As difficult as it must’ve been for the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions to play through a blizzard, it makes assessing the action a challenge as well. Clearly the conditions on the field affected everybody’s ability to play the game.
The quarterback had to throw the football through a driving snowstorm. Pass-rushers were trying to generate push without traction. Defensive backs were chasing wide receivers through the snow. Visibility was poor for everybody.
He might’ve made it look easy, but even Birds running back LeSean McCoy experienced hardships despite setting a new franchise record with 217 yards rushing in the 34-20 win. After the game, he talked about what it was like running on a field covered by upwards of eight inches of snow. Via Philadelphia Eagles.com:
It was tough. To be honest, it was definitely tough. You just didn’t have the normal footing and traction that you get when stopping and cutting. Sometimes I couldn’t really plant. I can usually plant on a dime, but it all worked out.
In my weekly report card grades, I 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.
This week, I’ll be grading on a curve in most areas, especially where noted. The adverse conditions call for some adjustments to the scoring, as it would be unfair to expect optimal execution in that situation.
Nick Foles was completely ineffective until midway through the third quarter. His passes fluttered through the driving snow and missed their mark. The second-year passer completed four of his first 13 attempts for 35 yards, throwing his first interception of the season in the process.
At his postgame press conference, Nick Foles talked about the challenge of throwing the ball in that weather. Via PhiladelphiaEagles.com:
When I was making throws I couldn’t really zip them, because if you zip them in that weather it is hard to see the ball and with the gloves or the hands it would slip right through, so it was it just adjusting to how I wanted to throw the ball. As the course of the game went on I got more and more comfortable with it and we all adjusted and made some big plays.
The weather eventually calmed down, and Foles adjusted accordingly. With one sequence, he was able to spark the Eagles offense—a 12-yard rope to DeSean Jackson on 3rd-and-11, a 44-yard bomb to Riley Cooper and a 19-yard rainbow to Jackson in the back of the end zone.
Foles completed seven of nine for 144 yards and a touchdown to finish out the game. He also ran one in, and would’ve thrown for another had tight end Brent Celek not selflessly slid short of the goal line so Philadelphia could run out the clock.
It wasn’t pretty at the start, but Foles found a way to turn around his afternoon and wound up making a solid contribution to the victory.
What more can we say about LeSean McCoy’s performance? His 217 yards rushing broke Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren’s record set way back in 1949.
McCoy exploded in the fourth quarter with touchdown runs of 40 and 57 yards. Via CSNPhilly.com’s Reuben Frank, 137 of his yards came in the final period.
In all, Shady was handed the rock 29 times, averaging 7.5 yards per attempt.
Third-string running back Chris Polk broke off a big one as well. He carried four times for 50 yards, including a 38-yard scamper for his second touchdown of the season. Bryce Brown ran six times for 19 yards as well.
Despite having what would seem to be an advantage in the snow, Riley Cooper could not break away from Lions cornerback Rashean Mathis early on. Mathis broke up three passes intended for Cooper in the first half, one of which on a 4th-and-7 try to the end zone.
Cooper eventually got it going, hauling in three passes for 74 yards. None were bigger than the 44-yard bomb that set up the Birds’ first score, a finger-tips grab as the receiver went to the ground. Coop had the presence of mind to roll on to his back to keep the football from touching the ground. He also caught a two-point conversion.
DeSean Jackson had four receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles improved to 6-1 this season when Jackson catches a touchdown.
As always, the receivers were very active blocking downfield, especially Cooper and Jason Avant. That effort helped set McCoy loose on a pair of 40-plus yards runs.
It won’t show up on the stat sheet, but Brent Celek contributed to McCoy’s huge day with some excellent blocks. Bonus points for that.
Celek also made a heady play at the end of the game. The Eagles went play action on 4th-and-12 with under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, and the Lions left the tight end completely uncovered. Celek could’ve easily ran into the end zone for six, but he slid down inside the 10-yard line so the offense could go into the victory formation.
Dominant performance by the Eagles offensive line, beginning of course with LeSean McCoy’s 217-yard game. The line was opening such gaping holes in the middle of the Lions defense, the running backs probably could’ve drive a golf cart through them.
In all, Philadelphia ran for 299 yards as a team. Detroit entered Week 14 with the second-ranked run defense, averaging 82.7 yards per game. It had not allowed an opponent to run for more than 62 yards in six straight weeks.
The O-line got the job done in pass protection as well. Nick Foles was not sacked once.
About the only mistake the Birds front made all day was a false start penalty against Evan Mathis. We can probably let that one slide this time.
Difficult situation for the defensive linemen. Their speed was negated by the heavy snow accumulation on the ground, so there went going around the offensive line, but they couldn’t get any traction either, making it practically impossible to drive through a blocker as well.
That said, while the Eagles were able to run for nearly 300 yards, Detroit had no such luck. Lions running back Joique Bell was limited to 3.0 yards per carry on 23 attempts. His longest gain of the day was eight.
Defensive end Cedric Thornton also came up with one of the biggest plays of the game, catching Bell from behind and knocking the ball loose on the game’s opening possession. Detroit was driving at the time, so Thornton’s determination may very well have kept points off the board.
Very active day for the Eagles linebacking corps. Connor Barwin was the standout of the crew, recording a team-high six tackles, two of which went for a loss. The outside linebacker also forced a fumble against Joique Bell, plus jumped on a botched snap in Detroit’s backfield that might’ve put the game away.
Trent Cole added three tackles and a batted pass on one of the defense’s few good pressures of the day. As we’ve become accustomed, Cole and Barwin were beasts against the run.
Mychal Kendricks got beat in coverage a couple times, but he also made two good plays on the ball, breaking up two passes. Fellow interior linebacker DeMeco Ryans had a PBU as well, as the two combined for 10 tackles. Not a flashy day for anybody, but solid all around.
Apparently, that's Cary Williams
Give the cornerbacks a ton of credit. Chasing a person through the snow is no easy task, but Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher and Brandon Boykin did it. Detroit wide receivers finished the afternoon with just five receptions for 73 yards.
That includes the incredible Calvin Johnson. Megatron made a big 33-yard catch working against Williams early in the game but wound up with just three for 49 yards total.
Williams also made a big assist in the coaching department. The veteran corner explained to Chip Kelly what routes were working on that field and why. The head coach actually took his advice and applied it to the Birds offense. Kelly talked about Williams’ assist at his postgame news conference:
It was funny, Cary Williams was the one who came up to me, and he was like, ‘Coach, this is what you've got to do because you can't make up speed if the guy makes a stick move on you just because of the footing.’ And Cary was kind of the one, and it's coming from a defensive guy saying, hey, if you have an opportunity to either throw a post or throw a corner route, it's hard to make up. Finally we hit Riley [Cooper] on it, it was almost like that kind of got us going, got our confidence back a little bit, and then we got rolling there.
The Eagles safeties did not have a very busy day. Nate Allen and Patrick Chung combined to get in on just four tackles. They weren’t required to do much in run support, while the biggest Lions passing play of the day was 33 yards to Calvin Johnson.
Detroit Quarterback Matthew Stafford only completed 10 passes in the game, while Joique Bell’s longest carry of the day was eight yards, so there was very little for Allen and Chung to do. They did it well though, I suppose.
It truly pains me to give the Eagles special teams a bad score this week because Donnie Jones once again had a phenomenal game. Despite attempting all of his six of his punts in the thick of a blizzard, Jones averaged 41.5 per attempt with a long of 53.
Donnie Football didn’t even get the benefit of a roll or bounce on those kicks. Once the pigskin fell into an eight-inch pile of snow, its momentum died almost instantly.
Unfortunately, when your kick coverage units allow two touchdowns, more often than not that’s going to result in an ‘F.’ Jeremy Ross had a 58-yard punt return for touchdown, and later a 98-yard kick return for six. His 243 return yards was more than the Lions’ entire offense. Unacceptable.
Before we go blaming the weather, Philly did not fare so well in the return game. DeSean Jackson had negative yards on two punt returns, and Brandon Boykin’s long kickoff runback was 23 yards.
Alex Henery was largely a non-factor, as the Eagles were unwilling to attempt a field goal or extra point the entire game.