Posts Tagged ‘David Akers

11
Jan
11

EAGLES: Packers End Eagles Season

Another Eagles season and another heartbreaking finish. This is really starting to get old in Philadelphia.

Back in training camp when the Eagles were preparing for a season of questions behind Kevin Kolb, many fans never thought the ‘Birds would have been in this position. However, just halfway through week one, Michael Vick brought a new sense of hope to the city of Philadelphia. He brought the Eagles from a rebuilding year to a contending year. Fifteen weeks later, the Eagles faced off against the Green Bay Packers at Lincoln Financial Field.

And that’s all she wrote.

For the third straight week, the Eagles were outplayed and outcoached. You could sense it in Lincoln Financial Field, as fans showed a cautious optimism that quickly turned to cautious pessimism due to the blitzing Packers defense and the relentless Green Bay offense.

Offensively, Marty Mornhinweg’s Eagles seemed utterly shocked by the aggressive blitzing scheme of Don Caper’s Packers. They quickly abandoned the run and put all the pressure on Michael Vick to carry the team on his back. Vick, who was often given less than four seconds to get rid of the football, faced many ups and downs offensive but eventually found himself in a position to win the game.

After a 28-yard pass to DeSean Jackson with less than a minute to play, the Eagles quickly rushed to the line of scrimmage. Facing a 1st and 10 with 27 seconds remaining, many thought Vick would spike the ball and set up a play to the end zone. However, head coach Andy Reid advised No. 7 to go for the end zone and elected for a 4-go route, sending all receivers to the end zone. The play call is going to be debated until training camp next year, considering it cost the Eagles season and a potential come from behind win that echoed the Miracle in the Meadowlands a month before. Vick, who “went out swinging”, went for the end zone to Riley Cooper in single coverage. We all know where it went from there, as Tramon Williams used his positioning to intercept the pass and end the Eagles highly touted playoff run.

While it was the play that ended the season, it was not the sole reason for the Eagles loss. The Packers came to play at the Linc for the second time this season, and the Eagles came out flat for the second meeting. Between missed field goals, third down conversions, and a creative offensive scheme, the Eagles were fortunate enough to even be in a position to win the game.

For the second straight year, the Eagles failed to show up in the NFC Wildcard game. They have lost their last three playoff games, and sorry Eagles fans, there is no more Donovan McNabb to blame. Michael Vick, the replacement Eagles fans were looking for, also failed to do it. Now what changes do the Eagles need to make? I have a long list to come, but for now let’s look at the final report card of the season.

Quarterback: B –

Michael Vick dished out his second consecutive sub-80 passer rating and completed just 20-36 passes. For the seventh straight game, Vick tossed a an interception, and this one to Tramon Williams topped them all. He was criticized during the Vikings game for his lack of preparation and being unable to properly read defensive schemes. Vick was given an extra week off to prepare for the Packers, but still didn’t look 100 percent out there. He clearly seemed bothered by his leg contusion and failed to create any offensive consistency.

Fun fact: for the second time this season, the Eagles offense lost the football game despite winning the turnover battle. The only other loss occurred in the opening week against none other than the Green Bay Packers.

Why Shady did not touch the ball more is beyond me

Running backs: C+

One of the biggest problems I had with the game was that LeSean McCoy was not properly involved in the offense. Coming into the game, the Eagles offense averaged over 140 yards per game on the ground, but were held to just 84 against the Packers. McCoy has proven as much as anyone that he deserves to see more looks. He only had 12 carries on the night and most of them came early in the game. Granted he didn’t have the most productive yards per carry average (3.8), but everyone knows that Shady is always poised to break a big run. The Packers run stopping was the weakest part of their offense, yet Mornhinweg refused to make any changes and spice up the play call.

Wide Receivers: C

It certainly didn’t help that DeSean Jackson spent most of the game on the sidelines. He finished the contest with just two catches and the other Eagles receivers didn’t pull their weight to make up for the missing Pro-Bowler. Even though Jason Avant scored a touchdown, he also dropped a crucial pass on third down late in the game. Is it me or is it that Avant, the guy who was supposed to have some of the best hands in the league, seems to drop passes at the worst times?

Offensive Line: D –

The most crucial part of the Eagles success failed to show up on Sunday. The offensive line has been the Eagles biggest question mark all season and needed to hold their own against the highly aggressive Packers defense. However, they looked terrified on the line. Winston Justice tallied four penalties and miraculously managed to get two penalties on one play. Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji made Michael Vick’s day that much harder and it was quickly apparent on the opening play when Matthews sacked Vick for a loss.

If the Eagles want to have any success on offense next year (pending Michael Vick’s status), they are going to need to invest in some offensive linemen. Winston Justice, King Dunlap, and Nick Cole all showed that they can’t contain opposing defenses.

Defensive Line/Linebackers: F

I expected the front seven to have some trouble covering receivers over the middle, but never did I think the Packers would dominate the inside game. Rookie James Starks looked like Barry Sanders against the ‘Birds. He rushed for 123 yards, which was 22 yards more than he had all season for the Green and Gold. It was quite obvious that the Eagles overlooked the running game and focused solely on stopping the Packers passing game that ranked top-5 in the NFL.

Even worse than the run-stopping was the Eagles failure to stop Green Bay on third down. Led by Aaron Rodgers, the Packers were 7-9 on third down conversions in the first half. One their three scoring drives, Green Bay was 7-7 on third downs. This simply cannot happen defensively, especially when most of those conversions came on plays of more than five yards.

Donald Driver killed the Eagles on third down

Finally, the front seven did a terrible job getting to the quarterback. The Eagles only hit Rodgers twice, both resulting in sacks. When you give Aaron Rodgers all day to throw the ball, he is going to make you pay. The Eagles experienced that firsthand on Sunday night. Philadelphia’s “enforcer”, Ernie Sims, ran around the field aimlessly. He only had two tackles on the night, which is quite pathetic considering how many plays went over the middle.

Secondary: C

The Eagles secondary did a great job preventing the long ball, but still struggled when it mattered on big plays. Aaron Rodgers was 5-5 with three touchdown passes in the red zone, which is something the secondary has failed to improve on all season. On third downs, Rodgers completed 6-8 passes, all of which went for first downs.

Special Teams: F

David Akers, the longest tenured Eagle and one of the hardest workers, could not have picked a worse time to collapse. Granted there are reports that there have been some family issues, but that is no excuse when you are a professional football player, especially a kicker. Akers was having a career year, missing just two field goals heading into the game. However, No. 2 missed two gimmes that proved to be the difference maker. Is he the sole reason for the Eagles loss? No. But it certainly would have been nice to have those six points.

Gerard Lawson was absolutely terrible. Not only did he fail as the Eagles kick returner (averaged just 18 yards per return) but he also was called for a holding penalty on DeSean Jackson’s punt return at the end of the game. I have a feeling we won’t be seeing much more from Mr. Lawson.

As difficult as it is to not have a team to truly cheer for in the next month, the Eagles had one heck of an impressive season. Taking into account all of the drama that came with the quarterbacks and the injuries to the defense, it was quite impressive that the Eagles showed such signs of dominance in 2010. Even though most of us aren’t numb to this pain of losing and coming up short in big games, we still have a lot to be thankful for. There’s no need to call for the end of Andy Reid or Michael Vick because if I was a betting man, I would say there’s a bright future for both of them coming soon.

15
Dec
10

EAGLES: ‘Birds Edge Out Cowboys in Must-Win

Everyone knew it was going to be a shootout, but not many expected the Eagles and Cowboys game to go down like it did on Sunday night. It involved a 91-yard game winning touchdown by DeSean Jackson, five turnovers and even a touchdown from Todd Herremans. As far as excitement, the Eagles and Cowboys certainly didn’t disappoint.

At this point every win is crucial for the Eagles. However, the win over Dallas could not have come at a better time. If there is one thing that we learned on Sunday, it’s that you never know what you are going to get from the Eagles offense. Between Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and others, the Eagles can explode in almost every aspect of the offense.

The only downside is that the Eagles lost two of their biggest defensive players. Stewart Bradley left the game with a leg injury and is doubtful for the rest of the season. Rookie defensive end Brandon Graham, who was really starting to come into his own, will miss the remainder of the year after tearing his ACL. With a defense that is already depleted with an ailing Asante Samuel, the Eagles are certainly lacking in the leadership department. Stewart Bradley has played well the last couple of games in the middle, but now finds himself watching on the sidelines once again.

Despite losing Bradley and Graham, the Eagles pulled through in the third quarter after being down 20-14. Led by the power running game of McCoy and a big touchdown late, Philadelphia capped off its ninth win of the season.

Grades:

Quarterback : B+

Once again, Vick came through for the Eagles on Sunday night. He had three touchdowns total, but for the first time since being released from prison he had two interceptions in a game.  Despite the turnovers, his passing was pretty spot on for most of the night. What a beautiful pass on the opening play of the game, when he connected with DeSean Jackson for a  60-yard bomb.

I was not so impressed with his running game. For the first time all season he struggled to find open holes. He only averaged two yards per carry and was sacked twice trying to scramble. Vick needs to start treating himself like glass because it’s obvious that referees are not giving him the calls (such as when he was pushed to the ground when running out of bounds).

Running back: A+

What more can I say about this guy? In his second year he is already being compared to Brian Westbrook in his prime. Statistically, he has been without question the best Eagles running back through two seasons. To this point he has 2,455 all purpose yards in his first two seasons and the next closest in franchise history is Billy Ray Barnes (1956-57) with 1,715 (and McCoy still has three games to play). He has proven that he can be an every down back that can fight for yards in the trenches and be an effective pass-catcher. Shady averaged over nine yards per carry against the Cowboys and finished with 149 yards on the ground. He sealed the win for the Eagles after gaining three extremely impressive first downs on the final drive.

DeSean broke past the secondary and never looked back in the fourth quarter

Wide Receivers: A

DeSean Jackson just loves to play under the spot light. In the 15 primetime games he has played since being an Eagles, he has 61 catches for 1,252 yards and 7 touchdowns. Are you kidding me? He caught the opening bomb from Michael Vick and added on a 91-yard touchdown reception to give the Eagles a 27-20 lead in the fourth. Jackson averaged 52.5 yards per catch and did most of the work after making those catches. He stole the show from the rest of the receivers, but I don’t see many complaining.

Offensive Line: B+

Jason Peters did an unbelievable job defending DeMarcus Ware. The All-Pro Cowboy lineman only had three tackles all night and rarely got to Vick in the pocket. For one of the first times this season, Todd Herremans did something positive for the offense after catching a touchdown pass. Since the referees aren’t protecting Vick, it’s important that the offensive line step up and protect him. He was only sacked twice but took some brutal hits that need to be avoided if he plans on staying healthy.

Defensive Line/Linebackers: B

The Eagles red zone defense is the worst in the NFL and it was certainly apparent against Dallas. All of their touchdowns (counting Witten’s 22 yard catch) came in the red zone. They did hold Felix Jones to just 3.2 yards per carry and quarterback Jon Kitna to 6.8 yards per completion, but something breaks down when defending that last part of the field.

Where in the world has Trent Cole been? Through the first half of the season, Cole was on pace to break some record books and buy himself a ticket to the Pro-Bowl. However, the last couple of games he has been completely shut down. Cole only got to the quarterback once and finished with a mere two tackles.

The defensive player of the game was Jamar Chaney, who filled in for Stewart Bradley. Chaney led the team with seven tackles after coming in more than halfway through the game. The rookie is expected to be the starter in the middle this weekend against the Giants. Hopefully he and the rest of the linebackers can do a better job covering the opposing tight end though.

With the loss of Brandon Graham, the Eagles welcome back defensive lineman Derrick Burgess. A couple of years ago he was the staple on the D-line for Philadelphia and hopefully he still has some fuel in the tank.

Quintin Mikell captained the defense Sunday

Secondary: A –

Similar to the linebackers, the secondary could have done a better job covering Jason Witten over the top. Other than that, the defensive backs did a great job covering the high-powered Cowboys offense. On top of two interceptions, they held top receiver Miles Austin to two catches for 22 yards and Roy Williams to 23 yards. Even more impressive is that they did it without Asante Samuel, who missed his third straight game with a knee injury.

Special Teams: B+

At the age of 36, David Akers seems to be having his best season yet for the Eagles. He has connected on 23 of his last 24 field goal attempts and has made 11 in a row. He nailed a 50 yarder in the fourth quarter to tie the game up at 20 that proved to be one of the difference makers in the game.

On another note, I much rather prefer to have Chad Hall returning kicks than Jorrick Calvin. Hall is faster and more elusive than Calvin. Also, DeSean Jackson has hit a bit of a slump as a punt returner, which is a bit worrisome for the special teams core.

With the Giants playing a cupcake game against the Vikings, Sunday was a much needed win for the Eagles. It sets up the stage for this weekend’s game, which is without question the biggest game of the season. If Philadelphia wins, they clinch a spot in the playoffs because they will have two wins over New York. With a depleted defense, Philadelphia is going to have to rely on the elusive offense that New York did a solid job defending last time they played. It’s going to be a fun one on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

06
Dec
10

EAGLES: Eagles take care of business against Texans

Pinned in the heart of the Eagles second half schedule, many overlooked the matchup with the Houston Texans on Thursday night. Even though it was a non-conference game, it was a must win for the Eagles considering how tight the NFC is looking at this point in the season. Once again, Michael Vick carried Philadelphia on his back and led the Eagles to a 34-24 win at Lincoln Financial Field.

Offensively, the Eagles continued their dominance of opposing defenses. Vick led the Eagles to touchdowns on four of six red zone possessions and to a 50 percent third down conversion rate. He controlled the game and let the offense work itself out against one of the worst defenses in the league.

Defensively, the Eagles were pretty shaky. The Texans scored touchdowns on all three of their red zone trips. Coming into the game Philadelphia allowed touchdowns on 76.7 percent of red zone possessions, which is the worst in the league. Now for the grades:

Quarterback: A-

Was Michael Vick slippery or what against the Texans? He dodged a couple of tackles throughout the game that should have resulted in sacks and he instead turned them into big carries. He had his fifth game of the season with a quarterback rating over 100 and his seventh over 90. Vick completed 22 of 33 passes for 302 yards (third time in four games throwing over 300 yards).

Vick did a great job controlling the game under pressure. He had his first come from behind win as the Eagles starting quarterback. He completed 5 of 7 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown (on top of a rushing touchdown) in the fourth quarter. That’s a passer rating of 153.2. The Eagles are averaging 33.6 points per game with Vick under center and have scored over 25 points in each of those games.

I’m still a bit worried and annoyed by Vick’s refusal to slide. He said in an interview after the game that he knows how to slide, but would rather not to. He’s all smiles right now while he is healthy, but one hit can end all of the Eagles dreams with Vick under center.

Running backs: A

On the ground, LeSean McCoy only rushed 12 times for 44 yards. However, McCoy hauled in a team high eight passes for 86 yards and finished with two touchdowns on the day. On the season he has 67 receptions, which is only 23 away from tying the Eagles single season record set by Brian Westbrook in 2007. He is averaging just over five catches per game and with four games left, he is poised to contend for that record. I really cannot say enough about how much Shady has developed in the last year. He is extremely versatile and does a great job making people miss.

Even though he only had three touches on the night, Jerome Harrison had a huge third down carry that went for 14 yards. He broke a tackle and quickly moved to the edge of the field and beat out a couple of linebackers.

Wide Receivers: A –

Brent Celek saved the game for the Eagles late in the 4th quarter

This was the first game of the season that the Eagles got solid production from the big three of their receiving core: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek. Jackson finished with 84 yards, Maclin with 68 and Celek with 55. Granted they were facing one of the worst secondaries in football, but still they seemed to do a good job getting open at all points of the field. It seems like Vick and Celek are starting to get more comfortable together, as the tight end was targeted a season high seven times from No. 7. Also, hats off to Brent Celek for keeping the Eagles in the game late in the fourth quarter when he stretched for a first down on 3rd and 19. That play changed the outcome of the game.

What is the deal with Jason Avant? For the third time this season Avant dropped a touchdown pass that could have changed the outlook of the game. He is regarded as having some of the best hands in football, but seems to miss at the worst possible times. Both Avant and Celek dropped touchdown passes on a second half drive that resulted in a touchdown.

Offensive Line: B

The offensive line only allowed one sack to the Texans.  More impressively, they only allowed two tackles and one tackle for a loss to Mario Williams, who is regarded as one of the most dominant defensive ends in the country. However the line as a whole continues to buckle against the blitz. Imagine what Vick could do with more time in the pocket.

Jason Peters had a great game blocking, and impressively without any penalties. He made great blocks on almost every big passing play. Todd Herremans was really inconsistent and allowed too many defenders in the backfield.

Defensive Line/Linebackers: C –

Let’s just say that if Michael Vick had as much time as Matt Schaub in the pocket, the Eagles would average 50 points a game. The front four did a terrible job getting to Schaub all night. They only blitzed nine times, which resulted in two sacks. Brandon Graham played in 70 percent of the snaps, but was practically invisible on the field. Trent Cole, a man who seems to be able to get past any offensive lineman, was shut down for most of the game. Aside from Trevor Laws’ interception in the first half, the defensive line was very unproductive against a mediocre Texans offensive line.

Stewart Bradley had another great game for the Eagles. He has been very quiet all season, but finally showed signs of leadership on Thursday. Bradley made a couple of big tackles against Arian Foster that went for losses. However, Bradley, like the rest of the linebackers, gave up a couple of big plays to tight end Joel Dreessen.

Secondary: C+

The second straight game without Asante Samuel and the Eagles secondary was torched again. Matt Schaub passed for 337 yards, 149 of which went to Andre Johnson. The Texans star receiver was injured for most of the first half, which shows how big of an impact he had in the second half. Both Nate Allen and Dmitri Patterson were beat badly on a head fake by Johnson in the second quarter that went for 42 yards.

Congratulations to David Akers who made Eagles history Thursday

That being said, the Eagles defense still was able to pull things together late in the fourth quarter. They were in a tough spot and the offense picked them off the ground and put them on their back. The defense really needs to step up heading into Dallas and New York.

Special Teams: A

It finally happened. The Eagles returned a kickoff for the first time this season, and one of the first times in the last decade, but then it all came crashing down on a Clay Harbor holding call. Watching Jorrick Calvin celebrate after the return without knowing there was a penalty was painful. He still rebounded and averaged over 23 yards per return.

Congratulations to Eagles kicker David Akers. He became the all-time leader in starts in franchise history (184), surpassing former safety Brian Dawkins. Akers also accounted for 10 points for the Eagles on Thursday night.

Now is when things get very interesting for the Eagles. They finish the season playing the Dallas Cowboys twice, the New York Giants at the Meadowlands and at home against the Minnesota Vikings. For the first time in the last few seasons, a 10-win team might not make the playoffs in the NFC. Now is when we see what the real Philadelphia Eagles are like and how they can respond on the road in Dallas and New York.

If you haven’t seen it yet, you must watch the Eagles post-game locker room celebration

29
Nov
10

EAGLES: Sloppy Loss to Bears Brings Eagles Down From Cloud Nine

There are two things that Eagles learned at Soldier Field on Sunday. First is that Michael Vick is human and last week was not a fluke. Second, the ‘Birds are still too vulnerable to be considered the best team in the NFC because of their inconsistent defensive play.

The Bears are a good team simply because they grind games out with their defense, but the Eagles have been dominant in the last couple of weeks. That being said, I still pinned this as a potential loss for the Eagles coming into the game. They had just played three tough games, including two divisional games that were on prime time television. However it’s one thing to lose, but it’s another thing to lose when nothing seems to go right.

The Bears were more prepared in every facet of the game. Their defense bombarded Vick and didn’t give him any time in the first half. On offense, Jay Cutler, who is known as one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks and is usually good for at least one turnover a game, threw for 247 yards and four touchdowns. Let’s be honest, Jay Cutler is not a quarterback that should have a 146 passer rating against the Eagles, who coming into the game had forced the most turnovers in the NFL. Despite a late surge from the Eagles in the second half, they fell to 7-4 on the season after a sub-par outing in the Windy City.

To the report card:

Quarterback: B –

On paper, it looked like a solid outing for No. 7. He finished with 333 yards passing, two touchdowns and his first interception since being released from jail two years ago. However, in the first half Vick was clueless on the field. The offensive line didn’t give him a chance to do what he does best (run) and he missed a couple of big passes. He couldn’t get anything going in the red zone all game. The interception he threw at the end of the second half when the Eagles were down by one point was careless. Granted it was tipped, but he also was throwing into triple coverage.

The second half was the Michael Vick that Eagles fans have grown to enjoy watching. His pass to Celek was an unbelievably thrown ball that he somehow fit in between four defenders. At least he ended on a positive note.

Running back: B

Can someone tell me why Eldra Buckley was in at running back on the third play of the game? What happened to that Jerome Harrison guy that rushed for 100 yards in his debut? LeSean McCoy averaged 5.3 yards per carry, but still on gets 10 carries the entire game. Even though the Eagles were playing catch up for most of the game, McCoy needs more touches. I love that he had eight receptions for 67 yards, but he has changed games with his ground game too.

Receivers: B –

Brent Celek jumped back into the receiving mix Sunday

Where in the world was DeSean Jackson on Sunday? He was targeted five times on that afternoon but only hauled in two passes for 27 yards. Slot receiver Jason Avant led all receivers with eight catches for 83 yards and Jeremy Maclin caught his seventh touchdown of the season in the first half. Maclin did a great job getting open against the zone defense and was able to find a seam between the safety and linebacker Brian Urlacher.

I would like to formally welcome Brent Celek back to the 2010 roster. He scored his first touchdown since week five and finished the game with 50 yards. Maybe he read my blog post earlier this week.

Offensive Line: D

I don’t even know what to say anymore about the Eagles offensive line. They were completely dominated by Julius Peppers and the Chicago Bears front seven. The biggest problem for the offensive line all season has been defending the blitz, however Chicago dominated them at the line of scrimmage. Instead of rushing guys from the secondary, they kept their safeties back to defend DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Even the legs of Michael Vick couldn’t make the offensive line look better on Sunday. They were just pathetic.

Defensive Line/Linebackers: C –

At some point in this season, someone not named Trent Cole is going to need to step up in the Eagles front seven. Cole was an absolute animal, compiling two sacks and three tackles for losses. The Eagles as a whole had four sacks (Brandon Graham and Mike Patterson both had one), but still could have done a better job getting to Jay Cutler. Bears running back Matt Forte, who coming into the game only had one other game this season over 100 yards, rushed for 117 yards on 14 carries (8.4 yards per carry). This was the most yards the Eagles have given up to an opposing running back all season.

Matt Forte proved to be a bit of a problem for the Eagles defense

Secondary: D +

It was games like this one that makes us realize just how much the Eagles need Asante Samuel in the secondary. Not only does he lead in the NFL in interceptions, but he also brings a veteran presence to the defense that is necessary for such a young team like the Eagles. At one point in a nickel situation, the Eagles had three inexperienced defenders in Nate Allen, Dmitri Patterson and Trevard Lindley all on the field at once. Add that to a pathetic effort by Joselio Hanson and you have a recipe for disaster. As I mentioned earlier, there is no reason that Jay Cutler should throw for four touchdowns against the Eagles. And there’s also no reason that the eagles should be torched by Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and Jay Bennett.

Special Teams: B

David Akers was one of the main reasons the Eagles stayed in the game against Chicago. He was 4-4 on the afternoon and made a great 45-yard field goal in the first half. It was great to see some production from DeSean Jackson when he returned a punt for 35-yards that sparked an Eagles drive. Defending wise, the Eagles let up a big return from Devin Hester that eventually led to a Greg Olsen touchdown in the second half.

It wasn’t even a situation where the Eagles beat themselves. In reality, they just were not as prepared as Chicago and it showed when the Eagles were unable to capitalize on their red zone opportunities (5 trips: 1 TD and 4 FG’s). The ‘Birds only had three penalties on Sunday, which is vast improvement from the 11 penalties they had against the Giants a week ago. It’s not going to be a loss that defines the season, but it is still very important for the Eagles to bounce back against the Texans. They only have three days rest before they play on Thursday night at the Linc, so it’s important that they all have short memory spans to forget about the sloppy play in Chicago.

23
Nov
10

EAGLES: Eagles hold off Giants to gain control of division

There’s a reason the Eagles have been tagged the “Cardiac ‘Birds” this season. Outside of last weekend’s beat down over the Redskins, the Eagles were met with a tough test against the New York Giants on Sunday night.

It mimicked a typical Eagles Giants matchup, full of the chippiest of plays, hair pulling and one that goes down to the wire. Both teams showed their vulnerability, but it was the Eagles that prevailed in one of their most important wins of the season.

The Eagles relied heavily on their big-play style of offense and defense. They have always struggled to grind out close games under Andy Reid, but were able to get away with a win against a very good Giants team that is known to make teams beat them. Philadelphia came out firing in the first half, but missed a number of crucial opportunities to put the game out of reach. The offense failed to convert on three-straight red zone opportunities, thanks to two drops in the end zone and a failed third and short.

By halftime, the score should have been about 24-3 in favor of the green and white. However, things felt all too similar to the previous home game against the Indianapolis Colts, where the Eagles had a number of opportunities to put them away and instead let the game go down to the wire. Soon after the half, the Giants scored 14 unanswered points to take a one point lead in the fourth quarter.

A few gray hairs later, the Eagles found themselves in a 4th and 1 situation at midfield. After running a terrible third and one play that ended in an incomplete pass (which should have been a running play), Michael Vick snapped the ball and pitched it back to LeSean McCoy. Fifty yards later the Eagles were back in control of the game after McCoy exploded for his best and most clutch run of the season. From there on out the Eagles looked like the Eagles from the first quarter and the Giants had no answer.

For the grades:

Quarterback: B –

For a majority of the game Michael Vick had no answers for the Giants defense. They had a game plan and did a good job sticking to it by negating Vick from beating them with his feet. He was only held to 34 yards on 11 carries Sunday night. Throwing wise, Vick didn’t seem to click as well with his receivers as he did against the Redskins. Regardless of the fact that Vick couldn’t get help from his wide receivers in the first half (dropped touchdowns by Jackson and Avant) he still struggled to hit his receivers when he was facing pressure.

My other big problem with Vick on Sunday night was his run-first mentality on a number of plays. This was one of my biggest concerns about him as a quarterback because he often fails to let plays develop and tries to scramble for yardage instead. He fumbled the ball twice on Sunday, one of which was recovered by the Giants during their third quarter comeback.

Also, Vick has to realize that he only weighs 210 pounds. With all of this scrambling, he continues to risk himself for injury every time he takes a hit from an opposing defense. He was only hit three times in the pocket, but another ten or so times when he went to rush. He doesn’t slide and he rarely runs out of bounds, which means he is getting hit that many more times each game. His health a big concern if the Eagles are going to make him a franchise quarterback.

Runningback: A –

McCoy is a special runner

For about the fifth time this season, LeSean McCoy has taken the game into his hands and acted as a catalyst to an Eagles win. He struggled at the beginning of the game (8 rushes for 4 yards), but exploded for two runs over 40 yards in the fourth quarter to seal the win for the Eagles. It continues to baffle me that Andy Reid does not look to McCoy more often during the game. He averages less than 16 carries per game, yet has four games over 90 yards rushing and six games over 100 all purpose yards. I would say that merits more touches every game.

I was also shocked to see the limited role by Jerome Harrison against the Giants. I guess his 100+ yard performance from last week didn’t justify more time.

Wide receiver: B

One ball. In all of training camp Jason Avant allegedly dropped one ball. However, he dropped one of the easiest touchdown catches of all time against the Giants, and one that would have changed the outlook of the game. He is not the only one to blame. DeSean Jackson, while not as bad as Avant, dropped a touchdown pass from Vick in the first quarter. However, both receivers made up for the drops with great catches throughout the game. Mistakes happen, but it’s how the receivers respond to those mistakes that matters.

Jeremy Maclin continues to impress each week. He finished with 120 yards, which is his second highest total of the season, and made a number of great catches down the stretch. He also tied a career high with nine receptions.

By the way, where in the world is Brent Celek? Let me know if you have an answer.

Offensive Line: C –

Penalties, penalties, penalties. That was the story of the day for the Eagles offensive line. Jason Peters, who is usually good for at least one penalty a game, accounted for multiple flags against the Giants. Todd Herremans, who has really improved over the last few weeks, was called for two penalties that came at inopportune moments. Also, they allowed three sacks all to Justin Tuck, who dominated the outside tackles all game.

Defensive Line/Linebackers: B+

The story of the game was the ability to create turnovers from Eli Manning. If there’s one thing Eagles fans know about Eli, it’s that he is very vulnerable and prone to make mistakes. His three interceptions and the offense’s two fumbles were the story of the night. The Eagles front seven did a phenomenal job stopping the running attack of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Bradshaw only netted 29 yards on 12 carries and Jacobs averaged just two yards per carry. My one concern (and reason for the B+ grade) was the lack of pressure on Eli Manning. For the first time since the 2008 season, the Eagles failed to register a sack. Shawn Andrews, the once crazed Eagles lineman, completely shut down Trent Cole on the right side of the line. Brandon Graham forced a fumble but struggled to get to Manning all night. It was also great to see Stewart Bradley get an interception, but I’m still waiting for his breakout game.

Secondary: A–

Samuel may have finally learned how to hit too

I don’t know if it’s his speed or his impressive anticipation, but Asante Samuel was everywhere on the field against the Giants. He intercepted Manning twice, recovered a fumble and even recovered a fumble that was eventually overruled by the referees. He has seven interceptions in the last seven games and it probably having the best season of his career. Not to mention that he finally showed he can hit people instead of his usual push-tackle technique. The only ironic thing is that his first big hit ended in a penalty and most likely a fine from the league.

Dmitri Patterson also showed up to play for the second consecutive week. He did a great job shutting down Mario Manningham.

Special Teams: B+

After missing three field goals in one game against the Falcons, David Akers has been on a tear this year. He is practically automatic on field goals, making four of five against New York (one was blocked to end the half). It was a scary period of ten minutes watching Ellis Hobbs being carted off the field, but thankfully he is in stable condition. He will miss the rest of the season with a neck injury. With Hobbs out, the Eagles are in search of another consistent kick returner. Eldra Buckley filled in for a return and ran hard but only gained 20 yards. Jorrick Calvin has struggled recently so that part of the roster is going to need to be figured out soon.

 

There is certainly an optimistic buzz coming from Eagles fans in Philadelphia. I urge them to sit back and let the season play out before booking tickets to Dallas in late January/early February. It has been fun to watch this team come together under Michael Vick, but there are still six weeks left in the season that can change the entire outlook of the year. Philadelphia has proved that they are the team to beat in the NFC East, but can they continue this winning streak for the rest of the season? If they keep playing like this, they are going to be one tough team to beat in the NFL.

 

08
Nov
10

EAGLES: ‘Birds Hold on to Beat Colts

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.

Grades:

Quarterback: A—

Michael Vick did it all with his arm and legs on Sunday

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.

Asante Samuel recorded two interceptions, including the game-ending interception

Secondary: A

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.

Check out this video to see the Eagles locker room reaction after the win.

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.

25
Oct
10

EAGLES: ‘Birds Meltdown on the Road Against the Titans

What a difference one play can make.

The Eagles needed three yards, just three yards, to most likely improve to 5-2 heading into the bye week. LeSean McCoy fumbled on the Titans three yard line in the third quarter and the Titans never looked back. They went on to score 30 points after that play and outperform the Eagles in practically every statistical category.

The complete and utter destruction that came in the second half was contrary to how the Eagles played in the first half. The defense stepped up and made plays in the first half, especially when it came to stopping the most dynamic runner in the NFL in Chris Johnson. The offense could have extended the score, but still controlled the possession for most of the first half. In the second half, the Eagles didn’t seem to have anything going. Aside from the fumble on the three-yard line, the defense could not contain a mediocre wide receiver at best in Kenny Britt. He torched the Eagles with seven receptions for 225 yards and a touchdown (159 in the fourth quarter alone) … and he didn’t even play the first quarter. This marked the most receiving yards the Eagles have EVER given up.

It was a loss the Eagles could not afford to have heading into the bye week. They were riding a two-game winning streak, but the team proved that they still have a lot of weaknesses and loopholes in their talent to really be considered one of the top teams in the NFC.

Grades:

Quarterback: C+

After back-to-back passer ratings above 100, Kevin Kolb looked far from efficient on Sunday. He completed just 26 of 48 passes for 231 yards, had one touchdown, but also tossed two interceptions. The first interception was a panic-pass that Kolb just aimlessly threw into the air. He made a number of good passes, but they were overshadowed by his lack of play-making ability. It was a setback in Kolb’s effort to prove himself as the future of the Eagles organization.

But it’s not like Kolb is playing for anything because Andy Reid already named Michael Vick the starter for the Colts game in two weeks.

Running back: C+

LeSean McCoy had probably his worst outing of the season against the Titans. They stopped him a number of times at the line of scrimmage and didn’t seem to get anything going outside of the hash marks. For the second straight game he was held to just three yards per carry, and he finished with 48 yards total. On a positive note, McCoy did have six receptions for 54 yards.

Wide Receiver: B –

Riley Cooper proved to be a threat against Tennessee

Despite a solid outing by Jason Avant (6 receptions for 60 yards), this game proved just how important DeSean Jackson is to the Eagles offense. He creates an entirely different matchup for opposing defenses and in turn improves the production of the other receivers. Jeremy Maclin was shut down by the Tennessee secondary and showed that he is still far away from being able to handle the top job. The most exciting aspect of the receiving game came from rookie Riley Cooper. He recorded his first touchdown in an Eagle uniform and averaged 17 yards per catch.

Offensive Line: C

Just when the offensive line finally looked like they were coming together, they went back to their old ways. They only allowed one sack, but Kevin Kolb got hit seven times during the game. They failed to open up good holes for McCoy as he was stopped multiple times behind the line of scrimmage. On pass defense, the Titans recorded six pass deflections which had a lot to do with the space they created from the Eagles offensive line.

Defensive Line: B

The Eagles front seven actually had a solid outing on Sunday afternoon. Trent Cole, Quintin Mikell, and Antonio Dixon all sacked Kerry Collins. More impressively, the Eagles completely shut down the running game Chris Johnson. He only had 66 yards on the ground and averaged a mere 2.8 yards per carry.

Further, the linebackers finally shut down an opposing tight end. Bo Scaife only had one reception for seven yards, which is the worst production by a tight end against the Eagles all season.

Secondary: D –

Kerry Collins, really?

The complete collapse by the Eagles was mostly due to the secondary. Any time that a 50+ year old quarterback throws for three touchdowns in the second half (after coming into the half with a 40.7 passer rating), there are serious problems. Rookie Nate Allen and veteran Quintin Mikell provided no help over the top against Kenny Britt. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott tried to put Asante Samuel on Britt, but not even he could stop the Titans receiver.

The Eagles defense as a whole was penalized 10 times for 100 yards. It was a tale of two different Eagles defenses. In the first half they shut down the Titans in every aspect of the game, and in the second half they watched the game slip away in one quarter.

Special Teams: C

The collapse was capped off by the punt return fumble by Jorrick Calvin. He was relatively productive all year for the Eagles but committed a turnover in the worst possible moment for the Eagles to try and amount a comeback late in the fourth quarter.

Aside from that game-changing play by Calvin, the Eagles special teams did a good job against the Titans. David Akers was four-for-four on field goals, Sav Rocca had a 63-yard punt, and Calvin averaged over 31 yards on his kick returns.

This was not exactly the way the Eagles saw themselves entering the bye week. They beat themselves against the Titans and have to rely on the rest of the NFC East to help them out. After the bye week, Philadelphia takes on the Indianapolis Colts and their schedule doesn’t get much easier after that. They have to play five more divisional games and almost every other game is against a team that is .500 or better. Let the Michael Vick show continue once again.




The Philly Phour

March 2017
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