Chip Kelly's Eagles still singing red-zone blues

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy was held to 46 yards rushing by the Giants, but he did score a touchdown on a 1-yard run in the second quarter. RON CORTES / Staff Photographer
Eagles running back LeSean McCoy was held to 46 yards rushing by the Giants, but he did score a touchdown on a 1-yard run in the second quarter. RON CORTES / Staff Photographer
Posted: October 08, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Eagles' red-zone issues continued Sunday, when they settled for five field goals and did not score touchdowns on 3 of 5 red-zone attempts.

This has been an issue all season. The Eagles have seven red-zone touchdowns in 17 appearances.

"Obviously, we don't want to get threes, we'd rather get sevens," coach Chip Kelly said.

This will be a key development to watch, because the Eagles have no trouble moving the ball. Kelly's offense is the first in NFL history with 1,200 passing yards and 875 rushing yards through the first five games of the season. But the team needs more points to show for it.

Keying on McCoy

LeSean McCoy had his worst rushing performance of the season on Sunday, carrying the ball 20 times for just 46 yards. His yards per carry this season decreased from 6 to 5.2.

It appeared the Giants were determined to bottle up McCoy, and that was especially the case after Michael Vick left the game and Nick Foles went in. The Giants no longer had to worry about Vick keeping the ball - Vick rushed for 79 yards in the first half - and tried to limit McCoy.

"I would think, as a defense, you would probably think it's a difference between Michael Vick to Nick Foles as far as running, so yeah," McCoy said. "They made some plays in the run game, for sure."

No DeSean punt returns

It appears Damaris Johnson is the Eagles' punt returner regardless of the spot on the field. The Eagles were expected to use DeSean Jackson as the punt returner on punts from the opponent's zone, but the Giants had four such punts on Sunday. Johnson returned all of them. Jackson is the top receiver, so there's exposure to injury if he returns punts. But his return skills were expected to be used this season, and Kelly has not used him in that role since the opener.

Safety denied

The Eagles came close to forcing a safety in the first quarter. The Giants had a first and 10 from their own 5-yard line, and a handoff to David Wilson was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage. A group of Eagles defenders, led by Cedric Thornton, pushed Wilson back toward the end zone. Wilson even tried to run out of the end zone before the Eagles brought him down.

The defenders signaled for a safety, but the officials ruled that Wilson's forward progress was stopped at the 2-yard line.

Cooper not a factor

It was a marginal increase in snaps, but the Eagles had wide receiver Jeff Maehl in the offense for more plays in place of Riley Cooper on Sunday. Maehl wasn't targeted, so it's difficult to say there was any improvement when he was on the field.

But Cooper, who played significantly more snaps, was virtually absent from the Eagles' passing game. He had no catches and was targeted only once by Nick Foles in the second half.

There's been a crescendo of complaints about the Eagles' No. 2 receiver after he caught only eight passes for 91 yards in the first four games. Sunday's performance isn't going to silence the critics or those calling for more of Maehl by any means.

Fletcher's highs, lows

Bradley Fletcher had an up-and-down game. The highs were high, but the lows were fairly low on the barometer.

The Eagles cornerback broke up three passes, including a deep throw over the middle to Rueben Randle before the half. The Giants receiver had Fletcher beaten one-on-one, but the corner closed the gap and swatted the ball away at the last second. Fletcher batted away another long pass intended for Randle on the Giants' first drive, but Eli Manning went right back at him and safety Nate Allen and hit receiver Hakeem Nicks for 49 yards a play later.

There were a few other Fletcher moments when he lost receivers, such as when Nicks converted a third down in the second quarter. Fletcher doesn't have elite speed, but he can contend with receivers as long as he gets his hands on them.

Peters struggling

It's a high bar, but Jason Peters has looked nothing like the 2011 version that was arguably the best left tackle in the game. He has had to come back from the ruptured Achilles tendon that ended his 2012 season before it got started. And the 31-year-old Peters isn't getting any younger.

But he just hasn't been the dominant anchor the Eagles have needed on their offensive line. The Giants were selling out to stop the run for most of the game, but Peters had a difficult time sealing the edge, and LeSean McCoy kept bumping runs outside. He's still an above-average tackle, but the Eagles haven't had the rock they had two seasons ago.

Celek, Ertz step up

Eagles tight ends weren't a major part of the Eagles' passing attack, but Brent Celek and Zach Ertz came up big when targeted.

Celek, in his 100th NFL game, caught all three passes thrown his way for 47 yards, including a diving, 25-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that put the Birds up, 29-21. Ertz pulled in two of three, including a 24-yard grab in the second quarter in which the rookie laid out for a Vick fade.


jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane

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