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 »

Observations: Eagles 24, Cowboys 22

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Here’s what we saw during the Eagles’ 24-22 win over the Cowboys.

OFFENSE

* The Eagles’ offense was up-and-down in their 24-22 win against the Cowboys. Nick Foles went 17-for-26 for 263 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. But he did most of his damage in the first half (12-for-16 for 197 yards). In the second half, Foles was 5-for-10 for 66 yards and he fumbled once.

* The Eagles put together an 11-play, 60-yard drive in the fourth quarter, running the ball on nine plays. Bryce Brown got in the end zone from 6 yards out. LeSean McCoy came up big on the drive as well. Overall, McCoy ran it 27 times for 131 yards (4.9 YPC). Brown had two carries for 11 yards and a score.

* On the Eagles’ first drive, Foles found Chris Polk on a wheel route for 34 yards down the right sideline. He also rifled a 16-yard pass to Riley Cooper to set up a 47-yard Alex Henery field goal. Lane Johnson was called for holding on the drive, which set up third-and-long. Read more »

Five Thoughts On the Eagles

NFL: Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles

1. A popular sports-talk radio topic this week has been: If the Eagles stumble tonight, should Chip Kelly’s first season still be deemed a success? The answer is yes, but a loss will definitely re-shape some of the offseason conversation.

The Eagles (at a minimum) have shown a five-game improvement from last year. The offense has been one of the best in the league. The defense has exceeded expectations. The quarterback’s played out of his mind. The culture in the building is dramatically different. And Kelly seems to have found the right balance between being a players’ coach and a disciplinarian. For all of those reasons, Year 1 has been a success as Kelly has laid a solid foundation to build on going forward.

But the Eagles have a tremendous opportunity in front of them. They have won six of seven overall and are 7-point favorites against a Kyle Orton-led Cowboys squad. To act like they’re just playing with house money is disingenuous. The truth is they’re playing in a game where the stakes are high, and they are expected to win. If they lose, the devastation won’t reach Ghosts Of NFC Championships Past levels, but it will still be a major disappointment to the coaches, players and the fan base. 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 »

Zone Read: Eagles-Bears, the Day After

NFL: Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles

As the Eagles prepared for their final possession Sunday night, Nick Foles stood on the sideline next to tight end Zach Ertz and quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor.

The offense gathered briefly before running onto the field. Foles had a green and black baseball cap on instead of a helmet. He paused his conversation, joined his teammates briefly, put his arm around James Casey and returned to the sideline as Michael Vick took a couple kneel-downs to end the game.

There was a hug from Chris Polk and a handshake from Brent Celek. Foles then made his way past cameras towards midfield to greet the Bears’ quarterbacks as the clock showed triple zeroes. He removed his hat, knelt down for the prayer circle with members from both teams and joined LeSean McCoy for an interview with NBC.

Foles’ performance will not be the first or even second topic of conversation among Eagles fans today. And that’s saying something considering he went 21-for-25 for 230 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 131.7. Read more »

Observations: Eagles 54, Bears 11

NFL: Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles

Here’s what we saw during tonight’s Eagles-Bears game.

OFFENSE

* Everything the Eagles did offensively worked Sunday night. They started the game on fire, scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions. After a poor punt by the Bears, the offense went 43 yards on six plays on its first drive. LeSean McCoy had a big 19-yard run, and Nick Foles found Riley Cooper in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard TD.

* The Eagles’ second offensive possession came after Bradley Fletcher forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. Foles bought time, scrambled to his right and hit Zach Ertz for a 27-yard completion. McCoy then found the end zone from 1 yard out. Read more »

Inside Voices: The Value Of Avant

Eagles WR Jason Avant dives for a pass against the Cowboys. 10/20/13
At first glance, it looked like DeSean Jackson was screaming at Jason Avant. The wide receiver was overheating on the sidelines after a Nick Foles interception in Minnesota Sunday. Jackson was being restrained as he barked in the direction of Avant just a few yards away. Turns out, his words were aimed at receivers coach Bob Bicknell; Avant was just moving in to gain control. And that’s exactly what he did. After a quiet moment of counsel with Avant away from the rest of the team, Jackson hopped to his feet and returned to the pack without further incident.

“He kind of understands, he’s like a big brother, a voice you can listen to,” said Jackson.

Later in the game, Cary Williams lost his cool and was benched following an unnecessary roughness call and an apparent misunderstanding on the sideline. There was Avant again, sitting next to Williams on the bench, diffusing the situation.

“When those situations come up, because I have a relationship with everyone, I talk to everyone constantly — when something goes on in their family I want to see about them – because we have a relationship usually I can go and talk to them, maybe not like the coach can or another player because they haven’t established their relationship,” said Avant. “It gives me a voice a lot of times that I can go over and they receive it even when they’re mad because they know who they are talking to.”

“Every NFL team,” said Williams, “should have a guy like that in their locker room.” 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 »

Inside Voices: Eagles Getting Stronger

Philadelphia Eagles left guard Evan Mathis.The idea that a football team would be getting physically stronger as the season goes along seems counter-intuitive. The Eagles are 13 games into their campaign. Add training camp into the equation, and the grind has been going on for more than four months now. You would think the body would start wearing down right about now. Yet some players believe the opposite is happening in Year One under Chip Kelly.

“You can tell just from the reps that we do. I’m not saying that I’m just jumping up crazy, but what used to be hard to me is starting to become a lot easier towards the end,” said Brandon Graham. “Like the other day I put 405 on the bench [and did three sets of three] and it was pretty easy, and I feel like next week I want to go up a little more because that’s how good I feel right now.” Read more »

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