Offense Game Review: 10 Observations
1. Let’s start with Nick Foles and the positives. He continues to look comfortable in the offense, even though there were some bumps in the road this week. Final numbers: 21-for-34 for 237 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Foles now has 19 TDs and no picks on the season. On the first drive, he did a great job of seeing where the blitz was coming from and finding Brent Celek for a 16-yard gain on third down. On the first touchdown, he made an excellent throw to Zach Ertz in the corner of the end zone after faking the toss to LeSean McCoy. Later, he connected with Ertz on a 22-yarder. Watching live, I thought his pass was high, but the replay showed Foles put the ball where only Ertz could get it as the linebacker tried to step in front. Foles is a master of setting up the screen and waiting until the right moment to deliver the football. He connected with McCoy for a 19-yard pickup on a screen in the second. One of his best throws of the game was to DeSean Jackson for a 25-yard gain on a wheel route down the right sideline. In the third, Foles delivered a strike to Cooper for 16 yards, and his throw to Ertz on the post in the end zone was on the money.
2. Having said all that, there was a handful of shaky decisions/misfires. Early on, Karlos Dansby had Foles in his grasp, and Foles tried to shovel the ball to McCoy. The whistle had already blown, but not a smart play. Foles made a similar move in the second. He was being taken down by a Cardinals defensive lineman, but flipped the ball to McCoy for a 5-yard gain. I know Brett Favre would approve, but those plays usually end in disaster. Jackson saved him from an interception on the jump-ball in the end zone. Foles also floated one on a crosser to Jackson that was nearly picked. Finally, there was the INT to Patrick Peterson that was negated because of a penalty. That was one of Foles’ worst decisions of the season. The Cardinals’ defense deserves credit for putting Foles in some uncomfortable positions, but there were clearly some mistakes Foles will want to get corrected going forward.
3. So, what happened in the second half after the Eagles scored on their opening possession of the third quarter? Drives stalled for a variety of reasons. The offensive line got sloppy at times. I thought Foles probably got a little greedy with some downfield throws. And the Cardinals knew the Eagles were going to run the ball late. Jason Avant’s block in the back brought back a 35-yard McCoy run. On another drive, Lane Johnson mistakenly left a DE unblocked as Bryce Brown was dropped for a loss. The Eagles didn’t look as focused as they were in the first half, and the Cardinals’ defense is talented. There wasn’t one specific thing, but clearly the offense needs to put together more drives like the one it had in the fourth quarter against Green Bay a few weeks ago.
4. Watching live, I thought the offensive line had more issues than it actually did. Foles was sacked five times, but by my count, only two of those were on the offensive line. McCoy missed a blitz pickup early that resulted in a sack. Johnson got beat once. Foles held on to the ball on another occasion. The fourth sack was a broken play (the Cardinals blew up a WR screen). And the fifth looked like a miscommunication between Evan Mathis and Jason Peters on a stunt. Foles took some hits, but overall, he had time to sit in the pocket and find receivers.
5. Peters did an excellent job of picking off blitzers and giving Foles time all game long. I only counted a couple issues in pass protection for him. And he was very good in the run game. Peters got out in front of Foles’ 9-yard run on a zone-read play in the fourth. Mathis was excellent in the run game as well. I mentioned the confusion on the sack above. He also got beat in pass pro late in the first half, but otherwise was solid. Jason Kelce was really good in pass protection, but had a few issues in the run game. He had trouble on a McCoy run that was stopped after 1 yard in the first. And he let a defender slip past him on a Brown run that lost 8 yards. Todd Herremans has probably put together his best stretch of the season. He gave up one hit on Foles, but otherwise held up well. Johnson had some issues in pass pro. He gave up a sack on one occasion and pressure on another. Johnson and Herremans had a miscommunication that resulted in a pressure in the fourth. Johnson was very good in the run game.
6. The tight ends carried the offense in the passing game. Ertz beat Tyrann Mathieu on the corner route for a TD in the first. He later made a terrific grab on a 22-yard gainer. Ertz did a great job of getting a free release at the line of scrimmage on a 16-yard catch in the third. And he got open faking the corner route before running the post for the 24-yard TD. Celek’s numbers weren’t as good, but he played really well. He dragged defenders a good 8 yards after a reception in the first. It had to kill Celek to not be able to do the first-down signal after that play. But such is life in an up-tempo offense. Celek was excellent as a blocker – both in the run game and pass protection. He stayed in front of John Abraham on Foles’ 20-yard completion to Avant off play-action in the second. And Celek made an excellent block on the McCoy 35-yard run that was called back.
7. McCoy ran well (19 carries, 79 yards) against a stout Cardinals defense. He nearly broke a big one in the first half, but Darnell Dockett grabbed a hold of his jersey and brought him down. The Eagles made some adjustments to their run game. To address the issue of unblocked defenders constantly crashing down on McCoy, they used a TE/H-Back to account for the extra player. They also used more traditional runs that don’t require the QB to account for a defender. More on this when the All-22 comes out later the week.
8. Peterson did a good job on Jackson for the most part. Jackson lined up in the backfield on one play and got loose on a wheel route down the right sideline for a 25-yard gain. Jackson also took a screen 14 yards. He had two tight ends blocking for him on the play. Late in the first half, Foles took a shot deep to Jackson, but Peterson had him covered. It probably would have been an interception had Jackson given up on the play. But he competed for the ball and forced an incompletion. Cooper, meanwhile, finished with three catches for 48 yards. But he also drew a 28-yard pass interference penalty. Cooper was running a post, but Foles’ throw was behind him. The defender was trailing Cooper, so when Cooper slowed to adjust to the throw, there was contact and he got the flag. Cooper also made a spectacular leaping grab and spun out of a tackle for a 24-yard gain in the second.
9. Brown continues to be up and down. Nothing good seems to happen when he runs outside. On one play, Calais Campbell got by Kelce and into the backfield. Brown made matters worse by running backwards and taking an 8-yard loss. He had a couple nice runs up the middle – including a 6-yarder in the second and a 5-yarder in the third. Brown also did an excellent job getting to Campbell in pass protection, allowing Foles time to hit Cooper for 16 yards in the third.
10. Leftovers: Foles air-mailed one to Cooper on a screen that went out of bounds. Because it was a backwards pass, the Eagles lost 2 yards. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but the fact that Foles was under center and not in shotgun might have been a factor. I don’t think he’s used to making that throw from that platform. …This was not McCoy’s best performance as a blocker. …Foles took a big hit on a zone read run late in the game. …I didn’t like the 3rd-and-10 call on the toss to McCoy in the second half. …Jackson got blown up by Mathieu on a screen in the third. …Mathieu also knocked Celek over on a blitz in the second half.