The Eagles beat the Bucs on Sunday, 31-20. That gives the Eagles two wins in a row, both by double digits. After a 1-3 start, a winning streak, even a short one, feels very good. The win got the Eagles back to 3-3 for the season.
The big story was the play of
One thing that impressed me is that he had to lead the Eagles on a comeback for the second week in a row. The Bucs led 17-14 at the half. The game was back and forth early on. The Eagles led 7-0 and then trailed 10-7. The Eagles regained a 14-10 lead before trailing at the half. Foles threw a long touchdown pass in the third quarter and the Eagles went on top for good. This wasn't a dramatic comeback (nor was last week), but it was good to see Foles have to earn the wins. The Giants and Bucs are winless, but they played with a sense of desperation. That helped them for part of the game. It just wasn't enough to help them win.
I loved the fact that Foles spread the ball around.
It was important to see Foles throw the ball downfield. He struggled with that part of his game last season. He has improved quite a bit this year. Foles doesn't have a great arm, but he has good mechanics and is now using more of his lower body to generate power. The deep ball to Cooper was a bit underthrown, but was thrown well enough that Cooper could make the grab. The pass to Jackson was good. If a quarterback can't stretch the field it allows defensive backs to play tighter on the underneath stuff. Defenders have now seen long touchdowns in a couple of games from Foles. They know they need to guard the whole field.
Foles used pump-fakes on a couple of plays very effectively. He had an 8-yard scoring pass to Jackson. Foles pump-faked and that made the safety bite up, which then left Jackson wide open as he crossed the field. Easy touchdown after that. The Eagles faced a third-and-15 at one point. Foles pump-faked to an underneath target and the safety moved up. Cooper was left wide open over the deep middle for a gain of 17 and an impressive first down. That is good quarterback play.
Beyond passing the ball, I thought Foles was impressive. He made smart decisions. He threw the ball quickly at times. He held the ball when he had good protection and tried to go down the field. Foles didn't force throws. He was willing to use his checkdown receivers when that is all that was available. These plays resulted in short yardage. That's better than taking a sack, throwing an incompletion or forcing the ball into coverage. Give your guys a chance to make a play. Cooper's 44-yard reception was a short throw. Cooper made one guy miss and it instantly became a long gain.
The red zone is no longer a scary place with Foles at quarterback. The Eagles went two-for-three and the only time they settled for a field goal was a drive late in the game when the team was more concerned with eating up the clock than scoring a touchdown. Had the Eagles settled for field goals, the game would have been very different. Making the red zone performance even more impressive was the fact that the Bucs have one of the best red zone defenses in the league. Foles threw a red zone touchdown pass last week as well. He's been good in that part of the field this year.
From a game management standpoint, Foles did a good job. There weren't any wasted timeouts. There wasn't confusion at the line of scrimmage about who was supposed to be where. Foles used a hard count late in the game that helped the Eagles get a first down and eat up some clock. Foles looked like a veteran quarterback, not a player making his first start of the season.
A lot of people want to question whether Foles should be the starting quarterback. I think Chip Kelly is wise not to address that subject right now. I don't think you make that decision based on six-plus quarters of play. Could Foles win the job for this year? I'll go with Kelly's answer and say let's not talk about hypotheticals. Let's just wait and see how he does.
There were a lot of national pundits who thought the Eagles would struggle to run the ball without Vick. The Giants clamped down on the run game last week and were especially good with Foles in the game. Few of those pundits actually watched the game and saw what happened. They also didn't study the Eagles-Bucs matchup.
Last year, the Bucs played dominant run defense.
You hear coaches all the time talk about the four-minute offense. This is when the team has a lead late in the game and the goal is to move the ball and eat up the clock. First downs are the priority, not points. The Eagles took over possession with 8:03 left in the game while holding an 8-point lead. The Bucs desperately needed a stop. The Eagles ran their four-minute offense. The Eagles ran the ball 11 straight times and moved the ball from midfield down inside the 10-yard line. They kicked a field goal to seal the win. They also ate up almost six minutes of game time. Kelly will be thrilled with that. Great job by Celek and the offensive line on the drive. It was also good to see McCoy and Brown run hard and aggressive. There was no dancing.
The Eagles offense has now gained 425 yards or more in all six games this year. They only did that three times last season. The offense has scored 30 or more points in four games this year. They only did that once in 2012. The offense is playing lights out right now.
The defense is still a work in progress. The Eagles gave up the fewest yards and points of the season, but they were facing a rookie quarterback who was making the second start of his career. I think it would be fair to say the Eagles were up and down on defense.
I was highly frustrated at halftime. The Eagles had given up 17 points. You just shouldn't do that against a rookie quarterback. However, those numbers are a bit deceiving. I pointed out in my game preview that field position would be critical. The Bucs struggled to sustain long drives. The first 10 points they scored on the Eagles came on short fields. There was a fumble by McCoy that set up a field goal. There was a long punt return that set up a touchdown. The Bucs had one long drive late in the half. That was aided by three long plays. The worst was a 16-yard scramble by Mike Glennon on third-and-long. That play was pure torture.
The Eagles gave up yards in both the first and second half, but only three points after halftime. There was also a takeaway early in the second half. On the final couple of drives, the Bucs totaled 11 plays for just 4 yards. The Eagles put the clamps on them when it mattered. That was good to see. The Eagles defense has been somewhat the opposite in recent years, playing well early on and then struggling late in games. A good defense plays well all game, but you at least need one that will make clutch plays.
Kelly said he thought
The defense is still flawed, but they are making progress. A play here or there would have made a big difference.
Special teams play was up and down. The low point was allowing a long punt return. I also didn't like Damaris Johnson returning two kickoffs from deep in the end zone. Field position was going to be critical. Johnson needed to play smart.
I get where some critics focus on the fact that the Eagles' back-to-back wins came against winless teams. No one is trying to put the Eagles into the Super Bowl. But the flip side is also true. Two of the losses came to the undefeated Chiefs and Broncos, two of the best teams in the league right now. They can get better, with improved defense and good red zone play.