10 Observations: An Eagles Slant To the Playoffs

NFL: Divisional Round-New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks

The Eagles did not play this weekend, but like many of you, I spent 12-plus hours in front of the TV watching the divisional-round games. Keeping that in mind, here are 10 observations with an Eagles slant.

1. The four winning quarterbacks – Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Colin Kaepernick and Peyton Manning – completed, on average, 15.5 passes in their victories. And no quarterback threw for more than 230 yards. Wilson went 9-for-18 for 103 yards, completing just two passes in the second half. Brady went 13-for-25 for 198 yards; the 13 completions were his fewest ever in a playoff win he started/finished.

The talking heads like to remind us constantly that “it’s a passing league.” And in many ways, there’s truth to that statement. All four teams still alive finished in the top eight in passing during the regular season, according to Football Outsiders. But it’s also true that teams that can find different ways to win give themselves the best chance to advance in the postseason. Read more »

Zone Read: Eagles-Saints, the Day After

Jan 4, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) prepares to throw the ball as Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Trent Cole (58) and Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox (91) chase in the first quarter during the 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lincoln Financial Field. Photo |  Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 4, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) prepares to throw the ball as Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Trent Cole (58) and Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox (91) chase in the first quarter during the 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lincoln Financial Field. Photo | Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Going into Saturday night’s matchup with the Saints, the Eagles’ defensive gameplan focused on daring Sean Payton to take the football out of Drew Brees’ hands.

New Orleans has been a pass-first offense and was playing without its leading rusher in Pierre Thomas. Unlike most weeks, Davis figured he could pay less attention to the run game and instead scheme to limit big plays in the passing game. Payton responded by handing the ball off over and over again to the tune of 36 carries and 185 yards.

“That’s on me,” Davis said. “I made the calls for the passing game to make sure we keep the big plays off us. It was a lot more split safety and a lot more pass-oriented calls, so some of the runs leaked out. I could have called more of a run-based defensive game, shut that down, but we were trying to keep the points down and the big plays off us. So that run game comes down to me, not the players.” Read more »

Game Review: Eagles Defense Vs. Dallas

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Here’s a position-by-position review of the Eagles’ defensive performance against Dallas after having watched the coaches tape.

DEFENSIVE LINE

* This group limited DeMarco Murray to 51 yards on 17 carries (3.0 YPC). Cedric Thornton probably had the best game of any of the linemen. He combined with Bennie Logan to stop Murray after a 3-yard run in the first half. In the third, Thornton and Brandon Boykin dropped Murry for a 4-yard loss, putting Dallas in a tough third-down spot. Thornton finished with two tackles.

* Fletcher Cox was quiet – one tackle, no sacks, no hurries. Logan had three tackles. He pressured Kyle Orton and helped force him into a bad throw in the second.

* All three starting defensive linemen jumped early once, drawing flags. Read more »

Zone Read: Eagles-Cowboys, the Day After

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Normally we use this space for a thorough recap of the previous day’s game, and there will be some of that.

But it’s a playoff week for the first time in three years in Philadelphia, so let’s lead off with 10 things you should know about the next opponent: the Saints.

1. New Orleans took care of business Sunday, crushing the Bucs 42-17 to improve to 11-5 on the season – that’s 8-0 at home and 3-5 on the road. The Saints won four of their last five and were 2-3 overall against teams that are in the postseason. Going into Week 17, Football Outsiders had New Orleans as the No. 7 team overall – fifth on offense, 11th on defense and 24th on special teams. Read more »

The Matchup: Eagles Vs. Cowboys

Trent Cole had one sack in the Eagles’ first 10 games. He has seven in the last five, including three against the Bears.

Here is a complete breakdown of Sunday night’s Eagles-Cowboys matchup.

THE BIG PICTURE

It’s pretty simple: Winner hosts a first-round playoff game next weekend, while the loser goes home.

The Cowboys have been up and down with two losses in their last three games, but they pulled out a 24-23 victory over the Redskins in Week 16.

The Eagles have won six of seven and are averaging 39.3 points per game in their last three. Read more »

Wake-Up Call: Defense Regains Its Edge

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The consensus within the Cary Williams circle of trust was that the cornerback wasn’t playing with the same type of edge that he had in Baltimore. Sounds strange, seeing as the feisty corner always seems to be an inch away from throwing haymakers on the field, but this has more to do with what’s been going on between the whistles. His brother said something about it. His best friend. Even his pastor felt he needed to be a bit more ferocious.

But when his wife, Amanda, broached the subject, that was the tipping point.

“When my wife said it, it really kind of sunk in,” said Williams. “I listened because she has been following me for a long time and watching how I played, and she said I just didn’t have the same aggressiveness like how I used to,” said Williams. “I gave a bunch of excuses why, but then when I look in the mirror it just is what it is. I am what I put out there on the field.

“I just wanted to get back into character.”

The defense as a whole was trying to do the same thing. Read more »

Game Review: Eagles Defense Vs. Vikings

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings

Here’s a position-by-position look at the Eagles’ defensive performance after having watched the All-22 from Sunday’s game.

DEFENSIVE LINE

* Going in, the Eagles should have expected to dominate the Vikings’ ground game, given that Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart were out. And that’s what happened. Matt Asiata needed 30 carries to get to 51 yards (1.7 YPC). The pass-rush could have been better, but Matt Cassel did a good job of getting the ball out quick, and most of the problems through the air were the fault of the secondary. Read more »

Zone Read: Eagles-Vikings, the Day After

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings

Going into Sunday’s game against the Vikings, the Eagles appeared to be peaking at the right time.

They had won five straight, were in the driver’s seat in the NFC East and looked like a team capable of making some noise in the postseason.

Less than 24 hours after kickoff, the outlook has changed a bit. The 48-30 loss to the Vikings was either just one bad letdown game or a true reality check of where this team is.

Keeping that in mind, let’s take a point-by-point look at some of the issues that surfaced in Minnesota, debuting The Kapadia Concern Scale. Each issue is given a ranking from 1 to 10. Read more »

Game Review: Eagles Defense Vs. Lions

NFL: Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles

Here is a position-by-position review of the Eagles’ defense after having reviewed the All-22 tape.

DEFENSIVE LINE

* This group led the charge. Joique Bell needed 23 carries to gain 69 yards (3.0 YPC). And the Lions failed to gain more than 8 yards on any single run. Cedric Thornton was outstanding, leading all defensive linemen with six tackles (per team stats) and a forced fumble, which the Eagles turned into a takeaway. Thornton helped blow up a Bell run that gained 3 in the second and was disruptive throughout. Read more »

Zone Read: Eagles-Lions, the Day After

NFL: Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles

Chip Kelly and his coaching staff worked all week on a special gameplan to neutralize the aggressiveness of the Detroit Lions’ defensive front.

Screens, draws, read-plays that would have left linemen unblocked. Those were all part of the plan as of Sunday morning.

“We had a lot of plays in the gameplan to attack their scheme and attack a lot of their explosion and things like that,” said center Jason Kelce. “I was excited to run them coming into the game because I thought they were awesome. But the weather really took them out of their typical way that they played football because they couldn’t get their footing, they couldn’t get upfield as fast.

“I think the coaches got to some more downhill stuff and some more vanilla stuff where we could just kind of get together and get double teams and get moving vertically.”

The word vanilla has been used in the past as a jab at Kelly’s offense. On Sunday, vanilla was what saved the Eagles. Read more »

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