Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Eagles vs. Cardinals: Behind the Numbers 2013

4 in a row! The Philadelphia Eagles won their 4th consecutive game, with the last two at home. They held on to beat the Arizona Cardinals by a score of 24-21, and once again sit atop the NFC East tied with the Dallas Cowboys. In reality the division will probably come down to that week 17 matchup, so the Eagles do control their own destiny. Enough of that; the Birds actually beat a team with a winning record, and will look to do the same next week. Let's once again dissect the numbers from the game, in which trends, both good and bad, have continued:

Once again the final score was closer than the game actually was. The Eagles may have only won by 3 points, but this game was essentially over after the first drive of the 3rd quarter. Wow, I sound like a broken record, but it's been the case the last few games. And much like the last few games, the numbers were closer than one may think. In fact, Philadelphia was outgained and outpassed, achieved one less first down, and fared worse on third downs. Astonishingly Arizona actually ran less plays than the Eagles, which may be a first for the season. Normally the Birds capitalize on their plays, but in this game they gained about a yard less per play. On the upside they did fare slightly better than the Cardinals in the penalty department (5 for 48 yards vs. 6 for 55) and were able to force 3 turnovers, which resulted in 7 points. (Keep in mind the penalties for both teams came at key moments and cost their respective teams.) Despite the evenness of the numbers the Eagles outscored the Cardinals, which is the most important stat of any game.

Just a quick aside: I probably shouldn't even bother with listing time of possession anymore, but I'll ride out the year. I'll end up incorporating it into the main graph for next season, since it hasn't meant much of anything for the Eagles this year. They have lost the TOP battle in 5 of their 7 wins, thanks to the quick strike offense and the inability to run out the clock efficiently. This week was the closest it's been all season.

Before I rant about the 2nd half (lack of) offense, let me focus on the positives. Nick Foles once again put up a great game, throwing another 3 TDs (all to tight ends) and no interceptions (19:0 ratio so far). He did have an interception called back, and that throw was a terrible decision. I was hoping he knew there was a penalty and just decided to try a bad pass, but after the replays it was clear that it was just a bad play and throw on Foles' behalf . He also ran for 22 yards, and seems to be a great fit for this offense. As mentioned above the tight ends played a huge role, with Zach Ertz and Brent Celek combining for those 3 TDs and 97 yards. LeSean McCoy put up another good game, and added another 79 yards to his league leading total. Though he had an OK game overall, Riley Cooper made the catch of the season as he caught that overthrown ball with one hand and managed to juke a defender to get a first down. I keep forgetting that he's playing because Jeremy Maclin is out for the year! Now for the negatives.

The Eagles offense again put up just enough points to hang on and win the game. 24 is certainly not a low amount, but considering the offense basically shut down after the opening drive of the 3rd quarter it could have been a lot more. They managed under 400 yards of total offense for just the 3rd time this season. The offensive didn't have a great game either, allowing 5 sacks of Nick Foles. I just don't understand Chip Kelly's playcalling with a lead... just ONE more score would truly put these games away, take pressure off the defense, and avoid these last minute drives by the opposition. I understand changing your game plan with a big lead, but 3 possessions is not too many to overcome in the NFL. What I don't understand is changing the types of plays the offense runs; they get minimal yards and just appear to stop trying. My suggestion? Continue running normal plays at a slower pace until the 4th quarter. By this point the Birds will probably have a FOUR possession lead and be able to run any play and waste any time they want. What they're doing now just simply isn't working (or barely working if you're an optimist) and something needs to be changed. As it is now, it's just too drastic of a difference between first half offense and second half offense.

Despite letting up a ton of yards and some points, the defense refuses to let the opposition get that big play to truly get back into the game. They come up with big plays when they need to, whether it be a timely interception or sack. I do think that the offense is responsible for some of the yardage the defense is giving up, since they can't seem to run out the clock. Their longest possession in the second half aside from the TD drive to start? 2:42. Not good enough. It's no wonder these teams have been passing up and down the field; regardless the pass defense needs to improve. They did record two interceptions and 5 sacks, and placed a lot of pressure on Carson Palmer. Trent Cole is back to his old self (thank god) and had 2 sacks of his own but more importantly seemed to constantly disrupt plays. Brandon Graham, DeMeco Ryans (yet again), and Nate Allen were all other standouts on the defensive side of the ball. The unit as a whole is certainly playing well together, and they will need to keep that up with a potent Detroit offense coming to town next week. I've heard the term "bend but not break" thrown around to describe the Philadelphia defense, and hopefully that will uphold (if not improve) on Sunday. Tackling also needs to be improved, especially evident on the Larry Fitzgerald TD.

-Yes, Michael Vick is back at 100% and was active, but he did not play. The QB job now belongs to Nick Foles, as it should.
-Punter Donnie Jones continues to impress. He booted another 69 yarder, and averaged 44.8 yards per with his 8 punts.
-Here's an alarming stat that someone from work brought to my attention: the Eagles have been outscored an unbelievable 33-0 in the 4th quarter over their 4 game win streak. If that doesn't sound some alarms, then I don't know what will.
-The Eagles only scored on 4 of 12 real possessions, with 8 punts and no turnovers. Luckily 3 of 4 were touchdowns, but 8 punts is way too many for a team with an offense capable of putting up 400+ yards and 30+ points fairly easily.
-Secondary allowed too many big plays (5 passes over 20 yards) and this absolutely cannot happen with Calvin Johnson on the horizon.
-In contrast, the Eagles longest play was only 25 yards, though they did have the same number of plays above 20 yards.

(Eagles vs. Cardinals PDF)

Last week: Bye
Two weeks ago vs. Redskins: W, 24-16
Next week vs. Detroit Lions: Sunday, 1pm

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