Eagles best hope vs. Broncos is for offense to come through
Great defensive game plans and performances have beaten Peyton Manning before, but it has been a long time since the Eagles hit on that exacta.
Add in the fact that the Broncos offense under Manning's guidance has never disappeared into Denver's thin air and it's silly to think that Sunday's game at Sports Authority Field will have much to do at all with the Eagles defense.
The Broncos have never scored fewer than 25 points in Manning's 11 starts at quarterback in Denver. They've scored 30 or more points in 10 of those games and Manning has thrown at least three touchdowns in nine of the 11 games. Denver is 9-2 at home with Manning and the Broncos averaged 30 points in the two defeats.
So why should the Eagles defense be expected to stop the unstoppable?
Who will win the Eagles-Broncos game?
|Eagles pull off an upset.|
|Broncos win as expected.|
|Total votes = 3230|
What the Eagles must do in order to pull off the biggest upset in this NFL season is prove that they have an offense that can keep up with Manning and all his weapons. The interesting part is that from the coach on down, the Eagles believe they are at least bringing a gun to the gunfight.
They might find out that their gun doesn't have nearly as many bullets as the one in Manning's holster, but it sure would help if they at least did not drop their firearm when the officiating crew says turn around and fire.
"I think we've had production on the offensive side of the ball," coach Chip Kelly said before practice Thursday. "We've turned it over too much, had too many penalties."
The Eagles' seven turnovers are tied for the third most in the league, and five of them came in their slop-filled loss to Kansas City. Turn it over five times Sunday and the Broncos might score 70. The penalties have been an issue, too. The Eagles have lost 105 yards and a touchdown on offensive penalties. An unsportsmanlike-conduct call on DeSean Jackson helped set up a San Diego touchdown in Week 2 after the Eagles had taken their first lead of the game.
Kelly was asked Thursday if he thought the Eagles offense, which is second only to the Broncos' in total yards, was being shortchanged.
"It means absolutely nothing," he said. "All we need to do is [say] how well do we play on a weekly basis and do we score enough points to win a game. We don't compare ourselves to anybody else. At the end of the year, no one pats you on the back because your offense is rated at a certain level. That's got nothing to do with it. Does our offense give us a chance to win the game this week? That's all we're concerned with."
I'm not sure how much of that I believe. People used to joke that Charlie Manuel was such an offensive-minded manager that he'd rather lose by 11-10 than win by 1-0. It wasn't true and I'm sure Kelly would rather win by 7-0 than lose by 49-48, but it's hard to imagine he'd be happy with either result. Kelly came to the Eagles with an offensive scheme that he wants to prove will work at any level of football.
He also adopted some players with some pretty special skills. LeSean McCoy leads the NFL in rushing. Jackson is second in receiving yards. Michael Vick has a unique skill set that makes him dangerous on any given Sunday.
We saw a glimpse of how great all three could be three years ago when Manning came to Lincoln Financial Field with the Indianapolis Colts and the Eagles beat him, 26-24. Vick threw for 218 yards and a touchdown and ran for 74 more yards and a touchdown. McCoy ran 16 times for 95 yards, and Jackson caught seven passes for 109 yards and a touchdown.
"It was a consistent game," Vick said. "I was consistent all the way through it. We didn't turn the ball over. Any time you play against Peyton, you have to capitalize on every opportunity, and I think we were able to do that. We had a great game plan . . . and we were able to put it all together. That was probably one of my better games, but it was so long ago."
It was a while ago. Manning has had neck surgery, missed an entire season, and changed teams since that game. Somehow, he's come back better than ever at 37. Even Vick marvels at it.
"I wish I knew" what makes him so special, the Eagles quarterback said. "I wish I could sit in a meeting room with him and figure it out."
Talent, hard work, and consistency are the answer. Vick has always had an immense amount of talent, but by his own admission he did not always work as hard as he could have. It's still fair to wonder whether he'll ever be consistently good.
This is the offense that is supposed to be made for him, and Sunday he has a chance to get into a shootout with the Wyatt Earp of the NFL.
Can he win it?
"I think we can," Vick said. "I think for the most part, we've shot ourselves in the foot. We've had opportunities to score 30 points in all three games we've played. The optimism is there. We know what we have. We know what we can do. We know how to execute it, and it's just about putting it all together."