Eagles-Bills Postgame: "I've Got Nothing to Say"
"I've got nothing to say." - Buffalo Bills RB LeSean McCoy, after his team lost 23-20 to the Philadelphia Eagles in his homecoming on Sunday.
Me? I've got plenty to say about this Eagles' win.
First of all, let me say that it is absolutely impossible to know which Eagles team will show up from week-to-week. This Eagles team lost three straight to the dregs of the NFL (Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions), then beat the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots last week and the Bills this week. It makes no sense whatsoever.
The big story coming into the game was the return of McCoy and I assumed he would torch the Eagles defense. That wasn't the case and the Eagles defense held McCoy to only 74 yards rushing on 20 carries and another 35 yards on 4 catches. Heck, the only rushing TD of the day for Buffalo was by Mike Gillislee, on a 19-yard TD run in the 3rd quarter that tied the score at 20. Maybe that and the stinging loss explain that childish quote above from McCoy when reporters tried to interview him after the game. Or maybe he was late for a dinner date, where he would stiff the waitress on the tip. He is simply an immature punk.
The Eagles got the win with another complete team effort. QB Sam Bradford (23-for-38, 247 yards, 1 TD 1 INT) was again efficient, but unspectacular. He moved the team well enough when needed and that lone INT wasn't his fault. His pass to Brent Celek was right in the TE's hands until CB Leodis McKelvin ripped the ball away for the INT. As usual, the WRs dropped too many passes, but rookie Nelson Agholor did manage to hold onto a perfectly thrown long pass by Bradford for a 53-yard TD. The running game was a total committee approach, with` Sproles (7 carries for 41 yards and 1 TD), Mathews (13-38) and Murray (11-34) all getting their chances. Apparently the pregame reports about Murray being benching or demoted to 4th string were grossly exaggerated. While the defense gave up some big plays, they managed to contain McCoy. And the special teams came through again, this time recovering a muffed punt return by Buffalo's Marcus Thigpen and Caleb Sturgis knocking through all three of his FG attempts.
That's not to say that everything went well in this game. There were plenty of things that would have led to a defeat by a better, more disciplined team than the Bills.
Because Chip Kelly wanted to make damn sure that McCoy didn't come back to Philly and dominate his old team and embarrass Kelly for that horrible trade, the Eagles devoted the majority of their defensive attention to stopping the Buffalo running game. It worked pretty well, since McCoy had 59 yards on his first 9 carries and then only got 15 yards on his final 11 carries of the game to finish with 74 yards rushing. Watching from the stands at the Linc, it appeared that the Eagles were using their LBs to stop the run, while leaving their defensive backs in single coverage most of the game. There were some obvious problems with this approach.
Trying to cover WR Sammy Watkins with just one CB is normally not a good idea. When that CB is free agent bust, Byron Maxwell, it is really not a good idea. Watkins torched Maxwell for a 47-yard TD in the first quarter to tie the game at 7, after the Eagles drove 61 yards on 8 plays and scored on a 1-yard Sproles TD run on their opening possession. Watkins finished with 81 yards on 5 grabs. Robert Woods added 106 yards on 5 catches and McCoy had 4 catches for 35 yards. While that doesn't look good for the Eagles defense, it could have been much worse.
If Buffalo's "dual-treat" QB, Tyrod Taylor actually lived up to that moniker, the Eagles would have lost this game. As it was, Taylor missed wide open receivers all game and cost his team the game. Taylor finished 19-for-36 for 268 yards, with 1 TD and 1 INT. Sure, Taylor showed flashed, like that TD throw to Watkins, but his last pass was his worst when he threw his only INT. It was a pass he overthrew by at least 20 yards and it was right to Eagles safety Ed Reynolds who was playing deep in a prevent defense. Oh sure, Taylor gained 53 yards on 8 runs, but his complete lack of accuracy throwing the football on this day was the downfall of the Bills. If the Bills had even a decent QB on Sunday, they would have won this game. Taylor was terrible.
Another thing that hurt the Bills was their 15 penalties for 101 yards. I understand that Rex Ryan coached teams are normally not the brightest, most disciplined bunch, but his team took that to extremes in this game. McCoy had quite a few big runs wiped out by holding calls against the Bills offensive line. You could see McCoy getting frustrated in the second half when the only time his line could open up any holes was when there was a yellow penalty flag in the Buffalo backfield.
Of course, a big reason for their struggles might have had something to do with Eagles DE Fletcher Cox being a beast. Cox was penetrating into the backfield to blow up running plays and pressure the QB all day. The only thing the double teams on him were doing was freeing up the Eagles LBs to make plays. And Cox was routinely beating the double teams, as well. I would like to take this opportunity to point out that I witnessed LB Kiko Alonso make a great sideline-to-sideline play to tackle McCoy. Unfortunately, I also saw him get beat trying to cover McCoy. Luckily his blown coverage was on one of those horribly off-target passes Taylor was throwing most of the afternoon. We'll see if Alonso will start to play better or if this was just an anomaly because he wanted to prove to his old team that they made a mistake in trading him for McCoy. They didn't.
Why did the Eagles beat the Bills?
A few other things a noticed:
- Zach Ertz is the only legitimate receiving threat on the Eagles. Ertz gained 98 yards on 5 catches. The next best receiver on the Eagles was Agholor with 3 for 62 and his first NFL TD.
- The biggest problem there is that the Eagles receivers can't catch a cold. More drops on Sunday.
- What the heck happened to Jordan Matthews? He had 3 catches for 19 yards against the Bills. That makes only 16 catches for 149 yards in the last 5 games. This is the guy Chip Kelly thought would be the team's No. 1 WR?
- Caleb Sturgis isn't great, but considering he is a guy the Eagles signed off the street when Cody Parkey got hurt, he isn't terrible. Parkey's 3 FGs on Sunday gives him an 80% conversion rate on FGs for the season (16 for 20). He also knocked all of his kickoffs into the endzone for touchbacks. Not bad. Not bad at all.
- I now CB Eric Rowe is a rookie and all, but does he really have to give every receiver a 10-yard cushion on every play?
- Byron Maxwell is basically Nnamdi Asomugha.
- Dennis Kelly is horrible. When LT Jason Peters had to leave the game for a few plays in the first half, Kelly replaced him and was flagged for holding on each of his first two snaps.
- DeMarco Murray just gives you nothing. I know he's making a ton of money, but there is no reason that he should be getting anywhere near the same number of carries as Ryan Mathews. Heck, I think Sproles is much better back than Murray right now. Murray is literally 3 yards in a cloud of dust this season.
So the Eagles won another game over a team that was considered to be good, by NFL standards. This was after they lost three consecutive games to teams that are considered bad. That leaves us with absolutely no idea what to think about this Eagles team. They can look really bad or really good from week-to-week, without warning. They can also get lucky like they did in New England or just play good enough to win, like they did against the Bills.
For now this win gets the Eagles' record to 6-7, which is good enough for a tie atop the NFC East standings after the Washington Redskins beat the Chicago Bears. The 5-7 NY Giants play the Miami Dolphins on Monday night, so there could be a 3-way tie atop the division standings for another week, but at least the stinkin Cowboys lost to drop to 4-9, effectively ending their season.
NFC East Standings
New York Giants
I was in favor of the Eagles losing out this season to get as high a draft pick as possible, but now that they've won 2-in-a-row, those plans are out the window. The 11-2 Arizona Cardinals come to town next week to throw some cold water in the faces of Eagles fans who suddenly have Super Bowl dreams again. But even if they lose that game, it doesn't seem like anybody is ever out of it in this terrible division. Heck, they might end up beating the Cardinals somehow. You just never know with this Eagles team this season.
The only thing we do know for sure about the Eagles is that they left LeSean McCoy speechless for a change and that's a good thing.