Stats & Info: Philadelphia Eagles
The Saints were winless in three road games against playoff teams during the regular season.
For the Saints to keep up with the fast-paced Eagles offense, New Orleans will need another elite performance from their top playmaker.
Jimmy Graham vs. Eagles coverage
Jimmy Graham’s dominance this season raises several questions for the Philadelphia defense. Graham led the NFL with 16 touchdown receptions this season, the second-most by a tight end in a season and only the third time a tight end has led the league in touchdown receptions.
The Eagles had been about league-average defending tight ends this season prior to Sunday night, when Jason Witten hauled in 12 catches for 135 yards. Both numbers were easily the most the Eagles allowed to an opposing tight end this season.
Expect the Eagles to rotate linebackers and defensive backs into coverage responsibilities against Graham. Graham’s 26 receptions and 358 yards when split out wide were the most by a tight end in a season since 2008.
Eagles offensive line vs. Saints front seven
Lost among the great performances by LeSean McCoy, Nick Foles and DeSean Jackson has been the dominance of the Eagles offensive line this season. The Eagles averaged a league-best 3.6 yards before contact per rush. No other team finished with an average above 3.2 this season.
The Saints allowed 4.6 yards per rush, the fifth-most in the league this season. New Orleans particularly struggled against the zone read, allowing 5.6 yards per rush on such plays. The Eagles had nearly twice as many zone-read runs (304) as any other team during the regular season.
Saints running backs vs. Eagles linebackers
While the big guys up front help lead the way for the Eagles on offense, the Saints rely on two of their smallest offensive players to run past opposing defenses.
The Saints incorporate their running backs into the passing game as much as any team in the league. Led by Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, New Orleans totaled the most receptions and yards after the catch by a team’s running backs since 2006.
A lot of the credit belongs to Thomas, who filled in for an injured Sproles to post career highs in receptions (77) and receiving yards (513). In fact, Thomas led all running backs in receptions this season.
Either Thomas or Sproles has led the league in running back receptions each of the last three seasons.
The Eagles held opposing running backs to one receiving touchdown this season, tied for the fewest in the league. Over the final five weeks of the regular season, only the Lions allowed fewer receptions to opposing running backs.
The traditional statistics used to evaluate NFL teams’ offenses and defenses are based on yardage, which is an incomplete measure for many reasons.
Going beyond the box score and looking at what has actually happened on every play where a given unit was on the field (using expected points added, or EPA) results in a much more accurate evaluation of that unit’s complete contribution to the scoreboard, and therefore, winning and losing.
Below are a few examples of offenses and defenses that will be taking the field this weekend whose quality is misrepresented by their yardage rankings.
Because playoff teams are generally good, the biggest differences come when looking at units that are underrated by their yardage-based ratings. If these units were actually as bad as the yardage rankings indicate, the teams would have had much less chance of making the playoffs at all.
Indianapolis Colts Offense (15th in YPG, 6th in EPA PG)
Based on the Indianapolis Colts' 342 yards per game, the offense looks average. But Andrew Luck and company have been really great at limiting mistakes, committing just 13 offensive turnovers (three fewer than any other team in the league) and being penalized for just 14.7 yards per game while on offense (also least in the league).
On a related note, the Colts offense has drawn a lot of penalties, earning 40.3 yards and 2.4 first downs per game due to calls on the opposing defense (both ranked in the top-5 in the NFL).
With that additional yardage not accounted for in “total offense” and the fact that the Colts have done well converting their yards into points - averaging 5.0 points per red zone trip - it makes sense that their offense rates near the top of the NFL in terms of EPA.
Philadelphia Eagles Defense (29th in YPG, 15th in EPA PG)
It seems difficult to believe that a team with the “fourth-worst defense” in the NFL, giving up nearly 400 yards per game, could have gone 10-6. And that’s because in actuality, when you take into account everything they do to impact the scoreboard, the Philadelphia Eagles defense hasn’t been the fourth-worst in the NFL.
First off, there is the pace issue. Because of Chip Kelly’s fast offense, the Eagles defense was on the field a lot – a league-high 1,150 snaps, to be exact – so it’s not fair to compare them to others using total yardage.
Looking on a per-drive basis, the Eagles still allowed a decent amount of yardage but tightened up in the red zone and limited opponents to just 1.74 points per drive overall, slightly better than the league average.
The Eagles defense forced 31 turnovers (tied for third in the NFL) that contributed to preventing points and also helped set up their own offense. Putting it all together, the Eagles defense certainly isn’t elite, but it ranks right around the league average – much better than the yardage numbers indicate.
Kansas City Chiefs Defense (24th in YPG, 8th in EPA PG)
The Kansas City Chiefs defense definitely performed much worse as the level of competition stepped up dramatically in the second half of the season, but they were nowhere near a bottom-10 defense as the full-season yardage numbers indicate.
The Chiefs wiped away a lot of the yards they allowed by forcing turnovers and turning them into points or great field position for the offense.
Not only were the Chiefs second in the NFL with 33 turnovers forced and tied for first with six defensive scores, but they were also great at setting up their offense with great field position.
On possessions following turnovers and turnovers on downs (times where the defense directly “set up” the offense), Alex Smith and company came onto the field with an average field position on the opponents’ 39, the best such average of any team in the league by more than five yards.
In large part because of all those turnovers, the Chiefs allowed just 1.5 points per drive, good enough for fifth in the NFL.
Put it all together and the poor yardage ranking is way off – the Chiefs defense was a net positive for the team, adding nearly three points per game to the scoring margin and helping them get to 11-5 and a Wild Card berth.
San Francisco 49ers Offense (24th in YPG, 13th in EPA PG)
The San Francisco 49ers defense is the main strength of the team no matter what stat you use, but if you just looked at the yardage numbers, it would be appear that the team was succeeding in spite of the offense.
Part of the reason is the 49ers offense is one of the slowest in the league, averaging 40.6 seconds between line-of-scrimmage plays, fourth-most in the NFL. As a result, the 49ers average just 60 snaps per game, second-fewest in the league, and therefore it makes sense they don’t rack up quite as many yards as other teams with more plays.
Like the Colts, the 49ers have done a good job limiting turnovers, with only 18 offensive giveaways all season and none being returned directly for scores.
Colin Kaepernick and crew have done a good job making the most of the yards they do get, scoring on 79 percent of drives inside the opponents 40 (third-best in the NFL) and averaging five points per trip into the red zone.
Looking at the overall contribution of the San Francisco offense, it is actually above average at nearly three net points per game.
Jeffrey G. Pittenger/USA TODAY SportsNo matter the circumstance, Nick Foles could not be stopped in 2013.
How good is the Eagles offense though? And what changed?
The difference from the first half of the season to the second half for the Eagles’ offense is pretty stark, as the team averaged 11.5 points more per game over the last eight games of the season.
The Eagles led the league in scoring from the start of Week 9 to the end of the season, committing the fewest turnovers during that stretch.
The Eagles’ offensive potency was due to a two-pronged attack, leading the NFL in average yards per rush and pass attempt this season. The last team to lead the league in both was the 2001 St. Louis Rams, who lost in the Super Bowl that season.
LeSean McCoy led the NFL in rushing this season, and actually gained more yards on the ground than 10 NFL teams, including the Eagles’ Wild Card opponent the New Orleans Saints.
The rushing offense saw a moderate jump over the second half of the season, going from 5.0 yards per rush to 5.3. The passing game saw the biggest increase. The Eagles averaged 9.9 yards per pass the last eight games of the season, a 2.2 yard increase.
Also helping matters was the pace of the offense. The Eagles averaged a play every 24.0 seconds of possession this season, the fastest pace in the last 13 seasons.
Foles didn’t make his season debut in Week 9 though, so what changed in Philadelphia that led to such a dramatic increase in offense?
For starters, the Eagles continued to add wrinkles to the offense, specifically play action off the zone read.
The Eagles used the zone read 304 times this season, 135 times more than the next highest team. The zone read offers a natural setup for play action, but the Eagles used a play fake on 24 percent of their passes the first eight games. Over the last eight games, that usage increased to 39 percent.
The Eagles’ play action passes were effective throughout the season, but adding more attempts and the more efficient Foles made the plays a staple of the offense.
Foles’ efficiency helped matters. Foles completed 64 percent of his passes this season with 27 touchdowns and two interceptions, the best touchdown-interception ratio in NFL history.
Michael Vick and Matt Barkley combined to complete 56 percent of their passes this season with five touchdowns and seven interceptions. Vick and Barkley played a combined 11 snaps from Week 9 and on, after recording 208 more snaps than Foles the first half of the season.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesAaron Rodgers was conspicuous by his presence in the Packers’ victory over the Bears.
His 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb on fourth-and-eight with less than a minute left raised the Green Bay Packers’ win probability from 40.7 percent to 99.5 percent. After Cobb’s score, the Packers held on to beat the Bears and win the NFC North.
The fourth-down touchdown pass was the biggest play in terms of win probability added (58.8 percent) in Rodgers’ career and one of the biggest plays of the 2013 season. The Packers converted three fourth-down situations on their final drive, becoming the second team this season to convert three fourth-down plays on a drive (the Saints did so on a fourth-quarter drive in Week 15 against the Rams).
The Packers finished the season in wild fashion to make the playoffs. Their playoff chances were 5.5 percent after a 30-point loss to the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day. The Packers won three of their final four games, including a one-point victory over the Cowboys in which Green Bay overcame a 23-point halftime deficit and 1.7 percent win probability.
Another tide-turning pass for Cowboys
Kyle Orton followed a fourth-and-nine touchdown pass to Dez Bryant (which created a 23.5 percent win probability swing) with an interception that dropped the Dallas Cowboys’ win probability from 44.3 percent to 5.8 percent (-38.5 percent).
The Cowboys’ regular-season finale was a fitting conclusion to their season. Cowboys quarterbacks threw nine fourth-quarter passes that swung the team’s win probability by at least 20 percentage points in either direction, the most such passes of any team this season.
Chargers rewarded for risky decision
With the score tied in overtime of their game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the San Diego Chargers converted a fourth-and-two at their 28 on a fake punt. If the Chargers had not converted and been stopped for no gain, the Chiefs would have had the ball at the Chargers’ 28 needing a field goal to win. The Chargers’ win probability at that point would have dropped to 19.1 percent.
Since 2008, NFL teams have converted 18-of-27 fake punts (66.7 percent), including 6-of-7 (85.7 percent) fourth-down fake punts needing two or fewer yards.
Ryan Succop could have all but eliminated the Chargers from the playoff race with a 41-yard field goal with four seconds left in regulation. The Chiefs’ win probability was 61.3 percent before the kick, and Succop had been 19-of-25 (76.0 percent) in his career on field goals between 40 and 45 yards.
QBR shows Manning is consistently superior
Peyton Manning posted a 95.4 Total QBR against the Oakland Raiders, his fourth game with a Total QBR greater than 95.0 this season, most in the NFL.
Manning finished this season with a Total QBR of 82.9, his fourth season with a Total QBR greater than 80.0 since 2006 (as far back as we have data). The rest of the league’s quarterbacks have combined to post four such seasons during that span (min. 500 action plays).
Redskins finish with a new low in expected points
The Washington Redskins’ offense added -28.8 expected points to the team’s net scoring margin in Sunday’s 20-6 loss to the New York Giants, Washington’s worst offensive output in a game since 2006.
Kirk Cousins was limited to a 38.8 completion percentage (19-of-49) and an average of 3.5 yards per attempt. Cousins and the offense were forced to punt on their first five possessions (four of them after three downs). Their only points came on field goals after short drives beginning at New York’s 18- and Washington’s 46-yard lines. Washington averaged 3.4 yards per play (its second-worst of the season) and committed four turnovers.
The Redskins are the only team this season to finish in the bottom 10 in offensive, defensive and special teams EPA.
On the flip side, the Giants’ defense had its best performance of the season. Defensive EPA takes into consideration how the defense keeps the opponent from moving the ball, forces turnovers and scores. By that measure, the Giants’ defense contributed 28.8 points to the team’s net scoring margin. It was the second-best defensive EPA performance by any team this season.
But despite the quarterbacks garnering many of the headlines, the key to success for the Cowboys will be establishing DeMarco Murray on the ground.
DeMarco Murray vs. Eagles rush defense
LeSean McCoy may be the better-known running back, but Murray has actually averaged more yards per carry this season (5.4 for Murray to 5.1 for McCoy). In fact, only rookie Andre Ellington (5.7) has averaged more yards per carry than Murray among qualified running backs.
However, Murray faces an Eagles front seven that has flown under the radar this season. Over the last five weeks, the Eagles have held opponents to 2.9 yards per carry, the fewest in the league during that span.
In their previous meeting, which Murray missed due to injury, the Cowboys were held to 2.9 yards per carry, their fewest against the Eagles in their last 10 games.
While the Eagles rush defense has improved during the course of the season, the Cowboys front seven has moved in the opposite direction.
LeSean McCoy vs. Cowboys Linebackers
While Romo’s absence is certainly noteworthy, the Cowboys defense will again be missing their star linebacker, Sean Lee. The Cowboys have allowed 5.2 yards per carry this season without Lee on the field. Only the Bears, who McCoy gashed for 7.4 yards per carry last week, have allowed more yards per carry this season.
But one of the biggest defensive struggles for the Cowboys has been defending receivers out of the backfield. Dallas has allowed eight receiving touchdowns to running backs, the most in the league.
McCoy has averaged 11.8 yards after the catch on his receptions this season, the highest mark in the NFL.
The Cowboys may struggle to defend running backs, but the Eagles find trouble against wide outs.
Dez Bryant vs. Eagles secondary
Even without Romo under center, Dez Bryant could not have asked for a better matchup to close out the season. The Eagles pass defense ranks last in all three major categories against opposing wide receivers.
In their previous game this season, Bryant tied his career-high with 17 targets, hauling in eight passes for 110 yards.
While Bryant had one of his best games against the Eagles, the Philadelphia tight ends disappeared against the Cowboys.
Eagles Tight Ends vs. Cowboys secondary
Nick Foles has some recognizable options in McCoy and DeSean Jackson, but his favorite targets may be his tight ends. Foles has averaged 9.1 yards per attempt when targeting his tight ends.
Only Colin Kaepernick has a higher average when targeting tight ends this season. Foles has also yet to throw an interception when throwing to a tight end this season.
The Cowboys have struggled against tight ends as well, allowing the third-most receptions (85) and fifth-most yards (933) this season. In their last meeting, Foles only completed 50 percent (4-of-8) of his passes when throwing to his tight ends, his lowest mark in a game this season.
AP Photo/James D. SmithA source tells ESPN that Tony Romo will miss the remainder of the season.
The day after throwing a game-winning touchdown to put the Dallas Cowboys in a winner-take-all game against the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday night, Tony Romo’s luck took a drastic turn.
A source tells ESPN that Romo will miss the remainder of the season with a back injury. Here is a look at how much he will be missed in Big D:
Romo vs. all others
It has been all Romo in Dallas since 2006. He made his first career start in Week 8 of that season. He has missed 13 games since becoming the starter.
Jon Kitna (nine games), Brad Johnson (three) and Stephen McGee (one), have started in relief of Romo since 2006. They have won a combined six of those 13 starts while enjoying far less success throwing the ball.
Romo has thrown 31 touchdown passes this season, tied for the second-highest total in Cowboys’ history and five shy of the team record, which he set in 2007. Romo is the only quarterback in team history to throw for 30 or more touchdown passes in a season. He's done so three times.
The Cowboys have two quarterbacks on their roster – Romo and Kyle Orton. Orton is 35-34 in 69 career starts, but he has not started since Jan. 1, 2012.
Orton signed with the Cowboys prior to the 2012 season and has not been seen much since. Romo has thrown 98.7 percent of the Cowboys’ passes since then – the 11th highest rate for any quarterback in the NFL.
Orton has attempted just 15 passes over the last two seasons and those came in a pair of blowouts when the Cowboys were trailing by 24 points.
In 2011, he started eight games for the Denver Broncos (five) and Kansas City Chiefs (three). Orton had a 59.5 percent completion percentage that season (ranked 20th in the NFL), 7.0 yards per attempt (17th), and a total QBR of 52.4 (18th).
Can they still rely on the pass?
Few teams lean on the pass as much as the Cowboys have this season.
Dallas owns the fifth highest dropback percentage this season at 66 percent. The Cleveland Browns have the highest percentage at 70 percent.
The Cowboys may have to change it up and feed running back DeMarco Murray on Sunday night. This season, 17 running backs have averaged more rushes per game than Murray’s 15.4, despite the fact that Murray is averaging 5.4 yards per rush.
Sunday's exploits only seemed to heighten the perception that Romo is an all-or-nothing quarterback late in close games. Last week, he had a pass intercepted late in the game by Tramon Williams, decreasing the Cowboys’ win probability by 51.1 percentage points, the quarterback’s worst play in terms of win probability differential this season.
Romo’s Total QBR was 99.3 in the 4th quarter Sunday. He finished at 79.4 for the game after starting the 4th quarter at 23.9.
Up Next: Romo faces his 4th career “Week 17 win-or-go-home game” next Sunday against the Eagles. He is 0-3 in his previous 3 games with a 20.7 Total QBR.
After home success, Foles will take to road
Nick Foles’ 96.4 Total QBR in the Philadelphia Eagles' 54-11 victory over the Chicago Bears was the highest in any of his eight career home starts (34.2 home Total QBR in previous seven home starts). But Foles has been much stronger on the road, and he will play in Dallas next week. Foles’ Total QBR is 37.7 points higher on the road over the last two seasons, the best home-to-road differential among qualified quarterbacks since 2012.
Stafford's fourth-quarter struggles
Matthew Stafford threw his fifth fourth-quarter interception in his last six games, and it was returned for a touchdown in the Lions’ overtime loss. He has a 10.6 fourth-quarter Total QBR in his last six games (the Lions are 1-5), the worst rating in the NFL since Week 11. Stafford had a 90.1 fourth-quarter Total QBR in his first nine games, the second-best rating in the NFL through Week 10.
ESPN Stats & Information
Newton erases rough start on final drive
The Carolina Panthers’ win probability was at 4.8% when the Saints had 3rd down with 1:47 left in the game (see chart above), and Cam Newton had a Total QBR of 3.0 at that point. That was in line to be the second-worst Total QBR in a start in his career until he engineered a five-play, 65-yard drive to take the lead. Newton finished with a Total QBR of 16.6, but it was 99.9 on the final drive.
Russell Wilson posted an 11.5 Total QBR against the Cardinals, the worst rating in any of his 31 career starts. Wilson was 0-8 passing with a 0.1 Total QBR when under duress or hit while throwing. Wilson entered the game with a 78.7 Total QBR under such pressure, the second-best rating in the league.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ defense has contributed -7.2 expected points per game to their net scoring margin since Week 11, 27th in the NFL. The Chiefs are allowing an NFL-high 423 yards per game during that span, while recording a sack on 3.2 percent of opponent dropbacks (second-worst in the NFL). Their defensive EPA was 11.0 per game in their first nine games this season (9-0 start), the best in the NFL.
The Dolphins were shut out, and their offensive EPA was -25.1, meaning that unit contributed -25.1 points to their net scoring margin. It was the fourth-worst offensive performance in terms of EPA by any team this season. Ryan Tannehill finished with a 3.2 Total QBR, his first Total QBR game in single digits this season.
Geno Smith had an 83.1 Total QBR in the Jets’ 24-13 victory over the Browns. Smith has had four games with a Total QBR greater than 70.0, and they have come against teams with a combined record of 18-41 (Bills, Falcons, Raiders in addition to the Browns).
Elsa/Getty ImagesLeSean McCoy has been the best running back on zone reads this season.
Eagles zone read vs. Bears defense
The Eagles run the zone read better than any team in the NFL and it’s not close. The Eagles have rushed for 1,479 yards and nine touchdowns on zone-read runs, 886 yards and five touchdowns more than any other team.
There have been seven games in the NFL this season in which a team ran for 100 yards on zone-read rushes, with the Eagles accounting for six of them.
LeSean McCoy has more yards (1,017) and touchdowns (five) on zone-read rushes than any team this season.
Opposing teams have run 12 zone-read rushes against the Bears this season, the fewest any team has faced.
The Bears have been far from impressive in limited action against the zone read. Opposing teams are averaging 9.1 yards per rush on such runs, with only the Lions allowing more (10.1).
Jay Cutler in the Fourth Quarter vs. Eagles defense
Jay Cutler has been at his best in the fourth quarter this season. His Total QBR of 95.2 in the fourth quarter leads the NFL and is on pace to be the second-highest since 2006.
Only Peyton Manning, in his Super Bowl-winning season in 2006 posted a higher fourth-quarter Total QBR than Cutler has in 2013.
Of Cutler’s 16 passing touchdowns this season, eight have come in the fourth quarter, including two in the final 15 minutes last week against the Browns.
But something has to give in the fourth quarter Sunday, as Cutler goes against an Eagles defense that has excelled in such situations this season.
Opposing quarterbacks have posted a Total QBR of 39.8 in the fourth quarter against the Eagles, ninth lowest in the NFL. And much better than their 59.9 opponents' Total QBR in the first three quarters of the game.
Can these offenses be stopped?
The Bears are scoring 29 points per game, second most in the NFL behind the Broncos. The Eagles are the seventh-highest scoring team in the league, putting up 26 points per game. The two teams have not been as strong on the defensive end, as they both rank in the bottom half of the league in points allowed.
How many points will be scored Sunday night?
The over/under opened at 56 at the Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook, the highest total of any game in Week 16. This will be the fourth game for the Bears and 10th game for the Eagles that the Vegas over/under is in the 50s this season.
Times have certainly changed for the Chicago Bears under offensive guru Marc Trestman. In the previous 20 seasons, only one Bears game had an over/under in the 50s.
Vick is in his 11th NFL season, Foles in his second. We examine Chip Kelly's options at quarterback.
Each week, the Stats & Information Group will look at a noteworthy discussion topic and debate the possibilities that come from it, using data to support the stances.
This week, we examine the Eagles quarterback situation going forward when Michael Vick returns from injury.
Why Vick should remain the Eagles’ starter
Chip Kelly’s offense has always been predicated on establishing the run game to set up the pass.
Last season, Kelly’s Oregon Ducks team ran on 63 percent of its plays, ninth-highest rate in the FBS and more than 11 percentage points higher than the FBS average.
That philosophy has not changed drastically as Kelly made the transition to the NFL. The Eagles are running the ball on 44 percent of their plays, fifth-highest rate in the league and more than six percentage points higher than the NFL average.
With Vick under center, the Eagles have averaged 2.4 more yards per rush than with Nick Foles at the quarterback.
The Eagles have run 136 zone-read plays this season, the most in the league and 66 more than any other team. The Eagles have run a zone-read on 72 percent of the team’s rushes with Vick, compared to 57 percent with Foles.
On such rushes, Vick has kept the ball nine times for 126 yards compared to once for three yards for Foles. The zone read would not be as effective when the quarterback is not a running threat.
The Eagles’ passing game does not suffer much with Vick under center. Vick has more yards per attempt than Foles. Vick does have a lower completion percentage than Foles, but Vick’s average pass attempt travels 11.3 yards downfield, highest in the NFL and more than four yards deeper than Foles’ average pass distance.
Why the Eagles need to switch to Foles
Chip Kelly has rejuvenated the Eagles’ running games as Philadelphia leads the league in rushing yards per game entering Week 7.
Kelly calls runs to set up short, manageable third downs for his quarterbacks.
In college football last season, Oregon quarterbacks led the country with a 98.6 Total QBR on third and less than five yards to gain. The Eagles have run the third-most offensive plays on third down with less than five yards to gain this season.
This season, Foles has completed 80 percent of his passes on third down to Vick’s 41 percent. While Foles would be on pace to lead the league in third-down completion percentage this season, Vick’s completion percentage on third downs is the lowest in the league (minimum 10 attempts).
While Vick has consistently thrown farther downfield, Foles has been far more efficient when doing so. On pass attempts at least 15 yards downfield, Foles lead the league in completion percentage (58.3) and yards per attempt (17.6) this season (minimum 10 attempts).
Another facet of Kelly’s Oregon offense was protecting the ball in order to sustain long drives. During Kelly’s Oregon tenure (2009-12), the only FBS teams with lower interception rates than Oregon’s 2.1 percent were Alabama (1.5) and West Virginia (1.9).
Since 2012, only Tom Brady has a lower interception rate than Nick Foles. During that span, Vick has thrown an interception on 2.5 percent of his pass attempts, much higher than Foles’ 1.5.
Additionally, Vick has lost seven fumbles since 2012. The only player who has lost more during that span is Mark Sanchez.
The Kansas City Chiefs improved to 3-0 by beating the Eagles 26-16. The Chiefs became the first team to start a season 3-0 after winning two or fewer games the previous season (in a non-labor-shortened season) since the 2002 Panthers.
Mr. Smith goes to Kansas City … and wins
Alex Smith became the first Chiefs quarterback to win his first three starts with the team since Joe Montana won his first four starts with the Chiefs in 1993.
Smith won with the short passing game, going 21-for-31 for 258 yards on throws of 10 yards or fewer.
Smith was 7-for-7 when throwing to Donnie Avery, and was 4-for-4 (for 107 yards) when throwing to Avery on third down.
Avery had 80 yards after the catch on four third-down receptions.
Justin Houston dominates on ‘D
Justin Houston had 3.5 sacks for the Chiefs, giving him 6.5 through three games this season. He’s the third Chiefs player to have at least 3.5 sacks in a game, joining Derrick Thomas (who did so twice, including the single-game record of seven) and Neil Smith.
Houston may actually have had 4.5 sacks in the game (one was initially ruled a sack, then changed).
If the NFL were to rescore the play and rule that a sack, Elias tells us that Houston would be the first NFL player with at least 7.5 sacks through three games since Mark Gastineau had eight for the New York Jets in 1984.
Eagles offense working fast
Chip Kelly’s offense has been operating faster and faster in each game this season.
The Eagles’ average time of possession in between plays against the Chiefs was 19.9 seconds, half-a-second faster than in Week 2.
The person for whom the offense is working best is running back LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 158 yards, the third-best single-game total in his career. Two of his top three rushing performances have come this season.
The Elias Sports Bureau notes that McCoy’s 395 rushing yards through his first three games are the most through the first three games of the season in Eagles history (Wilbert Montgomery held the previous record of 346 in 1981).
Michael Vick also had a 61-yard run, the longest of his career. But Vick struggled against standard pass pressure, going 10-for-23 for 158 yards and an interception (along with three sacks) when the Chiefs sent four or fewer rushers at him.
Vick was 26-for-39 for 219 yards, with three touchdowns, no interceptions and one sack against standard pressure in the first two weeks of the season.
Elias Sports Bureau Note of the Night
Reid is the fourth head coach in NFL history to start a season 3-0 after missing the playoffs the prior season with a different team (Marty Schottenheimer, Dan Reeves, George Allen).
Rob Foldy/USA TODAY SportsAndy Reid, who spent 14 seasons as the Eagles' head coach, returns to his old stomping grounds.
Here are five stats to keep in mind entering this game.
1. Andy Reid takes his 2-0 Chiefs into Philadelphia, where he coached the Eagles for 14 seasons (1999-2012). Reid has more wins than any coach in Eagles history (130) and won six division titles and reached five NFC Championship Games (winning one).
Reid will be the third coach in NFL history to face a team he coached for at least 14 seasons, joining Curly Lambeau (Packers) and Hank Stram (Chiefs).
2. QB Alex Smith has been an instant upgrade for the Chiefs. Smith hasn’t turned the ball over yet this year and has finished drives effectively, two problem areas for Kansas City’s offense last year.
Smith has passed for four touchdowns and, as mentioned above, has not thrown an interception. The Chiefs threw for eight touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 2012.
In addition, the Chiefs have scored a touchdown on all five trips into the red zone this season after doing so only 10 times in 37 trips in 2012.
3. The Eagles had the ball for 19:43 in Week 2, their lowest time of possession since Week 17 in 2009. Philadelphia still managed to run 58 plays, or one for every 20.4 seconds of possession.
Only the Bills (21.8) and Broncos (23.2) have fewer seconds of possession per play this season than Philadelphia.
4. QB Michael Vick has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes to WR DeSean Jackson this season despite targeting him 15 yards downfield on average. Vick has improved his completion percentage to Jackson each season with the Eagles.
Going further, Jackson has gained 140 yards after the catch this season, an average of 8.8 YAC per reception. Jackson averaged 5.4 yards after the catch his first five seasons in the NFL.
• The Chiefs are 2-0 after going 2-14 last season. Since the merger (1970), Kansas City is the seventh team to open a season 2-0 after winning two or fewer games the previous season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. None of the previous six teams, however, made the playoffs.
• Kansas City is looking to start 3-0 for the third time in the last 15 years (2010 and 2003).
• The Eagles have lost seven straight home games, the longest active home losing streak in the NFL and their longest home losing streak since 1983 (seven games). The Eagles have lost eight straight home games only once, from 1936-37.
• RB LeSean McCoy leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage (356), 59 yards ahead of teammate DeSean Jackson, who is second. They have combined for the third-most yards from scrimmage ever by teammates through two games of a season.
Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed gained 693 yards in the first two games of the 1991 season for the Bills; Billy Sims and Dexter Bussey went for 675 yards for the 1980 Detroit Lions.
His team’s first half may have halted the comments of any doubters regarding whether Kelly’s style could work in the NFL.
Let’s run through the highlights of Kelly’s first win as an NFL head coach, a 33-27 victory over the Washington Redskins.
Key to the game: Pace of play
After a hiccup on the opening drive led to a Redskins score, the Eagles’ turbo-speed offense caused the Redskins problem after problem in the game’s first 30 minutes.
The Eagles had 21 first downs at halftime, matching the number of plays run by the Redskins in the first two quarters.
The Eagles had 53 plays by halftime. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that is the most plays in a first half of an NFL game since the Vikings had 56 on December 13, 1998, against the Ravens.
The Eagles' 26 first-half points matched their high for points in a game from 2012.
Difference maker: LeSean McCoy
LeSean McCoy had 31 carries for 184 yards, one yard shy of his career high.
McCoy's 34-yard touchdown run was his sixth rushing touchdown of at least 30 yards since 2010, tied with Chris Johnson for the second most in the league during that span.
Only Adrian Peterson has more such rushing touchdowns since 2010 (seven).
McCoy had 178 of those yards on runs that were inside the tackles, his most such yards in any game.
McCoy’s 184 yards rushing were the most in a season opener on the road since Duce Staley ran for 201 for the Eagles in 2000 against the Dallas Cowboys.
The Eagles ran 49 times (their most in a game since 1997) for 263 yards (their most since 2002). They gained 245 yards using the zone read, more than any other team in a game in the past five seasons.
RG III with a rough welcome back
Robert Griffin III had a brief run of success in the Redskins' late comeback, but struggled through much of the game. This marked the first time in his career that he threw multiple interceptions in a game.
Our video-review crew had Griffin III with 11 throws judged to be off-target, the most in any game in his first two seasons in the NFL. His previous high was eight against the Bengals in Week 3 last season.
Griffin was was off-target on 15 percent of his passes in 2012, the fifth-lowest rate in the league.
The Vick-Jackson connection
DeSean Jackson had a huge start to the game for the Eagles, finishing with seven catches for 104 yards and a touchdown.
It was Jackson’s 16th game with 100 or more receiving yards, fifth-most in team history. The franchise record is 23 by Pete Retzlaff, who played for the team from 1956 to 1966.
Michael Vick threw for two touchdowns ran for another (the 35th of his career, matching the total of another former Eagles quarterback, Randall Cunninghgam) and had an interception-free game. The last time Vick accounted for three scores and didn’t throw an interception was in 2010 against the Redskins, also on "Monday Night Football."
Did You Know?
The Eagles’ safety was the fourth in the NFL in the opening week of the season. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that this is the first Week 1 in NFL history in which there were four safeties.
The Eagles-Redskins game was the 11th game this week decided by seven points or fewer, tied for the most in Week 1 since the merger in 1970. There were also 11 in 2011.
Getty ImagesMichael Vick (left) and Robert Griffin III (right) meet for the first time on MNF.
Here are five stats Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden will be talking about during the game.
1. Robert Griffin III will start after recovering from a torn ACL and LCL in his right knee. Griffin was hurt in the Redskins' playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Jan. 6. Today marks 246 days since he last played in a game after he missed all of preseason.
Griffin III was sacked or hit while throwing or rushing 106 times last season, third most in the NFL behind Cam Newton (161) and Andrew Luck. (115).
2. Chip Kelly replaces Andy Reid as Eagles head coach after Reid’s 14 seasons in Philadelphia.
Kelly brings his fast-paced offense from Oregon, where the Ducks averaged one offensive play per 20.5 seconds of possession in 2012, second fastest in FBS. This preseason, the Eagles averaged an NFL-fastest 22.4 seconds of possession per offensive play.
3. Alfred Morris, a sixth-round draft pick out of Florida Atlantic in 2012, ran for 1,613 yards last season, the third-highest total by a rookie in NFL history, behind only Eric Dickerson (1,808 yards in 1983) and George Rogers (1,674 in 1981).
Seven different players have rushed for 1,000 yards under Mike Shanahan, but Terrell Davis (four), Mike Anderson (two) and Clinton Portis (two) are the only ones to do so multiple times.
4. In Week 10 of the 2010 season, these teams met on Monday Night Football.
Michael Vick had the game of his lifetime, throwing four touchdown passes and running for two more (all but one touchdown pass came in the first half) in leading the Eagles to a 59-28 win at the Redskins.
His 99.8 Total QBR in that game is tied for the second-highest in a single game over the last five seasons. Carson Palmer's 99.9 Total QBR against the Bears in 2009 is the highest (Vick's total is tied with Eli Manning's 99.8 QBR at the Redskins in 2010).
5. The Eagles lost 11 of their final 12 games last season and have lost five straight divisional games, their longest losing streak against NFC East opponents since 2005-06 (lost seven straight).
US PresswireWhich quarterback in the best fit for the Eagles offense in 2013?
With Kelly at the helm, Oregon thrived on sustaining drives with short throws. Of 373 Oregon pass attempts last season, 243 – nearly two-thirds of all attempts – traveled less than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
During Kelly’s tenure at Oregon from 2009 to 2012, no team had a higher passer efficiency on third and short (five yards or fewer) than the Ducks (198.2).
Kelly also taught his quarterbacks to avoid turnovers. From 2009-12, the only BCS schools with a lower interception per attempt rate than Oregon’s 2.1 percent were Alabama (1.5) and West Virginia (1.9).
With those quarterback trends in mind, here’s why Foles is the Eagles’ best fit in 2013:
• Last season, Foles was more accurate than Vick on throws 10 yards or fewer, completing 67 percent of such passes to Vick’s 62 percent. On short throws, Vick was off target on 13 percent of his passes compared with Foles’ 11 percent.
• Foles’ completion rate on third down (58.2 percent) narrowly topped Vick’s (57.3 percent), but Vick was off target on third down much more often than Foles was last season.
• Foles took care of the ball more effectively than Vick did last season. Vick threw an interception every 35 pass attempts. Foles averaged an interception every 53 pass attempts last season, tied with Peyton Manning for sixth best among qualified quarterbacks.
As for Barkley, he notched a completion percentage of 75 percent on passes 10 yards or fewer, while completing 60 percent of third-down attempts during his career at USC.
But Barkley’s ability to protect the ball as a rookie will be a major concern. Barkley recorded an interception every 26 throws during his senior season, ranking 118th in FBS. That was a significant drop-off from his junior year campaign, when he ranked 18th in interception rate among qualified QBs.
A strong camp would improve Barkley’s chances, but the quarterback battle will likely come down to Foles and Vick.
Although Foles’ numbers might not approach elite levels, his efficiency in the short passing game and ability to prevent turnovers offer Chip Kelly and the Eagles the best chance to win this season.
Getty ImagesJeremy Maclin (left) and Dennis Pitta (right) each suffered season-ending injuries on Saturday.
Three notable players went down over the weekend with season-ending injuries.
On Saturday, the Baltimore Ravens lost starting tight end Dennis Pitta after he suffered a dislocated hip in practice. The Philadelphia Eagles lost their top wide receiver from last season, Jeremy Maclin, with a torn ACL in his right knee.
And on Sunday, the Denver Broncos lost starting center Dan Koppen to a torn ACL in his left knee.
How will each injury impact each team?
Pitta was a vital part of the Ravens' third-down success last season. On third down with Pitta on the field, the Ravens averaged more than twice as many yards per play as they did with him off the field. Baltimore was also sacked less often, and all seven of their third-down passing touchdowns came with Pitta on the field.
When Pitta was on the field, he was Joe Flacco’s go-to guy in the red zone. Over the last two seasons (including the playoffs), Pitta had a team-high 10 red zone touchdowns. Second on that list were Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, who’s no longer on the team, with seven.
Pitta, if nothing else, has been extremely dependable when the ball comes his way. He's dropped just three passes over the last two seasons. Among tight ends who have been targeted at least 100 times since 2011, the only tight end with fewer drops is Anthony Fasano with one.
Regardless of who the Eagles end up starting at quarterback, the loss of Maclin is huge as he led the team in targets, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns last season. In fact, Maclin leads the Eagles in all of those categories over his four seasons with the team.
In 2009, Michael Vick signed with Philadelphia as a free agent shortly after they drafted Maclin. In that time, Vick has thrown more touchdowns (17) and completed more passes (138) to Maclin than any other Eagles receiver.
The Broncos offensive line took a major hit in losing Koppen. Peyton Manning was sacked eight times in the Broncos first three games last season, all played without Koppen taking a snap. Koppen played 95 percent of the team's snaps the final 13 games of the season, with Manning getting sacked 13 total times in those games.
The Broncos allowed one sack for every 35.8 dropbacks with Koppen on the field last season, compared to one sack for every 18.1 dropbacks with him off the field. Although the Broncos were much better with Koppen on the line, they managed to remain above the league average of 16.7 dropbacks per sack in his absence.