Breaking down Sunday’s 15-7 loss to the Giants while wondering what Chip Kelly will be dressing up as for Halloween:
WASTING A GREAT DEFENSIVE EFFORT
The shame of Sunday’s 15-7 loss to the Giants was that it wasted a second straight impressive performance by the Eagles’ defense.
They held the Giants without a touchdown. They held them to 2.8 yards per carry on the ground and 6.3 yards per pass attempt. For only the second time this season, they didn’t give up a passing touchdown.
Their corners and safeties did a terrific job against the Giants’ wide receivers. Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Jerrel Jernigan and Rueben Randle combined for 17 receptions, but averaged just 9.8 yards per catch.
Randle, who had two touchdown catches against the Eagles in Week 5, didn’t have a single catch Sunday. The Eagles held Nicks, Cruz and Jernigan to a total of 21 yards after the catch.
A look at the difference in the Eagles’ defensive numbers in their first four games and last four games:
FIRST 4 LAST 4
34.5 Pts. P/Game 18.2
446.7 Yds. All. P/Game 356.7
107.2 Opp. Passer Rating 71.8
4.1 Yds. All. P/Carry 3.2
44.2 3rd Down Efficiency 38.1
28.0 1st Downs All. P/Game 19.5
6.0 Yds. All. P/Play 5.1
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE RUN GAME?
Chip Kelly has repeatedly said that his offense doesn’t need a mobile quarterback to be successful. But ever since Michael Vick first injured his hamstring in Week 5, the Eagles’ running game has struggled.
Consider: In the first 18 quarters this season with a healthy Vick, LeSean McCoy averaged 5.7 yards per carry, had 26 rushing first downs, 13 double-digit-yard runs and just five runs for losses. In the 14 quarters since Vick pulled up lame, he’s averaged just 3.4 yards per carry, has 10 rushing first downs, four double-digit-yard runs and seven runs for losses.
Kelly said he called just one read-option run Sunday where the quarterback had the option to read the defensive end and keep the ball. That was that ugly third-quarter train wreck at the Philadelphia 10-yard line where Matt Barkley and Bryce Brown nearly collided and an unblocked Justin Tuck dropped Brown for a five-yard loss on second-and-three. He said every other read-option they ran had a bubble screen or some other type of pass tagged on to it.
But the problem is, with Barkley or Nick Foles at quarterback, defenses are completely ignoring the read-option, and bringing the safety down in the box to help deal with McCoy, and occasionally, Brown. If the quarterback wants to run it, hey, more power to him.
“In the last two weeks, we haven’t run the ball the way we’ve needed to run the ball,’’ Kelly said. “It’s a combination of the backs (not) hitting the hole when the hole is there and the offensive line creating a little bit more movement sometimes.
You can’t just say it’s just this. If it were just this, it would be an easy fix. It it’s just that we’re not hitting it the way we’re supposed to hit it, then we fix it this way. But one play it works perfect, the next play it doesn’t.
We’re supposed to get the ball up inside the pull-up block and we don’t hit it up inside the pull-up block. We’re just kind of off a little bit and we need to get back into that rhythm.’’
A good example of that was McCoy’s first run of the game. It was designed to go to the right side with left tackle Jason Peters pulling and taking out middle linebacker Jon Beason. When you watch the play on tape, you can see the lane and the potential it had for a big run. But Peters wasn’t able to hold his block on Beason, who disengaged from him and held McCoy to a one-yard gain.
At his Monday news conference, Kelly said McCoy is “trying to press too much’’ and “is trying to hit a home run on every play instead of maybe letting it develop.’’
This was a criticism of McCoy early in his career.
“Sometimes we say, ‘(offensive) line get us two (yards), back get us two,’’’ Kelly said. “Then it’s second-and-six. Then, maybe we’ll call the same play again and it’s third-and-two. And third-and-twos are a lot easier to convert than third-and-12s.
“But if we start to move east-west and we’re not getting our shoulders squared to the end zone and starting to get the ball downhill, then I think we get ourselves into some situations that are tough to get ourselves out of.
“When you find yourself in second-and-12, maybe you’re going to throw on that down, you don’t convert and now it’s third-and-12. It’s tough. When we’re successful offensively, we’re playing downhill football. First-and-10 goes to second-and-five. Second-and-five may convert or goes to third-and-one. Those are a lot easier to call. Those are a lot easier to convert. Everything’s a lot easier.
“Because of LeSean’s competitiveness, I think sometimes he’s trying to hit the home run. It’s one of his strengths too. So it’s the tough part where you’ve got to regulate it. Because there are times where you’re (saying), ‘No, no, no, great run, big guy.’ That’s what you get with him. It’s tough. How much do you reel him in?
“That’s why he’s frustrated. I think he’s frustrated in himself because there are some things there where he’s leaving some yards on the field. I think he wants them back, but that’s one of the qualities I love about the kid.’’
BY THE NUMBERS
--Despite averaging just 3.4 yards per carry in the last four games, LeSean McCoy still leads the NFL in rushing with 733 yards. Not only leads it, but has a comfy 98-yard lead over the Chiefs’ Jamaal Charles. McCoy has slipped to second in yards from scrimmage with 1,017, one less than Charles.
--The Eagles are 31st in red zone offense. They’ve converted just nine of 23 trips inside the 20 into touchdowns (39.1 percent). The only team with a lower red zone percentage is 0-8 Jacksonville.
--The Eagles’ offense managed just 19 yards on four possessions with Michael Vick at quarterback Sunday.
--Michael Vick has a 61.7 passer rating in his last four starts. He’s completed just 39 of 80 attempts (48.7 percent) for 585 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
--Neither Vick nor Matt Barkley completed a third-down pass for a first down Sunday.
--Trent Cole dropped into coverage just five times in 58 snaps Sunday. Had a couple of hurries, but still doesn’t have a sack this season. He now has gone 10 games without a sack dating back to last season, and has just 1 ½ sacks in his last 23 games.
--The Eagles had a season-low 58 offensive plays Sunday. The previous low was 59 against the Chargers in Week 2. They are averging 67.9 plays per game.
--I’m confused. The Eagles play an up-tempo offense, which means more plays per game and more snaps per practice. So, given the possibility of re-injury by Michael Vick Sunday, why couldn’t Kelly find enough first-team snaps for both Barkley and Vick at practice last week?
--Cary Williams continues to impress with his physical play. He blew up a bubble screen to Hakeem Nicks on the Giants’ second possession, beating a block by Victor Cruz and tackling Nicks for no gain. He also did a good job in run support, holding Michael Cox to no gain on one play and throwing his body in front of 250-pound mack truck Peyton Hillis. Hillis gained nine yards on the play, but it could’ve been a lot more if Williams hadn’t stopped him.
--Chip Kelly keeps mentioning the wind as the reason he didn’t let Alex Henery try a 50-yard field goal on fourth-and-10 early in the the third quarter. The only problem I have with that is that the Giants’ Josh Brown booted 40- and 44-yard field goals in the first quarter in the same direction. Both hit the screen behind the end zone. If Henery’s leg isn’t in the same ballpark as Brown’s, then maybe the Eagles made a mistake spending a fourth-round draft pick on him.
--While the pressure that resulted in the intentional grounding call against Vick late in the first quarter came from defensive end Mathis Kiwanuka, who was being blocked by rookie right tackle Lane Johnson, it was actually right guard Todd Herremans who deserved the blame. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph overpowered Herremans and pushed him right back into Vick, forcing the quarterback into the arms of Kiwanuka. That said, Johnson did not have a very good game Sunday. He struggled against defensive end Justin Tuck. On the Eagles’ first possession of the second quarter, he let Tuck get by him and drop McCoy for a three-yard loss.
--DeMeco Ryans continues to make the middle of the field a dangerous place for opposing receivers to run routes. He decked Giants tight end Bear Pascoe as he came off the line in the second quarter.
--Wide receiver Jeff Maehl missed a block on Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara on a second-quarter second-and-13 bubble screen to DeSean Jackson. Jackson only gained three yards on the play. If Maehl had been able to take care of Amukamara, it would have gone for a lot more.
--One of the many drive-killing plays by the Eagles Sunday was a drop by rookie tight end Zach Ertz on a third-and-five in the second quarter. He had a favorable matchup against Giants linebacker Jacquian Williams and had a step on him on a shallow crossing route. Matt Barkley put the ball in his hands, but he couldn’t hang on to it, forcing the Eagles to punt. The Giants would score on their next possession to make it 12-0.
--I’m not sure which zebra call was lamer – the pass interference call on Eagles corner Bradley Fletcher in the second quarter or the roughing-the-passer penalty on the Giants’ Kiwanuka shortly after that.
--The third-quarter sack of Barkley by Kiwanuka that preceded Kelly’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-10 rather than have Henery try a 50-yard field goal, was basically on the quarterback. Barkley had 4.29 seconds to throw before Kiwanuka got to him. He also had receivers open on the play that he didn’t see.
--For one of the few times this season, James Casey got to do more than play special teams and be the team’s emergency quarterback. He played a season-high eight snaps and notched his second reception of the season. The Eagles had him line up in the backfield with McCoy a few times.
--Barkley fumbled two shotgun snaps. Neither was perfect, but he should have caught both.
--Overall, linebacker Mychal Kendricks had a very good game. Led the team in tackles, forced a fumble and did a good job in coverage. But he was involved in two costly plays. The first was a third-and-1 at the Philadelphia 32 late in the third quarter. If the Eagles stop the Giants there, Josh Brown is looking at a 50-yard field goal attempt. Kendricks shot the gap on the play and had a chance to nail running back Michael Cox for a three-yard loss. But he whiffed. Cox picked up the first down, the drive continued and Brown ended up kicking a 27-yard field goal. The other play was near the end of the game. Third-and-eight at the Eagle 46 with 3:14 left. If the Eagles stop, they get the ball back with plenty of time to score and maybe tie the game. Kendrick’s responsibility was tight end Brandon Myers. Myers pushed Kendrick right on the fringe of the five yards allowed for contact and created enough separation to allow Manning to hit him for a 10-yard completion and a game-clinching first down.
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