Yesterday’s game went down just about exactly as expected. I’ve got a few notes, and I’m going to try to steer clear of the obvious ones.
– The Eagles average starting field position was the 36 yard line. Arizona’s was the 19 yard line. In a game between two evenly matched teams, that’s a HUGE difference. Some of that was the turnovers, some of that was Donnie Jones. I get the sense that he’s flown under most fans’ radars, but Jones has been a very important piece this year (relatively speaking). Yesterday, he had 7 punts inside the Arizona 20 yard line. Against a poor offense (which the Cardinals are), that’s a very big deal. Remember pre-season, one of the things I highlighted was how bad the Eagles average field position differential was last year (nearly -7 yards) and that it was very unlikely to be that bad again, or even close to that bad. I haven’t seen the season numbers for this year, but its safe to say there’s been some mean reversion there, regardless of why it’s occurring (Jones? TOs? Luck? Likely all 3).
– The Eagles passing game was incredibly balanced yesterday, and illustrates a big point in Nick Foles’ favor. He really doesn’t seem to have “favorite” receivers. Yesterday, Jackson, Cooper, Ertz, Celek, and McCoy all had 6 targets. Avant had 4. That’s the definition of balance, and it shows Foles was “taking what was there”.
– Foles did NOT play that well. This definitely qualifies as a “lucky” game. He had the INT called back, but more worrisome were the handful of open passes that he missed badly on. That’s what we saw in the Dallas debacle, and it’s still without explanation. Fortunately, it was less pronounced yesterday. Perhaps I’m digging too deep for criticism, but I don’t think it’s nit-picking to say QBs should hit almost every pass when he has time to deliver and sees a wide-open receiver well within his range. Can’t expect him to be perfect, but missing more than 1-2 of those per game is too many.
– Billy Davis hurts my brain. Some questionable scheming by Davis yesterday. Most notably, and I’ve made this point before, he continues to send CB or S blitzes and “disguising” them at the snap by having the players stay in base position. Note that this means the CB is often around 20 yards from the QB at the snap. See the problem?
The fastest players in the league run 4.3 40 yard dashes (roughly). That’s with perfect conditions and no pads. So even in that situation the player will take at least 2.15 seconds to get to the QB. Moreover, when you account for the pads, sub-optimal alignment (not in a sprinter’s start), and the obvious potential for blockers to be in the way, you have to figure it’s going to take more than 3 seconds for the CB to get there. Meanwhile, while he’s en route, you’ve essentially taken a defender off the field. He’s in no man’s land. It’s quickly becoming one of my least favorite plays in football, but Davis continues to call it.
– Eagles were just 5 of 16 on 3rd down. Nothing to add here. It was a good defense, but you’d still like to see that conversion rate much higher. It’s a big reason the game was close.
– Brandon Graham had 2 sacks. That’s not really news. However, he did it with just 13 snaps. That’s a pretty good impact rate.
– The Eagles are lucky they played the Cardinals, the defensive backfield looked very vulnerable for much of the game. Have to wait for All-22 to confirm, but it looked like the Safeties especially had a tough game. Didn’t matter because Carson Palmer is not a good QB anymore (at least he wasn’t yesterday), but that will hurt a lot against a good passing offense (say Detroit?). Can’t believe I’m saying this, but they really need Earl Wolff to come back…
Big win regardless of caveats. .500 record from here on (with one game against Minnesota) gets them to the 9 wins we thought they’d get to. Whether that equals a playoff game depends almost entirely on the last game of the season.