Eagles' offensive numbers deceiving

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Chip Kelly and Eagles players watch the action during the third quarter.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Chip Kelly and Eagles players watch the action during the third quarter.
Posted: December 17, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS - A quick glance at the raw numbers give you the impression that the Eagles offense had a terrific day.

They racked up 475 net yards yesterday, which was their fourth-best yardage total of the season.

They converted 50 percent of third-down opportunities (7-for-14) for only the third time.

Nick Foles threw for a career-high 428 yards and notched his fifth game with at least three touchdowns.

DeSean Jackson had a career-high 10 catches and a season-high 195 receiving yards.

For the seventh time this season, they scored 30 or more points.

And lost by 18.

"We were just sloppy in all three phases of the game," left guard Evan Mathis said after his team's shocking, 48-30 loss to the Vikings.

"We didn't execute well," added wide receiver Jason Avant. "I thought the biggest drive of the game was our first one when they missed the field goal [a 55-yard attempt by Blair Walsh] and we went out there and went three and out.

"It seemed like we were playing from behind all day. We didn't run it well. We didn't run it much at all. Because of the situation we were in.

"When we had good field position, we got a couple of bad penalties, had a couple of plays that if we had them back, might've changed the outcome of the game."

A week after he broke the team's 64-year-old, single-game rushing record, LeSean McCoy carried the ball just eight times, his fewest rushing attempts since he had seven in the Eagles' 2010, season-opening loss to the Packers .

"We got down a little bit there and we really weren't moving them very well up front," Eagles coach Chip Kelly. "We tried to take advantage of some of the matchups in the passing game.

"You try to free up DeSean and those guys. I thought LeSean was a very good weapon in the passing game itself [five catches for 68 yards] with his screen passes and some of the underneath routes.

"But we didn't convert in the red zone (2-for-5), then we're down and it felt like we were down by two scores the whole time. We were just trying to get back into it."

Make no mistake, the Eagles' defense lost this game. Bill Davis' unit, which had been so solid for the last 2 1/2 months, holding nine straight opponents to 21 points or less, imploded.

But Kelly's offense squandered so many opportunities and came up small in several key situations that might've made a difference.

A first-quarter red-zone sack that killed a drive and forced the Eagles to settle for one of Alex Henery's three field goals. A second-and-4 sack early in the third quarter that forced the Eagles to punt out of their own end and give the Vikings the ball at midfield. A third-and-2 sack early in the fourth quarter right after a Vikings touchdown made it a 34-22 game.

A penalty on Foles for an illegal block, of all things, that negated an 18-yard touchdown run by Jackson on a double reverse and forced them to settle for another Henery field goal.

Overthrown passes. Miscommunication between Foles and his receivers. Failure to convert, first, a third-and-1, then a fourth-and-1 at their own 24-yard line that essentially gave the Vikings three free points.

A three-and-out and an interception by Foles on the Eagles' first two possessions of the second half, after they closed the gap to eight right before halftime.

If it's possible to throw for 428 yards and three touchdowns and complete 62.5 percent of your passes (30-for-48) and not have had a particularly good game, that was Foles.

"We didn't get things going early on and that hurt the momentum of the team," Foles said. "We need to execute better early in the game to get the momentum.

"I just have to execute better. At times I missed some throws and made a few mistakes. As a quarterback you can't put yourself in a position where you throw an interception or whatever it may be."

Asked about Foles' performance, Kelly said, "I don't think Nick . . . I don't think we played well on the offensive side of the ball. We were not on track and did not do what we normally do and what's led us.

"When we were 3-5 and kind of dug ourselves out of a hole there and we were playing well on the offensive side of the ball, we had a rhythm to what we were doing, and today we didn't."

Nobody accepts blame like Foles. The man was born to be a Secret Service agent the way he steps in front of bullets.

"I definitely missed some throws," he said. "I was high on a few, inaccurate on a few. That's where you go back to the film and try to find out why that was and correct it and continue to work at it.

"You're not always going to play at an extremely high level. But I'm going to keep fighting. I'm going to keep playing for my teammates. I'm going to make mistakes. I'm not perfect by any means. But I'm going to keep fighting for the guys in that room because I love those guys.

"We'll get better because of this."

This was the kind of day it was for Foles and the offense: On their first possession of the second quarter, he completed a terrific, 17-yard pass to Jackson as Vikings middle linebacker Audie Cole was bearing down on the quarterback. Got right up after taking a vicious lick and hit Jackson on a wheel route for 20 yards.

Completed two more passes on the drive, then effectively cut down linebacker Erin Henderson on the 18-yard touchdown run by Jackson. But you are not allowed to peel back and block a player below the waist. The touchdown was waved off.

"In the heat of battle I made a mistake," Foles said. "I was trying to make a block to help the team. But you can't turn back on someone and do that. I was at fault. The ref made the right call. I hurt my team. But it's a learning experience."

This could have been a costly defeat. But the Cowboys' loss to the Packers' softened that somewhat. Turned it into what Foles hopes will be a learning experience, both for him and his teammates.

"We have a great fellowship of people in that locker room," the quarterback said. "At the end of the day, we're going to keep fighting. We're going to stick together. Because that's what the Philadelphia Eagles are. We're a team. We're a family.

"I'm excited to get back to work and analyze what went wrong and fix it. And I know the guys are too."

DID YOU NOTICE?

* The noise level in the Metrodome wasn’t anywhere close to what it had been for previous Eagles-Vikings games. Might have had something to do with the 3-9-1 record the Vikings brought into the game.

* The bad angle by safety Patrick Chung on Matt Cassel’s 57-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings.

* Fletcher Cox hit Cassel’s arm before he threw the scoring pass to Jennings. But Cassel managed to hang on to the ball and get it away.

* Two of the four sacks on Nick Foles occurred in the red zone. Foles had been sacked in the red zone just twice going into the game.

* Foles had an impressive, 17-yard completion to DeSean Jackson early in second quarter. What was impressive about it was that linebacker Audie Cole was rushing unblocked right at Foles. He knew he was going to take a vicious hit, but never flinched and made an accurate throw.

* DeSean Jackson lined up in the backfield a number of times. He ran a wheel route on a 20-yard completion in the second quarter.

* The illegal peel-back block by Foles that cost the Eagles a touchdown in the second quarter.

* Trent Cole’s bad-awful drive in the second quarter. He had a neutral-zone infraction on a second-and-10 and then missed a tackle in the backfield on Cordarrelle Patterson on his 12-yard run on second-and-8 at the Philadelphia 24.

* How close two different Vikings defenders came to tackling McCoy from behind on his 22-yard screen on the Eagles’ final scoring drive of the first half. He motored away from both of them.

* The nice job Foles did of escaping a rush and getting a strong, accurate throw to Jackson on a 21-yard completion late in the first half.

The Eagles lined up Jackson in the backfield and running back Chris Polk wide on a 6-yard pass to Jackson on their final possession of the first half.

* Vikings corner Shaun Prater played Foles’ underthrown pass to Jackson in the third quarter better than Jackson did. Jackson didn’t make much of an attempt to knock down the pass and prevent an interception.

BY THE NUMBERS

* When Blair Walsh missed a 55-yard field goal attempt on the  Vikings’ first possession, it marked the ninth straight game that the Eagles have not allowed any points to an opponent on their first possession of the game.

* For the eleventh time in 14 games, the Eagles failed to score on their first possession.

*Nick Foles has had five games with three or more touchdown passes this season. That’s one shy of the club record of six set by Norm Snead in 1967.

Foles has a 125.1 passer rating in his last six games. That’s the highest six-game rating ever by an Eagles quarterback, surpassing 116.0 by Donovan McNabb in 2004.

* DeSean Jackson had a career-high 10 catches against the Packers. He also was targeted a career-high 16 times. He has been targeted 117 times this season and has 75 catches for a career-high 64.1 percent target-to-catch rate.

* Foles was 6-for-9 for 151 yards on third down against the Vikings, but also was sacked twice on third down. That equaled the number of times he had been sacked on third down this season.

* The Vikings converted five of six red-zone opportunities against the Eagles into touchdowns. The Eagles had given up just four touchdowns in 15 previous red-zone challenges.

* The Eagles committed nine penalties yesterday. It’s just the second time in the last nine games that they’ve committed more than eight penalties in a game (nine vs. Dallas).

* The Eagles had just one turnover. They’ve turned it over just three times in the last six games. Twelve of their 16 giveaways have come in losses — five vs. the Chiefs, three against the Cowboys, three against the Giants and one against the Vikings.

* Twenty of the Eagles’ 42 touchdown drives have been four plays or less.

* The Eagles collected 450-plus yards for the fifth time this season (475). It’s the fifth time this season they’ve done it, tying the franchise record set in 1951 and 1963.

*The Eagles became the fifth team in NFL history to register 400 yards in 11 games.

* DeSean Jackson (1,275 receiving yards) and LeSean McCoy (1,343 rushing yards) became the Eagles’ first-ever 1,200-yard rushing and receiving tandem.


Email: pdomo@aol.com

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