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The Eagles, Matt Cassel and the unpredictability of the NFL

The Eagles, Matt Cassel and the unpredictability of the NFL

Over the course of a season, there are always going to be weeks that remind us we can never be too sure about anything in the NFL. A club that’s won five straight loses to an inferior opponent missing its best player. A defense that’s held nine consecutive teams to 21 points or less gets tagged for 48 by a replacement-level quarterback.

The Philadelphia Eagles are neither immune to that phenomenon nor different from anybody else. This season alone, we’ve seen Nick Foles tie a league record with seven touchdown passes in a game, and we’ve seen him complete a putrid 37 percent of his passes in another, which are the kind of unexplainable highs and lows that still leave people scratching their head.

So in many ways, Sunday was just another day in the NFL, in that all it took was 60 minutes against the 4-9-1 Minnesota Vikings to challenge our carefully-constructed perceptions about this Eagles squad, their defense in particular.

The Vikings. With reigning MVP Adrian Peterson and a litany of key players out with injuries. With Matt Cassel under center.

Cassel has a pedestrian 83.1 passer rating over a nine-year career. Last season with the Kansas City Chiefs, he committed twice as many turnovers (19) than he had games played (9). He hadn’t thrown for 300 yards and three touchdowns in a game since 2010. In fact, Cassel has thrown for over 300 yards in just eight of his 66 career starts; he’s thrown for less than 100 yards eight times—nine including playoffs.

The guy was an undrafted player who wasn’t even the starting quarterback in college. His claim to fame is quarterbacking a New England Patriots team with Randy Moss and Wes Welker to a 10-5 record, then bilking the Chiefs out of a ton of money for four years.

None of that mattered this week though. Cassel was in command from the outset, completing his first nine passes. One of those was a 57-yard touchdown to Greg Jennings, one the most flawless deep balls anybody has completed all season, eluding the pass rush to hit the wide receiver in stride over the top of the defense.

Cassel was unflappable in the face of pressure all afternoon, getting rid of the football quickly or standing tall in the pocket with a defender in his face to deliver a strike when the situation called for it. He was precise, completing 74 percent of his passes. He was prolific, going for 11 yards per attempt en route to 382 total. He was efficient, limiting mistakes to three sacks and one interception off of a tipped pass.

And he did it all without much help from the running game. Matt Asiata managed to punch the ball into the end zone three times from the goal line, but when the dust had settled, the third-string back had averaged just 1.7 yards on 30 carries. According to CSNPhilly.com's Reuben Frank, his 51 yards were the second-lowest total ever for a player with 30 attempts.

Maybe this game was more about Matt Cassel than it was the Eagles’ woeful secondary. Sure, they played poorly, but the same unit held the likes of Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer and Matt Stafford in check over the previous nine games—not exactly a murderer’s row, but all capable of posting a nice line.

Likewise, the same defense that allowed Jennings (11 REC, 163 YDS, 1 TD) to go over the century mark for the first time this season has handled the likes of Vincent Jackson, Dez Bryant, Victor Cruz, Jordy Nelson, Pierre Garcon, Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson this season.

After the game, even Chip Kelly conceded "Cassel was on fire."

For that matter, maybe the Vikings didn’t get enough credit coming into the contest. People looked at the record, the injuries—in addition to AP, the backup running back, the no. 1 tight end, a starting offensive lineman and their top three cornerbacks were all out—and, of course, Cassel, and assumed the Eagles should win in a walk.

Except nobody has won in a walk in Minnesota lately. The Vikings are 3-2-1 over their last six games. They’re legitimately tough.

Call this a trap game if you must, and yes, cornerback and safety will need to be addressed by the front office this coming offseason, for depth at the very least. But perhaps more than anything else, the Eagles’ collapse against the Vikings was simply brought about by an incredible individual performance from an unlikely source. It wouldn’t be the first time, and the way the NFL works, it won’t be the last.

CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

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CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

Position Title: Intern
Department: Advertising/Sales
Company: Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia
# of hours / week: 10 – 20 hours

Deadline: November 20

Basic Function

This position will work closely with the Vice President of Sales in generating revenue through commercial advertisements and sponsorship sales. The intern will gain first-hand sales experience through working with Sales Assistants and AEs on pitches, sales-calls and recapping material.

Duties and Responsibilities

• Assist Account Executive on preparation of Sales Presentations
• Cultivate new account leads for local sales
• Track sponsorships in specified programs
• Assist as point of contact with sponsors on game night set up and pre-game hospitality elements.
• Assist with collection of all proof of performance materials.
• Perform Competitive Network Analysis
• Update Customer database
• Other various projects as assigned

Requirements

1. Good oral and written communication skills.
2. Knowledge of sports.
3. Ability to work non-traditional hours, weekends & holidays
4. Ability to work in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment
5. Must be 19 years of age or older
6. Must be a student in pursuit of an Associate, Bachelor, Master or Juris Doctor degree
7. Must have unrestricted authorization to work in the US
8. Must have sophomore standing or above
9. Must have a 3.0 GPA

Interested students should apply here and specify they're interested in the ad/sales internship.

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‘Like a cannon,’ Jake Elliott sets Eagles franchise record with walk-off FG

‘Like a cannon,’ Jake Elliott sets Eagles franchise record with walk-off FG

Carson Wentz was praying. 

Malcolm Jenkins was keeping an eye on Odell Beckham Jr., worried about the prospect of the superstar getting his hands on the football one last time with offensive linemen trying to tackle him. 

And Donnie Jones, the veteran punter and field goal holder, was on the sideline lobbying head coach Doug Pederson and special teams coordinator Dave Fipp to let them try. 

"I went over and said 'Let's go," Jones recalled. "We can win this thing. I said let's kick this bleep-bleeper and win this game."

A couple minutes later, rookie kicker Jake Elliott exited the field at the Linc in style, hoisted up on the shoulders of Mychal Kendricks and Kamu Grugier-Hill. 

That's the kind of treatment you get when you drill a 61-yard, game-winning field goal.  

"Jake came up and I saw it in his eyes," Jones said. "I knew. I knew he was ready to go out and execute and he did."  

Said Elliott: "I definitely ran over there real wide-eyed wanting to get it done."

Elliott, whom the Eagles signed before last week's game against the Chiefs after Caleb Sturgis went down with an injury, drilled his 61-yard attempt to give the Eagles a 27-24 win over the Giants on Sunday afternoon (see breakdown). It was a crazy end to a crazy game. 

"It's kind of a blur to me," Elliott said. "I don't really know. All I know is that the ball was in the air for a really long time and [it was] real close to that right upright." 

The Eagles led by 14 until the fourth, then gave up the lead, then found a way to tie it. The 61-yard walkoff was fitting. 

"We knew Jake had pretty good range," Wentz said. "I wasn't sure 61 is doable. You never really think that. But we had a lot of faith in him. I had a lot of faith in him and he got it done." 

The 61-yarder was the longest field goal in franchise history, surpassing Tony Franklin's 59-yard field goal in 1979. It was the longest field goal in the NFL since Matt Prater's 64-yarder in 2013. And there have been just six longer field goals in NFL history (see observations)

All this for a guy who missed a 30-yard chip shot last week. 

"You have to be mentally strong as punters and kickers because bad things happen," Jones said. "It's how you bounce back from that and respond. That's what really makes you the player you are." 

To set up the game-winning kick, the offense first had to get into position. After a poor punt from the Giants, the Eagles got the ball at their 38-yard line with 13 seconds left. The first pass went incomplete and drained six seconds. The next pass was a 19-yard gain to Alshon Jeffery on the sideline. 

It left the Eagles with one second. 

"We only had seven seconds," head coach Doug Pederson said. "So we have calculated in a sideline throw can take anywhere from five to six, and we were right on that mark today.

"It was pretty awesome. It sounded like a cannon off his foot. Great snap, great hold. The protection was there. Awesome.”

The only reason Elliott is even on the Eagles is because Sturgis was placed on injured reserve with a hip injury suffered in the opener. The Eagles worked out a trio of kickers but instead elected to sign Elliott off the Bengals' practice squad. 

The Bengals used a fifth-round pick on Elliott this year. But the Memphis product lost the Cincinnati job to veteran Randy Bullock and was put on the team's practice squad.

While Elliott looked a little shaky in his preseason with the Bengals and even missed his first field goal attempt Sunday, his leg strength has never really been questioned. At Memphis, he made more 50-yarders (10) from 2013-16 than anyone else in the college ranks. 

The longest kick he's ever made came in college, a 56-yarder. In warmups, Elliott said he usually tries "50, 56, maybe 57 and call it a day from there."

Still ... 61 yards? 

It was something special. 

Jones called Sunday the best team win he had ever been a part of. Jenkins said the game was one of the most memorable of his career. Even Jason Peters said this game and the Miracles at the Meadowlands "almost rate the same." There was certainly plenty of drama. 

The idea to carry Elliott off the field on Sunday was actually Najee Goode's. But after the game, he was nowhere to be found. That's when Kendricks stepped in and joined Grugier-Hill to hoist the 167-pound kicker and carry him into the tunnel. 

"I'll take it," Kendricks said. "It was fun. It was cool, man." 

After the kick went through, the capacity crowd of 69,596 erupted and there was chaos on the field. Elliott was at the center of it as the hero of the day (see rookie report)

"It was awesome," Elliott said. "I was just kind of running around, trying not to get hurt."