Eagles-Broncos Second Take
Some day-after thoughts on Sunday's 30-27 win over the Broncos after reviewing the tape:
* After 3 straight solid performances, left tackle Jason Peters did not have a very good game Sunday. He got beat by rookie Robert Ayers on the Eagles' first possession, which forced McNabb to hurry a pass to Brian Westbrook. Two plays later, Elvis Dumervil beat him with an outside rush and sacked McNabb and forced a fumble after the Eagles had driven to the Denver 19. Peters also was responsible for the Broncos' second sack of McNabb late in the third quarter. Dumervil and right tackle Vonnie Holliday ran a stunt. Peters should've been responsible for Holliday. But when Holliday slipped, Peters left him unblocked and slid over to help left guard Todd Herremans with Dumervil. When McNabb moved to his right to avoid Dumervil, an unblocked Holliday sacked him for a 6-yard loss.
* Defensive tackle Mike Patterson is having the best season nobody knows about. Well, nobody except his teammates and coaches. He won't be one of the Eagles named to the Pro Bowl Tuesday night, but he deserves to be. Because he plays almost exclusively on first- and second down in the Eagles' base package, Patterson doesn't get many sack opportunities. Had half a sack last season and has half a sack in 15 games this season. But he and Brodrick Bunkley are the main reasons the Eagles are seventh in the league in yards allowed per carry (3.9). Patterson had 5 tackles in the Broncos game. On one play in the second quarter, he shed right guard Chris Kuper and stoned Knowshon Moreno for no gain.
* The battle between DeSean Jackson and the Broncos' All-Pro corner Champ Bailey was fun to watch. The Broncos had Bailey shadow Jackson much of the game. He did as good a job on the kid as anybody without super powers is going to do. Jackson was targeted 10 times by McNabb and caught just 4 passes for 33 yards, none longer than 11 yards. He had one touchdown catch, but that wasn't against Bailey. He also drew a 41-yard pass interference penalty on Bailey in the third quarter after beating the corner down the field.
* Victor Abiamiri, who opened the season as the team's starting left end before missing 3 games with a knee injury and now is being used strictly as an inside rusher on passing downs and on special teams, may have saved the game Sunday with his recovery of Macho Harris' second fumbled kickoff return with six minutes left. It came right after the Broncos' had tied the score on a Matt Prader field goal. If Abiamiri didn't fall on the ball, the Broncos' Tony Carter would have.
* Andy Reid's decision to punt on fourth-and-1 at the Denver 49 with the score tied and less than 4 minutes left the game, drew a chorus of boos from the fans at the Linc Sunday. There probably were quite a few people watching on TV who also disagreed with the move. But it turned out to be a wise decision. Inconsistent Sav Rocca pinned the Broncos inside their own 10, the defense forced a three-and-out and the Eagles drove down for a game-winning field goal.
The Running Backs
Brian Westbrook saw his first action in six weeks Sunday. He was in the game for 23 of the Eagles' 67 offensive plays. Had 11 touches – nine rushing attempts for 32 yards and 2 receptions for 5 yards.
Westbrook rotated with LeSean McCoy and Leonard Weaver. Weaver, who was used in both one-back sets and as a fullback in two-back sets, got 33 snaps (7 touches). McCoy got 28 snaps (7 touches).
Westbrook, McCoy and Weaver rushed for 79 yards on 22 carries. Seven of Westbrook's 9 carries came out of 3-wide receiver, 1-back, 1-tight end sets. He gained 29 yards on those 7 carries. He also had a 3-yard gain out of the Wildcat.
Five of McCoy's 6 carries and 23 of his 27 rushing yards came out of 2-WR, 2-back, 1-TE sets.
Did You Notice?
* The game of musical chairs at free safety continued Sunday. Macho Harris started and Sean Jones, who had started the previous 8 games, sat.
* The Eagles spent their first timeout 42 seconds into the game.
* The Eagles opened their first possession with a deep pass to DeSean Jackson. It fell incomplete, but it served its purpose as far as putting the Broncos' secondary back on its heels.
* The Eagles frequently rushed just 3 players and dropped 8 into coverage against the Broncos. Juqua Parker's first-quarter sack came on a 3-man rush.
* Will Witherspoon should've been called for pass interference on the play that resulted in Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley being ejected for swatting the hand of back judge Todd Prukop. He clearly made contact with Stokley before the pass got to him.
* Broncos safety Renaldo Hill thought he had an interception when he cut in front of Jason Avant at the goal line with 7:09 left in the third quarter. But he jumped the route too soon and ended up only getting a hand on the pass, deflecting it into the air and back to Avant, who alertly hauled it in for a 15-yard touchdown.
* Trent Cole showed off his athleticism early in the fourth quarter when he got outside on a quick screen to Brandon Lloyd and tackled Lloyd for a 2-yard loss.
* The terrific play by Sheldon Brown to break up a deep throw to Brandon Marshall early in the fourth quarter. Marshall, who is six inches taller than Brown, used a double move to get inside position on the Eagles corner. But Brown saw the ball coming and timed his jump perfectly, knocking it away.
* The Eagles played a little less nickel than they did last week against the 49ers, but still were in it much of the game because the Broncos used so many three- and four-wide receiver sets.
* Kyle Orton isn't the fastest quarterback in the league, but he did a nice job of sidestepping the Eagles' pass rush and buying extra time to throw when he needed it, which wasn't often since so many of his 41 pass attempts were those quick screens to his wide receivers.
* The excellent job Joselio Hanson did of diagnosing a wide-receiver screen in the fourth quarter and nailing Brandon Marshall for a four-yard loss on a second-and-9 play.
The Eagles quarterback recorded his sixth 100-plus passer rating (104.7) of the the season and his second straight 300-yard passing game (322). Had a splendid first half, completing 15 of 19 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns. Had a not so splendid second half, completing just 5 of 16 passes for 80 yards, 1 TD and an interception.
* His 2-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson in the first quarter on third-and-goal. It was a three-step drop pass with a blitzing Brian Dawkins bearing down on him off the edge. He threw a strike off his back foot to Jackson who ran a short slant behind a screen from tight end Brent Celek.
* His 31-yard pass down the seam under pressure to Brent Celek on the Eagles' third possession. Had a blitzer in his face and put the ball right on Celek's outstretched left hand.
* His 34-yard completion to Celek on the first play of the Eagles' fourth possession. He again had a blitzer – linebacker Andra Davis -- in his face as he threw it.
* The 25-yard slant pass to Jeremy Maclin to open the second half. The slant never has been one of McNabb's best passes. But he put that one on the money, which allowed him to make the catch in stride and run away from cornerback Andre Goodman.
* His huge 27-yard run on third-and-25 from the Philadelphia 15 with less than 5 minutes left in the game. The play extended the drive and swung the field-position battle in the Eagles' favor. If the Eagles had had to punt there, the Broncos would've gotten the ball back around midfield. Instead, they ended up taking over at their own 7.
* His 27-yard sideline completion to Maclin that set up Akers' game-winning field goal. The job Maclin did of making the catch and getting both of his feet down inbounds was incredible. But the throw was pretty damn good too.
* His overthrow of a wide-open Maclin on a second-and-25 sideline pass on the play right before his 27-yard run. To be fair, it wasn't completely his fault. Eric Dumervil, who had lined up on the left side, had pushed right tackle Winston Justice back into McNabb just as he was releasing the ball.
* His third-quarter interception. McNabb had a lot of time, but couldn't find anyone open. He eventually threw a pass for DeSean Jackson. But he threw the ball off his back foot, which allowed it to hang in the air long enough for Champ Bailey to cut in front of Jackson and intercept the ball.
* A second-and-8 fourth-quarter pass to DeSean Jackson that was way off the mark. Which might've been just as well, since Bailey had read the pass and cut in front of Jackson.
* In his last 5 starts, McNabb has a .621 completion percentage, has averaged 8.75 yards per attempt and has thrown 9 touchdown passes and 4 interceptions.
* McNabb has started 10 of the 11 games the Eagles have won this season. In those 10 games, he's got a .630 completion percentage, has averaged 8.64 yards per attempt and has 19 touchdown passes and 7 interceptions. In his 3 starts that they've lost: .557, 7.22, 3/3.
* McNabb's 94.5 passer rating is the third highest of his career. He had a 104.7 rating in '04 and a 95.5 rating in '06.
* McNabb has 10 interceptions in 407 attempts. That's 1 pick per 40.7 passes. That's the second poorest interception ratio of his career. He averaged an interception every 39.7 attempts in '05. McNabb has thrown at least one interception in 7 of the last 8 games.
* David Akers didn't miss a field goal attempt at the Linc this season. He was 19-for-19, including 3-for-3 Sunday. He's made 13 of 17 on the road. Akers has converted 24 of his last 25 field goal attempts, regardless of venue.
* The Eagles turned the ball over 3 times against the Broncos. It was just the third time this season they've had more than 2 giveaways in a game. They had 4 in their Week 2 loss to the Saints and 3 in their Week 11 win over the Bears. They lost the turnover battle (minus-2) for just the fifth time in 15 games. They are 2-3 when they've lost the turnover battle.
* The Eagles had 38 pass plays and 28 run plays against the Broncos. During their six-game win streak, 170 of their 376 offensive plays, or 45.2 percent, have been run plays. For the season, 39.9 percent of their offensive plays (341 of 855) have been run plays.
* The Eagles had 80- and 88-yard touchdown drives against the Broncos. They've got four 80-plus yard touchdown drives in the last two games and 7 in the last 5. They had just 3 in their first 10 games.
* Wide receiver Jason Avant has caught 37 of the 51 passes thrown in his direction this season.