With a 27-13 victory over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles accomplished something in 10 games this season that they could not do in 16 games only a year ago, as the Birds already have five wins in 2013, surpassing last year’s total with plenty of season still left to play.
Suddenly, with a two-game winning streak and their record back to .500, the Eagles are playoff-minded once again. But does the fact that their latest triumph came at the expense of an opponent without its starting quarterback and top backup quarterback diminish the quality at all?
It certainly does not matter in the standings, where all victories count the same in the win column. Philadelphia is 5-5 now, and that’s all there is to it.
There's no denying that the Eagles caught a break when 2011 NFL MVP and Packers starting signal-caller Aaron Rodgers went down with a collarbone injury last week. As head coach Chip Kelly pointed out after the game, though, every team has to roll with the punches, including his own squad, via Alex Smith of PhiladelphiaEagles.com:
It’s part of what you’ve got to do. We’ve lost a quarterback in [Michael Vick], and I think that Nick [Foles] has done an unbelievable job of coming in. ... That’s just kind of what this league is all about. You have to be able to handle those situations.
Regardless of who was under center for the Packers, you had to like what you saw from the Eagles this week. It was a total team victory, one that might even help propel Philadelphia into the postseason.
On to this week's takeaways.
Whatever you think about Nick Foles’ future in Philadelphia, there’s still no time like the present to find out. The second-year passer didn’t solidify himself as the franchise quarterback in the win over Green Bay, but he’s earned the right to continue starting for at least another week.
Truth be told, Foles didn’t have to do a whole lot in the win. He attempted just 18 passes, completing 12 of them for 228 yards and three touchdowns—good for a 149.3 passer rating.
Despite solid numbers, it was not Foles’ best game. His 55-yard touchdown to DeSean Jackson was underthrown, and it was only completed thanks to a fortunate deflection. Foles was also indecisive at times, which resulted in his taking three sacks and losing a fumble.
Ultimately, the most important number for Foles was "one," as in "one win." The victory improves his record to 3-1 as Philadelphia’s starter this season, and he’ll undoubtedly reprise the role next week versus Washington.
Can Chip Kelly even consider going with anybody else the rest of the way?
For weeks, we’ve lamented Chip Kelly’s insistence on employing read-option concepts on virtually every handoff when Nick Foles is in the game, despite the fact that Foles isn’t much of a threat to keep the ball.
Against Green Bay, we saw something that more closely resembled a traditional ground attack.
Foles seemed to be handing off to LeSean McCoy on far more conventional dives, stretches and toss plays than he has in previous weeks. The result was more power run-blocking over finesse plays, as starting running back LeSean McCoy was hitting holes quickly and with authority.
McCoy enjoyed his best game since Week 3, carrying the ball 25 times for 155 yards and a 6.2 yards per carry average. It was just the second time Shady crossed the century-mark in his last seven games.
The Eagles didn’t need to remove the read-option entirely. The option was still there from time to time, and Foles even kept a few himself. That said, there’s little doubt that a more varied approach in the running game helped McCoy break loose against the NFL’s fifth-ranked run defense entering the week.
Through the Eagles’ first five games, Riley Cooper had 93 total yards and one touchdown. Over the last five contests, Cooper is averaging 92.4 yards and 1.2 touchdowns.
Cooper isn’t merely emerging as a compliment to DeSean Jackson; he’s arguably been the club’s most dangerous wide receiver since Nick Foles took the helm.
Jackson is still getting his, as he caught another touchdown pass against Green Bay, and the Eagles improved to 5-1 when Jackson reaches the end zone.
Cooper is clowning on defenses, though, particularly over the past two games alone, where he’s reeled in five touchdowns. Furthermore, all but one of those scores has gone for at least 32 yards or more.
Even with Aaron Rodgers out, shutting down Packers running back Eddie Lacy was not going to be an easy task for the Eagles. DeMeco Ryans was determined to prevent the powerful rookie from gashing the Eagles’ defense, however, setting the tone with his hard-nosed play in the middle.
The veteran linebacker spent a sizable portion of his day taking on Lacy at the point of attack, filling holes and bringing the ball-carrier to the ground. Mission accomplished for Ryans, as Lacy was limited to 73 yards on 24 carries for a dismal 3.0 average.
Ryans led the charge, finishing with 13 tackles. Eleven of those were marked down as solo tackles, and two went for losses. Ryans also came up with an interception that helped keep the momentum on Philly’s side.
Per the Eagles' official Twitter account, Ryans became the first Eagles linebacker with at least two interceptions and two sacks in a season since Jeremiah Trotter did it in 2001. It has been a very solid campaign for the quarterback of the Birds’ defense.
Here’s another piece of material for the Vinny Curry lobby: the second-year defensive end now leads the Eagles in sacks after picking up his fourth of the season against the Packers. According to Sheil Kapadia of Birds 24/7, Curry had only played on just 19 percent of Philly’s defensive snaps entering the week.
Curry is doing more in terms of getting the opposing passer to the turf than anybody else on the team, and he’s doing it with a fraction of the playing time.
Curry has seen his playing time increase as the season has gone along, particularly since he was inactive for the first two games of the season. It’s clear that he’s one of the club’s better pass-rushers, even if his role has remained somewhat limited.
The 2012 second-round pick is viewed as a situational pass-rusher, which is why you won’t see him on the field on every down. Keep a look out for No. 75 though, because there’s a good chance he’s going to make a play whenever he’s out there.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the Eagles’ win was the way they finished.
Green Bay turned the ball over on downs with 9:32 remaining in the fourth quarter, and Philadelphia regained possession at their own 8-yard line.
The Packers never saw the ball again.
The Eagles ran 13 plays leading up to the two-minute warning, securing six first downs and driving into Green Bay territory. From there, Nick Foles was able to kneel down three times to salt away the final two minutes.
It’s not simply that the Eagles were able to slow down their up-tempo pace to work the clock, but it was the way they did it—by overpowering the Packers. The Birds ran it 12 times between LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown and Foles for 70 yards and a 5.3 average, at a time when the defense knew exactly what was coming.
You have got to love watching them finish out a game with authority.
It was a hard-fought game by the Eagles, but perhaps it was a costly battle.
Philadelphia sustained numerous injuries over the course of their 60 minutes against the Packers, and we won’t know how soon several players will return.
Left tackle Jason Peters, interior linebacker Mychal Kendricks and safety Earl Wolff all exited the game, never to be heard from again. Peters was lost to a quad and needed assistance getting off the field, while Kendricks and Wolff walked off under their own power with knee injuries.
Peters was listed as probable going into the game with a pectoral/shoulder injury, but the injury he suffered in the game appeared to be completely unrelated.
As noted by Bo Wulf of PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Chip Kelly did not immediately have an update on any of their conditions following the game.
The Eagles are certainly still capable of winning the NFC East this season should Dallas falter. Beating the Packers will also help the Birds in their hunt for a wild-card berth as well if Philadelphia is unable to leap the Cowboys for a division title.
Green Bay is one of several opponents that are ahead of the Eagles in the wild-card race, so head-to-head wins like the one they secured today are important. Now, if Green Bay and Philly should finish with the same record and are both going for that final playoff spot, the Birds own the tiebreaker.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, Carolina’s 10-9 win over San Francisco this week means that both of those teams have six wins to Philadelphia’s five. As long as Chip Kelly’s crew continues to take care of business, though, those things could sort themselves out.
Find out more regarding the team's in an article I wrote earlier this week.