10 observations from Eagles-Cardinals

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10 observations from Eagles-Cardinals

December 1, 2013, 4:15 pm
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Trent Cole celebrates after sacking Carson Palmer in the second half of the Eagles' 24-21 win over Arizona. (AP)


Let’s face it. The Eagles got lucky Sunday. They played a terrific 2½ quarters then just kind of sat around and waited for the clock to run out. And they got a break with a couple of strange calls and a strange no-call in the final minutes.

Bottom line is a 24-21 win over a team that was 7-4 and had won four straight games (see Instant Replay).

Bottom line is it got really shaky there at the end, but the Eagles find themselves 7-5 with a four-game winning streak and still in the hunt for the NFC East title after going 4-12 last season.

Ultimately, the win is all that matters, right?

1. The Eagles’ inability to finish games is becoming a huge concern. Chip Kelly keeps taking his foot off the pedal after building up big leads. After the Eagles went up 24-7 early in the third quarter, Kelly just stopped trying to score. Just like the two Redskins games, the Eagles kept a team around that seemed beaten. So far, the defense has held up, and it hasn’t cost the Eagles a win, but it’s happening too much, and it’s a lot of pressure to put on the defense. Hanging on for dear life and waiting for the clock to hit 0:00 is a dangerous way to play.

2. His numbers weren’t huge, but I thought this was one of LeSean McCoy’s more impressive games of the year. Arizona came in with the No. 2 run defense in the NFL, and McCoy for the most part moved the chains both in the running and receiving game. None of his carries were bigger than the five-yard gain on 4th-and-2 late in the second quarter that led to the Eagles’ second TD and a 17-7 halftime lead. McCoy finished with 79 tough yards rushing and 36 receiving against a very good defense.

3. And this really impressed me. Just before Nick Foles’ TD pass to Brent Celek right before halftime, he threw deep for DeSean Jackson, but Patrick Peterson had great position on DeSean and appeared to be primed to record the first interception this year off Foles. But Jackson interfered enough with Peterson to prevent him from the pick and four plays later Foles threw his second TD of the game. DeSean Jackson of a few years ago doesn’t make that play, and it was every bit as important as any of his catches. That’s why he’s become a winner.

4. Earl Wolff thinks he can be back Sunday when the Eagles face the Lions, and it’s a good thing because Patrick Chung has been awful. Wolff, the rookie from North Carolina State, was getting better each week before he got hurt against the Packers, and the Eagles need him back now.

5. You’re moving the ball, you have momentum, you just drove down the field, you have a 1st-and-goal on the Cards’ 6-yard line, your quarterback is hot, your tailback is picking up big yards, and that’s when you pull out the Brad Smith trick play? I hated that call. Brad Smith hasn’t had a touch -- a run, a catch, a throw -- since Dec. 30 last year when he was with Buffalo. I don’t want his first touch in almost a full calendar year to be on a crucial 1st-and-goal. I’m all for trickery. I actually don’t mind the play. Just not then, not there. No way.

6. What a weapon Donnie Jones has become. Jones, the Eagles’ fourth punter in the last four years, had a clutch 70-yarder in the win over the Redskins before the bye and unloaded a 69-yarder Sunday. They’re the Eagles’ two longest punts in the last 19 years, and they came in consecutive games. He followed that up with three straight punts inside the 15 to really help the defense control the fourth quarter of the game. Jones is having a big-time season.

7. Trent Cole’s rejuvenation these last few weeks has been remarkable and encouraging. To see Cole -- now in his ninth NFL season, 31 years old, playing a new position -- producing the way he has the past month is huge. From the start of last year through Week 8 this year, Cole had three sacks in 24 games. In the last four games, he has five sacks and has been getting consistently ferocious pressure on the quarterback. Cole is an all-time Eagles great -- Hall of Famer Reggie White is now the only Eagle in history with more sacks than Cole -- and it was tough to see him struggling. It’s a real statement to his professionalism and work ethic that he’s been able to reinvent himself at this stage of his career and become an effective outside linebacker.

8. I would throw Brandon Graham in that same category. To a lesser extent, but similar. Playing a new position and he’s getting better every week. Graham, like Cole, had two sacks Sunday.

9. Yes, and then there’s Foles. What else is there to say about the second-year QB? Kelly didn’t help him out much with the second-half play calling, and he did have that late INT wiped out by a penalty, but the numbers are still impressive: 21 for 34 for 237 yards and three touchdowns against a top-10 defense. His numbers so far this year are insane: 124 for 196 (63 percent) for 1,591 yards with 19 touchdowns and no interceptions. That’s a 120.6 passer rating. That’s fourth-highest in NFL history this late in a season behind Peyton Manning (126.3 in 2004), Aaron Rodgers (125.3 in 2011) and Tom Brady (123.4 in 2007). I think he can play. Foles has had a passer rating of 100 or better in four straight games and six of the last seven. Ridiculous.

10. Zach Ertz is going to be one heck of a weapon. He actually already is. Ertz was huge Sunday with 5 for 68 and two touchdowns, the first Eagles rookie tight end with a two-TD game since Keith Jackson against the Rams in 1988. Ertz quietly has 26 catches for 342 yards and three TDs this year. He’s starting to look really comfortable out there and catching the ball better. I could see him finishing really strong over the next month.