Philadelphia Eagles: 2013 Week 11 WAS at PHI

Two sacks for Cole, big punt for Jones

November, 17, 2013
PHILADELPHIA -- Nobody had to take a bigger leap of faith in Chip Kelly than Philadelphia Eagles veteran Trent Cole.

The new offensive system has generated huge numbers for the stars on that side of the ball. The new defensive system meant a humbling change of role for the team’s best-known defensive player.

Cole went to two Pro Bowls and amassed 71 career sacks as a defensive end. In new coordinator Bill Davis' 3-4 defense, he plays outside linebacker. It is a very different position with different responsibilities. Cole had just one sack going into Sunday’s 24-16 victory against Washington. He got to Robert Griffin III for two sacks.

“I know everybody is tracking Trent with his number of sacks,” Davis said, “but it’s not how we track it. We know all season that Trent has had that consistent pressure and put stress on the quarterbacks and tackles he’s going against. It’s nice to see him get rewarded with the sacks, but that’s not how we judge him.”

“Sacks are fun,” Cole said. “They’re going to come. But I just want to make sure we do our job.”

Cole left the game briefly and was evaluated for a concussion. He was cleared to play and said he felt fine afterward.

-- The Eagles were happy to end their home losing streak at 10 games. They were especially happy that they won’t have to answer any more questions about it.

“It’s good that we got that off our back,” linebacker Connor Barwin said. “It’s really good because we have three out of our next four at home.”

“It’s a weight off our shoulders,” wide receiver Riley Cooper said. “Finally get a win at home and give our fans something to cheer about.”

“We wanted to win this one badly in front of our fans,” wide receiver Jason Avant said, “which is why we came out and played the way we did. We kind of scared them [with Washington’s near comeback], but you should appreciate those types of things because it’s worth the price of admission.”

That’s one way to look at it.

-- The television broadcast caught Cooper apparently bickering with LeSean McCoy late in the game. Cooper told reporters he was actually mediating between McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Running backs coach Duce Staley stepped in as well.

-- Punter Donnie Jones had a standout game -- a team record with a 50.7 net average -- but his 70-yard punt in the fourth quarter came at a crucial juncture.

The Eagles, who ran out the clock with a nine minute, 32 second drive last week in Green Bay, got the ball with 5:52 left and a 24-16 lead to protect. On third-and-4, quarterback Nick Foles ran to his right and was tripped up by cornerback Josh Wilson.

The officials spotted the ball, measured and award the Eagles a first down. Washington coach Mike Shanahan challenged the spot and won. The Eagles were forced to punt from their own 26. Jones boomed it over the head of return man Nick Williams and the ball rolled out of bounds at the 4.

“It was huge,” Kelly said. “To make them go that far, to get us out of that situation we were in. For our special teams to contribute like that, that’s what it takes. To win a division, you have to play well in all three phases. I thought that punt was huge for us.”

Kelly's Eagles soar to NFC East lead

November, 17, 2013
Chip KellyHoward Smith/USA TODAY SportsChip Kelly and the Eagles could smile after beating Washington to end a 10-game home losing streak.
PHILADELPHIA -- Give Brandon Boykin credit. It couldn’t have been easy for the Philadelphia Eagles cornerback to stay on his feet through the wind gust from 70,000 people exhaling all at once.

When Robert Griffin III threw that off-balance, back-foot wobbler, it carried three seasons’ worth of dread and frustration with it. The fans at Lincoln Financial Field hadn’t witnessed a victory in person since Sept. 30, 2012 -- a franchise-record 10 games in a row. They hadn’t witnessed many victories, period, during the two-year winding-down of the Andy Reid era.

When the ball came down into the waiting hands of Boykin, all of that blew away in the collective sigh of relief. The Washington Redskins’ desperate comeback attempt was over. The Eagles’ 24-16 victory was over. The home losing streak was over. The Eagles had a winning record, at 6-5, just 11 months after finishing last season at 4-12.

And, oh yes, the Eagles were in sole possession of first place in the NFC East. They are, as unbelievable as it might have seemed when they were 1-3, a legitimate contender to win the division title.

After their bye this week, the Eagles come back for a five-game playoff push, ending with a Dec. 29 showdown with the second-place Cowboys in Dallas. Three of the next four games will be at the Linc. Instead of dread and frustration, there will be excitement and anticipation.

“We put ourselves in a situation where those five games in December are meaningful,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. “It’s all for naught if we don’t continue to build from here.”

Kelly was the rock-star coaching hire last offseason, the wizard of Oregon about whom everyone had an opinion. He would revolutionize the NFL with his offbeat approach and offensive innovation. Or he would flame out the way hotshot college coaches such as Steve Spurrier and Bobby Petrino did before him.

When the Eagles ran their fast-break offense to perfection in the Monday night opener at Washington, it looked like Kelly’s fans were right. When the offense stalled for two touchdown-less weeks, Kelly’s detractors were sure the NFL had already solved the riddles posed by his scheme.

The Eagles are 3-0 since then. Nick Foles has emerged as a smart, poised quarterback, operating an offense that has gotten the most from stars LeSean McCoy (NFL-leading 1,009 yards rushing) and DeSean Jackson (985 receiving yards). The defense has steadily progressed from fire-drill disorder to competent to imposing.

It turns out both extremes were wrong about Kelly. He may not revolutionize the game or fail spectacularly. He may just be a very good, very smart coach who is building a program to win over the long term.

“When he first walked through the door on April 1,” Jackson said, “just off what he established at Oregon, a lot of guys respected him and were very excited. It was interesting. For a group of men who had gone through a tough year last year, we were able to come in and almost erase everything. We had a new coach, a new guy calling the shots. We had to kind of start from scratch.”

“Everybody bought in,” said veteran Trent Cole, who had two sacks Sunday in his new role as an outside linebacker.

Foles’ 4-yard touchdown run gave the Eagles a 7-0 first-quarter lead. More important, it kept the crowd cheering instead of booing. The cheering crescendoed after McCoy’s second touchdown run gave the Eagles a 24-0 lead in the third quarter.

“They were into it the entire game,” Kelly said. “It was an awesome feeling. There was a lot of energy in that stadium and we needed every ounce of it.”

That’s because things got a little shaky there in the fourth quarter. Griffin found fullback Darrel Young standing alone on the left sideline for a 62-yard touchdown. With just under six minutes left, Griffin threw a 41-yard touchdown to Aldrick Robinson. Washington made two-point conversions after both touchdowns, so it was a one-score game when Donnie Jones’ 70-yard punt rolled out of bounds at the Washington 4-yard line.

“We thought we would shut them out,” defensive end Fletcher Cox said. “But things happened. They made a few plays in the second half that they shouldn’t have made.”

The clock showed 3:26 left. Griffin went to work, and the Eagles' defense started backing up.

“We were expecting something good to happen,” inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “In the past, it would have gone the other way for us. It got very interesting there at the end.”

Griffin drove his team 78 yards, all the way to the Eagles’ 18. It was third-and-1. Every one of those 10 home losses was rattling its chains.

“That’s fun,” linebacker Connor Barwin said. “You want to be out there and thrive in those situations.”

“Either we were going to make a play or Washington was going to make a play,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “We stepped up and made it.”

Cox broke through the line. As he bore down on Griffin, the quarterback tried to back away. He made the ill-advised decision to throw the ball. He couldn’t get enough on it to get it out of the back of the end zone.

Boykin was the only player there.

“When I saw the ball floating in the air,” Boykin said, “I was like, 'Is this real life? Like, wow.' It was really slow. It looked like a high school pass. A lot of thoughts went through my head.”

The same thoughts went through 70,000 other heads as 70,000 people held their breath. Ten home losses in a row. Blown leads and busted coverages. There was always something bad, an injury or a penalty or a turnover, waiting to happen.

But this time the ball fell into Boykin’s hands, and all the rest of it fell away.

The Eagles were in first place and proud owners of a one-game home winning streak. Kelly’s first season is no longer about smoothies and loud music at practice and quirky formations. It’s about contending for the NFC East title and maybe hosting a playoff game.

"I don’t know where I expected to be," Kelly said. "I have seen us improve. We’re going to pick our heads up on December 29 to figure out where we are."

PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles didn't throw seven touchdown passes against the Washington Redskins Sunday. He didn't throw any touchdown passes.

Foles played a different kind of good game to lead the Eagles to a 24-16 victory over Washington. He completed 17 of 26 passes for 298 yards. His passer rating was 104.3, very good but not in the 150 range as it was the previous two weeks. Foles ran the ball nine times for 47 yards and a touchdown, which includes a 1-yard loss on the final kneel-down.

"I think the big thing this offseason that I really wanted to work on was decision making and being smart with the football," Foles said. "You watch a lot of the guys who are the top guys in the league -- Peyton (Manning), Drew (Brees), Aaron (Rodgers), Tom (Brady) -- that are really good at decision-making."

Foles still hasn't thrown an interception in 162 attempts. He distributed the ball to seven different receivers Sunday. Although he didn't complete any deep passes, Foles got the ball to LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek so they could pile up yards after the catch.

"They played us off a little bit," coach Chip Kelly said. "They were letting us throw the ball underneath. If they're going to do that, we need to convert in those situations. I thought that was a big part of what we were doing in the first half."

Foles was the one making those correct reads and throws. Truth be told, he probably should have two or three touchdown passes. His pass to McCoy went for 49 yards before safety Brandon Meriweather ran McCoy down at the Washington 4. Foles ran it in from there.

In the second quarter, Celek took a screen 41 yards. The officials ruled it a touchdown, but replay review showed Celek's knee was down at the 1-yard line. McCoy ran it in on the next play.

McCoy's second 1-yard touchdown run, in the third quarter, also came after a Foles near-touchdown pass. Foles threw to Riley Cooper at the goal line. He might even have been in the end zone, but the on-field officials ruled him down at the 1. Kelly didn't challenge, opting instead to run a quick play before the Washington defense could adjust personnel.

In the second quarter, Foles took a hit and got up slowly. For the rest of the quarter, he was shrugging his right shoulder and shaking his arm out.

"I just got it banged up," Foles said. "I was trying to keep it warm because I really didn't know what was going on. I had a shoulder injury in high school and I knew the key when you get it banged up is to keep it warm. It feels great."

However they scored, the Eagles won their third consecutive game with Foles at quarterback. They are in first place in the NFC East.

"Nick is doing a great job," Jackson said. "He's come a long way. He is hot right now. We're on a roll and we just have to keep it going and finish the season strong."

Locker Room Buzz: Philadelphia Eagles

November, 17, 2013
PHILADELPHIA -- Seen and heard in the Philadelphia Eagles' locker room after their 24-16 victory over Washington on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy are OK. McCoy, the NFL's leading rusher, left the game late in the first half with a hamstring injury. He returned for the second half. McCoy said it felt like the hamstring "gave out" but after moving around a bit, it felt fine.

Foles took a hit after throwing a pass earlier on the same drive. He kept shaking out his right arm and shrugging his shoulder. He said it was a little sore, but all the gesticulating was just to keep it loose. "I thought he was trying to get the fans into the game," coach Chip Kelly said.

That's a lot of grass. That's how Buddy Ryan described Randall Cunningham's surprise quick kicks. Cunningham once punted the ball 91 yards in the Meadowlands. Donnie Jones' 70-yard punt in the fourth quarter was the Eagles' longest punt since Cunningham hit one 80 yards in 1994. It rolled out of bounds at the Washington 4-yard line.

"That was huge," linebacker Connor Barwin said. "That was like having a 12th man playing defense for us."

Cincinnati in the house. Barwin had a huge sack inside the 10-yard line, forcing Robert Griffin III to fumble. Trent Cole had two sacks. Brent Celek had a 42-yard catch to set up a touchdown. Jason Kelce anchored the offensive line. All four played at the University of Cincinnati.

"It was a great day for the Bearcats," Barwin shouted as Cole answered reporters' questions.

"Go, Bearcats," Cole responded.

So much for the Oregon East rep Kelly's team was developing.

Rapid Reaction: Philadelphia Eagles

November, 17, 2013

PHILADELPHIA -- A few thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles24-16 victory over the Washington Redskins:

What it means: The Eagles are in first place in the NFC East and, at 6-5, above .500 for the first time since Week 1. They also put a merciful end to their franchise-record 10-game losing streak at home. The game also represented the third strong performance in a row for Nick Foles, making it very unlikely coach Chip Kelly will go back to Michael Vick when Vick fully recovers from his hamstring injury. The Eagles swept Washington, taking big leads in both games and then white-knuckling at the end. Brandon Boykin's end zone interception preserved the victory for the Eagles.

McCoy, for real: The Eagles got a scare late in the first half when running back LeSean McCoy clutched his right hamstring after a run. McCoy went to the locker room for the last few minutes of the second quarter. He returned after halftime, however, and surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season. McCoy finished with 77 yards on 20 carries. He had two 1-yard rushing touchdowns.

Stock watch: Rising: Bill Davis. The Eagles' defensive coordinator had an excellent scheme and called a great game against Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris. Since that terrible 52-20 loss in Denver, the Eagles haven't allowed an opponent to score more than 21 points. If the offense had been effective in two home losses against the Cowboys and Giants, the Eagles could easily be at 8-3 with a seven-game winning streak. Davis has the players buying into, and really starting to thrive in, his 3-4 defense. Griffin made things interesting at the end, but Davis' defense ultimately held.

What’s next: The Eagles go into their bye week with a three-game winning streak. When they come back, they have back-to-back home games against Arizona (Dec. 1) and Detroit (Dec. 8). The late bye should help a handful of players with nagging injuries to heal, including left tackle Jason Peters, cornerback Bradley Fletcher and linebacker Mychal Kendricks.