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Fan-Demonium: Beginning Of A Journey?

Posted Oct 8, 2013

Sometimes we can over-analyze a game. What does this mean for the season? What does this mean for the big picture?

There are times when you need to keep it simple.

I don't know what to make of Sunday's game, but I do know it was fun to see the Eagles break a losing streak and get back to winning. Life is different when the Eagles win. People have a smile on their faces and a bounce in their step. Life is good for a few days. The fact that the Giants and Cowboys also lost doesn't hurt. 

The win over the Giants makes the Eagles 2-3 and ties them for the lead in the NFC East. What was once the best division in football is now a collection of struggling teams. I knew the division wasn't going to be great this year, but I didn't anticipate the Giants and Washington having a combined record of 1-8. Yikes. 

The big story from Sunday is the injury to Michael Vick. His hamstring tightened up on a second quarter scramble. Nick Foles came in late in the first half and was able to lead the Eagles to the victory. Vick ran the ball really well prior to his injury, but the passing game wasn't as successful. Foles did a good job with the passing game. He finished with a rating of 114.9, making it the best game of his young career (with at least 10 passing attempts). 

Chip Kelly used a new play on Sunday to take advantage of Vick's running skills. He ran the quarterback sweep. A couple of linemen pulled and Vick ran the ball to the outside. This happened from a spread set so that gave Vick room to run. The play worked well. It is smart because there is low risk and high reward. Vick finished the game with seven carries for 79 yards. The injury happened during a scramble on a passing play. There was nothing special. Vick wasn't under duress. He was heading toward the sideline when he felt something and knew he had to immediately get out of bounds. 

Kelly said Vick hasn't been ruled out for Sunday, but it is possible that Foles will get the start. Foles was good against the Giants, going 16 for 25 for 197 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The first touchdown was a 25-yard pass to Brent Celek on a play-action pass. The Eagles had just gotten the ball on an interception and wanted to strike quickly. Foles rolled out to the left and threw back to his right. The pass had air under it so that Celek could run under the ball. That trajectory also kept the defender from being able to play on it. The other touchdown was a short throw to DeSean Jackson. Foles threw kind of a fade and Jackson went up and made a nice catch. 

Foles came into the game with 1:33 left in the first half. The Eagles were backed up at their own 7-yard line. I was hoping he'd get at least one first down. I didn't want to punt the ball back to Eli Manning and give him a chance to work a short field. Foles marched the Eagles right down the field and Alex Henery nailed a 36-yard field goal as the half ended. Foles showed no rust at all. He did get to play in the fourth quarter of last week's game and it could be that throwing those four passes in game action helped Foles knock off any rust. He certainly played well on Sunday. 

The thing I like best with Foles is that he's willing to give his receivers a chance to make a play. Celek wasn't wide open on his touchdown, but Foles put the ball in a spot where he could make the grab. Jackson wasn't wide open on his score, but Foles put the ball at a spot where Jackson could go get it. You can't always have a wide open guy. The trick is to balance giving the receiver a chance versus throwing the ball into coverage and making a not-so-smart decision. Foles made the right decisions on Sunday. He needs to keep doing that going forward. 

Jackson was a big reason the passing game did work. He caught a 56-yard bomb from Vick that set up the Eagles' first touchdown. Jackson finished with seven catches for 132 yards. He was able to get deep and work the underneath stuff. It was good to see him get back on track after a couple of quiet weeks. Jackson is still on pace to have the best year of his young career.

The run game was not as impressive. Vick had a big day, but the running backs combined to have 27 carries for 60 yards. I don't like the 60, but I do like the 27. Even on a day when the run game was struggling, the runners still got carries. Some fans were angry that Kelly didn't run more, but overall I thought he called a good game. 

The Giants defensive line did a good job against the run. Old friend Mike Patterson played well. Still feels very odd to see him in blue. The Giants did some creative things with their linemen that helped them frustrate the interior blockers and bog down the running game. Kelly and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland will have a counter-move for this in future games. Since the pass game was working on Sunday, they just stuck with that. LeSean McCoy had 46 yards rushing and 46 yards receiving. He still got his touches and helped the offense. The Giants slowed him as a runner, but couldn't take him out of the offense. 

The offensive line did a solid job with pass protection. They only allowed one sack in the game. In the last couple of games, Vick was under regular pressure and it hurt him and the passing game. Vick and Foles generally had a clean pocket to work with on Sunday. 

While it was good to see the Eagles score 36 points, the offense is still having red zone problems. They were just 2-for-5 in the red zone. That is unacceptable and has to be driving Kelly crazy. There are just too many mistakes. There was a pass play where Jason Avant was wide open for a touchdown and Vick threw an errant pass. There was a run play where Todd Herremans missed a blitzing safety. That play lost 5 yards. You must execute well to score touchdowns in the red zone. Just one more touchdown instead of a field goal would have made a big difference on Sunday. 

The Giants were able to turn a 19-7 deficit into a 21-19 lead. With an extra four points, the lead would have been 23-7. The Giants might never have taken the lead in the game. You can win by kicking field goals, but it makes life a heck of a lot harder. You really must score touchdowns. 


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

That wasn't Gang Green flying around out there, but the Eagles defense did play much better than last week. The defense came up with four takeaways and that was a huge part of the win. Instead of the offense starting deep in Eagles territory every drive, they started in scoring territory a couple of times. That didn't happen in the last two weeks and the Eagles lost both games and the offense struggled to score points. Make a team drive the long field and they have a much harder time scoring. 

Eli Manning was only sacked once, but he did have three intentional grounding penalties. Those might as well be sacks. Pressure affected him on at least two of the interceptions. The Eagles pass rush wasn't great, but it did bother Manning. He finished just 24-for-52. That's very unlike him, especially in a game where weather wasn't a factor. I would have preferred a bunch of sacks and big hits on Manning, but as long as pressure affects him, that's good enough. 

It was good to see the front seven all having a hand in the pressure. Bennie Logan got the lone sack, the first of his NFL career. That was caused by pressure from Vinny Curry. Brandon Graham got very good pressure when he rushed from the left side a few times. Trent Cole and Connor Barwin got pressure off the edges. Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton were able to push the pocket. Cox had one great pass rush play when he was at left end and used a quick burst to the inside, but he got held and couldn't get to Manning. Sadly, there was no call on the play. The Eagles pass rush isn't nearly as good as it needs to be, but they had a solid showing against the Giants. 

The run defense was good. The Giants only had 53 yards on the ground. The highlight moment was when Thornton shed the block of an offensive lineman and just engulfed David Wilson at the 2-yard line. Wilson wriggled free and then Thornton got him in the end zone. I just knew that would be a safety, but they gave Wilson his forward progress. Great play by Thornton. He's really emerging this year. Reuben Frank of Comcast SportsNet noted on Twitter that the Eagles didn't allow a run longer than 7 yards in the whole game. The last time they did that was 2003. That's good run defense. 

The pass defense was a bit more erratic. Manning threw for 334 yards. There were times when he and the Giants made things look way too easy. Hakeem Nicks had nine grabs for 142 yards. Rueben Randle had six for 96 yards. They caught downfield passes. They caught short stuff. They got yards after the catch. When things worked, they worked well. But the Eagles did a good job at other times. Bradley Fletcher had five pass deflections. He had moments when he looked really good. Brandon Boykin shut down Victor Cruz. Boykin didn't allow one completion to Cruz when he had him in man coverage. Boykin made a spectacular interception while covering Cruz over the middle in the fourth quarter. Boykin stole the ball from Cruz as they were going to the ground. 

The Eagles did have a big bounce-back game on special teams. There were no major mistakes. Alex Henery was five-for-five on field goals. Five of his kickoffs were touchbacks. The Eagles pinned the Giants deep with punts a couple of times. Damaris Johnson had an 18-yard punt return. This unit played well for the first two weeks and then really struggled. It was important to see them turn things around. 

Seeing the Eagles beat the Giants was good. Seeing the Giants fall to 0-5? I'm not sure what word describes that. Good isn't nearly strong enough. The Eagles need to stay humble and focused. Sunday's win only really means something if the team builds on it. The team needs to treat that like the first step on the journey to getting back to being a winning team. While the Eagles did win, the game was still sloppy. There is a lot of work left to be done.

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