Eagles Notes: Timing of storm surprises Birds

Eagles and Lions play in the snow during the 3rd quarter. Philadelphia Eagles 34-20 over the Detroit Lions at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on December 8, 2013. ( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )
Eagles and Lions play in the snow during the 3rd quarter. Philadelphia Eagles 34-20 over the Detroit Lions at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on December 8, 2013. ( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )
Posted: December 10, 2013

The Eagles say they were prepared for Sunday's snowstorm, but the timing of it, along with an inaccurate forecast, still caught them by surprise.

The Detroit Lions and the Eagles were warming up when the snowstorm hit. The field was covered with snow throughout the game.

"We were ready," Eagles president Don Smolenski said. "We prepped the building. I think the city did a great job of prepping the streets around here and the parking lots. The only thing you can't prep is the field. When it comes, it comes."

The Eagles' director of grounds, Tony Leonard, was in contact with referee Ed Hochuli. The plan for clearing snow from the sideline, yard lines, goal lines, and borders came with Hochuli's consultation.

"They decided what they wanted to have cleared and what the officials could have cleared to make it the best conditions for them to officiate," Smolenski said.

At one point, Hochuli stopped the game so the goal line could be cleared of snow. The NFL has specific rules on what can be cleared and when.

Players changed cleats, but footing was difficult for most of the game. Players and officials slipped at times.

Lions running back Reggie Bush aggravated his injured calf after reportedly slipping during warm-ups. But there were not many injuries during the game.

The Eagles said they had monitored the weather reports since Friday, and Smolenski received reports every six hours. He said he spoke to Leonard and the team's vice president of facility operations, Jason Miller, before going to sleep on Saturday night, and at 6 a.m. on Sunday. He said he was told at 9 a.m. that the snow would start at about 2 p.m. So when Smolenski was on the field at 11 a.m. and saw snow falling, he knew the Eagles needed to brace for the unexpected.

"What surprised us was the timing," Smolenski said.

After the game, coach Chip Kelly made a point to thank the grounds crew. He also praised the fans. Kelly joked that he probably would not have sat through a snowstorm, yet the Eagles had a paid attendance of 69,144 with most seats filled. There were some snowballs thrown, but there was also a festive environment despite snow-packed seats and a wind chill of 20 degrees.

"I thought the fans just embraced it," Smolenski said. "It made for a pretty special atmosphere."

Defense is solid again

The Eagles have held opponents to 21 points or fewer in nine straight games, which is the longest streak in the NFL. It's the longest such stretch by an Eagles defense since an 18-game run in 2001.

The change came after a 52-20 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sept. 29. The Eagles allowed opposing quarterbacks a 107.2 quarterback rating in the first four games, and they have held passers to a 71.7 rating in the last nine games.

The Eagles limited Detroit to 228 total yards and 3.9 yards per play and forced three turnovers. They were helped by the weather, Bush's injury, and two returns for scores that kept the Lions offense off the field, but they also improved as the game progressed.

"We had a group defensive effort," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "The defensive line did a great job, they tackled hard, wrapping and punching the ball at the same time. We knew the conditions were going to cause some turnovers on both sides of the ball."

Extra points

No Eagles player left the game early because of injury. Safety Earl Wolff (knee) and linebacker Najee Goode (hamstring) missed the game. Emmanuel Acho was active in Goode's place. The other inactive players were quarterback Matt Barkley, cornerback Curtis Marsh, running back Matthew Tucker, linebacker Najee Goode, and tackles Matt Tobin and Dennis Kelly.

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