Eagles' Further Review: Line between beating Giants and losing was thin

RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Mychal Kendricks takes off after intercepting Giants QB Eli Manning in the fourth quarter, a turning point in Sunday's game.
RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Mychal Kendricks takes off after intercepting Giants QB Eli Manning in the fourth quarter, a turning point in Sunday's game.
Posted: October 09, 2013

THE TURNING point of the Eagles' victory at the Giants Sunday probably was Mychal Kendricks' interception of Eli Manning early in the fourth quarter, the play before Nick Foles hit Brent Celek for a touchdown. Kendricks' grab started a flurry of three fourth-quarter Manning picks.

If you were watching on TV and saw the replays, you know that the turning point easily could have turned the other way.

Though Eagles defensive end Trent Cole said afterward he didn't know what happened, Cole clearly raked a hand across Manning's helmet as the QB let go of the ball, which caromed off the Giants' center and blooped to Kendricks.

The Giants, down, 22-21, at the time, facing first-and-20 at their 41 after a holding call, would have gotten a first down in Eagles territory if a personal foul had been assessed. Instead, the Eagles got the ball at the Giants' 25, and one play later, they had a 29-21 lead.

The point here isn't to say the Giants got jobbed - there were other calls that could have gone the visitors' way and didn't, including what a lot of people thought should have been a safety at the end of the first quarter, when Eagles defensive lineman Cedric Thornton was grappling with David Wilson at the goal line.

The point is that the line that separated the Eagles from the winless Giants on Sunday was a thin one. For much of the third quarter, this looked as if it might be another crushing Eagles defeat.

"I was just dropping in the 'hook.' I read his eyes, I knew he wanted to pass to [Brandon] Jacobs," Kendricks said afterward. "Someone stopped him from passing the first time" as Brandon Boykin, Cedric Thornton and Cole crushed Manning's pocket. "The second time they came through, someone tipped the ball. I'd already broken [back toward the line]. It was pretty good."

"It's big, man," said Kendricks, who earlier recovered a Jacobs fumble. "It's great for our confidence . . . I feel like this is what's needed. What better time to come through than the fourth, and come through strong?"

* Chip Kelly talked yesterday about how Cedric Thornton’s athleticism lets the Eagles move him inside to nose tackle in some situations. Kelly said he is pleased with the progress of his young defensive linemen — including Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and Vinny Curry.

* Speaking of young d-linemen, the Bucs claimed Daniel Te’o-Nesheim from the Eagles’ practice squad late in the 2011 season, after the Birds spent a 2010 third-round draft choice on him. He’s Tampa’s starting left defensive end now. Be interesting to see how he plays this weekend.

* If anybody can give Birds’ coaches additional insight into Bucs rookie quarterback Mike Glennon, it ought to be Eagles rookie safety Earl Wolff, who practiced against him at North Carolina State for the past five seasons, including their redshirt year of 2008.

* Despite Chip Kelly’s vigorous defense of wideout Riley Cooper last week, Jeff Maehl got 20 snaps against the Giants, largely at the expense of Cooper. “We got him late,” Kelly said yesterday of his former go-to receiver at Oregon, acquired in an August trade with Houston. "It was just a matter of Jeff getting a really good feel for what we’re doing offensively. He’s been showing us things in practice every day of the week, and we need to get him on the field a little bit more."

* Sunday was a much better game for safety Nate Allen. "I think he is starting to see things,” Kelly said yesterday. "Things are starting to slow down a little bit for Nate. He’s starting to get an idea of what the route recognition is, what’s coming at him, and things like that."

* Until Bryce Brown, the guy who really didn’t play college football, learns the vision and anticipation necessary to run the ball without trying to break everything to the sideline, he will be of limited value, despite his formidable talent.

That the Giants could throw away a home game in the fourth quarter to the Eagles? Wait. Hold on. Turns out everybody knew that; it happens more often than not. Never mind.

The Eagles have converted 32 of 71 third-down opportunities, 45.1 percent. The team noted yesterday that the franchise record is 44.4 percent, set in 1981.

Asked whether the Eagles will make adjustments to try to keep their running game going if Nick Foles is the quarterback — the Giants said they didn’t have to worry about the read option with Foles playing in place of Michael Vick, and LeSean McCoy gained minus-4 yards on seven second-half carries — coach Chip Kelly joked, “No, we’re done.”

"The Giants’ defense in the second half didn’t change from what they gave us in the first half," Kelly said. He said that the Eagles didn’t use much read option in that game, and that the running-game problems had more to do with not running as much in the second half.

"They started doing some line stunts up front, did a decent job with that," Kelly said. "But I think we were trying to take advantage of some of the things they were trying to do with us coveragewise and get some guys uncovered."

Kelly called the notion that the Eagles’ running game suffered because the Giants no longer had to respect the read option after Michael Vick left the game “a big misconception."

Asked whether the read option can still be as effective with Foles running it, Kelly said, "Depends on how teams are defending us."

In other words, if they’re running that defense where everybody sits down and rests while Nick tries to turn the corner with the ball, the Eagles will be just fine.

Email: bowenl@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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