Breaking down Sunday’s 34-20 winter wonderland of a win while wondering why TV weather people bother giving us 7-day forecasts when they no freaking clue what it’s going to be doing in 7 HOURS:
BLOCKING AT ITS BEST
LeSean McCoy knows which side his bread is buttered on, which is why one of the first things he did after the game on Sunday was give a shout-out to his offensive line, who played a major role in his record-breaking 217-yard rushing performance Sunday.
“The guys up front gave me so much room to work,’’ he said. “Tons of credit goes out to these guys.’’
McCoy had six double-digit-yard runs Sunday, including 40- and 57-yard touchdowns romps. Chris Polk also had a 38-yard TD run, and Bryce Brown had a 17-yard run. The blocking on all of those runs against a Lion defense that was ranked third in the league against the run and had held its last five opponents to an average of 1.7 yards per carry, was as good as it gets.
On McCoy’s 40-yard TD run, left guard Evan Mathis took out defensive tackle Nick Fairley, left tackle Jason Peters neutralized right end Devin Taylor, center Jason Kelce took care of linebacker DeAndre Levy and right guard Todd Herremans did an excellent job on the Lions’ other d-tackle, Ndamukong Suh. Then athletic right tackle Lane Johnson got to the second level and took care of middle linebacker Steven Tulloch, clearing a lane for McCoy.
On McCoy’s 57-yard run, Kelce handled Fairley and Herremans and Johnson combo-blocked Suh. Once McCoy got to the second level, he got a terrific block from wide receiver Jason Avant on Lions safety Glover Quin.
On a 13-yard third-quarter McCoy run, Kelce got to the second level and sealed off Levy, and wide receiver Riley Cooper rode cornerback Rashean Mathis out of the play. On an 11-yard McCoy run in the third quarter, Kelce and Herremans combo-blocked Suh and Peters and Mathis took out Fairley, leaving a huge lane for McCoy to run through.
Mathis and Kelce were instrumental in getting the line surge on Foles’ one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter on a quarterback sneak. Kelce, Mathis and Peters also delivered great blocks on Brown’s two-point conversion after McCoy’s touchdown run, which tied the game at 14.
Johnson did a nice job of knocking Tulloch out of the play on Chris Polk’s 38-yard fourth-quarter TD run.
Tight end Brent Celek also had one of his best blocking performances of the season. He had an excellent block on Taylor that allowed McCoy to get to the outside on a 26-yard run in the fourth quarter. A play later, he manhandled Quin downfield on Foles’ 20-yard run, then had another important block on Lions left end Willie Young on Brown’s 17-yard run on the play right after Foles’ 20-yarder.
McCoy reclaimed the lead in the NFL rushing race Sunday. His 1,305 yards are 84 ahead of the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson, who could be done for the season after injuring his foot against the Ravens, and 143 ahead of the Chiefs’ Jamaal Charles.
McCoy had better be buying his blockers something nice.
Nick Foles completed just 4 of his first 14 passes and finished with only 11 completions in 22 attempts. But he had three very big completions late in the third quarter that swung momentum in the Eagles’ favor.
The Eagles were trailing 14-0 after Jeremy Ross’s 58-yard punt return for a touchdown. A questionable false start on left guard Evan Mathis put the Eagles in a third-and-11 hole.
Then Foles hit DeSean Jackson, who ran a stop route, for 12 yards and a first down. On the next play, he connected with Riley Cooper on a long 44-yard completion. Then he hit Jackson in the back of the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown.
The catch by Cooper was magnificent. The pass protection on both the pass to Cooper and the TD pass to Jackson was outstanding. He had 3.52 seconds to throw on the Cooper pass and 4.68 on the one to Jackson. Tight end Zach Ertz did a nice job of getting a body on defensive end Israel Idonije to allow Foles to get outside on the scoring pass to Jackson.
When the Eagles needed Foles to produce Sunday, he did.
THIS AND THAT
--James Casey played a season-high 22 snaps Sunday. There were a couple of reasons for that. One was the fact that the Eagles, who had used “13’’ personnel (1 RB, 3 TEs, 1 WR) just three times in the first 12 games, used it eight times against the Lions, including five times on their final possession when they were running out the clock. The other was that Kelly opted to use Casey rather than Ertz several times in two-tight end sets on run plays. Casey, who played both fullback and tight end for Houston, is a slightly better blocker than Ertz. Ertz played just 29 snaps. That’s his fewest since playing 28 snaps against the Giants in Week 8. It also was only the second time this season Ertz didn’t have a reception.
--Despite the poor conditions Sunday, the Lions still ran 51 of their 58 offensive plays out of the shotgun formation. The Eagles, on the other hand, put Nick Foles under center a lot more than usual. Just 35 of the Eagles’ 68 plays were out of shotgun, and only six of 28 in the first half when the snow was at its worst. By comparison, a week earlier against Arizona, 60 of the Eagles’ 73 plays were out of the shotgun. And three of the 13 that weren’t were game-ending kneel-downs.
--One of the few times that LeSean McCoy was able to bounce a play outside was on the Eagles’ 13-play drive in the second quarter. He gained eight yards on a second-and-3 play.
--Things have been falling right for the Eagles. Aaron Rodgers was hurt when they played the Packers. Sunday’s snowstorm helped neutralize the Lions’ biggest weapons – wide receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Now, Adrian Peterson will be a no-show this week after injuring his foot against the Ravens. And did anybody happen to notice who tackled Peterson on the play he injured his foot? None other than linebacker Arthur Brown, the brother of Eagles running back Bryce Brown.
--On Jeremy Ross’s 58-yard punt return for a touchdown, it appeared Chris Polk took a bad angle which allowed Ross to get to the sideline. Casey Matthews had a chance to stop him, but got blocked by the Lions’ John Wendling and overran him. Wendling’s block came very close to meriting a flag.
--The worst zebra call of the game, in my mind at least, was the roughing the passer penalty on the Lions’ Nick Fairley on a second-and-10 play early in the fourth quarter, just two plays before McCoy’s 40-yard touchdown run. I’ve watched the play a dozen times and still have no idea why a flag was thrown.
--Eagles nose tackle Bennie Logan did a terrific job of getting penetration and blocking David Akers’ point-after attempt following Ross’s 98-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter.
--I still don’t understand why the Eagles elected to kick the ball to Ross after Foles’ fourth-quarter touchdown put them up by eight. Ross, who already had a 98-yard kickoff return for a TD to go with his punt return for a TD, almost broke that one as well. Returned it 46 yards before being forced out of bounds near midfield.
BY THE NUMBERS
--The Eagles’ 13 rushing first downs were their most since registering 14 against the Redskins in Week 1.
--The Lions were flagged for four offsides/encroachment/neutral zone infractions.
--The poor footing made rushing the passer difficult. Matthew Stafford and Nick Foles combined for 47 pass attempts. They were under pressure on only eight throws.
--Before Jeremy Ross’s 58-yard punt return for a touchdown, the Eagles had given up just one punt return of longer than nine yards all season. Before Ross’s 98-yard kickoff return for a TD, the Eagles hadn’t given up a kick return of longer than 27 yards since Week 7 (Cowboys’ Dwayne Harris, 39 yards).
--The Lions fumbled six times in the first 17 ½ minutes of the game.
--Nick Foles still leads the league in passing (120.0). And he’s still first in touchdown percentage, interception percentage and yards per attempt.
--McCoy has 261 rushing attempts. Only Peterson has more (268). McCoy’s 301 touches are the most in the league. He’s on pace for 321 carries and 370 touches.
--In addition to their seven fumbles, the Lions also had four dropped passes Sunday. The Eagles didn’t have any. After dropping five passes in their Week 7 loss to the Cowboys, Eagles receivers have had just four drops in the last six games.
--The Eagles had just one turnover Sunday. They’ve got only two in the last five games. They have a plus-10 turnover differential in those five games. TheEagles, who were dead last in the league in turnover differential last year (minus-24), are sixth this year (plus-9).
--Nineteen of the Eagles’ 36 touchdown drives this season have been four plays or less. They have had just six touchdown drives of more than eight plays.
To Fox Sports for superimposing the yard-line numbers on the snowy field during the broadcast, which allowed viewers to follow the game better.
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