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2014 Regular Season
Preview: Eagles @ Cards

Setting the Stage:
Battle between two 5 - 1 teams. Cards beat Oakland on the road. Philly is coming off a Bye week after shutting out the Giants 27 - 0. Both teams are considered surprise early playoff contenders. The Acho Brothers will be battlling on opposite sides of the field.

Opponents' Last Game::
Two weeks ago, the Eagles tacked on 10 points in each of the first 2 quarters and seven more in the thirden route to coasting to a 27 - 0 laugher over the Giants.

First Quarter

  • Philly received. TB on the KO. Foles pecked his way to the Giant 13 (mixing runs and short passes for gains of: +2, +11, +12, +18, +9, +9, +2, +4 followed by an imcompletion which made them settle for a 31-yard Parkey FG.). Philly 3 - Giants 0.

  • Touchback on the KO. After Manning hit Cruz for +13, the Giants ran out of downs 4 plays later (after Manning was sacked by Barwin). Punt was returned to the Philly 19. Foles engineered a 10-play drive (featuring a 14-yard completion to Cooper, an 18 run off left tackle by McCoy followed by a 15-yard TD completion to Ertz.. Philly 10 - Giants 0.

    TB on the KO. The Giants mounted a 10-play drive that crossed into the next quarter.

First Quarter Score: Eagles 10 - Giants 0.

Second Quarter

  • The Giant drive featured four penalties (2 for each team) and three Philly sacks (one each by Cole, Curry and Barwin). Giants were forced to punt from their own 38. Punt was returned to the Eagle 21. After a 21-yard completion to Celek, Philly ran off four plays before punting from their own 47. Punt was out of bounds at the Giant 9. Giants then went 3 & out. Punt went out of bounds at the Giant 47. After Mccoy circled right end for +15 and Foles hit Cooper up the middle, for another +6, Foles threw deep to Casey for a 26-yard TD. Eagles 17 - Giants 0.

  • TB on the KO. Giants managed to move to their own 37 before they were forced to punt. Sproles returned the punt to the Giant 43. Eagles managed to move to the Giant 24 before Parkey's attempt from 45-yards was "good." Eagles 20 - Giants 0.

  • TB on the KO. Three & Outsville. Punt was downed at the Philly 46. 2:39 till halftime. Philly breeezed down to the Giant 16 where Foles' pass for Sproles was picked off by Rolle. Giants took over on their own 25. Another sack of Manning by Curry led to a Giant punt, an Eagle 3 & out (featured play was Moore's sack of Foles). There was one fruitless Manning scramble before the half ended.

First Half Score: Eagles 20 - Giants 0.

Third Quarter

  • Giants received. KO returned to Giant 23. Eagles held Giants to 3 & out. Sproles returned the punt to the Giant 30. On the third play of the Eagle possession, Foles' pass for J Matthews was intercepted by Z Bowman and returned to the Philly 21. Manning's TD pass to Donnell was nullified due to a holding penalty but an 18-yard completion to Beckham on the next play helped move the ball to the Philly 3. Coughlin decided to "go for it" on 4th & goal, but Manning's pass to Cruz was incomplete. (Cruz was injured and out for the season).

    The Eagle's Yards-Gained log for the following possession: McCoy +9, Foles +4, Foles to Matthews +26, McCoy minus-1, McCoy around RE +28, Foles to Celek +9, Foles to Celek +7 and Sproles around LE f+15 and an Eagle TD. Eagles 27 - Giants 0.

    KO was returned to the Giant 24. Giants went 3 & out. Punt was fair caught at the Philly 22. The Eagles reached midfield in 7 plays but were forced to punt. TB on the punt. Giants gained 5 yards on 2 plays to wrap up the quarter.

Third Quarter Score: Eagles 27 -Giants 0.

Fourth Quarter

  • Giants completed a 3 & out. Punt was downed at the Philly 31. Eagles went 3 & out. Punt (net a penalty) gave the Giants the ball at their own 20. They punted from their own 29 five plays later. Touchback - Philly ball on their own 20. Eagles reached their own 49 on 8 plays and punted. It was fair caught at the Giant 7. The Giants moved to their 42 in 3 plays but Fletcher forced Fells (who had caught a pass for +20) to fumble on the play. It was recovered by Matthews.

    Philly ball on their own 46 with 3:19 left. They went 3 & out and punted from midfield. Punt was fair-caught at the Giant 6 with 1:51 left. Nassib in for Manning and managed moved the Giants to the Eagle 24 in eight plays before being sacked to wind up the contest.

Final Score: Eagles 27 - Giants 0.

Game Stats
Two Philly Numbers that stand out are Running Yards (149) and Sacks (8). Other than that, it just seemed as if the Eagles put together an low-keyed, workmanlike performance while the Giants were simply flat out impotent in nearly every area of their game.

  • Foles completed 21 of 34 for 248 yards, 2 TD's and 2 interceptions.

  • McCoy ran for 149 yards on 22 carries (longest gain was for 28 yards).

  • Cooper led Eagle receivers with 5 grabs for 59 yards, followed by Matthews (4 catches for 50) and Celek (4 for 45).

  • Philly ran 11 fewer plays than the Giants but averaged 6.3 yards per down (vs. 4.2 for the Giants).

  • Eagle offense racked up 448 net yards (compared to the Giants' 254). Philly gained 5.6 yards per running play

  • The Eagles outdid the Giants in yards per passing play (7.0 vs. 4.7).

  • Eagles chalked up 24 first downs (compared to Giants'12).

  • Giant 3rd down efficiency was 14% (worse than the somewhat anemic 30% from Philly).

  • Turnover Ratio: -1. (Sproles lost a fumble. Huff and Matthews each recovered one. Foles threw 2 picks. Manning and Nassib threw zero interceptions).

  • Allen led the Eagles in tackles with 6 followed by Barwin, Cox and Matthews (with 5 apiece).

  • Barwin and Fletcher forced fumbles.

  • Eagles sacked Giant QB's 8 times - Barwin racked up 3 sacks. Curry had 2. Graham, Bair and Cole had one apiece.

  • Giants were penalized 10 times (Philly only 3).

  • Philly won Time of Possession (32:26 6o 27:34).

What the Season Stats Do (or Don't) Tell Us
When you skim the Eagles stats, nothing leaps out at you to suggest they should be 5 & 1 or rank 3rd in the NFL with 30.9 Points Per Game. For example, they're in the middle of the pack in Yards Gained Per Play and Penalties They're tied for 28th with a minus-5 in Turnovers and TD's Scored. They're tied for 5th - 14th in Interceptions. and #29th in Sacks. But there are some clues to Philly's success: They rank among the leaders in limiting Points-Allowed, Yards Allowed Per play and Time of Possession. One secret of success seems to be their special teams play (where they dominated their opponents in Return Yardage and Punts Inside the 20). Perhaps another hidden reason is that they're very good at keeping the chains moving in steady increrments (rather than occasional big chunks). Here are some additional Eagle stats:

  • Foles ranks 39th in completion percentage and 33rd in yards per pass but jumps to #13 in TD passes. He's thrown 7 interceptions (6th worst among 57 ranked QB's). He's been sacked 7 times (tied for #30).

  • Philly is tied for 13th - 16th both in rushing attempts per game and yards per carry. They're middle-of-the pack in rushing TD's-scored.

  • They're tied for #6 - 13 in rushing fumbles.

  • Philly QB's rank #26 with 82.0 QB Rating. .

  • Defensively, Philly ranks #7 in points allowed. They rank #11 in yards per play.

  • The nfl.com database is acting a bit quirky, but from eyballing the numbers, it appears that Philly ranks roughly #4 in Time of Possession.

  • Opposing QB's have the 12th highest QB Rating with 94.6

  • Philly "D" is tied for #24 - #30 with 3 interceptions.

  • Their defense is tied for #15 - #18 vs. the rush.

Rosters/Match-ups
In many ways, the Eagles "remind us of us" (i.e. we have Ginn/they have Sproles, we both have big play defenses and we both control time of possession).But there are key exceptions: (1) they have a stronger running game, (2) they're stronger at TE and (3) seem to be a bit more dynamic at LB; whereas we have a slight edge at CB and DL. (Note that the terminology in Kelly's depth chart suggests that the Eagle base-offensive lineup utilizes one RB, one TE, 3 WR's and no FB. His base-defensive depth chart shows a 3-4 front with no left-right, strong-weak or strong-free designations for his linebackers or safeties.

Eagle Offense

WR1  14 Cooper...........18 Maehl             
LT      71 Peters............66 Gardner                      
LG     64 Tobin..............67 Kelly      
C       63 Molk...............61 Vandervelde...(62 Kelce)             
RG    79 Herremans       
RT     65 L Johnson                  
TE     87 Celek.............86 Ertz..................85 Casey........47 Burton                                    
WR2 18 Maclin........... 11 Huff
WR3 81 Matthews......(16 B Smith)                     
RB    25 McCoy...........43 Sproles............32 Polk
RB    09 Foles..............03 Sanchez..........02 Barkley
    

Cardinal Defense

DE        95 Kelly...........96 K,Martin      
NT        92 D. Williams 66 Ta'amu                     
DT        98 Rucker       72 Stinson                    
SLB      57 Okafor........53 Keiser        
ILB       50 Foote..........54 Demens              
ILB       51 Minter..........97 Alexander 56 Carson                     
WLB     94 Acho...........59 Benard    
LCB      21 Peterson.....28 Bethel                      
RCB     31 Cromartie....25 Powers                     
SS        22 Jefferson.....36 Bucannon                 
FS        32 Mathieu.......26 R. Johnso
n   

Matchup: Eagle Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Kelly made an early decision to avoid schizophrenia on offense by making Foles his starter early - saying goodbye to running threat, Michael Vick and adding a couple of quality backups in Sanchez and Barkley who are more pocket-types like Foles than they are running threats.

Foles has excellent targets in Cooper, Maclin and Matthews. Celek and Ertz present a potential nightmare for a Cardinal secondary that has had issues covering TE's. Despite Okafor's 2 sacks last week in Oakland, the Cardinal pass rush has been somewhat less than terrifying to opposing pass blockers, having to achieve pressure more through scheme than through the individual talent of its pass rushers. In Peters, Cardinal weak-side rushers have to deal with their LT Peters (considered one of the best - if not the best - pass blocker in the NFL).

Key Matchups: Peterson, Cromartie and Powers vs. Cooper, Maclin and Matthews. Cardinal safeties and LB's vs. Celek and Ertz. Unlikely pass rushers (like Mathieu or Demens) on unorthodox stunts and blitzes vs. Eagle pass blockers.

Matchup: Eagle Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
McCoy is among the NFL's elite RB's - he gained 149 yards vs. the Giants two weeks ago. Cardinal currently have the league's top run-defense (important because "stopping the run" has to be Arizona's #1 priority).

To make things even dicier, McCoy's backup is Darren Sproles (a home-run terror on misdirection plays or coming out of the backfield on screens). He's nicked up a bit but expected to play Sunday. Stopping McCoy & Co. will have to be a team effort with gap and outside-contain discipline paramount. Our two rookies (K-Mart and Stinson) have been coming on like gangbusters of late (with Stinson especially effective vs. the run).

Key Matchup: 11 of our guys vs. 10 of their guys blocking for McCoy. Assuming that Foles isn't the running threat that, say, Kaepernick or Wilson are, don't be surprised if Todd Bowles employs more of an aggressive penetrating defensive approach than a read, react and spy strategy.

Cardinal Offense

WR1     11 Fitzgerald....19 Ginn...............13 John Brown   
LT         68 Veldheer......79 Sowell                      
LG        62 Larsen..., ....61 Cooper                     
C          63 Sendlein......62 Larsen                     
RG       74 Fanaika.......78 Watford                   
RT        70 Massie........79 Sowell                      
TE        87 Niklas..........85 Fells            
WR2     15 M. Floyd.....13 Jaron Brown              
QB        03 Palmer........05 Stanton.........06 Thomas        
RB        38 Ellington.....30 Taylor.............39 Hughes....34 Parmele
TE        89 Carlson.......84 Housle
r

Eagle Defense

DE......91 Cox...........93 Bair.       
NT......96 Logan........94 B Allen          
DE.....72 Thornton....75 Curry....97 T Hart              
OLB...98 Barwin.......90 M Smith II       
ILB....59 Ryans.........50 C Matthews..........54 Fillmoeatu               
ILB....95 Kendricks...51 E Acho              
OLB .58 Cole............55 Graham....56 Braman    
CB    24 B Fletcher...23 Carroll II........37 J Watkins
CB....26 C Williams..22 Boykin..........39 McGill          
S      29 N Allen........28 Wolff                    
S      27 M Jenkins...42 Maragos

Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Eagle Pass Defense
Eagle strengths appear to be at LB and S; yet anytime your team can sack the opposing quarterback 8 times and shut out a division rival like the Giants, "everybody's gotta be doing something."

At LB, the Eagles have Barwin and Cole buzzing around on the outside with DeMico Ryans and Kendricks taking care of business and causing havoc on the inside. Allen and Jenkins are quality safeties. Philly's defensive linemen and corners appear to be somewhat unsung and could represent matchup opportunities for Cardinal receivers. Kendrick is iffy for Sunday.

It wouldn't surprise me if the reason why Bruce Arians made Andre Ellington his bell cow offensive player last week was to send a message to Kelly and his staff that they can't afford to ignore the Cardinal short pass and screen game in order to put pressure on Palmer.

Scary tactical matchup issue for the Cardinals will be protecting Palmer and giving him enough time to hit his open receivers (who figure to be matched up with subpar Eagle corners). It's a kind of "triangle" proposition: (1) give receivers time to get open, (2) give Palmer time to locate and hit his receivers and (3) use Ellington (mainly on either perimeter) as a threat to scare Eagle linebackers and safeties.

Key Matchup: Fitz, Floyd and The Smokester vs. Fletcher, C. Williams and Boykin. Veldheer and Massey vs. Cole and Barwin

Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Eagle Run Defense
Last week, Coach Arians made a" statement" by dialing up 37 running plays (and only 22 passing). It might be an oversimplification to nickname Andre Ellington "Mr. Outside" and Stepfan Taylor "Mr. Inside (because the explosive Ellington can also gash you on inside running plays). But, between the two, the Cardinals ran the ball 36 times for 128 yards.

While, it's fair to consider screens and flat passes to Ellington or Taylor extensions of the Cardinal running game, but Arians isn't bashful about making his RB's "extra receivers."

Key Matchup: Ellington vs.Ryans and Kendrick inside and Ellington vs. Cole, Barwin, Allen and Jenkins on the perimeter.

Special Teams

Eagles

P         08 D Jones                      
K         01 Parkey                            
H         08 D Jones     
LS       46 Dorenbos                               
KR      32 Polky                         
PR      43 Sproles

Cardinals

K          07 Catanzaro                             
P          02 Butler                             
H          02 Butler                               
LS        82 Leach                                  
KR        19 Ginn             12 John Brown               
PR        19 Ginn             21 Peterson        12 John Brow
n

Matchup: Eagle Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
It is pretty obvious that Kelly has placed extra emphasis on special teams. Parkey has made 12 of 13 FG attempts (The one he missed was inside the 40). Jones' percentage of punts inside the 20 is double those of Eagle opponents. The ever-dangerous Sproles averages twice as many yards per return as do returners for opposing teams. Polk and other Eagle kick returners are averaging 8.4 more yards per KO than their opponents.

Catanzaro is still perfecto (15 of 15) in FG attempts-made. He wasn't as consistent last weekat putting KO's deep into the end zone (short KO's could give Sproles too many opportunties to kill us). Butler lacks Zastudil's directional punting skills but his distance-average is pretty close to opposing punters. Ginn's punt return average is about double that for Cardinal opponents.On kickoffs, the Cards are lagging their competitors by an average of 6-yards per return..

Key matchups: Cardinal coverage teams vs. Sproles.

Coaching
I was impressed by Kelly when he was HC at Oregon. He always struck me as a smart guy who's not afriad to innovate. It's amazing to me that he's appeared to take what to some degree is a team of no-names and, in one & a half seasons, has them at 5 & 1. One Kelly hallmark we haven't discussed is the accellerated tempo of his offenses. Any team not ready to rumble or nor in top shape runs the risk of run out of the stadium or wearing down late in the game.

Not that Coach Arians isn't a smart guy too - He's done a wonderful job recognizing talent and getting players to buy into the "know your role/fill your role" concept. His players trust that BA and his coaches will do right by them and put them in the best position to succeed. Arians is more of a "fit the game plan to new matchup challenges each week" kind of guy (as compared to a "be consistent in your approach week after week" HC). Goodness knows what he and his coaches will come up with this Sunday to take on the Eagles.

Last Word
A few weeks ago, the Cardinals faced Denver wondering whether they were good enough to stay on the same field with elite NFL teams. Going solely by the results of the Denver game, the answer to that question seems to be a resounding: "....uhhh....no!"). This week we go up against another elite team in the Eagles with a chance to redeem ourselves and prove to the world (and, more importantly, to ourselves) that we belong right up there with the big dawgs.

It won't be easy, but I believe it's do-able. We will have to control McCoy, protect Carson Palmer and contain Philly's receivers (including their TE's) while at the same time not killing ourselves with turnovers, penalties and blown coverages. Will we do it? That's why we play the games. Beat Philly!.


 
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