The Eagles won their sixth game on Sunday, as the team defeated the Houston Texans, 31-21 (recap). While the Eagles got the win, there were two major injuries for the road warriors. The team lost its starting quarterback and its veteran play-caller on defense in just one game. Whether you love or hate him, losing Nick Foles puts the team in a situation where they are one hit away from a nightmare. The team will obviously miss DeMeco Ryans from a leadership standpoint at the very least.
The game had all of the curves and valleys that still seem to be the norm with this squad. There were defensive breakdowns, interceptions and stalled drives. However, Mark Sanchez was able to lead the offense, while relying heavily on the run game, which had perhaps its best overall performance this season. The defense played well, outside of a few plays, and the unit was able to stay strong even with the loss of Ryans.
Let's get into the winners and losers....
Chip Kelly: The Eagles head coach called a great game and somewhat proved that it doesn't matter who is under center. Kelly ran a lot more than usual which helped pace the game and took time off of the clock with the team in the lead. He attacked the Texans banged up secondary and didn't limit Sanchez in anyway. I'd say this was the coaching staff's second best game this season, behind the Giants 27-0 rout.
Jeremy Maclin: I'll get into the yardage, but I also noticed that Maclin blocked very well on Sunday, so I wanted to point that out first. The former first round pick has really been incredible this season and I think you have to re-sign him. He bet on himself and that wager has clearly paid off. He has been what Kelly has wanted at receiver, after being labeled as soft for years. He caught two passes of over 50 yards and finished with six catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns. He currently has 790 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 45 catches. In eight games, he has put up better numbers than his rookie season, which was pretty good. He is on pace for 1,580 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.
LeSean McCoy: He out-rushed Arian Foster and DeMarco Murray on the day with 117 yards. He looked decisive as he hit the holes and bounced around in good ways. He had two terrific long runs to set up the Eagles in the redzone and allow Chris Polk to thunder down the field.
Chris Polk: This is what we wanted to see. Say what you want about his health, but when he's healthy he is uber-productive. He finished with eight carries for 50 rushing yards (6.25 YPC).
Darren Sproles: He helped in pretty much every aspect that he was included in against the Texans. He made big receiving plays to pickup first downs, he averaged nearly six yards per carry and had a pair of nice punt returns. Welcome back, Sproles!
Front 7: The Eagles got home quite a few times and almost did several other instances when it came to sacking the quarterback. Brandon Graham, Connor Barwin and Mychal Kendricks all got solo sacks, while Brandon Bair and Beau Allen shared a takedown and a hug. There were a few more opportunities for Graham, Vinny Curry, Bennie Logan and Trent Cole, but they just couldn't finish. If the team can continue to get pressure, the defense will be scary down the stretch. Cedric Thornton, Fletcher Cox and Logan all did well against the run.
Mychal Kendricks: I mentioned him as a pass rusher, but he was all-around terrific today and seems to have recovered from his injuries.
The Secondary: Outside of the big catch to DeAndre Hopkins, the unit was pretty solid. Cary Williams needs to learn to turn around and Bradley Fletcher needs to take better angles after giving up a catch, but all in all, it was a good performance for the most part.
Injured Eagles: Foles, Ryans and Herremans all played major roles in the first eight games and they will be missed, whether some of us realize it or not. Losing starters hurts depth, whether they are fantastic or not. Foles may be back this season, but that remains somewhat unclear. Ryans is done and Herremans left with an ankle injury but is already dealing with a torn biceps muscle. Casey Matthews will make the calls on defense moving forward.
Earl Wolff: He was bad. Fans and writers like to hate on Nate Allen, but the truth is that he is better. Wolff looked slow and got beat by Hopkins and Foster during the game on big plays. He gave up the touchdown to Hopkins in the game. I can't stress this enough: Allen is better than Wolff.
Zach Ertz: I've avoided putting him here in the past because he really hasn't negatively-impacted the team, but his lack of a breakout is extremely frustrating. One catch for four yards is not the Pro Bowl form most of us expected out of him.
Mark Sanchez: Was I impressed? Not really. Did I see a more decisive passer? Yes. I think Sanchez had himself an "okay" game. He moved the team down the field a few times and had two brilliant touchdown throws. That said, he did have two "would be" interceptions on a terrible drive in the third quarter to go along with two actual interceptions. I think with Sanchez, you're not getting a massive or major upgrade over Foles, but you're getting a guy with a lot of experience and a quarterback that knows his limitations. That is a big deal in this offense.
Sanchez looked comfortable coming off of the bench and having starter reps will likely help him moving forward. He seems to be able to move the ball down field and make decisions quickly. He will be the starter moving forward and it will be big if he can get this team to another division title. He has been set up well with the team's current record.
Still, the team is now one hit away from Matt Barkley...