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Fan-Demonium: Back On Track

Posted Oct 3, 2012

Fan-Demonium

The Eagles improved to 3-1 with their win over the New York Giants on Sunday night. The win meant more than that. The Eagles righted the ship in a big way. The loss at Arizona was bad and that came on the heels of a couple of sloppy games to start the season. The Eagles needed to show that they could play good football. Not perfect, but good. That's exactly what they did.

The offense looked inept against the Cardinals, scoring only six points and turning the ball over a couple of times. Michael Vick took a beating. Even the most optimistic fans were nervous. Things started slowly against the Giants as the offense went three and out. There were a couple of good drives after that, but no points. Finally, the Eagles scored a touchdown late in the half. The offense clicked from that point on. The Eagles didn't have to punt in the second half.

A lot of people criticize Andy Reid for not making in-game adjustments. He and Marty Mornhinweg tried to run the ball in the first half, but the plays weren't working. LeSean McCoy finished the half with six carries for just 2 yards. In the second half, the coaches used the I-formation on a regular basis. Fullback Stanley Havili made a world of difference. He served as a good lead blocker for McCoy. He caught a pass. He ran the ball twice. Havili also helped in pass protection.

McCoy was great in the second half, running 17 times for 121 yards. He wore down the Giants defense. McCoy ran right, left and up the middle. He ran with the blocking. He cut back on some plays. The Giants defense didn't know what to do. They had no answer for him. It was truly beautiful to see him eat up that defense.

The running game opened up things for the whole offense. The offensive line started to play with confidence. Vick got into a good rhythm with his receivers. There were a mixture of short, quick passes and some vertical throws. This was the Eagles offense that we all expected to see this year. DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek were the key targets. They combined for 10 catches, 156 yards and a touchdown. The offense finished the game with 422 yards, 191 of them coming on the ground.

Probably the biggest development for me was the play of Vick. This was easily his best game of the year. He didn't turn the ball over once. There weren't any dropped interceptions that helped him. He made good reads and threw the ball accurately. Vick looked like the guy that impressed us so much in the past. He played with confidence. Against the Cardinals, Vick was confused. He didn't see the field well and missed several open receivers. He held the ball too long at times. Other plays he would be too hurried in going through his progressions. That version of Vick wasn't anywhere to be found on Sunday night.

Vick did a good job of making pre-snap adjustments, mainly in the run game. The Giants would make a late shift or bring a safety down in the box. Vick would shout, "Kill. Kill." He would then bark out a new play or an adjustment. Not all worked perfectly, but it was good to see him reading the defense and anticipating issues rather than reacting after the fact. Vick used a hard count to get the Giants to jump offsides a few times. Again, that is simple but smart. I loved the way he ran. Vick didn't run because he had to. He ran because he chose to. He finished the game with six carries for 49 yards. He got key first downs with a couple of those runs. It was such a relief to see Vick play like that.

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.

There was only one problem with the offense. McCoy, Vick and the Eagles could not get the ball into the end zone enough. They were just one of four in the red zone. The Eagles had the chance to go up 14 to 3, 20 to 10 or by a touchdown late in the game. They settled for field goals each time and that almost cost them the game. I did like the fact that the coaching staff tried to run the ball in when faced with goal-to-go situations, but you have to give the Giants credit for playing tough in those situations.

The defense didn't have a "sexy" night. There were no sacks. Eli Manning wasn't getting knocked around left and right. There were no highlight hits on receivers or runners. There was a bend, but don't break feel on several drives. Still, the defense held the Giants to just 17 points, tied for their lowest total of the season.

While the pass rush wasn't overwhelming, it was effective. Manning hates to be sacked. He will throw the ball away rather than take a sack and he's got an uncanny ability to hold the ball until the last second and then throw it away. It drives me nuts. I can only imagine how it must infuriate the pass rushers that are going after him. Manning had his lowest passer rating and lowest completion percentage of the year in the game. The Eagles didn't sack him, but they did make him throw off his back foot and did make him throw the ball away.

Manning, much to our chagrin, has become one of the best quarterbacks in the league and he threw some incredible passes. He did have 309 yards passing in the game. Several of those were the kind of plays where you just shake your head and congratulate the other guy for being so good. When a pass is perfectly placed, there is nothing a cornerback can do. The good news is that Manning made several of those throws, but the Giants only scored 17 points and lost. You want throws like that to come in a win or big showing by the offense.

The Giants had no running game. They finished with 19 carries for 57 yards. The long run was just 9 yards. This wasn't due to just one guy. The whole front seven played good run defense. The linebackers were actually quiet, totaling just four solo tackles per the NFL gamebook.

Of course, it is hard to tackle a guy when Fletcher Cox or Cullen Jenkins already has him wrapped up. Both Jenkins and Cox played really well. I continue to be amazed at how good Cox is for a rookie. He was able to stuff a run play on third-and-1. He got push up the middle on run plays. There were a couple of line twists where he chased Manning out in space and forced throwaways. Jenkins had the team’s only tackle-for-loss. He was very active and chased the ball all over. He made a critical stop on a run play late in the game. The Giants were trying to run a draw and get in better field goal range. Jenkins stuffed the play for minimal gain and that turned out to be a huge moment.

It is easy to see the Giants throwing for 309 yards and to assume that coverage was a huge issue, but as I said earlier, there were just some amazing throws by Manning. There were also some great catches by the Giants. Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Brandon Boykin were all burned by great pass plays. They had good coverage, but the Giants had near-perfect execution. There were some throws when receivers were open. I just didn't think it was a regular problem. Rodgers-Cromartie picked off a pass in the end zone on a bonehead throw by Manning. Boykin broke up a pass.

There were some hidden heroes in this game. Brandon Hughes took the place of Asomugha when he left with an eye injury. Hughes broke up a pair of passes and nearly picked one off. Receiver Mardy Gilyard made two tackles in kickoff coverage. Both might have prevented really long returns or even touchdowns. Celek and Jason Avant were asked to block more than usual. There was one play when those two double-teamed Jason Pierre-Paul and it worked. I doubt he expected that duo.

We must talk about special teams. Alex Henery was four-of-four on field goals, including nailing one from 48 yards out. He hit his first really clutch field goal as an Eagle when he put the team ahead 19-17 with just under two minutes left. Mat McBriar did a good job in his first regular season game as the Eagles punter and holder. Jon Dorenbos had somewhat of a gimpy ankle, but played through it. His snaps were perfect and he made one tackle in punt coverage.

As for the kickoff coverage, it stunk. There is no way around that fact. Brian Rolle lost his job in part because of Sunday night's coverage issues. Rolle had a chance on a couple of plays, but failed to make the tackle or impact the play. Backup linebackers must get the job done on special teams. Casey Matthews made tackles downfield, but at least he made them. The Eagles were missing Colt Anderson and Akeem Jordan, the team's two best special teams players. Still, a repeat of that performance is simply unacceptable. The Giants had great field position for much of the game and it took pressure off Manning and the offense.

I went nuts when Reid iced the kicker. I think the NFL needs to put a rule in that you can't do that. I just don't like it and I've read some reports that it actually helps kickers. Thankfully, the icing did not cost the Eagles the game. If there is a short field goal and the team has plenty of time to get ready, maybe you ice that guy. Your helpless and want to try something. When the kicker has to run on the field quickly and try to nail a 54-yard kick, make him do it like that. Any kick over 45 yards is tough as a game winner. Don't let the guy have time to settle down and prepare.

The Eagles did not play a perfect game, but they did come up with a huge win. They are now 3-1 and atop the NFC East all by themselves. Last year, the team was 1-3 and it was a time of disbelief. The Eagles need to build off this win. Go score some touchdowns and continue to protect the football. I also don't think Eagles fans would complain about seeing more of that balanced offense. Watching McCoy run is a lot of fun.

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