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Fan-Demonium: Can't Wait For Dallas

Posted Dec 25, 2013

Sunday night's win over the Bears was pretty amazing. That was the first game in NFL history with a final score of 54-11. You just don't beat other NFL teams by 43 points very often. The game was unusual beyond the final score.

The Eagles have dominated teams in recent years. The 2010 win over Washington was 59-28. There was a 2008 win over Dallas that was 44-6. Those are legendary games to Eagles fans. They featured legendary plays. Who will ever forget Michael Vick throwing an 88-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson to open the romp over Washington on Monday Night Football? Brian Dawkins forced a pair of fumbles in the Dallas game that were both run back for long touchdowns. These moments are ingrained in the memories of Eagles fans forever.

Sunday night's game was an all-time dominant performance, but it was unique because there weren't great moments. The longest pass play was 32 yards. That was just a throw to Riley Cooper going down the right seam. The longest run was 65 yards, but that was the final touchdown and the Bears were a highly discouraged team by that point. Before that, the longest run was just 19 yards.

The Eagles dominated the Bears by controlling the line of scrimmage and methodically moving the ball. There weren't any once-in-a-lifetime moments. LeSean McCoy had a couple of impressive runs, but he has that in virtually every game. The only offensive player who had his best game of the year was backup running back Bryce Brown.

The domination came from the Eagles playing a complete game. The offense clicked, as it does on a regular basis. The defense played its best game of the year. The special teams units were outstanding. We finally got to see the Eagles play a complete game and they looked pretty darn great. That rivaled the kind of stuff we saw out of the 2004 team that went to the Super Bowl.

Let's start with the defense. There were some great performances on that side of the ball. Cary Williams had his best game of the year. A lot of people were worried about how he and Bradley Fletcher would fare against Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey. I wrote in my game preview about the fact that this matchup actually was favorable to the Eagles. The Bears receivers were the better duo, but the Eagles corners had the size to handle them and make some plays. I pointed out that the Bears duo was used to catching the ball above smaller corners, but that the Eagles corners had long enough arms and good enough ball skills to break up some passes. Sure enough, Williams broke up a pair of passes.

Bill Davis explained that he challenged his corners to play man coverage early on. He saw that Williams and Fletcher really locked on tightly, even better than he anticipated. So Davis let them play a lot of tight man coverage. This brought out the best in the Eagles corners. They did give up a total of 10 catches and one touchdown, but that's alright. You're not going to completely stifle a team that drops back to pass 45 times.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Brandon Boykin since the Bears don't throw to their slot guy very much. He found a way to make an impact, breaking up one pass and then late in the game picking off a pass and running it back 54 yards for a touchdown.

The Eagles corners had a great night. They were all over Bears receivers in coverage. They broke up some passes. They contested passes. They tackled well when the ball did get caught. Boykin's pick-six was the icing on the cake. He's dropped a couple of gift interceptions this year that he could have run back for scores. He didn't make a smooth grab, but was able to secure the ball and fly down the field for the touchdown. That was the Eagles’ first defensive touchdown of the year.

Tight coverage on the back end usually means the quarterback will have to hold the ball an extra second or so and that is a huge help to the pass rushers. The Eagles came up with five sacks and got enough pressure on Jay Cutler to keep him from ever looking comfortable. He took enough of a beating that the Bears coaches finally pulled him out of the game. Trent Cole led the way up front. He had three sacks to continue his late-season hot streak. The Bears foolishly tried to block him with a running back on one play. Cole pushed him aside and engulfed Cutler. That might work against some guys, but not Cole.

Mychal Kendricks had a terrific showing. He had a pair of sacks and a forced fumble. Kendricks did some good things in coverage. One of the sacks came when he blitzed up the middle and beat the blocking back. The other sack came when he rushed off the edge. Kendricks did have a couple of sloppy moments in the game so he's still got things to work on, but he's a big help to the defense when he makes plays. 3-4 teams need an inside linebacker who can make plays.

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.

Cedric Thornton had a highlight moment in the early third quarter. The Bears were backed up deep in Eagles territory. Thornton fired to the inside and got by the right guard. Thornton hit Matt Forte in the end zone and tripped him up for a safety. I was glad that a national TV audience got to see Thornton make a big play like that. He's had a terrific season, but primarily as a run defender. Those guys rarely get the attention they deserve. That play will stand out to some casual fans who were watching him for the first time this year.

The key to controlling the Bears offense was limiting Forte. The Eagles did a great job against him. Forte ran nine times for only 29 yards. He caught 4 passes for only 25 yards. Those 54 total yards were the second fewest he's had in a game all season. Once you take him away, all the pressure goes to Cutler and the passing attack.

You also have to give some credit to the Eagles offense in terms of shutting down Forte. As they scored touchdowns and grew the lead, it forced the Bears to abandon the run game.

The Eagles basically did whatever they wanted on offense. They threw screen passes. They threw vertical seam passes. They worked the perimeter. They ran the ball all over the place. The only thing they didn't do was throw the ball deep and that seemed to be by choice. Why throw it deep if you can throw short and medium and keep the ball moving?

The offensive line played their best game of the 2013 season. They gave Nick Foles excellent protection. Foles generally had time to survey the field and find the guy he wanted. He was sacked twice, but those weren't typical sacks. They were supposed to be short passes, but the Bears jumped the routes. Players have already started blocking down the field so Foles then has to just get what he can and go down. He did take a hard hit on one play, but the pass was already out.

The line did a great job in the run game and on screen passes. They often kept McCoy clean up to the second level. Once there, he started with the shake and bake moves. You could tell the line was having a great game because the backup runners would come in the game and be able to run the ball just as well. McCoy finished with 133 yards. Brown had 115 yards. Polk had a 10-yard touchdown. All three of the backs had touchdown runs. All in all, the Eagles finished with 289 yards on the ground. It's too bad the backup defense couldn't get the Bears off the field in the middle of the fourth quarter or the Eagles might have added another 50 yards on the ground.

Foles had another great game (I don't think I'll ever get tired of typing that phrase). He was 21-of-25 on the day. Two of those incompletions were definite throwaways and I think a third one was as well. That's pretty good accuracy, huh? Foles’ throws were crisp and had good velocity. He threw the ball well on the run, hitting Zach Ertz for a big gain and Riley Cooper for a touchdown. Foles did a good job on screen passes. He sold those plays well, which is a subtle thing, but can be very important. Any casual fans who wanted to see what all the Foles hype was all about had to come away impressed. He didn't have any spectacular moments, but was consistently excellent.

One of the most interesting parts of the game is how Chip Kelly used DeSean Jackson. He lined Jackson up in the backfield a lot. I fully expected him to be out wide and then stretching the defense vertically. Jackson caught four passes for just 29 yards. They were all short. He also got the ball on a couple of "run plays." They were laterals with Jackson lining up in the backfield and then moving toward the flat. Those plays netted 12 yards. The DeSean Jackson I saw in 2011 would never catch those passes and attack upfield. He truly is a changed player. Jackson wasn't attacking linebackers, but he was running toward traffic. I love the fact that Kelly is moving Jackson around to get different looks for him and is being creative with how to get him the ball. Just sending him deep, over and over, got to be a waste of time in previous seasons.

The tight ends came up big. Ertz caught the one pass for 27 yards. Brent Celek caught three passes for 58 yards, including a touchdown. James Casey didn't have any passes come his way, but his blocking was crucial on a couple of touchdowns. Celek and Ertz also helped to pave the way for the runners to pile up all of those yards.

One of the ways you win big games late in the season is by playing well on special teams. The Eagles were facing Devin Hester, one of the greatest return men in the history of football. It is never easy trying to keep him under control. Donnie Jones only had to punt twice. One was downed by Boykin (which set up the safety) and the other punt was fair-caught by Hester. Zero punt return yards. Hester did get to return six kickoffs. His long return was 37 yards. Not only did the Eagles keep him bottled up, but they stripped the ball away from Hester. On the second kickoff of the game, Bradley Fletcher yanked the ball loose from Hester and Cary Williams recovered it. I told you the cornerbacks had a great game. They made impact plays on defense and special teams.

Beyond that, the Bears had a short punt which set up an Eagles touchdown drive. The Eagles also got a 49-yard field goal from Alex Henery.

Sunday night was the first complete game the Eagles have played. They dominated on offense, defense and special teams. We can't count on this happening again, but it is encouraging that the team played so well without any player having the game of his life or anyone making spectacular plays that can't be repeated. I can't wait to see how the Eagles play Sunday night in Dallas.

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