Eagles' o-line plows running path

Posted: December 10, 2013

NOBODY IN the NFL can dance like LeSean McCoy. Nobody can bounce a play outside like he can. Nobody can give you a leg and then take it away like he can. Nobody can make you miss like he can.

But the Eagles running back realized pretty early yesterday that this wasn't going to be a day for making people miss.

On his second carry of the game, he tried to bounce outside, failed to get any traction in the snow and was dropped for a 5-yard loss by Lions defensive end Willie Young before he could get to the perimeter.

"We've been trying to preach here just hitting things downhill," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "It was very tough, especially with this defense, to go lateral. We felt like we had to get a downhill game going."

North-south, not east-west. Against a Lions defense that came into the game ranked third in the league against the run, against a Lions defense that had held its previous five opponents to a puny 1.7 yards per carry.

Against a Lions defense featuring perhaps the best defensive-tackle tandem in the league - Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. In blizzard conditions on a skating rink of a field.

But the Eagles had practiced all week to do just that. And they weren't going to let the bad weather and the slippery footing stand in their way.

"The snow took everybody out of the game a little bit," Eagles center Jason Kelce said. "Those guys [Suh and Fairley] survive on such explosion. I think [the snow] slowed them down a bit.

"But we went into the game knowing those were their two primary guys that we needed to take care of. So all week we were preparing to take care of those guys."

Kelce and guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans did an impressive job on Suh and Fairley as the Eagles rushed for 299 yards in the Eagles' 34-20 win over the Lions.

It was the fourth most rushing yards by the Eagles since 1950 and the most since they rushed for 306 against the Cowboys in 2000.

Running north-south, McCoy had the game of his career, breaking Steve Van Buren's team single-game rushing mark with 217 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries.

The two TDs were 40- and 57-yard bursts up the middle in the fourth quarter.

Of the Eagles' 299 rushing yards, 223 came in the fourth quarter. McCoy, who had just 69 yards on 18 carries in the first three quarters, exploded for 148 yards on 11 carries in the fourth quarter when the Eagles put up 28 points to secure their fifth straight win and improve their record to 8-5.

"People don't really know," McCoy said. "They see the moves that I make, but I actually like to run between the tackles. It gives me so much leverage in terms of being able to go up the middle, bring it outside, or reverse it.

"Today, the guys up front gave me so much room to work. Tons of credit goes out to those guys."

"We had a slow start, but we stuck with it and we grew over the course of the game," said Mathis, the Eagles' consistently good left guard.

Early in the fourth quarter, with the Lions up, 14-6, McCoy, with great blocks from his linemen, found a lane and ran 40 yards for a touchdown.

On the Eagles' next possession, McCoy picked up 6 yards on a first-down run, then two plays later, ran through another opening in the middle of the line and went 57 yards for another score.

On his next carry, he picked up 26 yards, faking Lions safety Glover Quin right out of his jock, to kick-start a 71-yard drive that ended with Kelce, Mathis and Herremans moving Suh and Fairley back enough to allow Nick Foles to score on a quarterback sneak on fourth down.

"The quarterback sneak always is a tricky play," Kelce said. "If they get a good jump on it right from the get-go, it's tough. 'Stout' [offensive-line coach Jeff Stoutland] has brought a new way that I've ever blocked [on quarterback sneaks] to the table. That's really changed the way we get leverage on it than I've ever done it.

"I've been waiting to get one called all year. Because I felt when we got one called, we might be able to get some movement."

The Eagles' offensive line totally dominated Suh and Fairley and the rest of the Lions' front seven in the fourth quarter. On the possession after Foles' touchdown, Chris Polk broke free for a 38-yard scoring run.

"I think we all were learning to get our footing in the snow," Mathis said. "We started calling more downhill plays, inside zone runs that allowed the offensive line to keep their base, keep a downhill mentality.

"Same with the backs, allowing them to hit it. Then Shady was able to get to the second level and do his shifty stuff and make people miss."

Said left tackle Jason Peters: "We ran a couple of outside zones. But we knew that inside zones was going to be the best way to go. And they knew it, too. They were trying to back us down. But we just got man on man and won the battle."

While the snow adversely affected both teams, the slippery footing made it difficult for Suh and Fairley and the rest of the Lions' defensive line to do what it does best - explode across the line and penetrate through the gaps.

"We had some things designed game-plan-wise and schematically where we wanted to attack that explosion out of them," Kelce said. "As we got going, we realized the snow was taking them out of their game as far as the ends being able to rush up the field really quickly.

"The d-tackles had to change up the way they were playing. And I think we just had some success moving the ball vertically, and the coaches went more to that."

Did you notice?

* The first two times DeSean Jackson touched the ball, he lost 16 yards — six on a punt return and 10 on a run.

* Matthew Stafford tried to throw a deep pass to wide receiver Kris Durham on Lions’ first play from scrimmage. It was a wounded duck that fell about 15 yards in front of Durham.

* LeSean McCoy tried to bounce a run outside on the Eagles’ second possession. He was tackled for a 5-yard loss.

* The Lions had three fumbled snaps on their first 10 plays. Stafford had five fumbles, losing one. The Lions fumbled a total of seven times, losing three.

* The Eagles didn’t register their first first down until there was 9:18 left in the second quarter. McCoy gained 3 yards on a second-and-two.

* Chip Kelly and special-teams coordinator Dave Fipp’s curious decision to kick the ball deep to Lions returner Jeremy Ross in the fourth quarter after taking a 28-20 lead. Ross already had a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown earlier in the fourth quarter, as well as a punt return for a touchdown. Ross very nearly broke that one as well, returning it 46 yards and giving the Lions a first down near midfield.

* The poor overthrow by Nick Foles on a deep slant to tight end Zach Ertz on a third-and-10 early in the second half.

* It appeared that Foles’ 19-yard third-quarter touchdown pass to Jackson actually was intended for Riley Cooper, who was about 10 yards in front of Jackson. Foles said he was kind of throwing it to both of them.

* How close Lions middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch came to picking off Foles’ 25-yard pass to Cooper late in the third quarter three plays before LeSean McCoy’s 40-yard touchdown run.

* Fletcher Cox’s important deflection of a Stafford third-and-8 pass late in the third quarter.

* Lions coach Jim Schwartz used a timeout after Ross’ 98-yard kickoff return early in the fourth quarter so his players could clear a spot in the snow for David Akers to attempt the PAT. It didn’t help. Akers didn’t get any height on the kick and it was blocked by Bennie Logan.

* On a 6-yard run by McCoy in the fourth quarter, he had a big hole and still danced a little before finally exploding through it.

* The killer ineligible man downfield penalty on Lions center Dominic Raiola that wiped out a 20-yard completion to running back Joique Bell on a third-and-10 early in the fourth quarter.

* Cornerback Bradley Fletcher wasn't aware you can’t return a blocked PAT. He picked up Akers’ blocked kick in the fourth quarter and ran all the way to the end zone with it before being informed it didn’t count.

* The move McCoy put on Lions safety Glover Quin on a 26-yard run early in the fourth quarter.

* Stafford obviously wasn't expecting the snap from Raiola that he fumbled in the fourth quarter. Not a good day for Raiola.

By the numbers

* With his 57- and 40-yard fourth-quarter touchdown runs, LeSean McCoy now has seven career fourth-quarter TD runs of 40-plus yards. He became just the fourth player in history with two 40-plus yard fourth-quarter TD runs in the same game, joining Marion Motley (Cleveland), LeShon Johnson (Arizona) and Corey Dillon (Cincinnati).

* McCoy is the 18th player in history to rush for 5,000 yards before his 26th birthday.

* The Eagles are 14-3 when McCoy rushes for 100 yards.

* The Eagles’ 28-fourth-quarter points tied the team record set on Dec. 19, 2010 against the Giants. They hadn’t scored a single offensive fourth-quarter point in their previous five games.

* For only the second time this season, the Eagles won the time of possession battle. They had the ball for 31:27 compared to 28:33 for the Lions. The last time they won the time of possession battle was in Week 1 against the Redskins.

* Before Jeremy Ross’ 58-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter, Donnie Jones had had just seven of his previous 33 punts returned.

* The Lions were the ninth straight opponent the Eagles have held to 21 points or less.

* The Eagles had 478 net yards against the Lions. It was the 10th time this season they’ve racked up 400 yards. The NFL record is 13 games by the 2011 Saints.

* DeSean Jackson has been targeted 101 times this season and has a career-high 65 receptions. That’s a 64.4 target/catch rate, the highest of his career.

* In the previous two games, LeSean Jackson had rushed for just 36 yards on 15 carries on first down. Yesterday, he rushed for 127 yards on 16 carries on first down.

* In their eight wins this season, the Eagles have a plus-15 turnover differential, including plus-2 against the Lions. In their five losses: minus-6.

* Riley Cooper was targeted a season-high nine times (three catches) yesterday.

* Zach Ertz didn’t have a reception. It’s just the second time this season he hasn’t had at least one catch in a game (the Packers game was the other).

* Nick Foles completed two of four pass attempts in the red zone, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson. That was Foles’ 10th red-zone TD pass. It was Jackson’s third red-zone TD catch of the season, the most of his career.

* The Eagles are 25-5 when DeSean Jackson catches a touchdown pass.


Email: pdomo@aol.com

On Twitter: @Pdomo

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian.com

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