Philadelphia Eagles: 2013 Week 14 DET at PHI

PHILADELPHIA -- Cary Williams figured it was worth a shot.

The Eagles cornerback was having a rough time changing direction in the snow and staying with the Detroit Lions wide receivers. It stood to reason the Lions defensive backs were having the same issues.

So, early in the second half, Williams did something he’d never done before. He went over to his head coach, Chip Kelly, and suggested an offensive strategy.

“I just haven’t had that happen in my career where you could go up to a guy and tell him what’s the best thing to do,” Williams said. “I am just grateful that Chip listened. I really didn’t expect him to listen, but I am happy he did.”

Kelly called for a deep throw to Riley Cooper. Nick Foles hung a pass up that Cooper ran under. It wasn’t pretty, but Cooper caught the ball falling backward into the snow. That 44-yard gain set up the Eagles’ first score and really changed the energy in the game.

“It was a big play, a real tough catch,” Kelly said. “It was funny. Cary Williams was the one who came up to me and he was like, 'Coach, this is what you’ve got to do, because you can’t make up speed if the receiver makes a stick move on you just because of the footing.' It’s coming from a defensive guy saying, hey, if you have an opportunity to throw a post or throw a corner, it’s hard to make up. It’s almost like that catch kind of got us going.”

Williams found that out the hard way. He was covering Calvin Johnson when Matthew Stafford hit him for a 33-yard gain in the first half.

“It wasn’t the fact that I couldn’t run with Calvin,” Williams said. “It was the fact that when I tried to turn, I was sliding initially. I didn’t get the initial grab into the ground the way I wanted to. I saw a lot of times they were slipping, and they were having an issue with sliding.”

Williams said he was surprised the Lions didn’t throw the ball to Johnson more often, given the conditions.

“You practice backpedaling and turning on a level surface,” Williams said. “Out there, with the snow, it was completely different. It’s hard for us to stop and then turn and run.”
PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles quarterback Nick Foles lost a record but won a game. That's OK with him.

"I care about the wins," Foles said after leading the Eagles to a fifth consecutive win, a 34-20 snowball fight against the Detriot Lions. "I learn from it, it's an interception. I am going to move forward and I can't wait to get back on the field and throw a touchdown, make a big play, because that's what teammates look at."

Foles threw an interception to Lions cornerback Chris Houston. It was Foles' first interception of the season. He had thrown 19 touchdown passes, one shy of Peyton Manning's NFL record of 20 touchdowns before throwing an interception. Overall, Foles had not thrown an interception in 238 attempts.

"When you have a streak like that, it means you are putting your team in a position to win games," Foles said. "But there are also times you are going to have a mistake happen and you have to have a shorter memory. Mistakes are going to happen, and they did today, but I'll get better for it and keep improving."

It should be easier to move on for Foles, considering the circumstances. With snow falling hard and swirling, he and Matthew Stafford both had tough days throwing the ball.

"You are seeing a lot of white, a lot of snow coming down, but you try to zone all of that out and focus on the team and what is going on," Foles said. "We got more and more comfortable as the game went on. We made some mistakes, but that is a football game."

On the interception, Foles overthrew wide receiver Riley Cooper. The ball found Houston, who returned the pick 30 yards to the Eagles 20. The Lions scored their only offensive touchdown five plays later.

"I think any mistake Nick makes is kind of surprising," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "But I understand what happened. The ball kind of sailed. Obviously, it's a weather deal. The biggest disappointment was where they got it in terms of, we put our defense on an extremely short field."

For Foles, the record would have been nice. But an interception was inevitable at some point. He can write this one off as weather-related and take comfort in the fact it didn't really hurt his team.

"They happen," Foles said. "You let one interception defeat you, you cannot play this game."

Foles completed just one pass beyond the line of scrimmage in the first half, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In the second half, he found Cooper for a 44-yard gain, then lobbed a 19-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson to start the Eagles' comeback.

"You just have to make plays and just try to give them a chance," Foles said. "You cannot really zip balls. You just have to lob them up there and just say, 'Hey, one of you go up there and get it and make a play.' That was one of those plays."
LeSean McCoyHoward Smith/USA TODAY SportsLeSean McCoy, right, gained 217 yards Sunday, setting a new single-game team rushing record.
PHILADELPHIA -- Whether you're Chip Kelly or Bode Miller, the best way to handle 3 1/2 inches of fresh snow is the same.

Go downhill. Fast.

The Eagles weren't able to build a freestyle course in time for Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions. But they were able to turn running back LeSean McCoy loose, letting him freestyle his way to a franchise-record 217 rushing yards -- including game-changing touchdown runs of 40 and 57 yards.

"It was very tough, especially with this defense, to go lateral," Kelly said. "We learned with the weather that it was very difficult to go lateral. We felt like we had to get a downhill game going."

In football talk, of course, that means running straight ahead rather than skiing down a slope. The problem here was that the Lions' defensive line, with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley in the middle, is very good against the run. The Lions had held their past six opponents to fewer than 70 total rushing yards.

The Eagles ran for 299 yards Sunday -- 244 of them after halftime. McCoy ran for 148 yards and both touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

He regained the NFL rushing lead from Adrian Peterson, who was injured Sunday. McCoy has 1,305 rushing yards on the season.

"He's obviously a great player," wide receiver DeSean Jackson said. "He's done great things in this offense. As long as I have known him, he's been doing great things. It's a blessing to have that guy on our team."

Listening to his teammates marvel, you'd think McCoy can walk on water. In this game, he did. It was frozen, which made McCoy's cuts and moves that much more impressive.

"It was insane," tight end Brent Celek said. "Sometimes it felt like there were eight inches of snow out there. When you would step, you wouldn't be touching the grass. The fact that he was doing that, it's insane."

McCoy's Twitter handle, @CutonDime25, is a not-so-humble reference to his ability to change direction and leave defenders with armfuls of nothing. He wasn't able to make the really sharp moves, but then, the Lions' defenders were hampered at least as much.

"To be honest, it was definitely tough," McCoy said. "You just didn't have the normal footing and traction that you get when stopping and cutting. Sometimes I couldn't really plant. I can usually plant on a dime, but it all worked out. The guys were giving me so much room.

"I feel like it is a mental thing. Obviously, it's going to be tough because of the snow and weather, but you don't think about it when you're running."

The Eagles had minus-2 yards of total offense in the first quarter. They weren't much better in the second and were trailing 8-0 at halftime. After Detroit's Jeremy Ross returned a punt 58 yards for a third-quarter touchdown, it was 14-0 and the game seemed out of reach. That's how extreme the conditions were and how poorly the Eagles seemed to be handling them.

But quarterback Nick Foles threw two passes -- a 44-yarder that Riley Cooper caught while rolling through the snow like a sled and a 19-yard touchdown to Jackson -- to make it 14-6 (there was no kicking game in this one).

"I think we took some shots deep, which kind of set [the Lions] back a little bit," McCoy said. "The guys up front gave me opportunities one-on-one by blowing those guys off the ball. I just felt with how well the line was blocking today, we would gash them once Nick started throwing the ball."

"We just kind of kept poking and prodding and then we started to move the ball," Kelly said. "When we got in here at halftime, I thought our offensive staff did a good job of putting together some formations of how to run some things and what we could come back with."

Center Jason Kelce said Kelly's scheme was designed "to attack the explosion out of [their defense]. Those guys rely on such explosion, and I think that slowed them down a bit. I think as we got the game going, we realized the snow was taking them out of their game, in terms of the defensive ends being able to rush up the field quickly. We just had some success moving the ball vertically and the coaches picked up on that."

Vertically. Downhill. North and south. Whatever you call it, McCoy was suddenly unstoppable. He broke a 40-yard run to tie the game. After Ross took the kickoff back 98 yards for a second touchdown return, the Eagles came back with the same offensive approach.

"We just weren't firing off the ball," Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson said. "We really had to slow it up and let the Lions linebackers overrun their gaps. Then we just sealed off and Shady [McCoy] hit them on the back side for long runs."

McCoy broke a 57-yarder to give the Eagles the lead for good 22-20. Chris Polk ran 38 yards for another fourth-quarter touchdown. Foles took one in from the 1-yard line.

In the fourth quarter, McCoy broke Steve Van Buren's 64-year-old franchise record of 205 rushing yards in a game.

It was a win that gave the Eagles an 8-5 record, doubling their win total from last season. It kept pressure on the Dallas Cowboys, who have to beat the Bears in Chicago to keep pace in the NFC East race. Mostly, it was a comeback win in adverse conditions that represented another step in the growth of this team in Kelly's first season.

"I don't think this group gives up," Kelly said. "I think they've got way too much invested, and I think the more you have invested in something, it's a lot more difficult to quit."

With three games left, as Bode Miller might have said, it's all downhill from here.

Rapid Reaction: Philadelphia Eagles

December, 8, 2013

PHILADELPHIA -- Quick thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles' 34-20 victory over the Detroit Lions in snowy Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.

What it means: If LeSean McCoy isn’t the best all-around back in the NFL, he made a case for being the best all-weather back in the game. In a game changed immeasurably by the measurable snowfall, McCoy’s fourth-quarter touchdown runs of 40 and 57 yards turned what looked like a dispiriting loss into a win with major playoff implications. The Eagles (8-5) scored 28 fourth-quarter points for their fifth win in a row. They took a half-game lead in the NFC East over Dallas -- which plays Monday night in Chicago -- and gained a tiebreaker edge over another possible wild-card contender.

Snow job: The forecast for Philadelphia called for a “wintry mix” of rain and light snow. Instead, a driving snow started about 90 minutes before kickoff and rendered both teams’ game plans useless. Lions quarterback Matt Stafford fumbled his first snap, one of six Lions fumbles in the first half. Visibility was terrible. Footing was worse. Field goals and PAT attempts were impossible. It was fun, in the way crazy-weather events are fun, but it wasn’t exactly NFL football.

Stock watch: Falling: Eagles special teams. The snow obviously had an impact on the footing, but the Eagles allowed two return touchdowns by Jeremy Ross. He returned a punt 58 yards and a kickoff 98 yards to account for all of the Lions’ second-half scoring. Ross also returned a fourth-quarter kickoff to midfield to give the Lions excellent field position.

What’s next: The Eagles continue their tour through the NFC North with a game at Minnesota next week. They host the Bears on Dec. 22. Those two games will have a huge impact on their season-ending showdown at Dallas on Dec. 29. If the Eagles can be tied or ahead of the Cowboys, a win would give them the division title without tiebreakers coming into play.