The Eagles played in another tough game on Thursday night and came out on top. I've written a few times this year about how interesting it is to see the young team tested in these pressure-packed games. Generally the team has responded well. That's very encouraging as the Eagles enter the final month of the regular season. Four games are left and each of them will be huge tests.
The defense was very up and down in the Houston game. The good news is that most of the problems came due to blown assignments or mistakes and not a lack of talent. The bad news is that the players blew assignments and made mistakes. Young players will have these issues. You just have to hope the mistakes don't lead to touchdowns. That's what happened against the Texans and it is why the game was closer than it should have been.
The Texans offensive line also played well. The Eagles pass rush wasn't consistently effective. That gave Matt Schaub time to get the ball to Andre Johnson and the tight ends. Houston did a good job with their play-action passing. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott focused on stopping Arian Foster on the ground and that meant some guys were open downfield. The Eagles had four offsides penalties in the game, all on veterans, and that is unacceptable. A couple of those penalties essentially kept drives alive. You can't do that against a good offense.
Let's talk about some guys who played well. Stewart Bradley had a good game against the run. Foster is a big, physical running back, but he's also got speed and is elusive. I've seen more than a few players miss tackles on him. Bradley tackled well on run plays to Foster. Bradley is over 250 pounds so he has the size to handle him. We need Bradley to play well to have a chance to make some noise in the postseason.
I thought Ernie Sims had a pretty good game. He was very good at taking on fullback Vonta Leach. Sims won that battle and that limited where Foster could go on several plays. Cornerback Dimitri Patterson had a good game. He gave up a couple of big plays, but getting burned by Andre Johnson is nothing to be ashamed of. Johnson used a double move to get by Patterson and Nate Allen for a long gain. On the other play Patterson had tight coverage before Johnson gave him a push to create some space and make the grab. Patterson tackled very well. He had six tackles, including a pair of tackles for loss.
Antonio Dixon had his quietest game since becoming a starter. The Texans center (Chris Myers) and left guard (Wade Smith) did a really good job of blocking on him. Give those guys credit for an outstanding game. Mike Patterson did play well. He had a sack and three solo tackles. Trevor Laws came up with an interception that led to a field goal. He showed good awareness and hands on the play.
The rookies did OK. Allen had a strip-sack late in the game that was huge. He came on a delay blitz and smartly made sure to get the ball as he was tackling Schaub. That turnover essentially sealed the game. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim played the most of his young career. He had three tackles, but was assignment sound on a few run plays that came his way. He's showing progress. Corner Trevard Lindley tackled well. He's getting smarter in pass coverage. You can see that things are starting to make sense. He made a great hustle play as well. After Laws' interception, the ball was knocked away from him. Lindley didn't just sit and watch. He was behind Laws and pounced on the ball when it was knocked loose.
There is no doubt that the Eagles missed Asante Samuel and Juqua Parker in the last couple of weeks. Both players are slated to practice on Wednesday with hopes that they will suit up against Dallas on Sunday night. The Eagles were without Samuel three times this year. The team won two of those games, but allowed 24, 31 and 24 points. He does make a difference.
-- Posted by Tommy Lawlor, 4:00 p.m., December 7