It was an interesting afternoon to say the least down in Houston Texas as the Eagles beat the Texans 31-21. The Eagles took on a Texans team that came in at 4-4 looking to stay in contention in the AFC playoff picture. The Eagles were looking to rebound from a horrific loss the week before against the Cardinals. Coming into this matchup I was a little unsure of how it would unfold. The Texans have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL with MVP candidate JJ Watt leading the way.
The scoring opened with a 59 yard bomb from Nick Foles to Jeremy Maclin. As good as Foles looked on that throw though he came right back later in the 1st quarter and threw another interception. Foles once again showed how inconsistent he can be on any given Sunday. Then Foles took a sack and fell injuring his shoulder. It was later revealed that Foles actually incurred a collarbone injury. On Monday more detail was released and Foles in fact won’t need surgery because the bone isn’t broke but is just cracked. Foles will be sidelined for 6-8 weeks which leads us to the emergence of ex NY Jet QB Mark Sanchez. I for one was excited to see Sanchez get a shot with the Eagles this season and during a time like this it’s a good thing Chip Kelly went out and signed the veteran QB.
On his first play Sanchez launched a bomb down field hitting Jeremy Maclin for a 52 yard reception. A few plays later Sanchez floated an 11 yard touch pass to Jordan Matthews in the back of the end zone. Later in the game Sanchez hit Maclin for an 8 yard TD which put the Eagles up for good. Along with the good came some of the ugly also as Sanchez threw two interceptions. Although one of the interceptions wasn’t really his fault as his pass was tipped off the hands of Eagles rookie WR Josh Huff. It was a pass that should have been caught but Huff couldn’t haul it in. I for one liked what I saw from Sanchez on Sunday. He wasn’t above and beyond better than Foles but he wasn’t a drop off either. For the first time ever I’m actually not stressed about losing our starting QB to injury for a significant period of time. Sanchez and Foles appear to be very similar so I expect to see the Eagles offense continue to roll with Sanchez at the helm. If Sanchez plays lights out football over the next 6-8 weeks and leads the Eagles into the playoffs I’m not opposed to leaving him in there as the starting QB. We all joke about Sanchez and his “butt fumble” incident from a few seasons back but the bottom line is he led the Jets to two AFC Championship games and never had nearly as much talent around him on offense as he does now with the Eagles. I think in this offense, with these weapons, Sanchez has a chance to really elevate his game down the stretch here.
The other interesting aspect of this game was how Chip Kelly finally started utilizing the run game. Against Arizona the play calling was severely in favor of the pass as Chip Kelly called 60 pass plays to only 28 run plays. This week though it was much more balanced as Kelly called 40 rush plays to 37 pass plays. With center Jason Kelce back in the lineup it was the perfect time to unleash the running game. The Eagles could see they were wearing down the Texans defense as the game progressed. Kelly even went on to call 4 straight rushing plays each gaining 14, 26, 22, and 8 yards with Chris Polk running it in. Kelly did a fantastic job of utilizing all three of the Eagles running backs as Chris Polk got in on the action along with LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles. Speaking of McCoy he finished with 117 yards rushing and continues to get back on track after his early season struggles. With Jason Kelce back in the lineup I foresee McCoy starting to pile up the yards and the TD’s down the stretch.
The biggest blow of the day though wasn’t the Nick Foles injury it was the loss of DeMeco Ryans on defense. Monday it was revealed what many already thought which is that Ryans was done for the season with a torn Achilles. Ryans intercepted a pass and took a few steps forward before collapsing to the ground. Ryans has a history of Achilles injuries and it’s a shame this happened to him. Ryans was a solid player and the leader on the defense. You saw how much he meant to his teammates when everyone came out to wish him well when he was carted off the field. The old saying in the NFL is “next man up” and the Eagles have others that can fill the leadership role left by Ryans in guys like Malcom Jenkins, Connor Barwin, and Michael Kendricks. But without a doubt there will be a huge void at middle linebacker as the Eagles will now lean on a combination of Casey Matthews and Emmanuel Acho to fill in.
Speaking of the defense, the Eagles continue to be killed by big plays. Last week it was a game breaking bomb which ultimately clinched the loss to Arizona. This week the Eagles let up a 56 yard touchdown to Arian Foster when he got behind Connor Barwin on a wheel route. Houston also completed a 45 yard pass to when De’Andre Hopkins took a short crossing route and ran through the defense. Ultimately though the defense played a bend but don’t break style on Sunday as they survived 3 offensive turnovers and a fumble of their own when Ryans lost the ball going down with his injury. They also kept the Texans running backs to 3.1 yards per carry. If Eagles defensive coordinate Billy Davis can find a way to clean up the big plays going against them this defense can be very solid down the stretch.
Overall I like what I saw Sunday from the team. It was a nice bounce back performance after what happened in Arizona. Only time will tell how things shake out with Mark Sanchez at QB and how the defense responds to the loss of Demeco Ryans. But I’m not concerned with the offense because Sanchez has the leadership and experience needed to fill in at QB. We’re officially halfway through the season now and the Eagles are in first place at 6-2. Next up for the Eagles will be a Monday night matchup against Cam Newton and the Panthers. I like our chances to win this one but also it could very well turn into a trap game for the birds as the Eagles have a huge matchup in Green Bay against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers looming in two weeks. If Chip Kelly and the Eagles stay solely focused on the Panthers this week I see them going into Green Bay in two weeks riding a 2 game win streak and looking to take down Rodgers. Buckle up folks it’s going to be a great second half of the season in Philly.