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Fan-Demonium: A Winter Wonderland

Posted Dec 10, 2013

Snow games are cool. For some reason, we love to see football players slipping and sliding around on a field that has been blanketed with snow. I think most kids played football in the snow at one time or another so maybe it simply brings back some good memories. Whatever the reason, Sunday's Eagles game is one that none of us will ever forget.

Not only did we get to see the Eagles play in snow, it was a good game. Both teams made big plays. The Lions got out to a 14-0 lead. The Eagles responded by scoring the next 14. I was typing something on Twitter when I heard the announcer talk about Jeremy Ross getting loose on another return. Ugh. That gave the Lions a 20-14 lead. The Eagles answered and went up 22-20. They took control of the game from that point on.

That kind of back-and-forth play would have been fun to watch on a clear day, a rainy day, or any other kind of day. To see it happen in a snow game, that just made it magical.

The big difference in the game was LeSean McCoy. He had an amazing game, rushing for 217 yards and a pair of long touchdowns. Early in the game, I was frustrated with McCoy. He loves to make lateral cuts. Normally, that is fine since he is so good at it. McCoy is one of the few runners with "lateral explosion." Most guys can move OK laterally, but are more explosive when going up the field.

McCoy's instincts are to make defenders miss and try to get outside. This was not working on Sunday. Snow affects what you can do. Players can run straight ahead pretty well. Making cuts and quick moves is much tougher, especially at the line of scrimmage where there is a lot of stopping and starting involved.

The Eagles coaches started running the ball downhill more and it seemed like McCoy adjusted his own game plan and did the same thing. He attacked the line of scrimmage rather than constantly trying to look for space. Once McCoy and the offense got into a good rhythm, they were essentially unstoppable.

McCoy would get the ball and attack upfield and then make cuts on the move. There were several plays where McCoy left a Lions tackler reaching for air. McCoy did make some cuts at the line of scrimmage, but only after he got the Lions on their heels. He still tried to stay as downhill as possible.

A ton of credit has to go to the offensive line. Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans had an especially tough task. They had to neutralize Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, Detroit's star defensive tackles. Both Suh and Fairley had their moments, but neither guy was anything close to being a difference-maker. Last year, the Lions dominated the Eagles offensive line. McCoy had 22 yards on 14 carries. He simply had no room to run. The biggies up front did a fantastic job this year and controlled the line of scrimmage.

Not only did McCoy have a big day, but Chris Polk and Bryce Brown also contributed. Polk had a 38-yard touchdown run. Brown had a 17-yard run that set up a touchdown. Nick Foles even got in on the act. He had a 20-yard run and a short sneak for a touchdown. The Eagles finished with 299 yards on the ground, the most since the Pickle Juice Game in 2000.

Detroit was able to run the ball early in the first half. Joique Bell is a downhill runner with some pop. The conditions fit him to a tee. Bell would get the ball and attack the line of scrimmage. He didn't go down on first contact and usually pushed the pile a yard or two. The problem is that Bell and the Lions could only get short gains on the ground. Detroit's longest run was just 8 yards. They had to work the ball down the field methodically. The problem with that is that the longer a drive went, the more chances there were for something to go wrong, which is what happened. Detroit had three good drives ended by fumbles. The conditions simply weren't going to let an offense move slowly down the field and score a touchdown. You either needed good field position or you needed big plays.

The Eagles had lousy field position, but McCoy made that irrelevant. He was able to break off runs of 57, 40 and 26 yards. His three longest runs combined for 123 yards. The Lions finished the game with just 80 yards on the ground.

The Eagles passing attack certainly helped the run game. Nick Foles struggled for the first half and the first couple of possessions in the third quarter. His throws were sloppy, due to the conditions of course. Foles threw his first pick of the year. That came in the second quarter and set up the Lions’ only offensive touchdown. About midway through the third quarter, Foles hit Riley Cooper down the field for a gain of 44 yards and that seemed to bring the whole offense to life. Foles hit DeSean Jackson on the next play for a 19-yard touchdown.

It really was like a switch got flipped at that point. The Eagles didn't punt again. They became a scoring machine. Foles had a couple of big completions. McCoy, Brown and Polk all had big runs. Foles even had his long run and short touchdown sneak.

We all loved the game and how things went, but I'll fully admit to being very nervous when the Eagles were losing in the third quarter. Even seeing them down 8-0 had me on edge. The Eagles offense just couldn't get going and it seemed like the Lions were close to breaking the game open. I totally relaxed when the Eagles got that first touchdown. I still had my concerns about the Eagles winning the game, but seeing them get on the scoreboard calmed me down quite a bit. It seems like the players may have felt the same way.

Lawlor

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.

The fourth quarter of the game was Fun City, USA. The Eagles made play after play and the Lions looked hopeless. That's when you could really enjoy the snow element and the peripheral parts of the game. Until then, the snow was cool to look at, but frustrating since it negated the Eagles’ speed on offense. I love the fact that Chip Kelly didn't complain about the conditions. He emphasized that both teams had to deal with the same weather so it wasn't going to be an excuse.

You could see a real difference in the pass catchers for each team. Cooper made a sensational catch on the 44-yard play. He had to locate the ball on the run and somehow was able to adjust his body to the throw. He held on to the ball as he went to the ground. Jackson had to go down to make a couple of his catches. Think about Brent Celek's catch at the end. He might have been wide open, but that wasn't an easy play. The Lions had several drops (especially at the end) and some other plays where their guys couldn't make tough catches. Each quarterback gave his receivers a chance to make plays. The Eagles did a much better job than the Lions.

Sunday wasn't a day for defensive linemen to do much. They could not rush the passer. Players could not get off the ball. The Eagles line did have a solid game in terms of run defense. They gave up some first-half rushing yards, but kept the Lions under control. Cedric Thornton made a great hustle play and forced a fumble downfield. Bennie Logan had the only tackle-for-loss of the guys up front. There weren't any sacks. Vinny Curry was disruptive on a couple of plays. He's the one guy who still had some real quickness out there.

That was a big game for the linebackers. Connor Barwin had a huge game. He had five solo tackles. He had a pair of tackles for loss in addition to a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Barwin set the edge well on run plays and kept things funneled to the middle. Mychal Kendricks had a good game. He's come back strong from his injury. Kendricks did fit the conditions well. He was still able to attack downhill. He recovered a fumble. He blitzed up the middle and got the hardest hit of the day on Stafford. Kendricks also deflected a couple of passes. He did allow a long pass play to the tight end on third-and-15. That drove me nuts at the time, but that was a play where Kendricks had to turn and run, which negated his speed. DeMeco Ryans, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham all played well. The whole linebacking corps had a really strong day. They helped the Eagles to control the line of scrimmage and not give up big plays.

It is difficult to say too much about the defensive backs. They gave up one long pass to Calvin Johnson. All in all, that's pretty good. Nate Allen did miss a tackle of Bell out in space. Bell jumped over him. Normally you would criticize the defender for missing that tackle, but in those conditions I think you have to just tip your hat to Bell for making a great play. Cary Williams and Brandon Boykin did each have a pass break-up. Boykin's came on a throw down the middle to tight end Dorin Dickerson. That's the kind of contested play the Eagles receivers made. That would have been a big gain for Detroit, but Boykin did just enough to keep the ball from being caught.

It wasn't such a good day for the special teams unit. They gave up 273 return yards. They allowed Ross to run back a punt 58 yards for a touchdown, as well as a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. There was another long kickoff return that almost became a touchdown. Kelly said the conditions were a major factor. I agree, but players are still at fault for getting out of their coverage lanes. The one special teams highlight was Logan getting up the middle to block an extra point. I guess the fact that there weren't any fumbles or bad snaps on special teams is worth mentioning as a positive.

After the Cowboys’ pathetic loss on Monday night and the Eagles big win on Sunday, the Eagles are all alone in first place. I love the networks showing the playoff graphic and seeing that the Eagles are atop the NFC East. Life is good.

Sunday turned out to be a lot of fun. The Eagles got to play in a wild snow game. They won big. We all got some good memories. But in the grand scheme of things, that is just one step on the journey through the season. The players have already put that game behind them and are focusing on playing the Vikings in a lovely climate-controlled setting this upcoming Sunday.

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