It wasn’t pretty, but the win Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts may have just defined the Eagles season. It was extremely back and forth, but it seemed like it was mostly the Eagles game to lose.
The Eagles missed a number of crucial opportunities to put the game out of reach against the Colts. The most concerning aspect of the game was the offensive red zone woes. Philadelphia was unable to convert a touchdown on three-straight red zone chances that would have completely changed the outlook of the game. Even though the offense struggled a bit in the red zone, it was the Eagles defense that ended up being the main reasons for the victory.
For the third time this season, the Eagles defense was able to close out the victory in the final seconds of the game. In the second game of the season, they forced quarterback Shaun Hill into throwing four incomplete passes on the final drive for the Lions. In week five, Trevard Lindley intercepted an Alex Smith pass in the final minute of the game against the 49ers. And then yesterday cornerback Asante Samuel intercepted Peyton Manning’s pass in the last few seconds to drain the rest of the clock and give the Eagles their fifth win of the season. Say what you want about the troubling defense and the status of defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, but this unit has come through in the clutch a number of times this season.
Sunday’s game also welcomed back quarterback Michael Vick and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. I think it’s safe to say that Eagles fans were excited to see their two most explosive players back on the field, as they accounted for 109 yards and a touchdown together. Vick did a great job controlling the game and more importantly keeping Peyton Manning off the field.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that a healthy Michael Vick gives the Eagles a better chance of winning this season. As we saw on Sunday, he adds a completely different dimension to every game with what he is able to do with his legs. He rushed for 74 yards and converted a number of third down plays by scrambling around the field.
It is also obvious that there is a special connection between Vick and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Much like Kevin Kolb often found Jeremy Maclin, Vick and Jackson work extremely well together. A lot of this has to do with Vick’s ability to throw the long ball, something that worked very well for the Eagles last season with Donovan McNabb and Jackson.
Running back: B+
I love what I’m seeing from the running game. Another positive of having Vick behind center is that he helps take the pressure off LeSean McCoy. Even though McCoy only had 16 carries on the afternoon, he still averaged 5.9 yards per carry and finished with 95 yards on the ground. The only concern here is that 62 of those yards came on the opening run of the game, so that means that he had 33 yards in the final three quarters.
If Shady continues at this pace for the second half of the season, he will finish with close to 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Wide Receivers: B
I can’t say enough about how much DeSean Jackson changes the game and the rest of the receiving core. He finished with seven receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. However, a receiver like Jackson is supposed to create better numbers for the other receivers who aren’t seeing as much coverage. This was not really the case on Sunday as Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Owen Schmidt and LeSean McCoy combined for the same number of yards as Jackson. What’s even more troubling is that Brent Celek did not record a catch against the Colts. He was only targeted once so I don’t know if that speaks to his inability to get open or Michael Vick’s unwillingness to look for his tight end option.
Offensive Line: C+
There was a tale of two different offensive lines on Sunday. In the first half, the line did a great job protecting Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy. The offense was clicking (until the red zone) and it seemed like the offensive line was headed in the right direction. In the second half, the Eagles were unable to get much going due to the lack of time Vick had in the pocket and how much McCoy struggled to get past the line of scrimmage. The Colts finished the game with three sacks, six tackles for losses and two pass deflections at the line of scrimmage. Those numbers need to improve.
Defensive line/Linebackers: A–
Even though the Colts were without Joseph Addai and Mike Hart, the Eagles front seven did a spectacular job defending the run. They held the Colts to 62 yards on the ground and a mere 3.3 yards per carry on the afternoon. They have definitely stepped things up in the last four weeks, holding opposing running backs to an average of 3.2 yards per carry.
The linebackers are still struggling when it comes to defending the tight end. If anyone has watched Peyton Manning in his long career, they would know that he loves to throw it to his tight end (just look at Dallas Clark’s numbers). In just his second game of the season, tight end Jacob Tamme led all receivers with 11 receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown. That is now the third time this season the Eagles defense has given up over 100 yards to an opposing tight end.
Similar to the Colts’ running game, Peyton Manning did not have much to work with on offense when it came to his receiving core. However, the Eagles secondary did force two interceptions from Manning, which matches the number of interceptions he has thrown through the first seven games of the season. Manning completed less than 60 percent of his passes for just the third time this season and his passer rating of 65.7 was the second worse this year.
It looks like the days of Ellis Hobbs starting are officially over. In his first start of the season, Dmitri Patterson did a great job and accounted for six tackles. Rookie Kurt Coleman also did a nice job filling in for the injured Nate Allen. Reports today say that Allen has a sprained neck and most likely will not play next week against Washington, so look for Coleman to potentially make his first start of his career.
Special Teams: B
David Akers is back on track as one of the most consistent kickers in the National Football League after knocking down all four of his field goals. Punter Sav Rocca did a great job punting and forcing bad field position for the Colts all game. I would still like to see more production from Jorrick Calvin on kick and punt returns. He averaged 30 yards on kick returns, but his only punt return went for a net loss of one yard.
Even though it may have drained a year or two off my life, the win against the Colts could not have come at a more opportune time for the Eagles. They are relatively healthy now and seem to show strides towards one of the best teams in the NFC. The tough second half schedule continues on Monday night when they attempt to get revenge against the Washington Redskins.
In other exciting Philadelphia Eagles news, the Dallas Cowboys have just fired Wade Phillips, furthering the already dreadful Cowboys season.