Position-by-position grading of the Eagles following their 48-30 loss to the Vikings on Sunday, focusing on one player at each spot:
Quarterback – C+
Nick Foles’ numbers were gaudy but many of the passing yards were hollow. He made a handful of impressive throws, but also came up small in several key spots. First the good: Foles stood in against the blitz and took a shot after he hit DeSean Jackson for 17 yards on third down in the first. He lofted a pass to Jackson for 20 yards on a wheel route on the next play. Later in the second, he avoided pressure and threw across his body to Jackson for 21 yards. He made a similar throw to Jason Avant for 13 yards on third down in the third. Foles floated a strike to Jackson in the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown in the third. He ran for 41 yards on five carries, but failed to pick up a yard on a third and one keeper in the second.
Now the bad: Foles overthrew Avant in the first, underthrew a wide open Cooper deep in the second, and overshot Avant and one-hopped Cooper on back-to-back plays in the third. His peel back block on the fourth down double reverse nullified a touchdown. Foles held onto the ball too long in the third and took a sack on third down. He held onto the ball an extra beat later in the quarter and threw into coverage and was intercepted. He wasn’t accurate on fourth quarter over-the-top attempts to Zach Ertz. He took a late delay of game penalty and was sacked a play later.
Running back – B
A week after he ran for 217 yards on 29 carries, LeSean McCoy was held to eight tries for 38 yards by … Chip Kelly. McCoy had success with the shotgun toss the first two times Kelly called it, running for 16 and 7 yards. The Eagles went back to the same play on third down and one in the third, but the Vikings sniffed it out. On fourth and one a play later, McCoy ran into a wall and couldn’t convert. He had success in the screen game. Three of his five catches were screens that totaled 60 yards.
Wide receiver – B+
DeSean Jackson was excellent. He was targeted 16 times and caught a variety of ten passes for 195 yards. The best were a 17-yard comebacker in which he took a hit, a 16-yard pickup out of the backfield on third down, a 15-yard sideline grab, the 30-yard over-the-shoulder touchdown catch and a 51-yard highlight reel play in which he eluded three would-be tacklers.
Tight end – B
For the first time this season, Zach Ertz played more snaps than Brent Celek. Running more plays out of passing sets was the likely reason. Ertz caught a number of passes underneath on crossing routes. He picked up 17 yards in the third quarter when he charged upfield. His one-handed touchdown grab in the third quarter was breathtaking.
Line – B
Foles had more than enough time in the pocket for most of the day. The run blocking on the back-to-back third- and four-down-and-short attempts in the third wasn’t crisp. Jason Peters was charged with three of four sacks by Pro Football Focus, but only on one was he truly beat by Jared Allen. But when your quarterback drops to throw 55 times and you’re facing a five-time Pro Bowl defensive end, there are going to be a few sacks.
Line – C
The line did a fine job holding an Adrian Peterson-less Vikings run game to 2.4 yards a carry, but the unit couldn’t sustain enough pressure on quarterback Matt Cassel. Kelly singled out Fletcher Cox, but he had only one hurry in 39 pass rush attempts. The end knocked Cassel’s arm in the first, but he shrugged off Cox and hit Greg Jennings for a 57-yard touchdown. The Eagles credited him with seven solo stops against the run. Cassel ran for a touchdown through a hole vacated by Cox on a draw play in the third.
Outside linebackers – C
Trent Cole was good against the run, but got little pressure on passing plays. He had three tackles for loss against the run. He was credited with one hurry. He took a neutral zone infraction in the second.
Inside linebackers – C
Mychal Kendricks had a team-high 12 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and an interception. He shed a blocker nicely in the first and dropped running back Matt Asiata near the line. He overran a check down to Asiate on third down that the tailback converted. He got his sack with an “A” gap rush. He was beat by tight end Chase Ford on third and 14 in the fourth and unwisely went for the pick.
Cornerbacks – F
Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams had forgetful days. Fletcher was targeted 10 times and allowed eight catches for 134 yards. He was also called for two pass interference penalties. The first in the back corner of the end zone was questionable. The other one late in the game was blatant. Fletcher gave up most of his yards when he played off. He had good coverage on a 42-yard catch by Jarius Wright in the third.
Safeties – F
Patrick Chung and the safeties had a rough day. He tried to jump a screen pass in the flat, but left his assignment and Ford caught an 18-yard pass in the first. He was beat by Jennings out of the slot on the 57-yard touchdown. Nate Allen was late to help. Chung was benched the next series for Kurt Coleman, but returned when Coleman left with a hamstring injury. He was called for unnecessary roughness when he made a high tackle near the sideline.
SPECIAL TEAMS – D
Alex Henery was 3 of 3 on field goals, including a season-high 51-yarder, but he was inconsistent with his short kicks that were meant to avoid Cordarrelle Patterson. Three pooch kicks landed on average at the 22 and were returned to the 28. Two squib kicks went on average to the 28 and were returned to the 42.
REWIND THE TAPE
Faced with third and one at their own 24 midway through the third quarter and trailing, 24-9, the Eagles called for a run play they had success with prior in the game. LeSean McCoy (1) picked up 16 and 7 yards on the shotgun pitch play earlier. But here the Vikings read it beautifully. The play called for center Jason Kelce (2) and guard Todd Herremans (3) to pull and for McCoy to run inside tight end Brent Celek on the right.
But when Herremans pulled he had trouble blocking safety Jamarca Sanford (4), Kelce was picked by a lineman and McCoy had to bounce the run outside. When he got there, safety Harrison Smith (6) was in the backfield and blew the play up further. Linebacker Chad Greenway (5) was there to clean it up and take the tackle and McCoy was marked a half yard short.
Repeated viewings of the play seemed to indicate that McCoy had the first down or at least was a half foot shy of the marker. But Chip Kelly didn’t challenge the play and went for it on fourth down to no avail.
-- The Eagles offense is second-to-last in the league in red zone efficiency, converting 22 of 48 possessions (45.8 percent) inside the 20 into touchdowns.
-- Alex Henery’s 80.8 field goal percentage (21 of 26) is 20th in the NFL through Sunday’s games.
-- The Eagles defense blitzed Matt Cassel on 15 of 40 drops. He completed 11 of 14 passes for 264 yards (18.9 per att) and one touchdown. He was intercepted once.
LOCKER ROOM LEFTOVERS
-- Chip Kelly confirmed that it was wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell that got into an altercation with DeSean Jackson on the sidelines after Nick Foles tossed a pass to the receiver that was intercepted.
Jackson was caught by cameras yelling at Bicknell and had to be held back by several teammates. Kelly said after the game that he would get to the bottom of what occurred.
“Yeah, we handled all those things,” Kelly said on Monday. “I talked to Bobby. I’ll talk to DeSean and we’ll get things straightened out. It’s not as big a deal as I think everybody wants to make it out to be.”
Kelly didn’t seem concerned about Jackson’s attempt (or lack thereof) to break up the possible interception, but he wasn’t asked about whether he thought the receiver made the effort to tackle cornerback Shaun Prater after the pick.
Riley Cooper, who was one of the players that had to intervene between Jackson and Bicknell, said the spat wasn’t a big deal.
“You know how it goes in the heat of the battle,” Cooper said. “When someone gets an interception, I’d be mad, too. Heat of the battle, everybody’s done it.”
-- On the possession after the Eagles cut the lead to 27-22, the Vikings advanced to the Eagles 42. But they faced a third down and 14. Mychal Kendricks was in man defense and had tight end Chase Ford off the line. Beaten, he stretch out for a pass over the middle and missed. Ford turned and eluded safety Colt Anderson, who dove and whiffed.
“I’m like, ‘Please, no. Please,’” Kendricks said after he went for the interception. “Colt missed a tackle. If Colt makes a tackle we’re off the field. It was a busted play from the jump involving me. I need to make that play.”
Ford actually caught the pass beyond the first down marker, but ran an additional 20 yards down to the Eagles 5. The Vikings scored a touchdown two plays later.
Through 14 games, the Eagles defense has played a league-high 1,023 plays, significantly more than the league average of 914.2 for the 30 teams that played through Sunday.
Chip Kelly was asked on Monday if Sunday’s woeful defensive performance against the Vikings had any correlation to the number of snaps played.
“No, I don’t believe that,” he said.
But defensive coordinator Bill Davis acknowledged earlier this season that he was concerned about the high number and that he would try to do a better job of spelling workhorses like DeMeco Ryans, Connor Barwin, Mychal Kendricks, Nate Allen and Cary Williams.
All three have played more than 95 percent of snaps the season in games which they started or weren’t injured. For all the talk about Kelly’s sports science program and the Eagles’ lack of injuries, the high snap count could offset the apparent improved conditioning of the players.
The Eagles’ chances of making the playoffs will rest prominently on the defense. Despite all the hang-wringing about Kelly’s decision to avoid Cordarrelle Patterson on kickoffs, or his run-pass disparity, or his gambling on fourth and one at his own 24, the Eagles lost on Sunday because their defense could not stop a very hot Matt Cassel.
It’s difficult to say if the performance of the pass defense was an aberration, or an exposing, or the result of playing more than 100 plays than the average NFL defense.