Thursday, December 25, 2014

Second Take: Eagles-Bucs

Here is our Second Take on the Eagles' win over Tampa Bay:

Second Take: Eagles-Bucs

Darren Howard celebrates after tackling the Buccaneers´ Carnell Williams in the end zone for a safety in the fourth quarter.  (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer )
Darren Howard celebrates after tackling the Buccaneers' Carnell Williams in the end zone for a safety in the fourth quarter. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer )

Here is our Second Take on the Eagles' win over Tampa Bay:

* You probably noticed that the Eagles blitzed a lot in Sunday’s win. How much? According to my unofficial calculations, 46 times on 75 snaps. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott called blitzes on 23 of 43 snaps in the first half, but was just getting warmed up. In the second half, he called 22 blitzes on 32 plays, including nine plays in a row on one Tampa possession. All three of Josh Johnson’s interceptions came against blitzes. But so too, did both of his touchdown passes to Kellen Winslow.

* Andy Reid regularly rotated Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy. The Eagles ran just 48 offensive plays against the Bucs. McCoy was in for 23 of them and Westbrook for 20. They lined up in the same formation just once. That was early in the fourth quarter. Donovan McNabb completed a 5-yard pass to Jeremy Maclin on the play.

* The Bucs ran the spread-option on their first possession of the game, with Johnson pitching the ball to running back Cadillac Williams. But defensive end Juqua Parker, who lined up as a standup rusher, stayed in front of the play and prevented Williams from turning it upfield. Cornerback Asante Samuel got credit for the tackle on the 5-yard loss, but it was Parker who made the play.

* Defensive tackle Antonio Dixon got his most playing time of the season and played well, often lining up right over center Sean Mahan. Mahan was no match for Dixon’s strength. On a second-and-10 run by Williams on the Bucs’ second possession, Dixon had pushed Mahan 2 yards into the backfield before Williams got the handoff. He had to bounce it outside, where Omar Gaither tackled him for a 4-yard loss.

* Donovan McNabb played a practically perfect game. The only really poor pass he made was to Jason Avant on the Eagles’ second possession. Avant was open on a crossing route in front of strong safety Sabby Piscatelli for what would’ve been at least a 20-yard gain, but McNabb badly overshot him.

* The Bucs’ receivers had two costly drops early in the game. Johnson made a great throw to Antonio Bryant against a blitz on third-and-14 on their second possession that Bryant dropped. On their next possession, on a fourth-and-2 at the Philadelphia 26, Johnson hit Michael Clayton for what should’ve been a first down at the Philadelphia 19. But Clayton failed to hang on to the ball after getting hit by Sheldon Brown.

* The Eagles deserved most of the flags they drew Sunday. But the offensive pass interference call on DeSean Jackson late in the first quarter was lame. I think the official was fooled by Jackson’s stopping ability and figured he had to have pushed off cornerback Aqib Talib to create that much separation.

Just Wondering

* Why the Bucs’ nickel back, Elbert Mack, was covering Maclin on his 51-yard first quarter TD catch? The Eagles lined up in a three-wide receiver set, with Maclin wide left. To Mack’s credit, he managed to stay with Maclin until he turned to locate the ball, which enabled Maclin to get enough separation to make the catch.

* If we’ll see more of linebacker Chris Gocong as a blitzer? Gocong notched his first sack of the season Sunday. He was a pass-rushing defensive end at Cal-Poly that the Eagles converted to a strongside linebacker. Jim Johnson always talked about using him as a blitzer, but seldom did.

* Is it humanly possible for Asante Samuel to make a tackle without grabbing a facemask or hurting himself?

* What was Raheem Morris thinking passing on two field-goal opportunities in the first half. He went for it on fourth-and-1 at the Philadelphia 23 in the second quarter with the Bucs only trailing 7-0. A fumbled snap killed that drive. He also passed on a field goal with 6 seconds left in the first half when the Bucs had the ball at the Philadelphia 8. Johnson ended up throwing an interception on the final play of the half.

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