Philadelphia had a solid victory over a bad team on Sunday. What did we find out? You can read BLG's take here. This is mine.
1) Shady's Back.
Well, he was "back" against the Giants (149 yards) and the Texans (117) too, and solidly in the 80s against Green Bay and Arizona. Carolina (19 yards) was the only bad game he's had since week 4, and a range between 80 and 150 games -- plus a chunk from Sproles and Polk -- is a good starting point for this offense.
What was great today was seeing the full range of his shifty cutbacks and north/south adjustments for the first time this year, though all is not perfect yet as Chris Brown of SmartFootball.com noted:
LeSean McCoy jukes two guys out of their shoes but then him running in the open field looked like he was lumbering. What a unique player— Chris B. Brown (@smartfootball) November 23, 2014
2) Huff is out of the doghouse.
It only took one play, but the Eagles' longest-ever kickoff return set the tone for this whole game. The play showed off his various skills -- vision, timing, speed, and physicality, including a nasty stiff-arm that dispatched his last two attempted tacklers.
The mystery is why he disappeared afterwards. Chris Polk ran back the rest of the kicks, and while Huff replaced Riley Cooper on at least one third down, he didn't have any receptions. After the win, coach Kelly sidestepped the obvious question why.
3) The offense is humming ugly.
For a team with two struggling quarterbacks, the Eagles have a really strong pass-based offense. Sanchez had his third 300+ game in a row -- after just 8 in his first five years combined. The Birds are just average in total running (12th in the NFL with 118.7 yards) but they rank 3rd in the league both in scoring (31.1) and total yards (411.8).
Clearly the committee of receivers has replaced DeSean Jackson's production effectively. Just by himself, Jeremy Maclin already has 1,005 all-purpose yards, 9 TDs, 41 first downs -- and 10 tackles. He's on target to finish with 1,425 yards, 100 more than DeSean's 2013 output, and nearly as many first downs (59 vs. 61). More importantly, he has already matched DJax's TD output from last year with 9.
Elsewhere, Ertz has more yards than last year already. Jordan Matthews is on pace to double Jason Avant's 2013 yards and quadruple his TDs. Even the much-hated Riley Cooper is on target for 618 yards this year, after 49 today.
4) Injuries are healing.
Emmanuel Acho pulled a groin muscle today at the desperately short-handed ILB position, but no one else went down and the rest of the team is healing. The offensive line looked much better today, and Jason Kelce's snaps fell into place.
5) Sacks came back.
The Birds' pass rush flashed early, disappeared for the rest of the first half, then came back with a vengenance after the break. 5 sacks is good for any night but -- as we saw last week -- you can't beat a strong offense without pressure. In the playoffs, or even against Dallas and Seattle, one half of pressure won't be enough to win.
1. Sanchez being Sanchez.
He threw a lot of good balls and racked up yards, but Sanchez continues his career-long rash of turnovers. Responsibility for the first interception was shared with Riley Cooper, who ran a weak route and didn't fight much for the ball, but the second was all Sanchez. He sailed the ball over the middle above Matthews and Ertz, who are 6'3" and 6'4". The Eagles are amazingly lucky to be 8-3 while leading the league in turnovers, with three more than even Jacksonville. That obviously won't work in the post-season.
2. Red Zone Weakness
Cody Parkey made 5 of 6 field goals, but the 6 attempts tells you how ineffective the Birds were in finishing drives. They were only 3 for 7 in the red zone. One one drive, from 1st and goal at the 9, they lost yards on two consecutive plays. On another from first down at the 6, they racked up 25 yards in penalties. Sanchez was 7-7 in the red zone his first two games, but he's 4-11 since then. Whatever disease infected Nick Foles earlier this year, it seems to have spread to his replacement.
3. A Special Teams Vulnerability?
The Eagles clearly have the league's best special teams unit. But against Green Bay and Tennessee, they gave up long returns (Micah Hyde's 75 yard punt return, and Leon Washington's 44 yard kickoff runback today). Not a huge deal, but if you think back to last year's playoff loss, even one big return can be a killer.
Sanchez did well, but once teams digest his tape as Eagles' QB, it shouldn't be too hard to plan against him.
If you're coaching against Sanchez, just triple-team Jordan Matthews and have a single high safety back to collect interceptions.— Mark Saltveit (@taoish) November 23, 2014
5. Weak Big Play Defense
This team's biggest vulnerability going forward is their inability to stop big plays. The Eagles can sack a quarterback on first or second down and still be worried about giving up a first down on 3rd and 23.
Tennessee is a bad team with a raw rookie quarterback, and they still connected on 9 passes of 20 yards or more.
This team is 8-3 and strong in ways that are hard to see up close. But there are also serious flaws obscured by weak opponents. The next three games are against Dallas, Seattle, and Dallas again. If the Birds don't clean up some of these flaws, those games will look a lot more like the loss to the Packers, and this team will have a hard time making the playoffs.