Eagles vs. Chargers: Post-Game Thoughts

The result is obviously a disappointment, and once again there’s a lot to discuss.  I’m going to structure this with bullet points.

– The benefits of Bayesian Analysis.  Before the season, I had the Eagles as a 9 win team (maybe 9.1 if we’re being exact).  Before this game, I had the Eagles as a 9 win team.    Now, I STILL have the Eagles as a 9 win team.  Remember we’re talking “value” not actual wins, but the point is you should never forget your original beliefs.  Human thinking is subject to a LOT of different cognitive biases, among which is the Recency Effect.  In short, people usually overweight more recent experiences and underweight older events.  This will need a full post, but the quick point for now is that the Eagles look very much like the team we expected to see.  If we are searching for the team’s “true” value, the game today is just one piece of evidence, which must be added to our prior information and viewed in context with everything we “know”.  The Eagles lost a game they should have won; yet that’s no reason to panic.

– The offense is SCARY good.  The Eagles’ offense played a rather poor game.  Sloppy penalties, dropped catches, overthrown passes, a missed field goal.  And yet, the Eagles still scored 30 points.  If those mistakes are cleaned up, the team very easily could have scored 40+.  That’s extremely encouraging.  I expected the Eagles offense to be very good, but it looks as though it can exceed my expectations.  Last season, just two teams averaged more than 30 points per game (Patriots and Broncos).  I think the Eagles, this year, can get very close to that mark.  

– Bill Davis needs to improve. The defense was terrible, and much of that is due to low talent and bad play.  However, it looked to me like Davis could have attacked the game much differently.  The biggest disappointment, and ultimately the biggest reason the Eagles lost, was the play of the Defensive line.  I said pre-game that pressure was going to be the key to the game, and clearly the Eagles failed in that respect.  The players share some blame, but after a certain amount of time, that blame shifts to the DC.  This is pending a full All-22 review, but it looked like there were a LOT of A gap blitzes (right/left of the center).  They didn’t work, but Davis kept calling them.  

After it was apparent the Eagles couldn’t get pressure with either 4 pass-rushers or the blitz, Davis should have changed tacks.  How about moving to the 4-3?  I saw it once or twice, and it’s possible I just missed a few other times, but given that the team’s personnel still best fits the 4-3 alignment, that should have been a 2nd half staple.  

I know what a lot of you are saying.  Nate Allen is terrible and the CBs were bad (besides Boykin, who had a solid game).  However, Nate Allen is not a long-term guy.  Presumably, the CB corps will see some upgrades next offseason as well.  That leaves Davis as the only “long-term” guy we need to worry about.

This was going to be ugly for the defense regardless of what Davis did; but I had hoped to see a few more in-game adjustments, if for no other reason than what they were doing wasn’t even coming close to working.

– Chip Kelly screwed up the End-game.  Lost in the speed of the game was Chip Kelly’s poor late-game management.  In short, on their final drive, the Eagles should not have been in the no-huddle offense.  At that point, it’s clear the defense can’t be relied on to get a stop.  Additionally, given the situation, running clock would likely have forced the Chargers to burn a TO or two.  Chip stayed with the no huddle, and in doing so left more than enough time for SD to move into game-winning FG position.  That was an unforced error, and one that cost the team dearly.  

Also, while more subjective, Chip’s play-call on the one snap Nick Foles played was puzzling.  Foles’ strength is his short-medium accuracy and pocket presence.  Given 2nd and 10 in the red zone, the Eagles just needed to pick up a few yards, hopefully giving a re-entered Vick a manageable 3rd down.  Instead, the call was an end zone fade.  With Foles coming off the bench cold, it was a very strange call to make.  

In theory, Chip should improve with experience.  However, it’s not as if these are situations he hasn’t faced before.  In his first true “pressure” test, Kelly failed.

– This week’s game against the Chiefs is BIG.  If you’ll recall my preseason “roadmap to 9 wins”, the first benchmark was after week 3, at which point the team needed 2 wins.  I explained that it really doesn’t matter which 2 teams the Eagles beat (though the Redskins would be nice), just as long as they came out 2-1.  Obviously, to hit that mark, the team needs to beat the Chiefs.  

– The Silver Lining.  Part of my confidence in the Eagles performance this year lay in the fact that the NFC East is not a terribly competitive division.  I expected the Redskins to be good, but figured the Cowboys and Giants were both coming into the season overrated.  Through two weeks, things could not have gone better for the Eagles.  As I’m writing, we’re 2:30 minutes away from a Giants loss, meaning all 4 NFC East teams dropped games today.  8 wins might take this division this year.

Eagles v. Redskins Review, Quick Notes

So….that was fun.  Rather than do my typical post-game review, I’m just going to mention a few player-specific notes and address a larger points.  I’ll have more detailed comments later this week after the All-22 tape is available.  I’ll start with the larger point.

How nervous were you during the second half?

My guess is very.  Put simply, the game ended up feeling closer than it should have.  The “momentum” clearly shifted in the second half (meaning the Redskins played better than the Eagles then).  However, the game was really never in doubt after the initial offensive explosion.  Here is the Win Probability chart from AdvancedNFLStats.com (if you follow me on twitter you saw a version of this last night).

Screen Shot 2013-09-10 at 7.11.34 PM

First, let me plug AdvancedNFLStats.com.  The site has live graphs like this for every game each week.  If you usually watch with a computer in front of you, add this to your game-watching experience. Above, I’ve highlighted the point in the 2nd half at which the Eagles Win Probability was lowest.  If you look closely, you can see that according to this site (which I tend to believe), the Eagles still had a 90% chance of victory.  Were you that confident?

The reason I highlight this is because it helps to contextualize just how big the Eagles lead was (and how well the team played early on).  It also helps to counter the “momentum” story that is so easily derived from a game like that.  It felt close and looked ugly, but after halftime, the result was really never in doubt.

The Eagles probably went to a prevent-light defense too early (I’ll check on the film).  That allowed the Redskins to score a few times and make the final score competitive.  Overall, though, this wasn’t really a contest.  Bottom line: The Eagles went on the road and demolished the defending division champion.

Quick Thoughts:

– Vick missed a number of wide-open receivers.  Tough to dwell on it too much, but in a closer game those plays will matter.  He needs to be better.

– The O-Line was all over the place performance-wise.  That, as I explained before the game, needs to change.  The O-Line needs to be a consistent strength of the team.  I’ll get a better idea after review, but it looked ilk Herremans and Johnson in particular had some isues.

– Trent Cole had a great game.  I have to check to see if his big plays came out of a 4-3 alignment or not, but regardless, that was a much better performance than anyone was projecting.  If he can again be a disruptive pass rusher, the whole defense will look a lot better.

– Didn’t see much from Sopoaga, but that could be a good thing.  The Eagles handled the rushing attack surprisingly well, and Spooky is hardly being counted on as a pass rusher.   Note that he actually played fewer snaps (1 less I believe) than Bennie Logan, so we might actually be seeing a big early depth chart move here.

– The Eagles CBs looked competent, in some cases even good.  Cary Williams had a spectacular interception, as well as a sack.  That’s the type of impact you expect from a “true” #1 CB, which nobody really believes Williams can be.  For one game at least, he was close.  Until I review the tape, I’m giving the 2nd half defense a bit of a pass.  It looked like the DBs were playing back, meaning they weren’t really trying to break up the passes. It’s possible the D just fell apart as the Redskins offense (i.e. Griffin) warmed up, but I think the score and situation had a lot to do with it.

– Special teams looked GREAT.  We’ve discussed how just getting average STs play would be a huge help.  It looks like the Eagles will get that and more.  Frankly, I don’t remember a better all-around game from the Eagles on STs.  Damaris had just one kick return, but it was for 27 yards.  Alex Henery hit just one field goal, but it was from 48 yards (though he kicked it twice).  Donnie Jones had 4 punts downed within the 20 yard line, including 2 within the 10 yard line and one the was Fair Catched at the 11 yard line.  He also had just 1 touchback.

I’ve been harping about field position a lot, so it was nice to get such a clear example of its importance in the first game.  Defense is a lot easier to play when the other team has to go 90 yards for a TD.  Overall, Washington started just 2 drives beyond its own 20 yard line, and one of those began at the 21.  The Eagles had 8 such drives, ignoring the final one (note some of those were the result of TOs, not STs).

Finally, it’s been brought to my attention that FO has now raised it’s Win projection for the Eagles to 9 games, bringing it exactly in line with my own…better late than never I guess.

Much more later this week.  For now, enjoy the best game the Eagles have played in a long time and help yourselves to another round of the Chip Kool Aid.

Post-game notes: Eagles vs. Giants.

First things first:  Thank you to the Eagles for not winning, thereby securing the #4 pick (chance at #3 as of this post.)

Now to the game:

Wow…truly epic destruction.  Perhaps the defense figured that since none of them made the Pro Bowl, they could replicate the experience by playing this game as though it was in Hawaii.  There are really few words that could adequately describe the performance of this team today, but I will highlight one:  SAD.

As in, it’s really SAD that Andy Reid’s final game as head coach of the Eagles will go down as one of his team’s worst games ever.  Prior to the game, I was very concerned that the team would put it together to honor their coach, with Vick playing well in hopes of continuing his career and the Eagles pulling out a victory over the tailspinning Giants and ruining their draft spot.

Needless to say, that concern was sorely misplaced.

Here are my immediate notes:

– Is Michael Vick’s career over?  My gut says no, but I find it very hard to believe that there is an NFL coach/owner that believes he can be a difference maker for a contender.  Additionally, he’s about the last “veteran” you’d want to come in as a backup and help tutor a younger QB.  Perhaps Rex Ryan will make a play with him, but I don’t see a real role for Vick next year.  If he does get the job somewhere, expect that team to regret that decision.

– Do we still have LBs?  The Eagles entire LB corps registered 1 tackle in the first half.  Let that sink in for a moment.  In what was a terrible year for Eagles LB play, today was probably the worst individual game.

– B-Graham was silent.  Hard game to judge Graham on, but he was fairly quiet nonetheless.  I’ll be watching him closely on the film, but it looked like he did not have the same energy today as he has had most of the season.

– Has Nnamdi been Space-Jammed?  There may be no bigger example of unmet expectations than Nnamdi Asomugha.  Either he has had a precipitous decline in skill (likely combined with being overrated in the first place) or his skills have been stolen from him by pint-sized aliens hell-bent on world domination.  Either way, he’s not coming back.

– Is Trent Cole victim #2?  Though he’s done-so more quietly than Nnamdi, Trent Cole has also seen a huge decline in performance this year.  He recorded at least 8 sacks in every year after is first (when he had 5) and had 11 sacks last year.  This season?  Just 3.  With a new regime coming in, Cole might be one of the roster surprises next year, either because he’s no longer on the team, or because he moves to the bench.

Though I don’t expect to see anything useful/interesting, I will be completing a full Rewind of this game by the end of this week.

We’ll also take a data-driven look at Andy Reid’s tenure and start looking at possible replacements.

Eagles vs Redskins: Post-game notes

Fun game to watch, though the ending was obviously a bit of a letdown.  However, the #3 pick in the draft is looking pretty good right now.  Here’s a few initial thoughts on the game:

– Foles bounced back as expected.  He made one terrible throw (the missed TD to Maclin) and had an awful fumble, but the rest of the game was strong.  He was accurate and made a few great plays with his feet, buying time and keeping his eyes downfield.  I’m not really bothered by the fumble; he’s been really strong with the ball thus far.  The Maclin miss, however, is problematic.  Watching the replay, the ball just dies as it gets closer to Maclin, with a tight spiral devolving into an ugly mess.  Mechanics issue is the likely culprit, so hopefully it’s something he can address (that may solve some of his deep-throw accuracy issues as well.)

– I was very disappointed by the play-calling and player-usage.  I know Andy Reid really wanted a win in his (likely) final home game, but he put his own success above the team’s long-term best interests today.  Just 18 rushing attempts (non-QB) with Bryce Brown getting just 4 carries.  At this stage in the season, there is no real benefit to playing Shady.  We know how good he is.  Conversely, with Brown’s lack of experience (in the NFL or college), now would seem like a perfect time to feed him the ball.  The O-Line was having trouble, but still need to see Brown touch it more than 4 times on offense.

– Brandon Graham alert.  Though it’s unlikely he will ever make anyone feel good about passing on Earl Thomas (everyone mentions JPP but the consensus pick at the time was Thomas, who is now arguably the best safety in the league), B-Graham is fast becoming one of my favorite players.  Excellent effort on nearly every play.  He led the team in tackles and was very disruptive.  With every additional strong performance, the odds of his improvement being a fluke grow smaller.

– The Invisible Man was indeed invisible again.  Did anyone even notice Jamar Chaney was in the game?  Can’t blame you if you didn’t, he registered just 1 tackle and, on the first view, it seems that was the only time he contacted a ball carrier.  I’m anxious to see how many snaps he got, but in any case 1 tackle from the starting SAM is unacceptable.  The problems at safety have drawn a lot of attention (deserved) and are the biggest hole on the team, but the third LB spot is next on my list and isn’t getting anywhere near the publicity it deserves as a roster weak spot.

Fletcher Cox concussion is a shame.  He was playing a strong game prior to the injury.  Can’t imagine he plays next week, but he and Graham are easily the biggest positives to come out of this year.

 

Post-game notes: Eagles vs. Bengals

Brace yourselves, I’m about to say something ridiculous…

That was just about the best performance in a 34-13 loss possible, and Eagles fans should be relatively encouraged by much of what they saw.  Ignore the bullshit and remember that since the Eagles aren’t in the playoff hunt, the scoreboard doesn’t matter.

Is anyone really worried about Cedric Thornton’s ability to field a kick?  Didn’t think so.

I was at the game, so in essence I got to see the All-22 live (though seeing which players are in on tackles is difficult without the TV and replays.)  Following is a list of what does matter coming out of the game:

– Nick Foles.  Not a good game.  However, I warned you that this was likely going to be much worse than his last game.  Foles made one obviously bad throw which is a bit puzzling (and worrisome), but he also did a good job of moving in the pocket and not making high-risk throws.  If it hadn’t been for the turnovers by the rest of the team, Foles would be praised for his ability to “manage the game”.  He was accurate again, though he did not appear to have the same precision as last week.

The interception was interesting because it came on a play that is ostensibly a strength of his.  Every scouting report on Foles mentions a lack of mobility and a strong arm.  In reality, what we’ve seen in play is almost the reverse.  He’s definitely slow, but moves very well in the pocket and uses his head to account for his slow speed.  The arm strength, however, has not been shown as clearly.  We have seen flashes of it, but accuracy appears to be a problem when he is forced to drop a pass deep downfield over-top a WR.  This throw was a clear under-throw.  There is a chance that he under-threw it on purpose, assuming the WR would see it and be able to adjust while the DB wouldn’t.  It’s very unlikely, but a possibility for reconciling it with his supposed arm strength.  Regardless, this is something to keep a close eye on for the rest of the season.

– The Defense.  The defense played a fantastic game, which is remarkable in the face of 34 points allowed.  Let’s look at some stats:

249 total offensive yards for the Bengals.

Andy Dalton was 13 of 27 for just 127 yards (and two fumbles).

The Law Firm ran for 106 yards on 25 carries.  29 of those yards came on one rush.  Outside of that play the Eagles held him to 3.2 yards per carry.

The Eagles registered 6 sacks and 7 passes deflected.

As we can see from the box score (and from watching it if you were able to ignore the score), the defense played a great game.

– Cox/Graham.  I mentioned in the pre-game thoughts that this was a big opportunity for both of these players.   I think they got the message.  Though I’ll have to confirm it on the tape, this was clearly either the best game or close to it for Cox and Graham.  Both consistently drove their blockers backwards and repeatedly disrupted the Cincinnati offense.

Graham finished with 2.5 sacks, 3 QB hits, and a forced fumble.

Cox finished with 1.5 sacks and 2 QB hits.  His game was actually a lot stronger than those numbers suggest, as he was able to collapse the pocket and force Dalton to scramble, contributing heavily to the overall defensive numbers.

– Colt Anderson. Didn’t see too much of him (positive or negative), but because of how much I’ve talked about his poor coverage skills, I felt I had to give him props for breaking up what would have been a 1st half touchdown pass to A.J. Green.  That’s exactly what a safety should do, so I’m kind of congratulating him for doing his job, but it was nice to see nonetheless.

– Don’t jump off the Bryce Brown train just yet. The last two games have taken some of the luster off Brown, but don’t get too down on him.  The fumbles are a big problem, but one that can be fixed.  From what I’ve seen, the poor yardage is a result of terrible run-blocking rather than poor performances by Brown.  Jake Scott in particular looked like he had an awful game, but we’ll wait to confirm on the game rewind.

Post-Game Thoughts: Eagles vs. Bucs

Stoppable force beats movable object – Entering the game, the Bucs’ defense had 18 sacks in 12 games, or 1.5 per game.  Today they sacked Foles 6 times and hit him 13 times.  We’ll have to wait for the All-22 to see exactly what happened, but there were several egregious 1-on-1 losses by Eagles O-lineman.

Foles seizes opportunity – In what I predicted would be a showcase game for the rookie QB (see pre-game thoughts), he did not disappoint.  He made several very impressive throws while running, and more importantly, did not throw an interception against a defense that had a lot of them coming into the game.  However, in the next few days, I expect most commentators to gloss over the horrendous decision/throw he made on the final drive that should have been an easy interception and ended the game.  He was bailed out by the dropped ball, but that was a catastrophic mistake that he’ll need to avoid in the future.

Win the battle but lose the war? – While it’s certainly more fun to watch the Eagles win (especially in exciting last-play fashion), it is somewhat likely that the team will regret this win upon entering the offseason.  The win dropped (or raised) the Eagles from the #3 draft pick to #4.  According to the standard NFL Draft Pick Value Chart, that’s equivalent to a 2nd round pick.  It should be noted that the drop-off is less severe once outside the top 3 picks, but if the standings hold then that last second victory will cost the Eagles big.  (Would you trade a 2nd round pick for a meaningless win?)

Daniel Te’o Nesheim is still alive? – Apparently, and he had a sack and 2 QB hits.