Offense Game Review: 10 Observations

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia EaglesHere are 10 observations after having re-watched the Eagles’ performance on offense against the Arizona Cardinals:

1. Let’s start with Nick Foles and the positives. He continues to look comfortable in the offense, even though there were some bumps in the road this week. Final numbers: 21-for-34 for 237 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Foles now has 19 TDs and no picks on the season. On the first drive, he did a great job of seeing where the blitz was coming from and finding Brent Celek for a 16-yard gain on third down. On the first touchdown, he made an excellent throw to Zach Ertz in the corner of the end zone after faking the toss to LeSean McCoy. Later, he connected with Ertz on a 22-yarder. Watching live, I thought his pass was high, but the replay showed Foles put the ball where only Ertz could get it as the linebacker tried to step in front. Foles is a master of setting up the screen and waiting until the right moment to deliver the football. He connected with McCoy for a 19-yard pickup on a screen in the second. One of his best throws of the game was to DeSean Jackson for a 25-yard gain on a wheel route down the right sideline. In the third, Foles delivered a strike to Cooper for 16 yards, and his throw to Ertz on the post in the end zone was on the money.

2. Having said all that, there was a handful of shaky decisions/misfires. Early on, Karlos Dansby had Foles in his grasp, and Foles tried to shovel the ball to McCoy. The whistle had already blown, but not a smart play. Foles made a similar move in the second. He was being taken down by a Cardinals defensive lineman, but flipped the ball to McCoy for a 5-yard gain. I know Brett Favre would approve, but those plays usually end in disaster. Jackson saved him from an interception on the jump-ball in the end zone. Foles also floated one on a crosser to Jackson that was nearly picked. Finally, there was the INT to Patrick Peterson that was negated because of a penalty. That was one of Foles’ worst decisions of the season. The Cardinals’ defense deserves credit for putting Foles in some uncomfortable positions, but there were clearly some mistakes Foles will want to get corrected going forward.

3. So, what happened in the second half after the Eagles scored on their opening possession of the third quarter? Drives stalled for a variety of reasons. The offensive line got sloppy at times. I thought Foles probably got a little greedy with some downfield throws. And the Cardinals knew the Eagles were going to run the ball late. Jason Avant’s block in the back brought back a 35-yard McCoy run. On another drive, Lane Johnson mistakenly left a DE unblocked as Bryce Brown was dropped for a loss. The Eagles didn’t look as focused as they were in the first half, and the Cardinals’ defense is talented. There wasn’t one specific thing, but clearly the offense needs to put together more drives like the one it had in the fourth quarter against Green Bay a few weeks ago.

4. Watching live, I thought the offensive line had more issues than it actually did. Foles was sacked five times, but by my count, only two of those were on the offensive line. McCoy missed a blitz pickup early that resulted in a sack. Johnson got beat once. Foles held on to the ball on another occasion. The fourth sack was a broken play (the Cardinals blew up a WR screen). And the fifth looked like a miscommunication between Evan Mathis and Jason Peters on a stunt. Foles took some hits, but overall, he had time to sit in the pocket and find receivers.

5. Peters did an excellent job of picking off blitzers and giving Foles time all game long. I only counted a couple issues in pass protection for him. And he was very good in the run game. Peters got out in front of Foles’ 9-yard run on a zone-read play in the fourth. Mathis was excellent in the run game as well. I mentioned the confusion on the sack above. He also got beat in pass pro late in the first half, but otherwise was solid. Jason Kelce was really good in pass protection, but had a few issues in the run game. He had trouble on a McCoy run that was stopped after 1 yard in the first. And he let a defender slip past him on a Brown run that lost 8 yards. Todd Herremans has probably put together his best stretch of the season. He gave up one hit on Foles, but otherwise held up well. Johnson had some issues in pass pro. He gave up a sack on one occasion and pressure on another. Johnson and Herremans had a miscommunication that resulted in a pressure in the fourth. Johnson was very good in the run game.

6. The tight ends carried the offense in the passing game. Ertz beat Tyrann Mathieu on the corner route for a TD in the first. He later made a terrific grab on a 22-yard gainer. Ertz did a great job of getting a free release at the line of scrimmage on a 16-yard catch in the third. And he got open faking the corner route before running the post for the 24-yard TD. Celek’s numbers weren’t as good, but he played really well. He dragged defenders a good 8 yards after a reception in the first. It had to kill Celek to not be able to do the first-down signal after that play. But such is life in an up-tempo offense. Celek was excellent as a blocker – both in the run game and pass protection. He stayed in front of John Abraham on Foles’ 20-yard completion to Avant off play-action in the second. And Celek made an excellent block on the McCoy 35-yard run that was called back.

7. McCoy ran well (19 carries, 79 yards) against a stout Cardinals defense. He nearly broke a big one in the first half, but Darnell Dockett grabbed a hold of his jersey and brought him down. The Eagles made some adjustments to their run game. To address the issue of unblocked defenders constantly crashing down on McCoy, they used a TE/H-Back to account for the extra player. They also used more traditional runs that don’t require the QB to account for a defender. More on this when the All-22 comes out later the week.

8. Peterson did a good job on Jackson for the most part. Jackson lined up in the backfield on one play and got loose on a wheel route down the right sideline for a 25-yard gain. Jackson also took a screen 14 yards. He had two tight ends blocking for him on the play. Late in the first half, Foles took a shot deep to Jackson, but Peterson had him covered. It probably would have been an interception had Jackson given up on the play. But he competed for the ball and forced an incompletion. Cooper, meanwhile, finished with three catches for 48 yards. But he also drew a 28-yard pass interference penalty. Cooper was running a post, but Foles’ throw was behind him. The defender was trailing Cooper, so when Cooper slowed to adjust to the throw, there was contact and he got the flag. Cooper also made a spectacular leaping grab and spun out of a tackle for a 24-yard gain in the second.

9. Brown continues to be up and down. Nothing good seems to happen when he runs outside. On one play, Calais Campbell got by Kelce and into the backfield. Brown made matters worse by running backwards and taking an 8-yard loss. He had a couple nice runs up the middle – including a 6-yarder in the second and a 5-yarder in the third. Brown also did an excellent job getting to Campbell in pass protection, allowing Foles time to hit Cooper for 16 yards in the third.

10. Leftovers: Foles air-mailed one to Cooper on a screen that went out of bounds. Because it was a backwards pass, the Eagles lost 2 yards. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but the fact that Foles was under center and not in shotgun might have been a factor. I don’t think he’s used to making that throw from that platform. …This was not McCoy’s best performance as a blocker. …Foles took a big hit on a zone read run late in the game. …I didn’t like the 3rd-and-10 call on the toss to McCoy in the second half. …Jackson got blown up by Mathieu on a screen in the third. …Mathieu also knocked Celek over on a blitz in the second half.

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    Sheil was that really Celek who the honey badger blew up like that on the blitz in the second half? Initially I was worried that it was Lane who got trucked, but I would feel much better about a TE getting ran over by the Honeybadger than out RT

  • TNA

    Nice review.
    Not sure why I’m on an anti-Chung bender right now, but as a joke, the Eagles should play Chung on offense and ask him to tackle Eagles receivers after they catch the ball. Nine out of 10 plays, he’ll pick off the defender and the Eagles receiver can then run wild…I kid, I kid.

    Sounds like the topic du jour is the 4Q w/lead stalled drives. Not to be an instigator, but what about throwing Vick in there to keep things generally on the ground? They did incorporate Casey more often, but defenses are selling out by crowing the box and trying to force the Eagles to throw in situations where they want to run and take time off the clock. I dunno. Tough issue I hope CK addresses.

    • BlindChow

      Vick’s a fumbler. Plus, the read-option probably wouldn’t work much better as there would still be 8 men in the box, and with one of those guys accounting for Vick, the QB keepers wouldn’t have the open space they have with Foles. (Foles was able to get a couple first downs because of that space in the 9-minute Green Bay drive.)

      • anon

        Vick can pass the ball…Also the spying LB means 1 less person in coverage. The difference is that (1) either Vick is going run for at least a first down or (2) you open up the box and give shady more room to run. The problem is that the scheme relies on the ZR to get you yds since we don’t have a N/S runner or a line full of great run blockers + with a scrape Foles can’t even get back to the LOS. I think that was a factor for CK in choosing Vick.

        All of that said CK has to be able to figure it out w/out resorting to using Vick on dummy plays

        • BlindChow

          The whole point to putting Vick in would be not to pass. If passing is an option what’s the point? Might as well put in the guy who’s accurate.

          Vick isn’t getting yards if someone is scraping. I already pointed out Foles gets the yards in these situations because no one is spying him. That was a critical factor in that 9 minute Green Bay drive.

          • aub32

            You do remember how at the beginning of the season Vick was leading the #2 offense right? Now I’m all Foles and want him to start. I also think Chip should figure out how to sustain drives without resorting to Vick, but let’s not sit here and bash Vick because he lost his job due to injury. He was making the throws, and he wasn’t turning it over. He had one fumble while rushing, and the ground attack was the best in the league. I don’t agree we should have to resort to that, but I do think the ground game would be more effective with Vick.

          • BlindChow

            I remember those “#2 offense” numbers weren’t coming at the end of games when everyone knew we were running it, which is what we are talking about here. Washington shut that down with Vick, just like they did with Foles.

            Besides, he wasn’t “making all the throws.” His completion percentage was 46% over the last three games. But that’s not what we were talking about here, anyway.

          • A Big Butt and a Smile

            One of those starts he was clearly injured…why do you keep harping on it?

            You also like to negate the yards he made on the ground..AND the fact that Vick (at one point) led the league in passes over 20 yards and completed at the rate of 44% which was the highest at the time..he also was leading the league (at one point) in YPA at 9.1 yards – SO what that tells anyone who doesn’t have an “I hate Vick” agenda is that he mainly through intermediate and deep passes – and you’re not going to coneect on all of those – yet he moved the chains either with his arm or feet rather effortlessly.

            Which brings us back to the point at hand…the Washington game is a bad example ’cause all they were doing is handing off the ball to McCoy – there were no QB keepers there – and for the person with the short memory an Avant fumble is what brought them back into the game.

            As far as how Chip ends game – Vick being brought in is dumb. This game however wasn’t so much about churning out the clock…Foles was getting hammered on any sort of pass attempt – resorting to the run was smart BUT against the #2 run defense – it wasn’t going anywhere.

          • BlindChow

            I cited some stats refuting that he was “making all the throws.” It was a direct response to another poster, whose point wasn’t even relevant to the discussion. Like you, he had a knee-jerk “I have to defend Vick’s honor!!” response to the suggestion that running out the clock with Vick wouldn’t be a panacea to our end-of-game problems.

            Anyway, I know those stats are difficult for you to hear, and thus you’ve come to associate their citation with hatred, but you’ll come to peace with it eventually.

  • BlockingBack

    Would like to see James Rice Casey either line up or motion from TE to FB for those 4th qtr everyone knows you are running plays. They signed him for his versatility and he has FB experience. Clock mgmt, please.

    • Desh

      I would like to see them use Casey similar to how Belicheck was using Hernandez in the two tight end sets

      • BlindChow

        Speaking of Tight Ends in prison…

    • BlindChow

      Calling him James Rice Casey makes him sound like he should be in prison for killing someone famous.

  • Cyrus Robinson

    Bryce Brown has all the talent in the world, he just lacks the football IQ right now. You never sit there thinking “he just doesn’t have what it takes,” you always just end up thinking “wow, that was a terrible decision.”

    Looking at next week, I wonder if Duce will give Shady and BB pointers on how to attack the wide 9, given he’s one of the few staff members who was here last year to know it well.

    This game was great preparation for next week. I actually feel like our defense matches up well against their offense. The Eagles did well in covering Fitz, so I feel confident they’ll do a decent job against Megatron, especially if Wolff is back in action. Reggie Bush doesn’t scare me and Stafford can be pressured into bad decisions.

    If Cole and Graham do a half decent job again next week, I think we have a great chance to get a W.

    Brad Smith should return all kick-offs. I never feel like something is going to happen when Boykin returns it, but when Smith returned it, it felt like he could easily take it to the house.

    • Coatesvillain

      We have to remember that Bryce Brown didn’t have a college football career. So his lack of instincts is no surprise. He’s just an athlete.

    • Token

      I dont get Bryce Brown love. I dont even think hes that talented. When a RB is consistently tripping over himself, thats not a good sign. I think Ryan Moats used to do the same thing.

      Brown looks the part, but hes just not very good. Maybe if he goes somewhere else, in a different scheme he can come around. But it wont be here.

      • BlindChow

        Maybe we can trade him to Indianapolis for a 2nd round pick.

  • dislikedisqus

    On NFL Network, Deion raised topic of Nick Foles MVP candidacy. Un be liievable!

    • Richard Colton

      PTI today – Wilbon and Kornheiser agreed that Foles deserves MVP consideration.

      • aub32

        They said candidate. If you listen/watch them regularly they say several people should be MVP candidates but not in consideration as the award has already been made out to Peyton Manning.

        • Richard Colton

          come on Aub, did you stop reading after the letters MVP? I saw the damn show. It didn’t require parsing. I know how you feel about Foles. No need to piss on my cheerios this AM.

    • Corey Dawson

      He’s been on the espn MVP watch for 2 weeks now. He was actually up to 7 (I think) from 10 last week.

  • Mitchell

    So how does Lane Johnson compare to the other two tackles taken? Does he look like he will be the best of the bunch in years to come?

    • Brandon
      • Mitchell

        Looks good if you ask me. He’s the only one to play 100% of snaps. Thank you for the link.

        • Richard Colton

          “If you want to get immediate production from your first round pick, draft an offensive tackle” – everyone who hated the Lane Johnson pick needs to step up and take their lumps. Token and the guy with the “chart” come to mind.

          • Mitchell

            Idk about them but he is the pick I wanted all along. I’m just glad e is working out so well right now

          • Richard Colton

            sorry Mitch, thought you were Adam – picture threw me off

  • Maggie

    Just watched MNF. The Seattle offense slowed down significantly in the second half, too. Deliberately? Subconsciously? Smugly? We don’t know. Will just say, nobody who is sane wants to go into their field in the playoffs.

    • Broadcasting Wisdom

      It’s a hornet’s nest in Seattle. Makes this Lions game very important so that we can get the 3 seed over the NFC North team. That way if we win our home playoff game against San Fran, we can go to NO/CAR first (no cupcake either, but at Seattle coming off a bye would be brutal). We also have to hope Rodgers comes back and the Packers go on a tear to claim the NFC North. That’s the only team that would have a chance of going into Seattle and beating them, after which we could host the NFC Championship against the Packers which is much better than going to Seattle. Follow me? Good. Super Bowl or Bust.

      • EaglePete

        a Packer team with Rodgers and Cobb back healthy could do some damage. Although Im much more concerned with the short term and just winning games in front of us at this point. Lot of good defense now in the NFC like days of old, Sea, SF, Car. That will matter come playoff time and matter quite a bit for this team in the future. They still need a few pieces it seems to get to that upper level. That being said, its such an offense driven league now, its still any given Sunday.

        • A Big Butt and a Smile

          “Sea, SF, Car.”

          Yeah…I don’t think we beat any of them. They would all eat our lunch and spit it back at us. Unlike the Cardinals – their offenses match their defenses. Wouldn’t be fun at all.

          • Broadcasting Wisdom

            Wouldn’t have thought that the Cardinals would crush Carolina 22-6 if that were the case.

      • A Big Butt and a Smile

        Carolina can beat Seattle – no DWill fumble and they would have won their first meeting. Right now though let’s just worry about winning the division – cause none of that will matter if we don’t.

        • BlindChow

          It would have been a different game in Seattle.

  • Johnny Domino

    Re: #10 is there anything to the gadget play idea on the backward pass? Could they have been setting Cooper up to go downfield with it? Anyone in a pattern there?

    Sounds like an All 22 question.

  • Rick H

    Bryce Brown needs to replaced Sheil! He is a drive killer. He is a below average blocker and barely got a piece of Campbell. The opposing teams defenses light up when they see Brown come into the game. His football acumen is very very low. He is young but it is well past the time in his learning curve when it comes to running North and South. He just doesn’t get that you can not outrun NFL players by running towards the sidelines. Try Polk!

  • Kyle Vincent

    Picture a shotgun set, with Foles behind center and Mccoy and Vick flanking him to his left and right. Tantalizing