There was a point in the game with the Eagles up, 28-0 in the 2nd quarter, and Juan Castillo switched from a pressing man scheme to a soft zone coverage defense… and within a few blinks of the eye, it was a 28-13 game… That’s when I came up with the name “Mystery Ship” to define this puzzle of an Eagles team in 2011…
Fortunately, Andy Reid and Castillo got their heads together at halftime and went back to a defensive hybrid concept that resumed the torching of Mark Sanchez and enabled the Eagles offense to continue striking on all cylinders from excellent field position the rest of the way.
As Leo Pizzini has said so often in these pages at Eagles Eye, why in the world do we go away so often from things that are working so well? At least this time out, the Eagles coaching staff and players got it back together at halftime with some key adjustments, since Rex Ryan and the Jets were on the cusp of figuring things out and stealing this game away.
The Eagles came out gangbusters in the 3rd quarter and ripped this joint… And the mystery season continues.
The Eagles (6-8) have won two straight for just the second time this season and somehow still have a chance to repeat as NFC East champions despite underachieving most of the year. But they have to catch Dallas (8-6) and the New York Giants (7-7)
LeSean McCoy ran for three touchdowns to set two team records, and the Eagles routed the New York Jets 45-19 on Sunday to stay in the playoff chase.
“It feels good to still have a chance to even be considered in the playoff race,” quarterback Mike Vick said. “We’ve been through a lot, but we’re resilient.”
The loss snapped New York’s three-game winning streak, dropping the Jets (8-6) into a tie with Cincinnati for the final wild-card spot in the AFC. The Jets hold the tiebreaker advantage over the Bengals with a better record against common opponents.
“Obviously, a horrendous performance by us,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “Go into the game thinking we have to run the table to control our own destiny, and we come out of the game needing to win out to control our own destiny.”
Vick threw for 274 yards and a touchdown, and also ran for a score in his second game back after missing three games with broken ribs. McCoy ran for 102 yards and surpassed Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren with his 19th touchdown of the season and 16th rushing TD in the third quarter. DE Juqua Parker returned a fumble for a score, and TE Brent Celek had a career-best 156 yards receiving.
The Eagles scored 21 points off three turnovers en route to building a 28-0 lead, and didn’t let up after the Jets got within 28-13 at halftime.
“Every week is different,” coach Andy Reid said. “I know the guys play hard and aggressive. I know they came in with the right frame of mind to do that.” When the Eagles last played at the Linc, fans booed them off the field and yelled “Fire Andy!” at Reid following a lopsided loss to New England on Nov. 27. It was far more festive this time around. Reid didn’t hear any boos, even with Ryan — son of beloved former Eagles coach Buddy Ryan — standing on the other sideline.
The Washington Redskins kept Philadelphia’s division hopes alive with a 23-10 win at the Giants earlier in the day. Then the Eagles did their part by beating the Jets for the ninth time in nine tries.
“It’s embarrassing,” Sanchez said. “It’s not good football by the Jets. We just didn’t play our best speaking from an offense perspective, and it puts our defense in a hole. We are a much better football team than we showed.”
Philadelphia went ahead 7-0 when Parker picked up Santonio Holmes‘ fumble and returned it 47 yards for his second score this season. Holmes caught a pass for a 7-yard gain before the ball was stripped by Kurt Coleman.
The Jets got a break when a punt that returner DeSean Jackson let bounce went backward and hit off teammate Curtis Marsh. The Jets’ Ellis Lankster recovered it at the Eagles 14. But Asante Samuel then intercepted Sanchez’s pass at the 4 and returned it to the 23.
Vick connected with Celek for a 26-yard TD pass to put Philadelphia up 14-0. Celek made an outstanding catch on a ball thrown ahead of him. He reached out to tip it with his right hand, corralled it inside the 5 and tumbled into the end zone. “It was a good throw by Mike, but I couldn’t quite dig for it and I had to tip it to myself in order to catch it and was lucky enough just to get my hand on it,” Celek said.
The Eagles extended that lead to 21-0 on Vick’s 11-yard TD run early in the second quarter. A roughing-the-passer penalty on Marcus Dixon — the second time the Jets were flagged for hitting Vick late — contributed to 15 of Philadelphia’s 57 yards on that drive.
Vick scrambled down the left side and dove headfirst, stretching his hand just over the pylon for his first rushing score of the season. He had 10 last year, including one in the playoffs.
Sanchez fumbled when he was hit by DT Mike Patterson after running on a busted play on New York’s next possession. CB Joselio Hanson recovered at the Jets 21, and McCoy ran in from the 9 to make it 28-0.
But the Jets wouldn’t go down easy. Thanks to the Philly defense going into a sort of “prevent” zone coverage and easing up on the pass rush pressure on Sanchez, the Jets started moving the chains.
Nick Folk kicked a 39-yard field goal. Then the Eagles Dion Lewis fumbled the kickoff, and the Jets started at Philadelphia’s 24 after Lankster made his second recovery. Sanchez fired a 25-yard TD pass to Holmes to cut it to 28-10.
Another turnover gave the Jets the ball back. McCoy fumbled at the end of a 12-yard run, and Brodney Pool raced 33 yards with it to the Eagles 27. It was McCoy’s first lost fumble in 490 touches, dating to last season. Philadelphia’s defense stiffened somewhat and the Jets settled for Folk’s 28-yard field goal to get within 28-13 at the half.
But the Eagles came out in the second half with a revised plan and a fresh resolve. Both the offensive and defensive lines of the Eagles resumed pushing the Jets around again. The result was McCoy’s 1-yard TD run in the third quarter, which broke Van Buren’s team records. Van Buren had 18 total TDs and 15 rushing TDs in 1945.
“It tells you I’m a pretty good back and I have an outstanding offensive line,” McCoy said. “It’s definitely a team thing.” McCoy padded his total with a 33-yard TD run in the fourth quarter that made it 45-13.
- Philadelphia’s Jason Babin had three sacks for the second straight game. His 18 sacks are three shy of Reggie White’s team record set in 12 games during the strike-shortened 1987 season. Babin is the 10th player in NFL history to have three or more sacks in consecutive games.
- Parker is the second Eagles defensive player to have two fumble recoveries for a TD in a season. Seth Joyner did it in 1991. Parker’s three career TDs are second in team history for a defensive lineman. Clyde Simmons had four.
- Jets WR Plaxico Burress has six TD catches in his last five games vs. Eagles.
The Eagles did a lot of good things on Sunday. The question remains, did they beat a bad team? Certainly not if you go by AFC rankings of total offense and defense, which put the Jets in the Top 10 of nearly all categories.
But there are a few mysteries on the Jets, too. How could such talented players make the following “bad plays”?…. Assisting us in uncovering the mysteries of why good players make bad plays on any given Sunday is Johnny Bee of the Jets Gang Green Nation.com:
Santonio Holmes: Here is a simplistic summary of today’s game. The Jets wanted it to be a game where they could pound the ball, control the clock, keep Michael Vick off the field, and keep it low scoring. The Eagles wanted to get up big, force the Jets to score a lot of points and play up tempo, and unleash their pass rushers. Holmes’ early fumble and the interception that went through his hands resulted in 14 points and gave the Eagles what they wanted. The Jets got taken out of their game. The Eagles gained confidence, and things snowballed from there. Even on the one thing Holmes did right today, he messed up by taking an idiotic taunting penalty. Really? You’ve cost the team 14 points, and then you showboat?
Mark Sanchez: Here is a simplistic story of the Jets’ season. They can beat up on the bad teams by playing defense and pounding the ball. When they try to step up, they need more, and Sanchez has been unable to provide. The past few weeks, people have been talking about Sanchez’s improvement, but it has really been about the team giving Sanchez simple passes to hit. When things aren’t going well, a team needs to make big plays in the passing game. Things are not always going to be open. The quarterback needs to be able to identify small holes and put the ball on the money. The protection for Sanchez was terrible. The Jets defense was not good. This is the kind of thing that separates great teams from average ones. The great ones have a quarterback who can carry the team when things are bad. Sanchez isn’t there yet. Maybe he will be one day, but he is not today.
Offensive Line: Jason Babin owned Wayne Hunter today. Even when he wasn’t getting sacks, he was beating Hunter soundly. Hunter was slow to identify his man more than once. It was a group effort from the line, though. There were frequent miscommunications and a ton of penalties on the unit. Sanchez kept getting hit…
Mike Devito: Devito might still be slowed by his injury because I thought he was not great at the point of attack.
David Harris: Harris today reminded me a lot of his play in the AFC Championship Game last year. He took some bad angles and over-pursued to the ball carrier too far, which opened up cutback lanes for McCoy to exploit. There aren’t many backs in the league who can do that, and it’s starting to feel like Harris allows it to happen whenever the Jets face such a back.
Bart Scott: Scott’s day started by getting burned in coverage, and it continued with his making some of the same mistakes as Harris.
Kyle Wilson: I thought Kyle had a bit of a rough day. He got beaten badly a few times in coverage and had some bad efforts on blitzes. On one of them, he came at Vick too hard ala Eric Smith on Tim Tebow and lost outside contain to open a big Vick run.
Calvin Pace: I did not like the job he did setting the edge on McCoy. He also missed some opportunities when he had Vick within range to sack.
Eric Smith: “Toasted” might not be a strong enough term to describe the way he was beaten on Brent Celek’s 73 yard reception. That was brutal. The more I watch Smith, the more disappointed I am by the subtle things, though, that you notice by watching closely. I am talking about taking a bad angle to a ball carrier that allows a 2 yard run to turn into an 8 yard run. There are some runs McCoy made that Jim Leonhard would have stopped in Smith’s case.
Brodney Pool: He shares some of the responsibility for Celek’s 156 yard game even if he did have a nice fumble return.
Mark Brunell: Was anybody watching late in the game? My goodness. He was throwing up UFOs. This team went with Wayne Hunter at right tackle, and has this guy as the first in line at quarterback?
Aaron Maybin: With the path he took to the quarterback, there were times he looked like he was closer to the New Jersey Turnpike than Vick…
Johnny Bee makes a point most Eagles fans can appreciate: you can have a good team and a good game plan, but the difference between winning and losing usually comes down to individual matchups and which opponent exploits those matchups the best. On Sunday, it was the Eagles who identified the matchups and made the adjustments in a more efficient fashion than the Jets. The real “mystery” is why the Eagles have failed to perform at that level more often this season—and against lesser foes than the Jets.