Dec 6, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles (43) returns a punt to score a touchdown against the New England Patriots during the third quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
I don’t think I slept a wink on Sunday night after the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots, 35-28. Even the most optimistic Eagles’ fan had to admit a loss Sunday would have pretty well ended the season, and not many of us expected anything different.
So much for that. It was wild, it was fun, it was terrifying, it was stressful. It had it all.
This week we debut the “Monday Morning Touchdown.” Enjoy the march to six points as we celebrate an Eagles’ win over Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
1) Time of possession
People harp on the Philadelphia Eagles and head coach Chip Kelly regarding time of possession. The theory is that Chip’s offense moves too fast for its own good, subjecting the defense to too much exposure.
Chip Kelly has argued it’s a meaningless stat. I agree, because it’s true. For evidence, look at the third quarter of Sunday’s game against New England. The Patriots had the ball for all but 3:11 of the frame. Why? Because the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense had a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown by Malcolm Jenkins, and an 83-yard punt return for a score from Darren Sproles.
A lot of things go into time of possession. Some if it good, some of it bad. For the game, New England had the ball for 34:16. Something tells me they’d gladly trade some minutes for those big plays.
2) Eric Rowe
The rookie cornerback from Utah was a Thanksgiving punchline thanks to the insanity of Eagles’ defensive coordinator Billy Davis leaving him one-on-one against Calvin Johnson, but due to the injury situation in the secondary the Eagles didn’t have an option of sitting the rookie down.
Thank goodness for that. I thought Rowe played his most complete game and is showing why Kelly and the Birds made him a second-round pick. He’s tough, he can run with and play against big, powerful receivers, and he has the ability to get up in a guy’s face.
He’s also not a quitter. On the last play of the game Sunday, New England quarterback Tom Brady made a perfect throw to Keshawn Martin. He caught the ball but Rowe was right there, battling him to the ground. When the play was over, the ball was out and the Eagles had won the game.
Rowe is looking more and more like a player who could be a big part of the secondary’s future.
3) Kiko Alonso
I’ll give Kiko some credit for a couple of nice plays Sunday, but overall the linebacker had yet another forgettable performance.
It’s important to keep in mind that Alonso is playing with an injured knee that will undoubtedly need offseason surgery. In a perfect world, he’d have had that surgery already, or at the very least be playing a lot, lot less. But, again, injuries are forcing the Eagles’ hand and Alsonso is answering the bell.
It’s not pretty, but the guy is a gamer.
4) Riley Cooper
Philadelphia Eagles’ wide receiver Riley Cooper made two of the biggest plays of the game Sunday, first knocking an onside kick attempt out of bounds, and later coming up with what should have been a game-clinching catch on third down.
Cooper is a guy who draws the ire of Eagles’ fans for a variety of reasons, but give credit where credit is due. Cooper came up huge in crunch time – twice.
5) Sam Bradford
Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Sam Bradford’s stat line from Sunday looks like this: 14-of-24 passing for 120 yards and two touchdowns.
Pretty pedestrian, but again this is a time where numbers don’t do reality any justice. Bradford played a pretty awesome game. His touchdown passes to Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews were perfect, laser passes, and his clutch, third-down pass to Cooper in the fourth quarter was the kind of throw Chip Kelly had to be envisioning when he got this guy in the first place.
I still don’t know if Bradford will or should be part of the Eagles’ future, but for one week he proved he deserves the starting job right now.
6) Special teams
For the first two years of Chip Kelly’s reign in Philadelphia, the special teams unit was a fun one to watch.
For much of this season, it – like most other things with the Eagles – has been a disaster. Sunday was different. A huge blocked punt for a touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half shifted momentum and was, perhaps, the biggest play of the Eagles’ season. Darren Sproles and the punt return team made a huge play, and the coverage teams were sound all day.
In close games, special teams can make a difference. If this unit gets hot down the stretch, it could propel the Eagles to the playoffs.
- Malcolm Jenkins, Walter Thurmond, E.J. Biggers and Eric Rowe. These are guys who come out in the Eagles’ secondary and make plays, make hits, play with passion, etc. And then there’s Byron Maxwell. I thought our old friend Cary Williams played with the least amount of heart I’d ever seen an Eagle play with. Maxwell continues to give Williams a run for that title.
- Do we now have a running back controversy? Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner were the Eagles’ most preferred backs, by far, on Sunday. DeMarco Murray was an afterthought, barely seeing the field down the stretch.
- I guess the Eagles didn’t quit on Chip Kelly, did they?
- Do we need the Dallas Cowboys to win tonight against Washington? I think so. That feels dirty.
- Philadelphia Eagles’ radio announcer Merrill Reese always has great calls and funny lines. Sunday was no different. My favorite? With the Eagles having just extended their lead to 35-14 in the fourth quarter: “If I’m dreaming, please don’t wake me up.”