Zone Read: Eagles-Lions, the Day After

CAN SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN…

1. Why Brent Celek went down instead of scoring on the final possession?

With two minutes left, the Eagles set up at the Lions’ 37-yard-line, holding a 34-20 lead and facing a 4th-and-12. Foles faked a handoff to Polk and found Celek wide open. The Eagles’ tight end had a clear path to the end zone, but slid down at the Detroit 10-yard-line.

“I knew as soon as we called that play that if I caught it, I was going down,” Celek said. “Listen, I score, then we have to do a kickoff and then the defense has to go out there. Guys can get hurt. It’s not a smart move for the team.”

Some have complained about Celek not scoring, but his decision made complete sense. It was the quickest, surest way for the Eagles to end the game. Foles took two kneel-downs, and the players headed to the locker room.

Had Celek scored, the Eagles would have had to set up for an extra point and then the kickoff. The Lions’ offense would have still probably tried to pass the ball downfield. Given that the defense would have been in prevent, maybe Detroit would have even scored.

Either way, the game was over. But Celek’s decision made perfect sense. And while it wasn’t the exact same situation as the time Brian Westbrook went down, it still earned the running back’s approval.

2. Why the Eagles kept going for two?

This one seems pretty obvious, but Kelly cleared up any confusion after the game.

“We had talked about it early, and then as the snow kept coming, we knew we weren’t going to [kick],” he said. “I think they attempted one and you saw what happened on that. The ball was coming out at such a low trajectory. It is very, very difficult to get the footing, and it was probably just we thought maybe a recipe for disaster. It was going to be a non-kicking game from that standpoint.”

Near the end of the first half, the Eagles faced a 4th-and-7 from the Detroit 10. Even from that short a distance, Kelly didn’t feel comfortable sending Alex Henery out there. So he went for it (Foles threw incomplete to Riley Cooper). The only attempted kick was by David Akers on a PAT after the Lions initially set up for two but were whistled for a false start. Akers’ kick was blocked by Bennie Logan.

It was impossible to kick given the conditions. The decision was really as simple as that.

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THE NO-22

I’m going to ask about this to confirm, but I think that last throw to Celek was a run-pass option that put the decision in Foles’ hands.

Here’s the pre-snap look.

celek1a_no22_120913

You can see the Lions have nine defenders in the box and two cornerbacks to the top of the screen. There are no defenders to the bottom of the screen. Celek initially blocks the defensive end before releasing into his route.

celek1b_no22_120913

I believe Foles had the option here to either hand it off to Polk or pull the ball and wait for Celek to get open. How good is that play-fake by the way? The ball looks like it’s firmly entrenched in Polk’s mid-section. That draws the attention of the defenders to the bottom of the screen. And Celek does a great job with his initial block.

celek1c_no22_120913

Here you can see Brad Smith, who was set up in the slot, has his back to the line of scrimmage. The entire line is run blocking, and Smith is setting up to block the defensive back. Celek, meanwhile, leaks out into open space, and Foles finds him for the 27-yard gain that sealed the game.

celek1d_no22_120913

“It was something we had talked about on the sideline, and Brent and I were really the only ones who knew what was going on,” Foles said. “We had seen that throughout the course of the game. You have to make big plays, you have to do stuff like that to win games in the situation. We were fourth down, we knew we needed a first down to run the clock out, that is a big play. We did not want to put the ball back in Matt’s hands. It was one of those things we were able to see through the course of the game, and Brent made a big play.

“A veteran move right there. I don’t know how many people would have wanted to score a touchdown, but Brent being a team player goes down and slides because he knows that they don’t have any timeouts. We are just going to kneel and win the game.”

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THE NUMBERS THAT MATTER

2 – The number of 20+ runs McCoy had during the previous nine-game stretch from Week 4 (Sept. 29) through Week 13 (Dec. 1).

3 – The number of 20+ runs McCoy had during a 2 minute, 22 second stretch in the fourth quarter against the Lions. The Eagles’ running back reeled off TD runs of 40 and 57 yards. He also added a 26-yard scamper.

McCoy is once again the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,305 yards – 84 more than Adrian Peterson. Among the 33 running backs who have gained at least 500  yards this year, none has a higher YPC average than McCoy (5.0).

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GAME BALL OFFENSE: LESEAN MCCOY

I would love to go against the grain here, but when you break the franchise record for rushing yards in a game, you’re a good bet to take home this award.

McCoy piled up 217 yards on the ground and oftentimes looked like he was playing on a dry field. He needs 5 more yards to set a career-high, and McCoy also has a shot to break the Eagles’ franchise record for most rushing yards in a season.

Wilbert Montgomery currently holds the mark (1,512 yards in 1979). McCoy needs 207 yards in the final three games (69.3 YPG) to break that mark.

GAME BALL DEFENSE: CARY WILLIAMS/BRADLEY FLETCHER

Let’s be honest here. Calvin Johnson’s numbers would have looked a lot different had this game been played in better conditions. But still, you deal with the circumstances you are dealt. And the Eagles limited Megatron to three catches for 49 yards, his lowest total since Week 5.

Pass protection wasn’t the issue. Neither team notched a sack. But Matthew Stafford (five fumbles) couldn’t hang on to the snaps. He found Johnson for a 33-yard catch on a post against Williams early on, but only completed two more passes (one for 9 yards, one for 7 yards) to him the rest of the game.

Williams did an excellent job on a double-move against Johnson in the fourth quarter with the Eagles clinging to a two-point lead.

The cornerbacks were a giant question mark coming into the season, but they’ve held up well in big spots.

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