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Highest Eagles grade of all goes to McCoy

Position-by-position grading of the Eagles after their 34-20 win over the Lions on Sunday, focusing on one player at each spot:

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy.  (Ron Cortes/Staff
Eagles running back LeSean McCoy. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)Read more

Position-by-position grading of the Eagles after their 34-20 win over the Lions on Sunday, focusing on one player at each spot:


Quarterback - B

It took 201 pass attempts before Nick Foles threw his first interception of the season. He air-mailed his throw to Riley Cooper in the second quarter, but he wasn't the only quarterback having problems with the weather. Foles was off target on a number of throws, but he had no other turnovers and effectively managed a game that needed a steady hand at the controls.

There were some strong, accurate throws, though. Foles hit DeSean Jackson for 17 yards on a sideline route in the second quarter. He hit his receiver on a similar route on a big third-down conversion for 12 yards in the third. A play later, he connected with Cooper deep for 44 yards. He threw it where only his receiver could get it.

Cooper could have helped his quarterback by pulling in a few tough but catchable passes, including a fourth-down throw in the back corner of the end zone. Foles got a little lucky when he rolled out of pocket and threw a pass up for grabs that Jackson came back and caught for a 19-yard TD in the third.

Foles was not blitzed once on 24 drops.

Running back - A+

LeSean McCoy set a franchise record with 217 rushing yards and Chip Kelly pointed out Monday that he could have run for a 70-yard touchdown instead of picking up just 26 yards on a fourth-down carry. Kelly was just pointing out how there's always room for improvement, but McCoy was superb.

There were a few rushes when he tried to go lateral and couldn't in the snow - losing 5 yards in the first and 6 yards in the third. But mostly, McCoy ran north to south on inside zone plays. The offensive line, of course, deserved credit for opening holes at the point of attack, but McCoy made moves in the open field that were singular. On a 40-yard touchdown dash he hurdled a tackler and slipped another.

Wide receiver - A-

Riley Cooper was targeted nine times and caught three passes for 74 yards. His 44-yard grab in the third was another highlight-reel catch and got the offense moving. Cooper's other big catch came later in the quarter when he pulled in a tipped pass and ran for 25 yards.

Tight end - A

Brent Celek caught two passes for 29 yards including the game's final one when he slid, effectively ending the game rather than score. But it was his blocking, along with James Casey and Zach Ertz, that had the most impact. Celek had a backside block on a McCoy 14-yard run in the second. He got a piece of two Lions on a McCoy 7-yarder later in the quarter. He had the lead block on Bryce Brown's 17-yard rush in the fourth.

Line - A+

The entire line had a great game, but Jason Kelce stood out. If the center makes the Pro Bowl - and there should be consideration - this could be the game that gets him the necessary votes. Kelce owned Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley for much of the day, often sealing him off on inside zone plays one-on-one. He blocked him on a Chris Polk nine-yard run in the second. He stood up Fairley on McCoy's 57-yard touchdown burst in the fourth.


Line - A

Kelly said Monday that he thought what the defensive line did was the key to the game. And what did Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton and Bennie Logan do? They stuck with their base techniques and didn't get pushed around, according to Kelly. The Louisiana-born Logan said Sunday was the first time he had even seen snow. He was stout against the run, recording three solo tackles. He blocked a PAT in the fourth, becoming the first Eagles player to do so since Reggie White in 1988.

Outside linebackers - A-

Connor Barwin set the edge and notched five solo tackles against the run. He forced a fumble and recovered another. And he had one of the three hurries on the day for the Eagles defense.

Inside linebackers – B

Mychal Kendricks was active. He missed two tackles - Joique Bell slipped out of his arms in the first and he whiffed on Theo Riddick in the third - but it was hard to criticize any defender in slippery conditions. If Kendricks had a low moment, it came in the first on third and long when he let Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew use his hands to get separation off the line. Pettigrew went for 23 yards.

Cornerbacks - A

Cary Williams gave up a 33-yard pass to Calvin Johnson on a post route in the second, but he allowed only two short passes when thrown at the rest of the way. Williams also broke up a third-down pass in the second.

Safeties - B

Patrick Chung has been struggling, but he handled himself well in the snow. He was the first to make contact when Bell was dropped at the line in the first. He recovered a fumble. And he was targeted just once, with the pass falling incomplete.


Kelly said Jeremy Ross' two return touchdowns were both related to the weather and execution. On the 58-yard punt return, Brad Smith missed the initial tackle and then it seemed as if players couldn't change directions because of the surface. On the 98-yard kick return, it looked as if Roc Carmichael was out of his gap assignment.


The Eagles' starting offensive line has played 98 percent of the snaps (4,431 of a possible 4,520) this season.

Eagles coaches have credited linebacker DeMeco Ryans with 113 solo tackles. No other defensive player has as many combined tackles. Mychal Kendricks is the next closest at 78, followed by Cedric Thornton with 55.

Riley Cooper ranks second in the NFL with 19.3 yards a catch behind only the Browns' Josh Gordon (19.7).



Of all of the Eagles' successful running plays, Jason Kelce's favorite was Nick Foles' 1-yard touchdown sneak in the fourth quarter. It was an important score, expanding the Eagles' lead to 28-20, but the center and a few of his mates were as demonstrative in celebration as they've ever been.


"Quarterback sneaks come down to nobody else but the offensive line," Kelce said. "We haven't had one of those called all year. Probably the majority of that is because I'm an undersized center."

The line got tremendous push on the play. Kelce said offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland introduced a new way of blocking sneaks this offseason and he had been waiting months to use it.

"I've been excited to run that play all year," Kelce said. "And to be able to score a touchdown with it was awesome."

Chris Polk had four carries, more than he has received all season in a game, and ran for 50 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown.

After the game, Polk said his increased load had something to do with the weather, rather than taking snaps away from Bryce Brown. But Chip Kelly suggested Monday that the second-year running back's practice performances of late have warranted more playing time.

"At every position, it's an open competition, and you keep showing us that you deserve time on the field, then that's what it's all about," Kelly said.


Is there such a thing as a "character" win?

Chip Kelly, who looks at every player, play or game on its own merit, would seem to be the type of coach who doesn't believe in victories that measure the heart of a team. He's analytical, after all.

But Kelly also likes to point out the toughness of players such as Brent Celek, and he pointed out after the game that he knew his players weren't the types to give up because they had too much invested in winning.

It's difficult to disagree with him. The Eagles trailed, 14-0, more than halfway through the third quarter and their offense had done very little until that point. They battled back to tie the score, but then special teams allowed another touchdown and the Lions were back ahead, 20-14.

But Kelly's troops didn't quit and produced a fourth quarter for the ages, adding 21 points to the seven they had already scored. And Kelly, the perfectionist, did act as though his team had won more than one game.

"I think that's what happens sometimes when you have a big win. . . . 'We made a couple mistakes but don't worry about it, we won the game.' " the coach said. "We've never been that way."