The Philadelphia Eagles won a football game on Thursday night. Sure, it's only preseason, but it was still an encouraging performance for Philadelphia following two consecutive preseason losses against the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots. Whereas the Eagles showed some worrisome concerns in those losses, the Eagles looked much more sharp in their 31-21 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Eagles are now 1-2 in the 2014 NFL preseason.
There's a lot to talk from the game about so let's get right to it.
First team offense
First drive. Eagles start with the ball. The offense manages to get two first downs via Riley Cooper and LeSean McCoy but the drive stalls after some off-target throws from Nick Foles. Foles wasn't helped by a Cooper drop on a high pass. Not the most crisp start. Eagles have to punt.
Second drive. Eagles moving down the field thanks to some McCoy runs. Philadelphia tight end Brent Celek catches a pass over the middle, takes a big hit, and keeps on trucking. Celek is so tough. McCoy catches a screen pass from Foles that goes the distance for an Eagles touchdown. Awesome blocking on the play by Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, and even wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.
Third drive. McCoy goes inside to get an X-ray on his thumb. Matthew Tucker is in for McCoy. Celek makes another catch down the field and gets hit hard but once again it doesn't matter. He's just too tough. Philadelphia continues to move the chains and get into scoring position. Cooper drops a pass in the endzone for his second drop on the night. Rust, perhaps? Darren Sproles punches it in for a one-yard touchdown score. It looks like the Eagles have found their new goal line running back!
Fourth drive. Maclin isn't non-contaced but goes down and grabs his knee. Scary. Maclin gets up and walks off the field on his own power. Foles throws an interception to Steelers safety Troy Polamalu a few plays after.
Fifth drive. Maclin is back out there and makes a catch on the first play of the drive. Good to see. Eagles end up having to punt.
Sixth drive. Foles finds rookie Jordan Matthews for a nice gain. The Eagles move into the redzone. Foles almost hits Sproles on a wheel route in the endzone for a touchdown but the pass is just a little too far ahead of Sproles' outstretched arms. So close. Alex Henery kicks a 36-yard field goal to finish the drive.
First team defense
First drive. Jaylen Watkins is starting in place of nickel cornerback Brandon Boykin and Nolan Carroll II is starting in place of Cary Williams. DeMeco Ryans drills a Steelers wide receiver after a dropped pass and gets called with a personal foul (VIDEO). Seemed like a legal hit to me. No matter, however, because the Eagles get a stop. That's right: the Eagles' defense finally managed to get off the field following a third down.
Second drive. Bradley Fletcher commits an illegal contact penalty. The new emphasis on these rules doesn't really favor him. Pittsburgh moves down the field a bit before eventually having to punt. Amazingly, that's two straight defensive stops for Philadelphia.
Third drive. A number of penalties on Philadelphia give the Steelers favorable field position. Pittsburgh's drive doesn't last for long, however, because Ben Roethlisberger throws an interception to a diving Carroll II. Good pass rush pressure on the play forced a terrible throw.
Fourth drive. Eagles on a short field due to Foles interception, but Philadelphia gets another stop and forces Pittsburgh to a field goal. The Steelers miss it.
Fifth drive. Backup defensive end Brandon Bair bats a pass and forces the Steelers to punt. Bair has had a pretty good summer.
Alex Henery drilled a touchback on his first kickoff. He also made a 36-yard field goal. Then Henery missed a 31-yard kick in the fourth quarter. That makes Henery 1-3 in the preseason. Terrible. Henery's gotta go, man. This is how Chip Kelly reacted to Henery's miss (PICTURE).
Cody Parkey came in for two kickoffs. His first kick was three yards deep into the endzone and was returned by Pittsburgh to the 20. Parkey's second kick was a touchback. That gives him 7 touchbacks on 12 kickoff attempts this preseason.
Damaris Johnson was the first man up to return punts and kickers. Newly acquired running back Kenjon Barner lined up for a punt return but did not attempt to return it. Barner had a chance to return a few kicks but failed to impress.
Nick Foles: 19/29, 179 yards, 6.2 average, 1 TD, 1 INT, 79.5 rating
Mark Sanchez: 7/9, 85 yards, 9.4 average, 0 TD, 0 INT, 106.0 rating
Matt Barkley: 4/4, 37, 9.3 average, 0 TD, 0 INT, 105.2 rating
G.J. Kinne: 1/1, 8 yards, 8.0 average, 0 TD, 0 INT, 100.0 rating
Nick Foles started off slow. A number of his passes seemed to be just off target. He lacked proper touch at times and failed to recognize open receivers. Foles' stats also suffered from a few drops. Decent showing overall but he could have been better.
Mark Sanchez played yet another great game. He made an especially impressive throw over the middle down the seam to undrafted rookie free agent Trey Burton at one point that made the entire Eagles press box go "Wow!" Sanchez is 25-31 in the preseason. Keep in mind that at least two of those incompletions were drops and one was a hail marry attempt. Sanchez looks like a top-notch backup quarterback.
Matt Barkley didn't look bad in limited playing time. He had a few nice plays that were cancelled out due to penalties.
G.J. Kinne is still the best.
Lots and lots of penalties, but what's new?
The Eagles defense had a series where their second and third stringers shut down the Steelers' first team offense. Impressive. The Eagles offense also had a series where they managed to score on the Steelers defense. Matthew Tucker especially stood out.
Speaking of Eagles backups, the backup offensive line shined for the third straight game. Take a look at this picture.
Jeremy Maclin looked pretty great as a blocker. Jordan Matthews also a had a standout block at one point.
Brandon Graham had a great strip sack on Roethlisberger to end the first half. As always, hse looked great rushing the passer.
I mentioned it earlier but backup defensive end Brandon Bair has had a great summer. There's some concern with his age (he turns 30 this season) but there's no doubt he's been playing well enough to earn a spot on the team.
Philadelphia's pass rush seemed to be better than it was in previous weeks.
Backup Eagles running backs Matthew Tucker and Henry Josey ran well. Josey had a big touchdown run called back for a weak penalty on wide receiver B.J. Cunningham. Chris Polk
Marcus Smith II ended up in coverage of Steelers receiver Antonio Brown on play. That's not exactly a favorable matchup for the Eagles but Smith II did his best despite the circumstance.
Curtis Marsh was really bad. Again.
Fun stat courtesy of Patrick Wall: No Eagles wide receiver or tight end scored a touchdown against the Steelers, yet Philadelphia scored 31 points.
Left the game and did not return:
RB LeSean McCoy (thumb) - McCoy's X-rays on his thumb were negative. More details here.
WR Arrelious Benn (head)
Left the game and did return:
WR Jeremy Maclin (knee) - More details here.
Another seven Eagles players were ruled out prior to Thursday's game.
The Philadelphia Eagles have off Friday, August 22nd, before returning to training camp practice on Saturday, August 23th. The Eagles play their next and final preseason game next week on Thursday, August 28st at home against the New York Jets.
We'll have more in-depth coverage of Thursday night's Eagles-Steelers game on Bleeding Green Nation coming shortly. Stay tuned.