Last MInute News, Rumors etc.:
(Updated regularly if or when needed) -
Setting the Stage:
Sunday PM national game. Eagles beat the Bills 23 - 20 and are tied with Washington atop the NFC East standings. (If the Giants win their Mon. night game at Miami, there could be a three-way tie Tues. AM. Cards won ugly over Minnesota Thursday night. Cards are now 11 & 2, facing games against the Eagles, Packers and Seahawks. The way Seattle is playing, it's conceivable that the only way the Cards can win the NFC West championship and/or hang onto a #2 Bye is to run the table (That, of course, includes beating the Eagles Sunday night. Easier said than done. Philly will be highly motivated, they have a very smart coach and they are capable of ringing up serious points given the right set of circumstances.
Opponent's Last Game
The Eagles squeaked by a (in my opinion) talented but fairly dumb and penalty-prone Buffalo team 23 - 20. A few weeks back, the starting QB (Sam Bradford) that they traded Foles for came off the injury list and is improving week by week.
Buffalo received - TB on KO. Cox sacked Taylor for minus-8 to set up a Buffalo punt from their 24. Punt was returned by Sproles to the Eagle 39. Bradford 42-yard completion to Cooper was reversed. Bradfrod nickled and dimed his way to the Buffalo 37, where a 21-yard pass to Ertz and a15-yard run by Sproles set up a one-yard TD run by Sproles. Eagles 7 - Bills 0.
TB on the KO. On the first play of the possession, Taylor hit Woods up the deep middle for +32 yards. On the fourth play of the series, Taylor hit Watkins deep for a 47-yard TD. Eagles 7 - Bills 7.
KO returned to the Philly 18. Eagles held to 3 & out. Punt returned to Bills 24. THey managed to move to the Buffalo 42, but the drive stalled. Punt fair caught by Sproles on the Eagle 13. Philly went 3 & out again. Punt returned to the Buffalo 34. Bills moved to their own 46 in 5 plays as the quarter ended.
First Quarter Score: Eagles 7 - Bills 7.
Bills nickeled and dimed their way to the Eagle 36 where they punted. Punt rolled out of bounds at the Philly 4. Philly held to 3 & out, but the punt was muffed by Buffalo and recovered by Braman at the Buffalo 37. After two offensive holding penalties set up a 2nd & 26, Bradford hit Agholor over the deep-middle for a 53-yard TD. Eagles 14 - Bills 7.
TB on the KO. An 18 yard completion to Woods, a 24-yard run off RT by McCoy, a 13-yd scramble by T Taylor moved the Bills to the Philly 15 where they settled for a 38-yard FG. (Note - Bills were continually shooting themselves in the foot with numerous penalties). Eagles 14 - Bills 10.
KO (net penalty gave Philly the ball on their own 10-yd line. Another penalty contributed to their possession stalling at the Philly 20. Punt was fair caught at the Bills 38 with 3:59 till halftime. Bills managed to move out to the Philly 38, but another penalty forced them to punt from the Philly 43. TB on the punt. 1:28 till the half. Bradford led the Eagles on an 11-play scoring drive capped by a 45-yard Sturgis FG . Eagles 17 - Bills 10.
0:05 left. Taylor took a knee.
First Half Score: Eagles 17 - Bills 10.
Philly received. TB on the KO. Bradford engineered a 14-play scoring drive ending at the Buffalo 23 with a 41-yard Sturgis FG. (Longest gain of the drive was a 7-yard run up the middle by Sproles. Eagles 20 - Bills 10.
TB on the KO. T Taylor took Buffalo on an 8-play excursion ending with a 40-yard Carpenter FG. Key play: a 37-yard completion to Woods. KO w score. Eagles 20 - Bills 13.
TB on the KO. Philly went 3 & out. Punt (net roughness penalty on Cooper) was returned to the Philly 44. Buffalo ball. On the 6th play of the possession, T Taylor scrambled for +14-yards. On the next play, Gillislee ran off LE for a Buffalo TD to tie the score. Eagles 20 - Bills 20.
KO return net penalty gave Philly the ball at their own 11. An interference flag moved Philly out to their own 30 and a short pass to Huff moved the Eagles to their own 48 to end the quarter. All knotted up.
Third Quarter Score: Eagles 20 - Bills 20.
Eagles moved to the Bills 24, where Bradford's pass for Celek was picked off at the Bills 5. (Call challenged, but not overturned). An 18-yard run around LE by McCoy was nullfied by penalty. Drive stalled at the Buff 23. Sproles returned the punt to the Buff 46. Eagles held to 3 & out. Punted from the Bills 41 Fair catch at the Bills 9.
A face-mask flag on Incognito nullfied an 8-yard catch by Felton. A weird "scramble" by McCoy (who ran around left end into a brick wall) lost 10-yards and set up a punt from the Buff 26. Sproles returned the punt to the Philly 34. Bradford ran off 6 plays before stalling out at the Buff 12 and settling for a 30-yard Sturgis FG to win the game. Eagles 23 - Bills 20
3:26 left. TB on the KO. A scramble by Taylor was nullified by another flag on Incognito. Buffalo forced to punt from its own 16 with 2:17 left. A minus-15 yard sack of Bradford on the third play of the series set up an Eagle punt from its own 25. Return ran out of bounds at the Bills 31. On the fourth play of the series (after a false start flag on Incognito), Taylor's pass for Woods was intercepted by Reynolds at the Philly 33 and returned to the Eagle 40. Two knees. Game over.
Final Score:Eagles 23 - Bills 20
Meaningful Game Stats
Passing - Bradford was 23 for 38 for 247 yards, one TD and one interception. (Taylor was 19 for 36, 268 yds, 1 TD and one pics).
Receiving - A TE (Ertz) led in receptions with 5 catches for 98 yards. Agholor, Cooper and Matthews each had 3 grabs - Agholor had one for 53 yards and a TD.
Rushing - Philly gained 116 yards rushing. Sproles gained 41 yards on 7 carries (including one TD). Matthews gained 38 on 13 carries. Murray picked up 34 yards on 11 carries. Bills gained 152 rushing yards. McCoy gained 74 yards on 20 carries.
Pass Defense - Eagles gave up 260 net passing yards while gaining 232.
Run Defense - Philly surrendered 152 net rushing yards while gaining 116.
Turnovers - +1 (Had 1 pick and 1 recovered fumble. Lost one fumble).
Tackles - Cox, Kendricks and Jenkins had 8 tackles apiece). Cox had Philly's only credited sack.
Sacks - 1 by R Cox
Third Down Efficiency - 9 for 18 (50%). Buffalo had 6 for 16 (37%)
Net Rushing Yards - 116 (for 3.4 ypc) . (Buffalo had 152 (4.8 ypc)
Run/Pass Ratio: 34/38
Net Punting Average - 43.3 (vs. 35.4 for Buffalo
Penalties - 5 for 55 yards (Bills were flagged 15 times for101 yards).
Red Zone Efficiency: Both teams were 1 for 2 (50%)
Time of Possession: Eagles 24:58. Bills 35:02.
Meaningful Philly Season Stats (prior to Sunday's gamess)
First Downs: Eagles 274 - Opponents 282
First Downs (Rushing): Eagles 95 - Opponents 73
First Downs (Passing): Eagles 145 - Opponents 185
Receiving: Mathews leads with 64 grabs, 4 TD's amd 10 ypr. A TE Ertz (45 catches for 501 yards and 11.1 ypc), a RB Sproles (42 catches for 296 yards and 7.0 ypc) and another RB Murray (41 catches, 298 yards, 7.3 ypc) follow. Interesting to note that the top 4 receivers average 11.1 ypc or less, but a handful of other Philly receivers (Celek, Cooper, Austin, Burton) have fewer catches but gaudier yards per reception averages, indicating that Philly takes its shots but usually to receivers other than their top four.
Passing Yards: Bradford is credited with 251 completions from 397 passing attempts for a 63.2% completion average. He has 14 TD's, 11 interceptions and has been sacked (or lost yardage) for 157 yards. He has an 82.9 QB rating.
Rushing: Murray (3.5 ypc and 603 yards) had roughly double the carries that Mathews (87 for 465 and 5.3 ypc) has . Sproles carried the ball 69 times (4.0 ypc). Eagles have 11 rushing TD's.
Sacks: Eagles are credited with 31 sacks whille giving up 29. Cox and B Graham lead with 6.5 followed by Barwin with 5.5 and Kendricks with 3.0
Tackles - Jenkins leads in tackles with 87 followed by Thurmond with 69 and Kendricks with 62.
Field Goals: 19 for 24 (Opponents are 21 for 21). Two of Sturgis' four misses were from between 30 and forty yards.
Interceptions: Eagles and their opponents each are credited with 15 picks. Thurmond leads with 3 followed by 4 others with 2 apiece and 4 more with one apiece. Philly has 3 Pick-Sixes (by Jenkins Hicks and Carroll).
Time of Possession: Eagles 26:15 - Opponents 34:04
Turnover Ratio: +2
WR....14 Cooper......10 Krause
LG.....76 Barbre.......79 Hawkinson
C.......62 Kelce.........68 Andrews.....77 B Jones
RG ...64 Tobin.........67 D Kelly
RT......65 L Johnson
TE......87Celek.........86 Ertz.............47 Burton
WR....17 Agholor.....13 Huff
WR.....81 Matthews.16 Ajirotutu
RB......29 Murray......24 Mathews...43 Sproles......34 Barner
QB......07 Bradford...03 Sanchez....09 T Lewis
DE 93 Campbell..........90 Redding......71 Bryant
NT 95 Gunter...............69 X Williams
DT 92 Rucker..............73 Mauro........72 Stinson
SLB 44 Golden.......... ..54 Freeney......56 Riddick
ILB 20 Bucannon.........59 Fua
ILB 51 Minter...............55 Weathrspoon
WLB 57 Okafor...............96 Martin
LCB 21 Peterson...........27 C White
RCB 25 Powers.............28 Bethel
SS 26 R Johnson.........22 Jefferson
FS 32 Mathieu.
Matchup: Eagle Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
I've always liked Bradford and was surprised when the Rams traded him to Philly for Foles. Sam can make the throws and do so under pressure - his major "crime" when in StL was apparently that he was prone to injury. We did notice that he does tend to take a greater than average number of hits (& when he's been sidelined in Philly, that means the entrance of "The Sanchize").
The stats show us that Philly likes aim most of its throws to one WR (Mathews), a TE (Ertz) and a couple of RB's (Sproles and Murray) but a lot of these are dinks and dunks (presumably out of the spread/zone read). The long stuff seems to go to lesser-used receivers like Cooper, Agholor and Celek
Card pass rush is characterized less by total sacks or sack leaders and more "by committee" who forces the passer to hurry his throws. (Their most prolific sackmeister is Dwight Freeney (an elder-statesman whom the Cards have used judiciously when the situation arises - like they did on the last play of the Viking game last week). It's almost as if Chip Kelly accepts his OL's pass rushing deficiencies and dares his opponents to come after Bradford. If we're Bettcher, we'd take Chip up on his offer and go after Bradford early and often.
Most of the pressure on the Card pass defense will be at safety. They can afford to put PP21 on on Philly's only prime WR Matthews but will have to be super-vigilant to contain Philly TE's Ertz and Celek and their RB's Mathews or Murray and Sproles; while at the same time making sure lesser known dudes like Cooper and Agholor don't sneak into the open.
Key Matchups: P Peterson vs. Matthews. Mathieu vs. Sproles. Bucannon, Jefferson Johnson vs, Celek and Ertz. Cardinal front seven vs. Philly OL and other pass blockers.
Matchup: Eagle Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Sproles did a nice job of slicing and dicing the Buffalo defense Sunday - he offers a great change of pace to Philly's more traditional thumpers (Mathews and Murray). Cardinal run defenders will have to be disiciplined and flexible - i.e. guard the lanes but be ready to fly to the ball if the play being called is funky. There's a RB controversy in Philly - where Murray wants more touches, but Kelly has been relying more on Mathews.
Key Matchups: Since Kelly likes to throw the ball as much as he likes to run it, there's no reasons why Cardinal assignments and matchups shouldn't be any different in the run game as it is in the passing game. (i.e. Mathieu on Sproles; safeties on Eagle RB's).
WR1 11 Fitzgerald..13 Jar Brown......10 Golden
LT 68 Veldheer....79 Sowell
LG 76 Iupati.........62 Larsen
C 63 Sendlein....53 Shipley
RG 61 Cooper
RT 70 Massie.......78 Watford.........74 Humphreys
TE 85 Fells...........87 Niklas
WR2 15 M. Floyd.....12 John Brown...14 Nelson
QB 03 Palmer........05 Stanton.........09 Barkley
RB 38 Ellington.....27 C Johnson....30 Taylor............33 K Williams
TE 84 Gresham
DE.......91 Cox............97 T Hart.......93 Bair
NT.......96 B Logan.....94 B Allen
DE.......72 Thornton...75 Curry
OLB....98 Barwin.......90 M Smith
ILB.....59 Ryans.........50 Alonso
ILB.....95 Kendricks...53 Goode
OLB...55 B Graham...56Braman
CB ....31 Maxwell......38 Biggers.....35 D Rice
CB.....32 Rowe..........37 Watkins
S ....26 Thurmond....42 Maragos
S.......27 M Jenkins....30 Reynolds
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Eagle Pass Defense
When Palmer has time, he can be deadly. In the past - when he hadn't, he was prone to making some bad decisions. He's been better of late; especially with a bevy of dangerous receiving weapons to throw to in Fitz., Floyd, the two Browns and Nelson. He'll have his hands full in the face of a serious Eagle pass rush led by Cox, Barwin and Graham. BA will need to dial up a fairly balanced run-pass offense in order to slow down Philly pass rushers. Note - Gresham should be back).
In coverage, former Seahawk corner, Maxwell is to be reckoned with, but, at least on paper, it looks as if the Cards have more receiving weapons than the Eagles have defenders in the secondary. "
Key Matchups: Maxwell vs. Floyd. Brown vs. Rowe. Floyd vs. Watkins (????) Gresham or Fells vs. Jenkins.
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Eagle Run Defense
It's unclear whether or not Ellington (toe) will be ready to return. If that's the case, it figures to be D Johnson. K Williams and Taylor vs. an Eagle defense that doesn't look especially good or bad vs. the run. Look for BA to run with as much frequency as he did vs. Minnesota - if for no other reason than to slow down the pass rush and open up defensive coverage.
Key Matchups: D Johnson and K Williams vs. the Philly Front 7.
P 08 D Jones
K 06 Sturgis
H 08 LD Jones
LS 46 Dorenbos
KR 13 Huff
PR 43 Sproles
K 07 Catanzaro
P 02 Butler
H 02 Butler
LS 82 Leach
KR 31 D Johnson.....10 Golden
PR 21 Peterson
Matchup: Eagle Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Sturgis has four misses - two between the 30 & 40 and two outside the fifty. Jones' total and directional punting numbers are pretty close to those of Eagle opponents.
Sproles remains downright scary. Card special teams are OK but not as outstanding as they've been during the past couple of years. Our guess is that either NFL team can win the battle of the special units - it will be mostly a matter of want-to (& the unsettling thing is that the Eagles may feel they have more at stake than we do
Key matchups: "Everyone" vs. Sproles. Catanzaro vs. the back of the end zone. Butler vs. the sideline. Bethel and Campbell vs. Sturgis.
Philly: We've always been Chip Kelly fans. He's a smart guy, gutsy strategist and an innovator. He's been open to considerable criticism from fans and pundits for "thinking he's smarter than the rest of the establishment in the NFL" - i.e. no-huddle tempo, read/option, trading a winning QB for Bradford yada-yada. OUr take: If you give him time, he's going to eventually wind up with a pretty fair country football team. (We just hope his team doesn't hit full stride when we face them Sunday). Certainly the win over Buffalo did nothing to temper the swag his team will bring to the football field Sunday.,
AZ: Bruce Arians (from York PA) comes across as having an "old school" coaching style but unafraid of new approaches or to stretch the play-calling envelope. HIs motto: "No risk-it/no biscuit." A fun guy to follow - and he backs it up with solid coaching fundamentals (he has a huge staff of teaching-coaches from diverse backgrounds) and a record of proven success. Impressive stack of W's hasn't hurt his credibility with the players any.
WYou never know what you're gonna get with a team like the Eagles - they could blow up or they could finally get their act together and blow you off the planet. Note - we play them in Philly (The northeast has had too much spring-like weather thus far to last very much longer into next weekend).
Cards have three games left to play -Philly's last two wins involved (1) Turnover City vs. New England and "The House of 15 Horrible Buffalo Penalties" vs. the Bills. Logically, the way to beat Philly is with sound, smart fundamental football. Philly needs this win. So (for different reasons) do we.