NFC North: Connor Barwin
But the meltdown in Minneapolis? Against a Vikings team with a journeyman quarterback and without Adrian Peterson? Nobody saw that coming, and when the 48-30 beating was over, nobody seemed able to explain how a defense that held nine consecutive opponents to 21 or fewer points got dismantled so thoroughly.
“I wish I had better answers for you,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said.
Matt Cassel completed his first eight passes, finishing 26-of-35 for 382 yards and two touchdowns. Greg Jennings caught 11 of those passes for 163 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown. Matt Asiata, who hadn’t touched the ball in a game all season, ran for three touchdowns.
It added up to the most points surrendered by an Eagles defense since Oct. 30, 2005, when the Broncos scored 49 points. Denver scored two special-teams touchdowns in their 52-20 win in September.
“I do not know if we were overlooking them or did not take it seriously,” Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin said. “I don’t know what happened, but whatever we did was not good enough going into this game.”
The Eagles have made it a priority to avoid giving up big plays. Cassel found Jennings streaking behind Allen and Patrick Chung in the first quarter for that 57-yard score. The Eagles gave up four passes of 20 yards or more, the most they allowed since a game against Carolina last year, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Chung, who lost his starting job to rookie Earl Wolff earlier in the season, was benched in favor of Kurt Coleman.
“Kurt has done a good job in practice,” coach Chip Kelly said. “Just trying to find out where we are since Earl has been down (with a knee injury). I think Kurt deserves some time and we’re just trying to figure out who can play.”
No one on the defense made much of a case for themselves in this game.
“We just weren’t playing tight enough coverage,” Davis said. “That’s attached to the rush, too. It’s all attached together. It’s not just the coverage giving up plays, it’s the rush that has to get there. Collectively, as a defense, we came up really short today.”
The Eagles had gotten some breaks this season. They faced Green Bay in its first game without Aaron Rodgers. That snowstorm last week helped neutralize Detroit’s Calvin Johnson. Facing a Vikings team without the injured Peterson and backup Toby Gerhart seemed like good fortune smiling on the Eagles again.
But without Peterson to lean on, Cassel was free to throw to Jennings, Jarius Wright, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jerome Simpson and Chase Ford. It begged the question of how Chicago, with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, will attack this defense.
“I don’t see it as a blueprint,” linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “It was mainly us. We are going to have to go back and watch the film to see what we can correct.”
They should see plenty.
We've been talking about this thing since January. Now, we've finally made it to the eve of the NFL draft. Soon we'll be under way -- and actually getting some answers to the questions we've been asking for months.
Will the Lions actually make a pick at No. 20 and No. 33, as currently scheduled? We all know the Lions have five of the first 82 draft choices, but overall they have eight for the weekend. Given their across-the-board personnel needs, that's not a high total. (Especially when you consider they have none in the fourth or fifth rounds.) The lower third of the first round, and the top of the second, are considered high value picks and the Lions should have opportunities to trade at least one of them to accumulate more picks in the middle of the draft. Here's another question: If USC linebacker Rey Maualuga is available at No. 20, as he is in Mel Kiper Jr.'s final mock draft, do you take him or trade down?
Has Jeff Backus played his last down as a left tackle for the Lions? There has been talk of moving Backus to left guard if the Lions drafted a left tackle with the No. 1 overall pick. But assuming Stafford is the guy, Detroit might not be in position to draft a left tackle who is ready to start instantly. The Lions must hope Mississippi tackle Michael Oher falls to them at No. 20. A Stafford-Oher pairing not only would allow the Lions to move Backus to guard, but it would also give Detroit the flexibility to concentrate on defense for the remainder of the draft. For what it's worth, Kiper has Oher going to San Diego at No. 16.
Would Ted Thompson take Alabama tackle Andre Smith? The answer seems to depend on whom you talk to. I've heard from some people who don't think Thompson would take on a player with as many red flags as Smith has displayed, no matter how good a player he might be. (Smith left the scouting combine early, was out of shape at his pro day and recently changed agents.) Others consider Thompson a traditional personnel man whose top priority is football ability. If it's the latter, Smith will be a Packer if he's available. It's also possible we'll never find out. Kiper has Smith going to Cincinnati at No. 6, three spots ahead of the Packers' choice.
Where are the Packers going to get much-needed help at defensive end and linebacker if they go offense in the first round? Well, they still have an early second-round pick and two choices in the third to address those issues. For the sake of conversation, I'll pass along ESPN analyst Todd McShay's take in his seven-round mock draft. With the No. 41 overall pick, McShay had the Packers taking Cincinnati linebacker Connor Barwin. McShay also had the Packers taking Oregon cornerback Jairus Byrd in the third round and USC defensive end Kyle Moore in the fourth.
Would Minnesota really pull the trigger on Florida receiver Percy Harvin? We know the Vikings have put an awful lot of work into researching Harvin's history, probably more than could be expected if it were all a smokescreen. (Would coach Brad Childress really spend a day on Florida's campus three days before the draft just to throw off other teams?) There are so many red flags on Harvin that it's hard to believe the Vikings would draft him. But they might view him as a special talent who wouldn't be available at No. 22 were it not for the issues he has encountered. Alas, the Vikings might never get a chance to make this decision. Kiper, at least, has Harvin going to the New York Jets at No. 17.
If they miss or pass on Harvin, will the Vikings still take a receiver at No. 22? The whole world seems to think so. Kiper has them taking Rutgers receiver Kenny Britt, while McShay predicts Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey. I've been slow to this bandwagon, believing the Vikings would be more likely to take an offensive tackle if all things are equal. But as it turns out, all things might not be equal. Arizona tackle Eben Britton likely will be available at No. 22, but there are some indications the Vikings aren't high on Britton at that value spot.
Will Chicago get an impact player at No. 49 overall? It probably depends on what position they draft. Unless the market tanks, you can reasonably expect at least five receivers to be off the board when the Bears' pick arrives. The chances aren't high of the draft's sixth-best receiver contributing right away. If they go with a receiver, he's more likely to be a complementary/developmental player. The same can't be said for safety, however. If things fall the right way, the Bears could have their pick of perhaps every safety in the draft. Western Michigan's Louis Delmas, Alabama's Rashad Johnson and Missouri's William Moore could all compete for a starting job right away.