There was a lot of talk about DeSean Jackson during the short week after the Eagles wide receiver was held to eight catches for 86 yards during nearly three full games after his 88-yard touchdown pass to open the Monday Night game in Washington, D.C.
Jackson put up solid numbers last night, but he wasn’t the sole focal point of the offense. Instead, Philadelphia spread the ball around effectively. Six different players caught at least one pass and five different Eagles had a carry. In all, nine skill players had touches on offense.
“We were able to spread it around a little bit,” head coach Andy Reid said. “That’s tough on defenses. Everybody got involved. I’m not sure how many guys caught the ball, but our fullback got one and he normally doesn’t get involved there.”
It was also the fifth time this year both DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin topped 50 yards in the same game. They are the only teammates in the NFL to both top 750 yards receiving so far this season. Jackson had three catches for 84 yards, while Maclin caught five passes for 68 yards.
Their solid performances came even while LeSean McCoy was catching eight balls for 86 yards and a touchdown and Brent Celek was having his best game of the year with four receptions for 55 yards, including a huge third down conversion.
In part, it was a logical reaction to the way teams have played the Eagles of late, dropping safeties increasingly deep to eliminate the deep passes to Jackson in particular, and Maclin as well.
By hitting McCoy frequently underneath, the Eagles countered that type of approach. Whether in reaction to the Eagles’ underneath game or due to a different game plan than most teams have used against Philadelphia, the Texans weren’t leaving two safeties way down the field.
“They didn’t drop them back as far as we thought,” McCoy said. “They played a little more of the one high safety, which is surprising with the guys we’ve got on the outside. [They] brought a little pressure, so they kind of switched it up a little bit.”
Philadelphia also got a big play early from DeSean Jackson, but not on a deep bomb. Instead, Jackson found some room in that range between intermediate and deep, just in front of the safeties.
“He did a great job of sitting in front of that safety, the free safety played very deep,” Reid said.
In an offense with so many options, at times this year one or two players have been taken away by the defense while another exploded. Instead tonight it was a well-rounded effort from the Eagles top threats, with only Jason Avant being held to a quiet evening.
The balance showed, as Philadelphia picked up 416 total yards on 63 plays, with 115 yards coming on the ground and 302 through the air. The Birds held the ball for nearly 32 minutes and went 4-6 in the red zone, with one of those trips being a third down play that moved the ball just inside the 20, setting up a field goal and, technically, a failed red zone trip.
The Eagles had 22 first downs, with seven different players moving the chains at least once: Jackson, McCoy, Celek, Maclin, Vick, Chad Hall and Jerome Harrison.
Equally impressive, the Eagles had just two three-and-outs, coming on their last two drives of the game as they had already put it away, For the first eight drives during the opening 56 minutes and 43 seconds, Philadelphia picked up at least one first down each possession.
With so much talent, it’s hard to get every skill player their touches every game, but last night the Eagles came about as close as possible.