After two straight victories in which they took sizeable leads only to watch their opponents make furious – although ultimately unsuccessful - comebacks, the Eagles will try to play a complete game this Sunday when the Detroit Lions come to town.
Over the past two games, the Eagles have been bailed out by shaky fourth quarter quarterbacking from Robert Griffin III and Carson Palmer. They were also very fortunate to get the benefit of some questionable officiating. At first I felt a little guilty about the win since the refs clearly played a part. And then I remembered that the Eagles have been screwed in those types of games before. So then I said, “Oh well. Sucks to be the Cardinals,” and felt much better about the win.
What’s the Deal with the Lions?
The Eagles certainly can’t relax if they get a lead this week, because thanks to the presence of wide receiver Calvin Johnson, the Lions are capable of putting up points in a hurry. Last week, the Eagles were quite concerned with how to defend the Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald (considering how badly Fitzgerald has abused them in the past, they were wise to be concerned), but Johnson is even better than Fitzgerald. You want to know how good Johnson is? Even former Lions general manager Matt Millen was able to see how talented he was.
Because of Johnson’s amazingness, it’s been difficult to gauge exactly how good Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is. After being drafted #1 overall in 2009, Stafford has shown flashes of greatness, but he’s been inconsistent and suffered frequent injuries. Stafford has thrown an impressive 27 touchdown passes, but it makes a quarterback’s life much easier when he can just throw the ball in the general direction of Johnson and expect it to be caught. It also helps that the Lions employ one of the league’s best receiving backs in Reggie Bush.
Stafford can also be somewhat careless with the ball. He’s thrown 14 interceptions and fumbled the ball seven times. If the Eagles can get some pressure on him, there’s a good chance they’ll have an opportunity for some turnovers.
Featured Lions Player: Ndamukong Suh
Since being selected #2 overall in the 2010 draft (Notice how many high draft picks the Lions have on their team? They really kind of sucked for a while.) Suh has made headlines not only for his great play, but also for being a bit of a sociopath. He has received multiple fines for illegal hits and dirty play. His two most notorious incidents came when he stomped on an opponent’s arm, and when he kicked Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin. (Although I bet many Texans fans kind of wish they could kick Schaub in the groin right about now.)
When he’s not assaulting players, Suh is one of the most dominant defenders in the league. The Lions utilize the “Wide Nines” defensive line configuration that had sporadic success in Philadelphia. It seems to be much more effective for the Lions, partially because they have Suh causing havoc in the middle of the line. (It also helps that they have NFL caliber linebackers and safeties, which was a little detail the Eagles overlooked.)
Key Eagles Storyline
There has been much debate over why the Eagles are having difficulties closing out games. Philly.com’s Jimmy Kempski helpfully pointed out that despite what the announcers would have you believe, the Eagles were not actually snapping the ball with more than ten seconds left on the play clock last week.
It does seem that whenever they get to the line quickly and then look over to the sideline en masse, the resulting play never seems to work well. Is that because they’re getting out of rhythm, or because they tend to run the ball in those situations and the defense is ready for it? Or maybe they’re simply not executing well.
I would suggest not using Bryce Brown in the fourth quarter any more. I’m all for giving LeSean McCoy a break, but why not do it earlier in the game? It feels like Brown has been involved in too many negative plays, and when the Eagles need those tough yards in the fourth quarter, I don’t trust him to get them.
Considering he threw three touchdown passes, it says something that people are disappointed by Foles’ performance last week. Despite having an overall good game, Foles was once again not sharp in the fourth quarter. Not only was he extremely fortunate to have an interception wiped out due to a penalty, but he also failed to pick up a key first down with his legs. People can talk about Chip Kelly not needing a mobile quarterback to succeed, but you’d like to see the quarterback be able to get the first down in those spots.
Because of the fourth quarter shakiness, I’m going to have to give Foles a slight downgrade this week.
Elsewhere in the NFL
Before the season, if you took a poll as to which coach would be the first to be fired, I’m not sure many people would have chosen the Texans’ Gary Kubiak. But in a way, that’s exactly why he was the first to be fired. If his team was expected to suck, then it wouldn’t have been such a big deal.
But many people had the Texans as a playoff team, and obviously they’re nowhere close to that. It’s bad enough to be a lousy team. When that lousy team was expected to be good, it makes it that much worse, and that’s when coaches get fired. (And yes, this should seem very familiar to Eagles fans)
Chappelle’s Show Skit that Relates to this Week’s Game
This doesn’t have much to do with this week’s game, but I thought that it would be appropriate to pay tribute to the great Nelson Mandela today:
The Week in Andy
After 13 years together, many Eagles fans are feeling some Andy Reid withdrawal. I’ve decided to help them out by providing a weekly look at what Big Red is up to in Kansas City.
The scene: The Chiefs coaches are in a meeting room when Andy Reid enters and sits down.
Reid: So what’s the situation, guys?
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton: Well, we’re 9-3.
Reid: Oh, that’s good.
Sutton: But we’ve lost three in a row.
Reid: Oh…that’s bad. What happened?
Offensive coordinator Doug Pederson: (Take a drink from a beer) Dude, we had to play the Broncos like twice!
Reid: The Broncos? Don’t they have Peyton Manning? Well, no wonder we lost. Manning’s really good.
Pederson: We lost because Sutty’s defense sucked it up.
Sutton: I hardly think the defense deserves all the blame.
Pederson: Shut up! (Chugs the remainder of the beer and chucks the can at Sutton)
Reid: Guys, guys. Settle down. No need to live in the past. Who do we got this week?
Sutton: The Redskins?
Reid: (His eyes lighting up) Ooh, Jason Campbell?
Pederson: Naw, dude. I wish. They got this dude named Robert Griffin now.
Reid: The name sounds familiar. Is he good?
Pederson: He used to be. Now he just kind of sucks.
Reid: So you think we’ll win?
Pederson: No doubt, bro.
Reid: Alright then. I guess we’re done here. (Stands up) I’ll be in my office.
Sutton: Um, coach. Shouldn’t we go over some things like –
Pederson: Coach said we’re done here! Shut your hole before I have to come over there.
Sutton: Coach, once again, I really have to protest the way these things –
Pederson: (Stands up and walks over to Sutton and slaps him) I told you to shut up!
Sutton: Ouch! Stop that! Coach Reid!
Reid: Heh, I like that feistiness, boys. Let’s keep that going for Sunday. I’ll be in my office.
Final Take and Prediction
It feels like Nick Foles is due to throw his first interception this week. The good news is that Stafford will probably return the favor. The Eagles’ defense has been playing just good enough to win. Johnson can’t be completely shut down, but I think they’ll slow him enough to give the offense a chance to make plays. DeSean Jackson has been relatively quiet lately, but I feel a big week coming.
Eagles 28 – Lions 24