown. He moonwalked into the end zone as if he made some amazing catch.

-- On the other side of the ball, the Eagles run defense was once again stout. The Packers were held to 3.3 yards a carry and tailback Eddie Lacy rushed for 73 yards on 24 tries. DeMeco Ryans was a beast. He set the tone with a few stops near or beyond the line and led the Eagles with 13 tackles. I’ll have to watch the replay to get a better view, but Cedric Thornton and Trent Cole looked like the heroes up front against the run.

-- The defense suffered a blow when linebacker Mychal Kendricks left early with a knee injury. The Eagles did not have an update on his knee after the game, but judging from the vibe out of the locker room, it doesn’t look good. I’m not saying he suffered a season-ending injury, but it could be an injury that keeps him out at least through the bye week. Najee Goode replaced Kendricks and didn’t make any major mistakes. Bill Davis took him off the field when he went with his dime package for the first time this season. Last week when Kendricks left the game, Emmanuel Acho stepped in, but Goode explained after the game that Davis made a switch last week. Acho is now the backup to Ryans and Goode backs up Kendricks.

-- The Eagles pass defense allowed 305 yards through the air. Wallace accounted for the first 25 yards, but he left with a groin injury. Tolzien, who was on the practice squad a week ago, came in a completed 24 of 39 passes for 280 yards and a touchdown. But he tossed two interceptions, the first a costly one in the end zone that Brandon Boykin picked. To some surprise, Boykin did not start for the injured Bradley Fletcher. Roc Carmichael got the call outside. Davis said after the game that he wanted to keep Boykin inside so that he could focus exclusively on the position and in this instance on dangerous slot receiver Jordy Nelson (six catches for 56 yards). Boykin had a few bad moments in coverage, but he remains the Eagles’ best athlete in the secondary.

-- Ryans added an interception in the second half when he stretched out for a pass tipped by Cary Williams. Ryans is the consummate professional. He’s a bit of a liability in coverage but he more than makes up for it against the run. He’s also a steady leader. I can’t say enough about Ryans and the job he’s done in two seasons for the Eagles.

-- The Eagles were also short in the secondary after safety Earl Wolff left with a knee injury. The drop off wasn’t as severe because Patrick Chung was being rotated into the defensive backfield any way. Wolff tweeted after the game that he expected to be back. We’ll see.

-- A few quickies … It should be pointed out that the Eagles didn’t generate much of a pass rush. Vinny Curry recorded a third quarter sack. But other than that, the front seven didn’t generate much pressure. … Eagles tight ends combined to catch only two passes for 13 yards. James Casey did pick up a late first down by sheer will. Zach Ertz was held catchless. … Kelly lauded Celek for his run blocking. … Alex Henery missed another field goal, this time from 39 yards out. He made 41 and 25 yarders. … Kelly and Eagles coaches missed a few opportunities to challenge calls it appeared the officials failed to make. I asked him specifically about Jarrett Boykin’s catch along the sideline and he said he didn’t receive feedback from the coaches upstairs. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, up in the booth, is chiefly responsible for monitoring the plays that need to be challenged. … Damaris Johnson appears to have officially lost his return job. Boykin handled kicks and Jackson fielded punts.

Jeff McLane Inquirer Staff Writer
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Birds' Eye View is the Inquirer's blog covering all things Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL.

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