Detroit Lions vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Takeaways from Philly's 34-20 Win
It looked like an act of God was finally going to derail the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles, a blinding snowstorm threatening to strand Chip Kelly’s offense in a ditch against the Detroit Lions. Then out of nowhere, LeSean McCoy arrived on the scene to drag the Birds out of the hole and pull his team to a 34-20 comeback victory.
McCoy exploded for touchdown runs of 40 and 57 yards in the fourth quarter on Sunday en route to a franchise record 217 on the ground. The All-Pro back’s performance was all the more impressive considering the Lions owned the second-ranked run defense entering Week 14, holding opponents to 82.7 yards per game. They had not allowed more than 62 to a team over the previous six weeks.
Philadelphia finished with 299 yards rushing total. McCoy’s 217 snapped Steve Van Buren’s old record of 205 set way back in 1949, and 134 of Shady’s yards came in the fourth quarter—talk about finishing.
The Eagles made it look easy, but surely, it wasn’t. Even when the offensive line was opening gaping holes, McCoy still had to keep his footing, which when you have moves like No. 25 can’t be easy. After the game, the fifth-year back talked to CSNPhilly.com’s Reuben Frank about what it was like to have such a big day given the conditions on the field.
“It was tough,” he said. “It was definitely tough. Normal footing and traction that we get from stopping and cutting, I couldn’t really plant like I usually plant. But the [offensive linemen] were giving me so much room.
“And it’s a mental thing. Obviously it’s going to be tough because it’s the snow and the weather, but you don’t think about it while you’re running. Only if you think about it, it sets you back a little bit.”
It was an amazing individual effort by McCoy and great work up front that plowed the road for an Eagles victory, but the highlights were not limited to the ground attack. Flip through for more observations from Sunday’s huge win in snowy South Philly.
The Philly Snow Bowl
It will be a long time before anybody forgets the incredible imagery in South Philadelphia on Sunday. A mere two hours before game time, the field was completely clear. By kickoff, it was completely covered, and blinding snowfall made it nearly impossible to see from one end of the field to the other.
Visibility was so poor, even with the benefit of television and instant replay, it was often hard to identify who was doing what during the first quarter and into the second.
Fox sideline reporter Molly McGrath measured some eight inches of snow covering the field during the broadcast. Needless to say, it was more than just a dusting.
To give you an idea of how bad conditions were, no field goals and only one extra point were attempted during the course of the game. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz called timeout so some of his players could clear snow away for David Akers’ attempt, but the kick wound up getting blocked anyway.
While it made for some ugly football in the first half, it also set the table for a fun, backyard style back-and-forth affair between two teams jockeying for playoff position. In other words, it was an instant classic.
Nick Foles Throws First Interception of 2013
All good things must come to an end, as did Nick Foles’ streak without throwing an interception. Foles sailed a pass over Riley Cooper’s head in the second quarter and right into the waiting arms of Lions cornerback Chris Houston.
Houston returned the ball to Philadelphia’s 20-yard line, setting up a Lions touchdown.
The second-year passer fell one touchdown shy of tying Denver QB Peyton Manning’s record of 20 touchdowns to start a season without tossing a pick. According to CSNPhilly.com’s Reuben Frank, Foles’ streak of 238 consecutive passes without an INT was the eighth-longest streak in NFL history.
It’s hard to blame Foles, really. The conditions were far from optimal, especially in the first half when the teams were essentially playing in a blizzard. That being said, his tremendous run is over.
Time to start another one.
Nick Foles Sparks Offense
Foles’ interception was indicative of how he played for two-and-a-half quarters, not the entire game.
At one point, the Birds’ signal-caller had completed just four of 13 passes, during which time Philadelphia failed to get on the scoreboard. Then things clicked. Foles had a huge sequence in the third quarter that was responsible for getting the Eagles back on track.
On a third-and-11 in the third quarter, Foles threw a 12-yard rope to DeSean Jackson along the sidelines, his best pass at that stage in the game. He followed it up on the next play with a 44-yard bomb over the top of Detroit’s secondary that was reeled in by Riley Cooper. Finally, one snap later, Foles finished the drive with a 19-yard pass to Jackson in the back of the end zone.
Foles finished the game with 11 completions on 22 attempts for 179 yards and a touchdown—impressive given the conditions. He also snuck one in for another score. It didn’t take down any records or increase his passer rating, but Foles’ performance certainly helped secure a tough win.
Chip Kelly Adjusts
The Eagles may have won by two possessions, but it wasn’t as easy as it looked. Philadelphia managed just one first down on its first five series and was held off the scoreboard entirely until midway through the third quarter.
The weather calming as the game went along didn’t hurt, but Chip Kelly’s willingness to adapt did far more to change the course of the game. When it became painfully obvious Nick Foles was going to struggle to throw the ball in a driving snowstorm, the head coach began calling for more runs. When runs designed to get LeSean McCoy outside the tackles were going nowhere, Kelly changed up the schemes to attack Detroit up the middle.
The changes clearly put the Lions defense back on its heels. The Eagles scored touchdowns on their final five possessions before running out the clock on their sixth to end the game. It was a complete reversal.
Kelly wouldn’t take credit for the win afterwards though. At his postgame news conference, the coach talked about having a group of players who never believed the game had gotten away. Per John Gonzalez for CSNPhilly.com:
“I don’t think this group gives up,” Chip Kelly said. “They’ve got way too much invested. I think the more you have invested in something, it’s a lot more difficult to quit. It’s an extremely hard-working group. They understand that it’s a long game. You’ve just got to keep plugging away. You can’t get discouraged when you’re not successful early because, in this league, there’s a lot of times when you’re not going to be able to go out there and say ‘Hey, this is what we chose to do.’ There’s so many good players on the other teams. It’s always going to be a battle. They just know, hey, if we hang in there and just keep fighting and just keep banging away, good things are going to happen for us.”
Defense’s Streak Reaches 9
Make it nine games and counting. That’s how many games in a row the Eagles defense has held opponents to 21 points or fewer—the 11th time in 13 games this season.
Philadelphia contained some major star power while limiting Detroit to 20 on the scoreboard. Matthew Stafford completed 10-of-25 passes for 148 yards. Calvin Johnson, the NFL’s leading receiver, was contained well with three receptions for 49 yards. Running back Joique Bell—replacing an injured Reggie Bush—was kept to three yards per carry and lost two fumbles.
Sure, give the snow an assist, particularly against Detroit’s dangerous passing game. Once the Lions got ahead though, they tried to grind the game away on the ground, but the Eagles were strong at the point of attack.
In all, the Lions managed just 228 yards of total offense while turning the ball over three times. Snow was a factor, but so is the fact that the Philly defense is much better than anybody thought they would be coming into the season.
Dicey Kick Coverage
Had the Eagles not been able to hold the Lions to 21 or under, it certainly wouldn’t have been the fault of the defense. Two of Detroit’s three touchdowns were via special teams.
Jeremy Ross took a 58-yard punt return to the house in the third quarter. Later, he answered a LeSean McCoy touchdown run with a 98-yard kickoff return for six more, temporarily putting the Lions back in front.
In all, Ross totaled 243 yards on six combined returns. Detroit’s offense was only good for 228.
At one point, the conditions were so bad neither team was even attempting to field punts, let alone returning them. Ross was a trendsetter.
It’s hard to say how much snow might’ve made an impact on the Eagles’ inability to prevent Ross’ huge returns. That said, both teams had to play on the same field, and Philly’s longest return was only 23 yards.
Eagles Win Again, Flip the Pressure Back on Dallas
The victory was Philadelphia’s fifth in a row, which is the longest streak in the NFL behind Carolina. It was also their third straight win at Lincoln Financial Field after going over a full calendar year without a W at home.
Most of all, it keeps the Eagles in strong position in their respective playoff races. If the Dallas Cowboys fall to the Chicago Bears on Monday night, the Birds will take over sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
The win also allows the Eagles to remain in the hunt for a wild card berth if things don’t work out in the division.
With the 3-9-1 Minnesota Vikings scheduled for next week, things are looking up for Philadelphia at the moment. For the first time since 2010, the Eagles are still flying high in the month of December—and they’re only gaining momentum.