Unfortunate ending to a really entertaining season, but can’t say it was that surprising. In fact, the only surprise is in how little blame there is to be placed (as long as you’re not a WIP lunatic). The fact is, the Eagles played a relatively good game yesterday. The problem is, so did the Saints. Clearly both teams were very evenly matched and the Saints just happened to be winning when the music stopped. Tough break, but don’t overreact. Picking it apart a bit:
– A lot of people on Alex Henery’s case, which is a little unfair. I’m certainly not a Henery fan (and think he’ll have to compete for a job next year), but we can’t pretend that a 48 yard kick in 20 degree weather is an easy shot. For example, look at this chart from an article at AdvancedNFLStats.com from 2012:
I’m not exactly sure what the data set is, but assuming it’s reasonable, that means the kick was, at best, a roughly 50/50 proposition. If anything, Chip might deserve a bit more blame for kicking it instead of going for it.
The lack of touchbacks hurt as well, but again, kicking in 20 degrees is difficult, and I’m not sure how many other kickers would have done much better (definitely some, but my guess is not a lot).
– Nick Foles took a bad sack just before the previously mentioned FG attempt. Again, though, it’s pretty hard to be mad at that. He’s a young player who made a mistake due to inexperience. It happens. He also looked like he missed a few opportunities downfield, but I can’t say that with much confidence without an All-22 review. Regardless, when you play a low-risk game, you’re going to miss some of those shots. That’s part of the trade-off for not throwing any interceptions.
– The kick-coverage killed them at the end of the game. The Eagles were one of the weaker STs units in the league this year. So not surprise there. Once again, it’s hard to blame the team. The roster just isn’t that deep, which we’ve known for a while. That hurts STs. Another draft or two should fix that, it just wasn’t possible to do in one offseason.
– Roc Carmichael was victimized on a key 3rd and 12, and had a terrible mistake in punt coverage (when he kicked the ball into the End Zone). But….it’s ROC CARMICHAEL! This gets back to team depth. If the roster was deeper, Carmichael wouldn’t have been on the field, and maybe those plays get made. CB depth has to be near the top of the list for offseason needs, so I expect that to be remedied as well.
– The offense was very inconsistent, and downright nonexistent early on. The Saints, though, were the 10th ranked defense by DVOA coming into the game. They were missing Kenny Vaccaro, but the fact is, that was a good defense. Putting up 24 points isn’t a great performance, but it’s also not bad. The Saints allowed more than 24 points just four times this year.
– Riley Cooper had a bad drop. No real defense here, other than to say that all WRs drop passes sometimes. Also, the Eagles still took the lead after that play. It was a bad mistake, but no team is perfect (the Saints certainly had some similar mistakes as well).
There were other issues as well, but the overall message is: the game unfolded pretty much as we expected. I’ll soon start going through the season in more detail and we can talk about what improvements should be made (I’ve got some different ideas than most), but for now, you should feel encouraged, despite the loss. Here:
– Your 2nd year, 6’5″ Quarterback just and one of the greatest seasons (albeit abbreviated) in the history of the league.
– You have perhaps the best coach in the league (outside the untouchables like Belichick, Payton, Harbaugh).
– The rest of the division is a mess, and there’s very little chance that the Eagles don’t open as NFC East favorites next season.
– Nick Foles is 24 years old. LeSean McCoy is 25. Zach Ertz is 23. Brandon Boykin is 23. Fletcher Cox is 23. Mychal Kendricks is 23. Lane Johnson is 23. Jason Kelce is 26.
That’s a pretty good “core”. Add in potential contributors Bennie Logan and Earl Wolff (both 24), and I’m not sure there’s a team better positioned for the next 5-6 years than the Eagles.
Moreover, D-Jax is only 27. So is Connor Barwin.
Lastly, Chip Kelly is only 50 (young in HC years), and just won 10 games in his first year.
I’m less upset over the field goal, and more concerned with the lack of touchbacks. It looked like earlier in the game, Henery was employing that “mortar” kickoff, where he gets good hang time, lands the ball between the 5-10 yard line, with the returner usually getting dropped somewhere between the 25-35 yard line. On the final kickoff, it appeared that Henery tried to blast it for a touchback, only to end up booting a line drive fielded right at the goal line by Sproles. Colt Anderson came out afterwards and admitted he lost contain, but that kickoff was brutal. The sad thing is, despite a Cary Williams taking a smart penalty with the touchdown saving horsecollar on Sproles, the hindsight smart play would have been to let him to go, knowing that with the penalty, NO was set to begin in Eagles territory anyway. In that case, we would have gotten the ball back needing a touchdown with 4 minutes to play.
Yep, definitely better to let them score in that scenario. Touchbacks are a problem, and a big reason why I think the team will look to other kickers. Again, it was in really cold weather, which makes it harder, but that’s been a weakness of his for a while.
STs in general must improve, but I think with another draft and FA round, the personnel will be a lot better on the kick coverage teams
On Sun, Jan 5, 2014 at 6:17 PM, Eagles Rewind
I would be happy looking at a kickoff specialist- many teams use them. Heck the Saints use one!
But people consistently rag on Henery about consistency on FGs, and that I don’t get. He’s been pretty accurate (he missed a 60 yard FG only on accuracy, the length was fine)- before that miss he made 9 straight, with 3 of the last 4 coming over 47 yards.
Brent you got it all wrong with Henery. Every other kicker in the NFL is 100% from 48 yards in 25 degree weather and everybody could predict that Henery would miss it because he is the worst kicker ever.
(sarcasm might occur)
Colt Anderson didn’t say he just lost contain, he purposely tried something different to clog up the middle b/c that is where they had been running. I’m not saying the loss is on Colt, but why is it all on Henery?
The Eagles and GB game made me think that once a team is in FG range (say 44 yarder) and have a first down and about 2 minutes left (assuming not enough timeouts to do anything but stall the game), the D maybe shouldn’t call timeouts and just let the play clock run. I know you get 2 chances at a fumble, but much more likely seems to be giving up another 8 yards and making a FG try move into a much more comfortable range. This happened in the GB game – bad weather etc., GB stopped clock so SF just gained more yards.
Its an interesting point. I’ll have to think that through. In certain areas, it definitely makes sense to have an extra 5-10 yards on the kick than to get the ball back with very little time left.
Brent, we are talking about not getting the ball back at all. The difference to me is make them run 2 more plays (I know Chip would think that’s 2 more times for the O to make a mistake), but the downside is they get 2 more plays. The 49ers got a much more comfortable FG I thought by getting another 7-8 yards on plays the D forced the O to make.
Do you think Foles has a ceiling like Dalton, Schaub, Alex Smith b/c he does not have a live enough arm? Ancillary, b/c of that does he not take enough chances? It’s almost like too few interceptions can be read as a negative – that the QB is too conservative and hiding an inability to “win” games.
I hear you on the TOs. If you’re not going to get the ball back anyway, then it’s probably a mistake to extend the game (fumble rates are extremely low in those situations.) Plus, you might mess with the other team’s heads a bit since everyone expects the TOs.
With Foles, I think he has a higher ceiling than all of those guys. Doesn’t mean he’ll get there though. There is something to the “not taking enough chances” storyline, but I chalk a lot of that up to him being so young. I’d much rather have a QB start out risk-averse like Foles, then gradually take more chances once he has a better feel for the game, as opposed to starting out more risky. Also, it’s not like he’s checking the ball down every time. I believe he led the league in % of deep throws this year.
On Mon, Jan 6, 2014 at 9:21 AM, Eagles Rewind