Today the Philadelphia Eagles give thanks, for all wins are created equal in the eyes of the standings—just not in our report card grades. We knew heading into the Birds’ tilt with the Packers that Green Bay would be hindered by the injury to Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, but nobody could be certain just how crippling that loss would be.
Turns out losing a former league MVP is exceedingly difficult to overcome. Sure, the Eagles defense did a good job in a 27-13 win at Lambeau Field, but what do people expect when practice-squad darling Scott Tolzien is the man pulling the trigger for the Green and Gold?
Tolzien threw for 280 yards in relief of Rodgers’ backup Seneca Wallace, and while he was intercepted twice in the process, that seems like too much production to concede to a third-string quarterback with no pedigree. Had Eddie Lacy run amok all over Philly’s defense, that might make more sense, but the Packers running game was held in check.
In our weekly report card grades, we score each individual position on some fairly simple criteria. “A” is virtually mistake-free, “B” is good, “C” is average, “D” is passable and “F” is a complete failure to carry out basic tasks. Nobody would fail the Eagles for the job they did on Tolzien, but perhaps a few players could have applied themselves more.
It’s all in the report card, along with more on another strong performance by Nick Foles and the Birds offense. Extra credit: Which side of the ball would you guess came away with a better cumulative score this week?
Nick Foles only needed to attempt 18 passes in victory, but he made them count. The second-year passer completed 12 for a whopping 228 yards (12.7 AVG) with three touchdowns and zero interceptions, good for a rating of 149.3. He even ran for 38 yards.
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, too. Foles’ 55-yard touchdown to DeSean Jackson was underthrown, but when two defenders collided while going for the football, it deflected right into the wide receiver’s waiting arms.
Foles was indecisive at times, though, resulting in three sacks, one of which a review determined was a fumble. Not sure the officials had proper “indisputable evidence” to overturn the call on the field, but it goes down as the signal-caller’s first turnover of the season regardless, deep in his own territory no less.
Overall, another strong effort for the “backup” quarterback, a moniker Foles will drop soon enough should he continue to post numbers and wins at this pace.
This was easily LeSean McCoy’s best effort in a month, and not just because he had the numbers to back it up. Shady stopped dancing so much in the backfield and hit holes with authority, which allowed him to burst into the second level and attack would-be tacklers with speed and momentum.
The end result was McCoy rushing for 155 yards on 25 carries for a superb 6.2 average. He also added a six-yard reception on his only target and did an OK job in pass protection when called upon.
Bryce Brown ran four times for 11 yards, including a couple of touches on the Eagles’ final drive. He ran with power, secured the ball and stayed in bounds to keep the clock moving. There was absolutely nothing negative to say about the duo’s performance.
Well, Riley Cooper did drop a pass on the Eagles’ opening possession. Of course, all he did after that was catch three of his next four targets for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
Cooper made a nice play in the third quarter to break off his route and run under Nick Foles’ 45-yard heave. There’s no question those two have a chemistry that did not exist between the wide receiver and Michael Vick.
Cooper’s big games aren’t costing DeSean Jackson many opportunities, either. The two-time Pro Bowler hauled in four receptions for 80 yards and a 55-yard score. The Eagles improved to 5-1 this season when Jackson gets into the end zone.
Even Jason Avant got involved. The slot receiver snagged a pass over the middle just as a diving cornerback was reaching for it, possibly saving Foles from his first interception of the year. Avant finished with two for 25.
It’s difficult to fault the tight ends for their lack of production this week. Again, the Eagles only attempted 18 passes.
Brent Celek and James Casey each had a reception for a combined 15 yards. They were targeted just three times, while zero attempts were intended for Zach Ertz.
The reason for the reasonably good grade, though, was Celek’s work as a run blocker, which drew praise from Chip Kelly during his postgame press conference (broadcast on Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia), "I thought Brent Celek was outstanding on the perimeter, really getting the corner for us whether the ball was cutting back to him or we were trying to set the edge."
After a shaky start to the season, the Eagles offensive line seems to be rounding into form the past few weeks. Foles was able to operate from a comfortable pocket for much of the afternoon, which tends to make any quarterback look better than he really is. Foles was sacked three times, but largely of his own doing.
The lone penalties against the group were a false start by rookie Lane Johnson and a holding call on Allen Barbre, who was substituting for the injured Jason Peters at left tackle.
And, of course, they also opened up some huge holes for McCoy, who had his best outing in weeks with 155 yards. The team as a whole eclipsed 200 yards rushing for the first time since Week 3.
Most impressive of all was the way the unit finished the game. The Eagles were able to eat up the final 9:52 of clock on their final possession in the fourth quarter simply by leaning on their offensive line, calling 12 runs in 13 plays before going into kneel-down mode. That’s not easy to do when the defense knows what’s coming.
Once again, credit the defensive line for the push up front. The Eagles held the NFL’s second-ranked rushing offense to 99 yards on 30 attempts—a 3.3 average—and it all starts with the strong play of the defensive line.
You’re not going to find big numbers up here, but opposing running backs aren’t finding many lanes either. This D-line led by Cedric Thornton and Fletcher Cox does the dirty work, and the linebackers come in and clean up after them.
There was one standout, though, and that would be Vinny Curry. With his fourth sack of the season, Curry took over sole possession of clubhouse lead in the category on Sunday—not bad given so little playing time.
According to Sheil Kapadia of Birds 24/7, Curry had only played on 19 percent of the team’s defensive snaps heading into Week 10. He made the most of his playing time in Green Bay, racking up four tackles in the win.
DeMeco Ryans was the heart and soul of the Eagles defense on Sunday, leading the charge against one of the NFL’s top power rushers. The eighth-year pro was plugging holes and taking on Eddie Lacy at the point of attack, a big reason why the back was contained to 73 yards on 24 rushes.
Ryans finished with 13 tackles. Eleven of them were credited as solo and two went for a loss. He also came up with an interception off of a deflection. Such a tremendous all-around performance was doubly important once Mychal Kendricks was lost to a knee injury early on.
The outside linebackers were extremely active as well. Trent Cole finished with eight tackles, and his pressure off the edge forced the errant throw on Ryans’ interception. Connor Barwin also had five tackles and batted a pass at the line of scrimmage.
What doesn’t necessarily show up in the numbers is how strong those two are against the run every week. Very solid game all-around considering the unit was short-handed.
When you consider the fact that they were going up against a third-string quarterback, the play of the cornerbacks was not quite all it could’ve been. More specifically, Cary Williams was slightly disappointing in coverage.
Williams was surprisingly lax on underneath routes in particular, allowing a lot of passes to be completed in front of him. On the bright side, he doesn’t give up many big plays as a result. On the other hand, you’d like to see him challenge a backup quarterback a tiny bit more.
Brandon Boykin came up with an interception on a poorly thrown ball and returned it 73 yards. The second-year corner also conceded some receptions and was tagged for a pass interference penalty, but his coverage was generally tight.
Roc Carmichael was filling in for Bradley Fletcher (inactive due to injury) and played a physical brand of football that fit right in with the rest of the unit. He was fortunate not to get hit with some yellow flags himself, but the former Houston Texan got the job done this time around.
Everything seemed to be moving along relatively smoothly for the Eagles safeties until Earl Wolff suffered a knee injury. In came Patrick Chung, who wound up being involved in the lone touchdown against Philadelphia’s defense this week.
It’s unclear whether there was a miscommunication in coverage or Chung slipped. Whatever the case, tight end Brandon Bostick wound up running right through the Birds secondary en route to catching a wide-open 22-yard touchdown pass.
Chung finished with five tackles and a pass breakup. Nate Allen had five tackles as well. Wolff, the promising rookie, had two tackles, including one for a loss before exiting.
Always difficult to evaluate the safeties until the All-22 coaches tape becomes available. The good news is the Bostick touchdown was the only big play over the top.
Alex Henery managed to go unnoticed for a few weeks but shouldn’t after missing a 39-yard field goal try. Packers kicker Mason Crosby was having some trouble out there as well, but 39 is supposed to be a chip shot in almost any conditions.
Henery’s kickoffs left something to be desired as well. The Packers wound up with four returns, and they weren’t exactly taking them out from deep in their own end zone either.
The coverage units were excellent, though, holding Green Bay kick returners to a 17.3 average. Their only punt return went for two yards.
Donnie Jones was only called upon to punt the ball away twice, but one of those was downed at Green Bay’s 2-yard line by Brandon Boykin. Solid day for most of the guys on the unit, but the place-kicker’s struggles cannot be ignored.