Here’s a position-by-position look at what we saw from the Eagles’ offense against the Lions, after having re-watched the game.
* There was good Nick Foles, and there was bad Nick Foles. Obviously, the weather conditions were a factor. Foles started the game 4-for-13 for 35 yards. When he missed, he generally sailed his throws. That’s what happened on the first-half interception. Foles was also off-target on a hitch to Riley Cooper, and he fired a quick throw to Cooper into the ground. Last week, on the same throw, Foles fired the pass over Cooper’s head. Both attempts came with him under center. I think that has something to do with it. That’s an easier throw when you’re in shotgun and can just take the snap and fire.
* On a two-point conversion attempt, Foles looked for Zach Ertz on the fade, but was incomplete. It looked like Cooper was wide open in the back of the end zone on the play. The Eagles got a break though as Ndamukong Suh was called for a phantom holding penalty on Jason Kelce.
* Foles rebounded well in the second half, completing seven of his last nine passes for 144 yards. Foles got going in the third quarter, connecting with DeSean Jackson for 12 yards on 3rd-and-11. He then hit Cooper for 44 yards on a post. The throw wasn’t perfect, but he gave his receiver a chance, which really was all you could ask for, given the conditions. I don’t know who he was targeting on the 19-yard TD to Jackson, but he got the job done. Later in the third, Foles did a great job of initially holding on to the ball and pump-faking. Had he let go, Stephen Tulloch would have had a great shot at an interception. Instead Foles bought some time, let Cooper spin around and fired one to him for a 25-yard catch and run. The two-point conversion to Cooper was an excellent throw as Foles had to get the ball out in front away from cornerback Chris Houston.
* Chip Kelly confirmed today that the final throw to Brent Celek for 27 yards was a read play. It was Foles’ call whether he handed the ball off to Chris Polk or pulled it. He made the right call and closed out the game. Overall, I thought Foles did a great job rebounding in the second half, taking care of the football for the most part and persevering down the stretch.
* LeSean McCoy was good throughout, but obviously exploded in the fourth quarter on his way to a franchise record 217 yards. McCoy made safety Louis Delmas look silly and then broke the cornerback’s tackle on the 40-yard touchdown run. The 57-yard score was relatively “easy” in comparison. He made a great one-on-one move at the line of scrimmage on the 26-yard gain in the fourth. But if ever there were any doubt that Kelly is a perfectionist (especially when it comes to the run game), here’s what he said about that play.
“There were plays that LeSean made… LeSean made one big run. He could have had a 70‑yard run,” Kelly said. “He cut back to it and got tackled by [Ndamukong] Suh and the defensive linemen. If he had broken to his left, he might have had another one. Those are things we’re continuing to work on.”
* Bryce Brown had six carries for 19 yards; 17 of those came on one run where he broke a tackle and took off to the sideline. He found the end zone on a two-point conversion up the middle in the fourth.
* Polk did a great job of hitting the hole and breaking a tackle at the line of scrimmage for the 38-yard TD in the fourth. He also converted a 2nd-and-1 in the fourth. Overall, four carries for 50 yards.
* Cooper played a tremendous game. The 44-yarder was a difficult catch. Cooper was running a post, but the throw took him back to the outside. Cooper tracked the ball the whole way and made the grab over his shoulder. He later had a 25-yard catch and run. Cooper made a nice grab with his arms outstretched for a two-point conversion. Excellent blocking on the perimeter throughout – specifically on McCoy’s 13-yard run in the third and his 26-yarder in the fourth.
* Jackson played well also. He did a great job of keeping his feet in bounds for a 17-yard catch in the second. And Jackson’s 12-yard catch on 3rd-and-11 in the third was a big one. The Eagles had been terrible offensively all game long up to that point. There were under six minutes left in the third, and the Lions had taken a 14-0 lead on the previous possession. Jackson capped off that drive with a 19-yard TD. Foles took a couple shots deep to Jackson in the fourth. Foles overthrew him on one play. And on the other, Delmas got there just in time. Jackson was dropped for a 10-yard loss in the first. Would you believe that was his first carry of the season?
* Jason Avant was not targeted, but blocked a DB to the ground on McCoy’s 57-yard TD in the fourth.
“You watch Avant on LeSean’s play where he took the safety back into free safety, and that’s the type of team we are,” Kelly said. “Jason is on the sideline asking me, ‘Can we run the ball my way?’ I don’t know how many wide receivers in this league are asking to have the ball run their way, but I think that’s kind of a testament to the team we have right now.”
* Brad Smith did a nice job on a screen, taking it 13 yards on 2nd-and-4. Houston could have been called for unnecessary roughness or a horse-collar on the play.
* The sense I get is that screens were a big part of the gameplan going in, but because of the weather, the Eagles scrapped those. Celek had one early on that picked up 2 yards. He also had the 27-yard catch at the end. Solid blocking throughout – specifically on McCoy’s 12-yard run in the second and Brown’s 17-yard run in the fourth.
* Ertz did a good job in pass protection on Foles’ 17-yard completion to Jackson in the second. He was targeted once and didn’t have a catch.
* Did you notice James Casey was on the field quite a bit? He played 22 snaps, serving primarily as a blocker in the run game. According to Pro Football Focus, Casey was a run blocker on 18 of 22 snaps. He spent a lot of time taking care of edge defenders with the sift block we wrote about last week. Casey did a nice job on Polk’s 3-yard run in the fourth and helped spring Polk on the 38-yard TD. The Eagles did not use a lot of zone read, and Casey helped take care of those (previously) unblocked defenders.
* The offensive line was good throughout. When Foles dropped back, he had time. And the Eagles exploded with the ground game late. Obviously the weather conditions helped slow Suh and Nick Fairley. But the guys up front got the job done.
* Jason Peters took care of an edge defender on Polk’s 38-yard TD. He delivered an excellent double-team on McCoy’s 12-yard run in the second. He did a good job on the DE on Polk’s 9-yard run in the second. And Peters kicked out a defender on McCoy’s 13-yard run in the third. He also drove the DE several yards deep into the end zone on Brown’s two-point conversion. No issues in pass protection. Great game overall.
* Evan Mathis had some issues early on and changed his cleats at halftime, but overall played well. He got pushed into the backfield on McCoy’s early run that lost 5 yards. But he did a good job on Fairley on McCoy’s 40-yard TD. Mathis sealed a defender on McCoy’s 12-yard run in the second and again on Polk’s 9-yard run. I only noticed one slip-up in pass pro when he and Jason Kelce let Fairley split them and hit Foles. Mathis was also called for a false start in the third.
* This was one of Kelce’s best games of the season. He sealed the DT on Brown’s 2-point conversion. He did an excellent job on Fariley on McCoy’s 57-yard TD. He pinned Fairley inside on Polk’s 38-yard TD. He pulled and cleared space on McCoy’s 13-yard run on 3rd-and-6. And he joined Herremans on a double-team of Suh on McCoy’s 11-yard run in the third. The only pass pro slip-up was the one I mentioned above.
* I was really impressed with the way Todd Herremans competed against Suh. Herremans moved the powerful DT on McCoy’s 40-yard run in the fourth. He handled Suh again on McCoy’s 57-yarder. There were a few occasions when Suh got the better of him like on McCoy’s 3rd-and-goal carry from the 1. But overall, Herremans was key to the success on the ground and won the battle. In pass pro, there was one slip-up on a stunt between him and Lane Johnson in the third. But otherwise, he was solid.
* Johnson played one of his cleanest games of the season. He double-teamed Suh on McCoy’s 40-yard TD and then got his hands on a linebacker. He tossed a linebacker to the ground on McCoy’s 9-yard run in the fourth and just was really good in the run game throughout. Pass protection, which has been an issue in the past, was not a problem in this one for Johnson. Other than the stunt I just mentioned, he didn’t allow any pressure on Foles.