ReFo: Eagles @ Packers, Week 10
It might be for some to look at this game, see the Packers losing new starter Seneca Wallace mid-way through the first quarter and conclude that was where the game was lost. However, they would be wrong — Green Bay generated only 19 net less yards than Philadelphia, held the ball for almost 9 minutes more and had four more first downs. They lost because they gave up a plethora of big plays and made crucial mistakes on defense throughout.
It’s easy to think that when Aaron Rodgers returns all will be well, but unless this group improves that may not be the case or it may already be too late.
By comparison the Eagles’ defense wasn’t great either but they made some plays when they needed to (sometimes with the help of the officials who generally had a terrible game) and bent to the tune of just 13 points.
A few weeks ago, after the Michael Vick/Matt Barkley debacle against the Giants, I thought this team was dead in the water but since then Nick Foles has done well and with momentum on their side, the playoffs now looks more like a probability than possibility.
Philadelphia – Three Performances of Note
Mistake Free Mathis
After a few years of people scratching their heads and wondering what we were going on about – “who is this nobody you say is the best guard in the league?” – People are starting to catch on that LG, Evan Mathis (+5.0) can play a bit. It’s not hard to persuade people because you can pretty much watch any of his games and he’ll play well. To call him mistake free would be a tad disingenuous because every player in the NFL has off plays, but few make less than Mathis as even when he is initially beaten, he fights to recover so hard, he often ends up with a draw.
He had a few errors here; with 12:43 left in the first he was so busy issuing instructions into the backfield he let Datone Jones have a clean-up sack on a scrambling Foles. He could easily have blocked and was squeezed in the hole on another couple of occasions. That aside though he was his usual efficient self and looked to take particular delight in driving B.J. Raji well off the ball at 1:40 left in the third.
McCoy the Man
When I looked back at statistics of LeSean McCoy’s (+2.5) excellent day I was a bit surprised to note he had only avoided two tackles; it felt watching the game a lot more than that. I think that’s got something to do with how he was used and how the Packers defended him.
Towards the end of the game Green Bay seemed completely unable to defend the simple concept of two tackles on one side of the line collapsing down on the five technique and McCoy having so much speed to the hole that by the time the outside linebacker made the tackle he had already gained 6 to 9 yards. He wasn’t breaking or avoiding tackles on this occasion simply not allowing them to tackle him until the damage was done. On runs outside the tight end /tackle he gained 110 yards on 14 carries at 7.8 a burst.
It’s not that he can’t avoid tackles though and the sight of Mike Neal grasping thin air with 5:40 left in the fourth will probably be the enduring one of this game.
When I see one of the 2012 season’s premier pass rushers getting only 20 snaps a game (and rushing the QB on just over half of those) it immediately makes you think he may have issues. Then you see Brandon Graham (+1.2) play and you realize it’s not him that’s the problem.
Of edge rushers with more than 90 attempts he’s currently 16th in terms of pass rush productivity out of 89 players, and for a guy who doesn’t sell out against the run to get it, that’s impressive. The way he bull-rushed LT, David Bakhtiari back into his quarterback’s lap for two of the only three hurries the rookie allowed just left you thinking why is this guy on the bench?
Other teams need this type of ability even if the Eagles don’t and if they don’t replace the old war horse, Trent Cole with him next year, expect to see a few trade offers being made.
Green Bay – Three Performances of Note
The New, New Boy
Scott Tolzien (-1.3) didn’t have the easiest introduction to the NFL this year; after just over 60 preseason snaps with San Francisco he was bundled into this game with 5:52 left in the first quarter after Seneca Wallace hurt his groin.
The good news was his offensive line did a decent job of helping him out and he was pressured on just 22% of drop-backs. Further positives were he generally made good throws, especially on the final drive of the first half to get his team in position for their opening points.
His problems were two dreadful decisions – trying to force balls into areas where there was no space – and two very inaccurate throws including the ball behind James Jones that Brandon Boykin intercepted. It’s these that are more the concern; the former can more easily be overcome but the occasional inaccuracy may be inherent.
Mike Daniels (and a bunch of other guys)
PFF Favorite, Khaled Elsayed, is a Falcons fan for his sins but (luckily) couldn’t watch the game yesterday as he was busy doing player participation on a separate match. He asked me how the defense had played and I said “It’s basically Jonathan Babineaux and a bunch of other guys”. Later, as I got deep into this encounter, the same thought struck me. “It’s basically Mike Daniels (+3.6) and a bunch of other guys up front”.
I don’t think there’s any doubt who the best player has been on defense this year; Daniels has been nothing short of superb and significantly more effective than first rounder, Datone Jones.
Although he’s a very good run defender, here it was his pass rushing that stood out with a sack, two hits and a hurry; an excellent return for just 18 attempts.
The Claymaker’s Return
It’s very hard to watch a player of Clay Matthew’s (-3.4) caliber playing like just another Joe. With a cast the size of a small child encasing his right hand it was difficult to see him making much impact and unfortunately those fears became reality all too quickly. Only a single hit (which was nullified on penalty) on 14 rushes and a couple of tackles gave him his lowest graded game since week 14 of 2010.
However, if you ask the question did I downgrade him for the penalty on the spurious Foles hit? The answer is no. Unless I’m mistaken hitting a quarterback in the shoulder is still allowed.
– Nick Foles’ numbers on throws over 20 yards – 3 of 4 for 132 yards and 3 touchdowns.
– Of Eddie Lacy’s 73 yards a whopping 61 came after contact with six forced missed tackles.
– Cary Williams missed another two tackles to give him 10 total for the year. This is fourth worst among corners.
PFF Game Ball
LeSean McCoy made it happen for his team with a legitimate burst from deep. He is one of the very few half-backs who look comfortable running out of the shotgun.
Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil