Saturday, December 27, 2014

Nnamdi on Megatron; Wide nine is weak against run and other Eagles-Lions observations

Observations from the Eagles' wretched 26-23 overtime loss to the Lions:

Nnamdi on Megatron; Wide nine is weak against run and other Eagles-Lions observations

Fletcher Cox chases down Lions quarterback Matt Stafford on Sunday. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Fletcher Cox chases down Lions quarterback Matt Stafford on Sunday. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

Observations from the Eagles' wretched 26-23 overtime loss to the Lions:

Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha spent much of the first three quarters shadowing Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and his coverage worked.

It was perhaps the finest game Asomugha has played in an Eagles uniform and included an interception and drawing an offensive pass-interference call in the end zone. The 6-foot-5, 236-pound Johnson had only one catch after three quarters, although "Megatron" finished with five catches for 107 yards the rest of the way.

Asomugha said the Eagles altered their coverage in the fourth quarter, and the Lions also started throwing the ball to Johnson regardless of coverage.

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"The plan was that I would be on him most of the game, and then every now and then we'd switch it just so they don't think they figured out what we're doing," Asomugha said. "It just so happened that we didn't really switch it until the fourth quarter."

On the huge, 17-yard gain that Johnson caught to set up Jason Hanson's game-winning, 45-yard field goal, Johnson got loose on the left side and was dragged down by linebacker Mychal Kendricks.

Wide nine is weak

Remember all that talk about how the Eagles had finally figured out how to dominate against the run despite the wide-nine defense?

Well, for the second straight week, the Birds had some serious issues against offenses that came in with anemic running attacks. The Steelers wore the Eagles down last week in the second half. On Sunday, Lions running backs Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell - yes, you read that right - gobbled up yards through the heart of the Eagles defense. They ran for a total of 108 yards on 22 carries, a 4.9-yard average.

Gilyard does not impress

The Eagles deactivated Damaris Johnson for the first time this season, leaving them without their starting punt returner. Mardy Gilyard filled the spot for the struggling Johnson. Gilyard made surer decisions, knowing when to call a fair catch and when to return the ball.

Gilyard didn't distinguish himself, but he had no negative plays. The most excitement came during a punt return at the end of the second quarter when DeSean Jackson caught his first punt of the season. Jackson waved his hands to try to energize the crowd, but he had no magic in him. He ran backward and was stopped for a 3-yard loss.

Secondary switch

The Eagles added a little wrinkle to their pass defense with Brandon Boykin and Curtis Marsh taking turns in the slot dependent upon the down.

When the Lions went with three wide receivers on first or second down, Boykin was out on the field. When they went with more than three wide on third down, Marsh was out there. The switch-up was, presumably, in case Johnson lined up inside on third down, which the Lions had done more of this season.

Marsh, who had dropped on the depth chart behind Brandon Hughes in recent weeks, has four inches and 15 pounds on Boykin and would thus have a better chance of covering Johnson.

Maclin is flag man

The Eagles benefited from the Lions' 10 first-half penalties for 92 yards. At one point, the Eagles best chance of moving the ball seemed to be a yellow flag falling on the field.

Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin continued to draw calls, whether legitimate or through good salesmanship. Maclin drew a pass-interference flag that cost the Lions 26 yards and sent the Eagles from the Lions' 29-yard line to their 3-yard line, setting up a touchdown. Maclin induced another pass-interference call earlier in the quarter.

Cooper chips in

After missing the first five games as he recovered from a broken collarbone, Riley Cooper made a strong return to the lineup. The wide receiver had become one of the Eagles' best special teams performers last season and made his first mark Sunday when he delivered a key block on Boykin's first kick return - a 30-yarder that was his longest of the season at that point.

Cooper was also the fourth receiver when the Eagles split that many wide, replacing Johnson. Cooper finished with two catches for 18 yards.

McCoy stumbles

LeSean McCoy finished with just 22 yards on the ground on 14 carries. The Eagles running back's 1.6-yard per-carry average was the second-lowest of his career when he has carried the ball more than seven times.

Last season against the Dolphins, McCoy ran 27 times for 38 yards (1.4 average). McCoy, who left Sunday's game briefly with an ankle injury, did have a touchdown against the Lions when he caught a 2-yard score.

About this blog
Birds' Eye View is the Inquirer's blog covering all things Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL.

Jeff McLane Inquirer Staff Writer
Zach Berman Inquirer Staff Writer
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