For the first time since the preseason, Kevin Kolb prepared himself to be the Eagles' starting quarterback last week before the team's game against the 49ers.
He got off to a great start, completing his first nine pass attempts and finished the game 21-for-31 for 253 yards and a touchdown. Kolb did not throw an interception, but he did lose a fumble in the second quarter.
Here's the weekly breakdown of how Kolb performed. Let's start with the pass distribution.
Note that Kolb officially had 31 attempts. Two balls were batted at the line of scrimmage, and he threw one ball into the ground on purpose. Those were not counted in my total.
Let's start with Celek. He had multiple opportunities to make big plays, but was unable to come down with the ball. The only one I counted as an actual drop was in the fourth quarter. Kolb looked for Celek down the middle of the field. He had linebacker (and ex-Eagle) Takeo Spikes on him, but it didn't look like Spikes touched the ball, which hit Celek in the hands. Not a routine play, but one that he should make.
The Kolb-to-Maclin connection was very efficient as the Eagles' second-year receiver had probably his best game of the season, catching six balls on seven targets.
Against the Redskins, 16 of Kolb's 33 attempts (48.5 percent) were to running backs. Against the 49ers, seven of 28 attempts (25 percent) were to running backs, a much more encouraging number.
The discouraging number is YAC. The 94 yards is deceiving since 56 of those yards were to the running backs, who caught the ball near the line of scrimmage. The wide receivers had only 27 yards after the catch on 11 receptions, meaning they only averaged 2.45 yards after the catch.
Jackson was targeted only three times. In the last two games, he's caught just four balls for 37 yards. That's not enough for one of the best downfield threats in the game.
Seven different receivers had catches, the same number as a week ago.
THE BLITZ, PRESSURE, SHOTGUN, ETC.
For the second week in a row, the Eagles' opponent did not blitz Kolb. The 49ers sent more than a four-man rush on just three of Kolb's 36 dropbacks. Kolb was 0-for-3 on those plays.
Kolb was sacked four times - three of which were on King Dunlap. On the play where he fumbled, Kolb pump-faked and held the ball a little too long. He felt the pressure, braced for the sack and looked like he was trying to protect the ball, but the 49ers still knocked it loose.
Keep in mind that three of the Eagles' five current offensive linemen started the season as backups. The sacks were bad, but on Kolb's 31 attempts, protection was decent. And he did a good job for the most part of stepping up in the pocket and making throws.
Kolb stepped up and delivered to Avant on a completion that set up the first touchdown. He also avoided pressure on the 41-yard completion to Maclin. And Kolb did an excellent job of escaping pressure on the touchdown throw to Celek.
Eighteen of Kolb's 31 attempts were out of the shotgun. He was 12-for-18 for 107 yards on those throws. Kolb was 9-for-13 for 146 yards while under center.
Play-action was more of a factor against the 49ers than it's been all season. Kolb was 8-for-10 for 135 yards on play-action throws.
Kolb stayed in the pocket for 24 of the attempts, completing 18 of them for 182 yards. He was 6-for-7 for 71 yards outside the pocket.
THIRD DOWN, RED ZONE
Third down was ugly for the Eagles. As a team, the Birds converted three of 12 third downs. Kolb dropped back 10 times on third down, and only two of those plays resulted in first downs.
He was 3-for-7 for 28 yards on third downs, but two of those completions failed to pick up first downs. Kolb scrambled for 19 yards on a 3rd-and-18 to keep a drive alive. His most frequent target on third down was Celek. Kolb went to him four times, and none of the throws resulted in a first.
Only one of Kolb's seven attempts resulted in a first down. That was the throw to Hall in the second half. He was sacked twice on third down.
The Eagles had two red-zone chances. One resulted in a touchdown and the other in a field goal. Kolb was 4-for-4 for 27 yards and a touchdown in the red zone. He looked to Avant twice, Celek once and Schmitt once on those four throws. No throws to Maclin or Jackson in the red zone.
SUCCESS BY DISTANCE
Here's a chart of Kolb's throws by distance. I used the same ranges that Football Outsiders uses so we'd have a point of reference. Short is 5 yards or less. Mid is 6 to 15 yards. Deep is 16 to 25 yards. And Bomb is more than 25 yards. These are measured from the line of scrimmage to the point where the ball is touched, hits the ground or goes out of bounds.
Against the Redskins, over 72 percent of Kolb's attempts were within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. Against the 49ers, that number was reduced to 46 percent.
Against Washington, Kolb completed just three passes in the Mid range. Against the 49ers, he was very efficient on those throws, completing 8-of-10 of them.
And most importantly, he got the ball down the field more. Kolb completed three passes that traveled 16 yards or more from the line of scrimmage. Two of those were to Maclin, and the other was to Celek.
Who's missing? Jackson. Not only did he have just three targets, but one was in the Short range and two were in the Mid range. At some point, you have to take a shot deep with him.
On passes that receivers actually had a shot at, Kolb was even more efficient than 21-for-31 (67.7 percent). With one ball thrown away, two batted down at the line of scrimmage and one dropped, that completion percentage have been even higher.
As I mentioned earlier this week, the coaching staff deserves credit for helping Kolb get off to a good start. Regardless of how mentally tough he is, confidence has to be an issue, given the way this season has gone.
I liked Kolb's presence in the pocket. He showed the ability to move around and still make throws. He was not intercepted, and I don't really remember a throw that came close to getting picked off. The throw downfield to Maclin for 41 yards was not a great one, but he let his receiver make a play, which is important.
I'll admit I thought him and Celek would have developed a better chemistry. And Kolb needs to find some way to take shots down the field with Jackson, regardless of what the defense is doing. The offense needs to get back to finding ways to allow Jackson and Maclin to pick up yards after the catch also.
I've said all season that most quarterbacks in the NFL will have to play behind a subpar offensive line at some point. For the most part, Kolb was aware of the pressure and didn't panic. That's something he'll have to continue to work on, and something that will be a theme next week against the Falcons when the Eagles figure to start three backup linemen once again.