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Fan-Demonium: Make Success A Habit

Posted Nov 5, 2013

Did the NFL figure out Chip Kelly's offense? Could Nick Foles bounce back from his struggles against Dallas? Is Foles able to thrive in Kelly's offense? 

The local and national media asked these questions repeatedly over the last couple of weeks. You really can't blame them after the way the offense struggled against the Cowboys and Giants. Those were eye-opening games.

Kelly, Foles and the Eagles offense answered the questions emphatically Sunday. They went to Oakland and put on a spectacular show. The Eagles had 49 points on the board with more than four minutes left in the third quarter. The only thing that stopped the Eagles offense on Sunday was the Eagles. One game is just one game, but this was the kind of showing that has residual impact. 

Foles got into the NFL record books by throwing seven touchdown passes. Honestly, it still seems odd to type that phrase. I like Foles. I've got hopes that he can be the quarterback of the future here. But I sure never anticipated him throwing seven touchdown passes in a single game. We've seen young quarterbacks like Bobby Hoying, A.J. Feeley and Kevin Kolb have their share of good moments, but nothing close to this. It really is difficult to put Sunday's game into perspective. 

Signs Of Promise
Name Season Opponent Result Stat Line
Bobby Hoying 1997 Cincinnati W, 44-42 26/42 for 313 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT
A.J. Feeley 2002 Washington W, 34-21 16/28 for 220 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Kevin Kolb 2009 Kansas City W, 34-14 24/34 for 327 yards, 2 TDs
Nick Foles 2013 Oakland W, 49-20 22/28 for 406 yards, 7 TDs

Foles is simply on a whole other level. The other three quarterbacks combined for eight touchdown passes. Foles didn't even get a whole game and still had seven touchdowns. That is just mind-blowing. 

The best part of Foles' performance is that it isn't just about results. Foles absolutely passed the eye test. One of the big questions with some people has been Foles' arm strength. He threw the ball better on Sunday than I've ever seen him do it. Foles put zip on his intermediate throws. He was able to throw the ball downfield. His deep pass to DeSean Jackson was in the air for 60 yards. Foles also threw the ball well on the move. He didn't need to have his feet set to generate velocity or power. It certainly helps, but he made some tough throws while off-balance. 

Foles did a great job of manipulating the Raiders defense. He used his eyes and pump-fakes to move or freeze defenders, which then gave some receivers single coverage. This is a skill that smart veteran quarterbacks use. You'll see Tom Brady and Peyton Manning do this. There were plays when Foles would pump fake to the right and then throw to the left. There were plays when he would stare down the middle and then look to the right at the last second. Defensive backs read the quarterback's eyes. They want to know where he's looking so they can get in position to jump the route. Foles got them out of position and then had some targets wide open for big plays or key passes. 

Going into Sunday, the Eagles were 31st in the NFL in red zone offense. They struggled to score touchdowns. Even worse, there have been some costly turnovers this year. Foles did a great job in the red zone and the Eagles went four for four. The Eagles climbed up to 26th in red zone rankings after Sunday. When you score touchdowns instead of settling for field goals, your chances of winning go up by a wide margin. The whole offense did a good job down in the red zone. Receivers ran good routes and got open. Foles got them the ball and they caught it. There was no magic. The Eagles simply executed well. The plays have been there all year. There has just been too much sloppiness. 

One interesting wrinkle that got thrown into the offense on Sunday was to send LeSean McCoy into the flat on passing plays. He would take off just before the snap. This kind of late movement bothers the defense. McCoy drew the attention of defenders even though he wasn't getting the ball. His movement had defensive backs and linebackers looking that way and helped open up other receivers. In the third quarter, McCoy went out wide. The Raiders had a blitz called and no one covered him. Foles threw the ball out quickly and McCoy raced down the sideline for an easy score. 

Kelly also mixed in more two-tight end sets in this game than he's used for most of the season. Zach Ertz caught his first NFL touchdown pass. He and Brent Celek combined for eight catches and two touchdowns. They were used in-line, in the slot and out wide. Ertz's score came with him in the right slot. Celek also had some really good blocks on the day. 

The tight ends got more involved, but the wide receivers still were the workhorse pass catchers. Riley Cooper had the best game of his career. He caught five passes for 139 yards. Three of the catches went for touchdowns. Cooper had a 42-yard catch-and-run on the opening series to get the team going. It was a simple screen that he took up the field and turned into a big play. He had a 63-yard touchdown, which was the longest play of his career. Cooper also added a pair of red zone touchdowns. Huge game for him. 

DeSean Jackson had five catches for 150 yards. He had a 46-yard touchdown and a 59-yard catch. Jackson also caught a 17-yard pass on third-and-16 that kept a scoring drive alive. The defense had a pair of wide receivers they had to fear. Both guys delivered big plays and touchdowns. 

Kelly's offense worked brilliantly on Sunday. He was dialing up deep passes. The screen game also worked very well. There were screens to running backs, tight ends and wide receivers. Not only did Kelly mix in short and vertical passes, he was stretching the field horizontally by attacking out wide in the passing game. The Raiders had to really cover the entire field and that kept their defense off-balance. They didn't know where the ball was going until it left Foles hand. 

None of this works without the offensive line doing their job. They shut down the Raiders pass rush, which had posted a good number of sacks. The Raiders have a talented front and also blitz very well. The offensive ine gave Foles good protection for most of the game and let him work his magic. Defensive end Lamarr Houston has played really well this year, but was darn near invisible on Sunday. Jason Peters shut him down. 

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 defense had a strange day. They gave up 20 points, which isn't bad. They did allow 560 yards, which is very bad. But this is where things get tricky. The Eagles scored so quickly that the Raiders kept getting back on the field. They ran 92 plays and gained 6.1 yards per play. The Eagles only ran 57 plays, but gained 542 yards. That is 9.5 yards per play. See the difference? 

The Eagles mixed in a lot of backup defenders on the final two drives. They gave up 129 yards and a touchdown. That's another way that the final numbers look worse than they should. Until very late in the game, the Eagles had only given up 13 points and had mostly stayed in control of things. The Raiders had a lot of hollow yards. 

Terrelle Pryor is one talented athlete. He ran for 94 yards and drove the Eagles defense nuts. The defensive line did a good job of getting pressure on him, but then Pryor would start scrambling around and get the ball off. Some were caught, some were just incompletions. Trent Cole got his first sack of the year. If he went against a less mobile quarterback, Cole might have had three sacks. I know he was going crazy at getting close, but not finishing. 

Bennie Logan got the start at nose tackle and played pretty well. He was stout against the run at times. There were some other times when he got blocked. Logan had a couple of chances to get sacks, but simply couldn't catch Pryor. You can definitely see where he runs better than Isaac Sopoaga and will use his speed when chasing the ball. Damion Square was his backup most of the time and did okay. He didn't impress me early in the season when he was mostly playing end, but Square did a solid job as the backup nose tackle. 

The other defensive linemen played well. Cedric Thornton and Fletcher Cox were active all day long. Both guys got into the backfield multiple times, but Pryor eluded them. Vinny Curry got a sack. Bill Davis did something interesting and had Curry line up at nose tackle in some pass rushing sets, including the play where he got the sack. That was a nice wrinkle. 

Mychal Kendricks had to be the tiredest man in America on Sunday night. He chased Pryor all over that field. Kendricks was in on 10 tackles and had a sack. Kendricks is a speedy linebacker, but Pryor is an even faster quarterback. DeMeco Ryans did his share of chasing as well. He led the team with 11 tackles. 

Pryor passed for 288 yards, which I didn't expect, but many of those yards came on broken plays. Defenders can only cover for so long before a player comes open. Nate Allen had a huge play in the game. Pryor hit Rod Streater with a pass over the middle and Streater got free down the sideline. Allen got a handful of jersey and would not let go. That slowed Streater enough so that Brandon Boykin could chase him down and make the tackle. The play gained 66 yards, but the drive ended in a field goal. If Allen doesn't grab that jersey, the Raiders score seven instead of three. Who knows how that might have changed the game. 

Bradley Fletcher picked off a pass. So did Connor Barwin. Earl Wolff batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage. Patrick Chung tipped up a pass that led to a pick. Cary Williams broke up a deep ball and almost picked it off. The Eagles secondary wasn't great, but they made plays. You can live with giving up yards if you come up with red zone stops and takeaways. 

The Raiders did run for 210 yards. Ninety-four of those were Pryor's. Forty-two of the yards came from running backs late in the game when the Eagles had backups on the field. The final stat line isn't good, but look inside the numbers and you see where the Eagles weren't nearly that bad against the run. 

Special teams also did their job. They limited the Raiders return game. DeSean Jackson had a 32-yard punt return and Boykin had a 41-yard kickoff return. If not for tripping on Chris Polk, Boykin might have run it back for a touchdown. 

Sunday was a lot of fun. The Eagles played well and exploded on offense. Foles and the offense now need to show they can play well on a consistent basis. Let's make success a habit.

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