The Eagles delivered a dominating beat down of Green Bay at Lambeau Field, where the Packers are nearly invincible. Sure it’s the preseason and it doesn’t mean anything, but it doesn’t mean nothing either. With two minutes left in the first quarter, the Eagles had scored 25 unanswered points and were on a pace to win 125-0. The Green Bay announcers were stunned. Just before half, one said:
“I can’t remember any team coming in here [to Lambeau Field] and scoring 40 points in the first half. And the starters are still in on defense.”
The tempo offense may give the Eagles an outsized advantage in the preseason when most teams don’t game plan, but the football world is waking up to the fact that Chip Kelly has a real plan behind all of his crazy personnel moves. And that plan just might work, better than anyone imagined.
After the jump, 7 surprises from today’s game.
1. Sam Bradford is better than anyone thought (except maybe Chip)
Every observer seemed to think that Chip was crazy trading Nick Foles for Sam Bradford, and throwing in a draft pick or two. Tonight, no one thinks that. Bradford was 10 for 10, for 121 yards and 3 TDs — just in the first quarter. Then he sat down, triumphant and uninjured.
He was precise, calm under pressure, good at taking hits and getting back up, and hit receivers in stride time after time. He wasn’t perfect, but he was awfully close — a QB rating of 156.7, compared to a perfect score of 158.3. (Joseph Randle would call those 1.6 QB rating points “a lot of meat left on the bone.”)
2. The rest of the QBs are worse than anyone thought.
The drop-off to Sanchez was sharp. He moved the team fine and hit some good passes, but he continues to toss throws that open WRs can’t catch, and to not see wide open receivers (such as Agholor wide open over the middle on a play where Sanchez was sacked). He didn’t show any special ability to run or evade the rush, either.
Barkley and Tebow were even worse. As Tebow was fumbling handoffs and getting stuffed, a Packers fan was overheard on their broadcast yelling “We love us some Tebow! TEBOW TIME!!!” His failure on the extra point attempts should squash any hope Chip had of keeping him as a gadget QB for wildcat-type plays.
Neither 3rd stringer really showed anything that would justify a roster spot. At this point, the Birds might be better going with two QBs to keep more skill players. Trey Burton, a special teams ace last year, is going to be active on game days already, and played well at tight end tonight. He was a decent quarterback at Florida and looks like a better third option than either 3rd string QB.
3. No Kiko
After saying all week that he was excited to play today, Kiko Alonso did not even suit up for the game. After the game Chip said he had “a little nagging leg injury” which “wasn’t a big concern.”
Josh Huff didn’t play either, but that was predictable given that he missed the last two practices after the death of his god-brother last week.
4. Kip Smith was the kicker
At first it seemed like the return of Big Balls Chip when the Eagles went for 2 point conversions after the first two touchdowns, with Tim Tebow at QB. (He was stuffed at the goal line on a run, then nearly intercepted under pressure.)
When Kip Smith came in for the kickoffs and a third XP attempt, though, it was obvious that Cody Parkey was not going to play. The team had said nothing about it in advance. Could they have been giving Smith a last chance to make the team? Probably not after his super ugly knuckleball kicks in game 2. And if that was the case, then the Eagles would have tried a field goal instead of kicking a short punt late in the second quarter.
Chip said after the game that Parkey tweaked his leg on Tuesday, that he could have kicked but they kept him out to be careful. But he has also missed two field goals and an extra point in the first two preseason games, and it’s starting to be a concern. Kip Smith is not good — he was brought in to compete at punter — and there is no plan C.
5. The starting secondary is pretty good.
The Eagles had two interceptions for the third game in a row, including Walter Thurmond’s pick six in the first quarter, and they barely missed a couple more. Chip has emphasized ballhawks in his search for decent DBs to replace Bradley Fletcher, Nate Allen and Cary Williams, and it seems to be paying off.
A month ago, people were questioning whether Walter Thurmond could even play safety, a position he switched to for the first time in training camp. Now he has interceptions in the last two games, and the move looks like genius.
The secondary wasn’t perfect — the second half substitutes gave up several long passes, especially to #19 (Myles White), who abused EJ Biggers all night and had a one-armed circus catch lying flat on his back. And the Eagles gave up big yards on screen passes all game, something that all the new DB and ILB depth (Kiko, Jordan Hicks, re-signing Kendricks) was supposed to fix.
But after two years where the secondary was 32nd and 31st in the NFL, respectively, and cost the team several games, even mediocre defensive backs would be enough to take this team into the playoffs. And this unit looks a lot better than that. Kelly’s Oregon teams, and at times the 2013 Eagles, were explosive and fun to watch in large part because of takeaways, and this team may outdo them.
6. Skill player depth
The Eagles have a ton of great skill players who will be hard to cut. Kenjon Barner didn’t score a punt return TD this week, but he ripped off 50 yards on a screen pass with striking speed. He also stood tough after a brutal hit on a punt return. But Raheem Mostert, competing with him for a fourth RB slot, was relentless as well, starting with his 67 yard kickoff return to start the game. Kevin Monangai had 28 yards on just 5 carries against the 3rd and 4th string run defense.
14 different players caught passes, and even Jeff Maehl — who will not make this team — had several great plays, including a gritty TD he pounded in by lowering his helmet.
7. The Eagles have been lucky on injuries.
Unless Kiko Alonso or Cody Parkey were seriously hurt before the game, the Eagles have been very lucky this year. (Meanwhile, the Packers lost Randall Cobb for the game with an undefined neck (or shoulder) injury in the first quarter, after Jordy Nelson ended his year with an ACL tear earlier this week.) Lane Johnson left the game after a failed two-point conversion with a sprained MCL, which typically would keep him out 2-3 weeks depending on severity, but compared to competitors who are losing multiple players to serious injuries or multi-game suspension, the Birds are sitting pretty. And the starters won’t even play the last preseason game.
The hardest thing now will just be waiting until the regular season begins.