Zone Read: Eagles-Lions, the Day After

THAT’S WHAT HE SAID

“I still remember one play on the goal line I’m blocking Fairley, I felt like I anchored really well, and then he just starts pushing me. And my feet… I’m not getting walked back, my feet are just standing there and they’re just sliding, going back and I don’t know what to do.” – JASON KELCE

I couldn’t find a single player in the locker room who said he had played in snow like that before. Mathis decided to change his cleats at halftime – from the rubber ones to the studded ones. Other players, like Kelce, Peters and Herremans, didn’t think the change in footwear would make much of a difference.

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FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS

1. Lots of funny “only-in-the-snow” moments. It started off early. Before flipping the coin, Ed Hochuli explained sternly: “If this lands on an angle, I will flip it over!”

Thanks for the clarification, big guy.

Before the Lions attempted their only extra point, they called a timeout. The reason? To clear out space to hold the ball.

akers

And finally, with the Eagles threatening to score inside the Lions’ 10 in the fourth quarter, Hochuli made another announcement: “We’re gonna stop the game a moment and clear the goal line. We can’t see the goal line.”

Sounds like a good idea to me, Ed. Thanks for the heads-up.

2. The biggest issue on the day for the Eagles was special teams. They allowed a 58-yard punt return TD to Jeremy Ross and then a 98-yard kickoff return.

“He made good plays, but for that type of game, you’ve got to make him try to stop and start and change direction,” said Kurt Coleman. “And he was able to hit the holes.”

Polk appeared to be at fault primarily on the punt return. Colt Anderson forced Ross towards the sideline, but Polk didn’t keep contain and let him get outside.

On the kickoff return, several Eagles – including Polk and Smith – got blocked to create the initial hole. The Lions blocked it up well, and the Eagles couldn’t recover.

Obviously, had the Eagles lost, this would be a much bigger storyline. The team never fixed its issues, giving up a 46-yard kickoff return in the fourth. Special teams had been playing well, and the weather was a factor, but this is something that needs to be addressed quickly, especially with lethal returner Cordarrelle Patterson and the Vikings coming up next.

3. I think Kelly will start to receive some Coach of the Year buzz this week. The Eagles were 4-12 last season, implemented new schemes on both sides of the ball and are now 8-5, one of the hottest teams in football.

“Some of the adjustments we make in games are awesome,” said Celek, a favorite of Kelly’s. “There are some times that we are running things we didn’t get a chance to run in practice that week. The way the guys execute them is great. The way Coach Kelly has the faith in us to do those types of things is big. Guys appreciate it.”

There are several good candidates. Andy Reid is probably the frontrunner with the Chiefs at 10-3. Marvin Lewis could warrant consideration if the Bengals (9-4) close out strong. Pete Carroll and the Seahawks are 11-2. Sean Payton (10-3) and Ron Rivera (8-4) too. But Kelly should be in the conversation.

4. Mychal Kendricks had never played a game in the snow before. Afterwards, he stood by his locker with the football from his fourth-quarter fumble recovery in hand and a big smile on his face.

“It was so fun,” Kendricks said. “We weren’t thinking, ‘We can’t see.’ We’re thinking, ‘We’re about to play a snow game!’ It was so freaking fun, so fun. One of the funnest games I’ve ever played for sure. Losing sucks, but if we wouldn’t have come up with this win, I honestly would say it’d still be a fun game just because I’ve never experienced the snow.”

Stafford got away with four fumbled snaps, but the fifth time, Kendricks dove on the football behind the line of scrimmage. The Lions were only down eight at the time and were threatening to score at the Eagles’ 24-yard-line with 7:28 left in the game. The shotgun snap was early, Stafford wasn’t ready for it, and he failed to fall on the football, instead trying to scoop it up.

“We actually had the same situation happen in practice and I got a one-handed scoop for a touchdown,” Kendricks said.

He explained that Foles fumbled a snap during a “clutch period” at practice. Kendricks also pointed out that one of Zach Ertz’s big catches in the win over the Cardinals also was similar to one he made in practice the previous week.

“So the things that we’re practicing are really showing up in games.”

5. I usually hate using words like gutsy, but I think that fits for how Foles played. The conditions were terrible, and he started out 4-for-13 for 35 yards. Midway through the third quarter, it seemed like he had no shot of completing a pass.

But Foles finished strong, completing seven of his last nine passes for 144 yards. The 44-yarder to Cooper was a great catch, but Foles put the ball in a good place.

“I mis-executed in the first half, and I have to execute on certain plays,” Foles said. “The other team was playing in the same environment and he [Stafford] was throwing the ball. I knew it was one of those things where I would adjust to it and we would adjust as a team because the routes changed up a little bit because of the speed of them.”

Two of the Eagles’ final three games will be played in favorable conditions (at Minnesota, at Dallas). The exception could be the regular-season home finale against Chicago in two weeks and potentially the playoffs.

Foles grew up in Austin, Texas and played his college ball at Arizona. In the long run, having played a game like this should serve him well.

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