Saturday, December 27, 2014

How much blame does Eagles' D deserve?

There will be plenty to discuss about the Philadelphia Eagles' future in the coming days, weeks and months.

How much blame does Eagles' D deserve?

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdowns against the Eagles´ defense. (Clem Murray/Staff Photographer)
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdowns against the Eagles' defense. (Clem Murray/Staff Photographer)

There will be plenty to discuss about the Philadelphia Eagles' future in the coming days, weeks and months.

For the second straight offseason, this franchise has major decisions to make.

But for tonight, let's focus on this game.

And let's start with the defense.

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Coming in, that was the biggest concern, and specifically the Eagles' pass defense against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' pass offense. I argued for seven straight days that the Birds' goal would be to limit Green Bay's big plays downfield.

Well, guess what? They did that. Rodgers completed exactly one pass of 20 yards or more. STATS.com keeps a stat called Big Play Passes. Those are pass plays that pick up 25 yards or more. Guess who led the NFC in those during the regular season? Rodgers - with 40 of them.

On Sunday, he had zero. His 180 yards passing was Rodgers' second-lowest total of the year. And his 6.67 yards per attempt was well below his regular-season average.

Greg Jennings, the league's fourth-leading receiver in the regular season, was limited to one catch for 8 yards - both season lows.

And so you won't hear a lot about Dimitri Patterson on Monday because he was fine.

There are three areas people will be talking about t as they pertain to the Eagles' defense:

Red zone: A historically bad red-zone defense didn't miss a beat. The Packers got inside the Eagles' 20 three times and scored touchdowns on all three trips. The Eagles allowed 31 passing touchdowns in the regular season, and Rodgers threw for three more Sunday. I am going to take a detailed look at the red-zone performance in the coming weeks to try and figure out how it could have been so awful.

Third down: The Packers were officially 8-for-13, but it was actually 9-for-14 when you consider the first down they picked up courtesy of an Eagles penalty. Rodgers was 6-for-8 for 62 yards on third down. He was sacked twice, but also picked up a first down with his legs once. On their three scoring drives, the Packers went 7-for-7 on third-down conversions. That allowed them to put together drives of 10, 11 and 12 plays.

Run defense: This was the biggest surprise. James Starks entered the game with 101 yards on 29 carries (in his career). On Sunday, he picked up 123 yards on 23 attempts, averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

On the season, Green Bay totaled three running plays of 20 yards or more. That was worst in the NFL. On his first carry of today's game, Starks went for 27. The Packers averaged 3.8 yards per carry in the regular season. Only four teams were worse. Against the Eagles, Starks averaged 5.3.

And so in no way am I arguing that it was an impressive performance by the Eagles' defense, which showed several deficiencies.

But when Green Bay's offense came onto the field with 4:02 left in the fourth, and the Eagles needed a stop, they got one. Overall, the Birds allowed 21 points. Green Bay came in averaging 24.2. The Packers scored on one of five possessions in the second half.

By this time of the year, a team has its identity. It has to play to its strengths and try to hide its weaknesses.

The Eagles' strength was its big-play offense, which set a franchise record for points in the regular season. But the Birds managed just 16 points against Green Bay. That's 11.4 below their regular-season average.

Last year, the Eagles scored 14 points in their playoff loss to the Cowboys. That was 12.8 below their season average.

The Eagles once again will need to take a look at pretty much every position on defense, aside from right defensive end and left cornerback.

But looking at this game on its own, the defense played better than expected.

Earlier I posted a quick take after the game. And this week, we'll have one more Man Up on the defense, one more Man Up on the offense and one more Mike Check. Then it'll be time to look ahead to the offseason.


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Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
About this blog
Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

Follow Sheil on Twitter. And become a fan of Moving the Chains on Facebook.

Download our NEW iPhone/Android app for even more Birds coverage, including app-exclusive videos and analysis. Download it here.

Reach Sheil at skapadia@philly.com.

Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
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