Offensive line dominates in the trenches
Pictured from left to right: Todd Herremans, Jason Kelce and Allen Barbre. (AP/USA Today Images)
The Eagles scored a manly win Sunday in the Heartland, venturing into historic Lambeau and handing Green Bay a 27-13 defeat in a stadium where the Packers rarely suffer double-digit losses.
“Manly” might be a knuckle-dragging, Neanderthal term in 2013, but this game was was won up front on both sides of the ball, with old-fashioned smashmouth play from the offensive line and stout run-stopping on the defensive side.
No surprise, then, that many of the game balls go to the “big uglies” up front who did most of the dirty work.
I’m giving out game balls to all of them, especially Allen Barbre, who came in to replace an injured Jason Peters and more than handled his business. Barbre rode Packers linebacker Nick Perry, a first-round pick, upfield on Nick Foles’ 55-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson. He also sealed off Clay Matthews on Foles’ 45-yard touchdown to Riley Cooper. He was a run-blocking beast in the fourth on the drive that choked more than nine minutes off the clock. Honestly, there was no dropoff from Peters to Barbre, which is because Barbre played well and because Peters has been nursing several injuries and isn’t quite his All-Pro self.
The Packers have three defensive linemen who weigh north of 320 pounds, which was supposed to be a point of concern for center Jason Kelce and right guard Todd Herremans. Both have struggled at times against bigger bodies. Herremans played his best game of the season and provided plenty of leads blocks for LeSean McCoy. Kelce had a few blips but was otherwise stellar in run blocking and pass protection.
Lane Johnson had some issues on bubble screens. On two screens, he lined up split wide and got beat by a defensive back to have the play blown up, but Johnson was a better run blocker at his natural right tackle position and kept Green Bay’s pass rush off Foles.
Evan Mathis hasn’t gotten enough credit in this space, mainly because he’s set the bar so high for himself. Mathis was excellent in both phases. He rarely allowed penetration and opened plenty of holes for McCoy. He helped make Packers tackle B.J. Raji a non-factor in the game. Really, he could get a game ball every game.
It wasn’t a Picasso, but quarterbacks don’t go into Lambeau and leave with three touchdowns, no picks and a 149.3 passer rating. Reuben Frank explained just how rare efforts like Foles’ happen against the Packers in Green Bay (see story). So even though he only threw 18 passes, he gets a game ball.
Yeah, he finally had great run blocking, but the guy ran for 155 yards. That’s not all because of blocking. Also, McCoy had two real nice blitz pickups, including one on Foles’ 55-yard touchdown pass to Jackson. He had a crazy juke on linebacker Mike Neal to pick up 14 yards on that clock-draining drive in the fourth.
Cooper and Jackson combined for seven receptions, 182 yards and three touchdowns. Enough said. Oh, and even though Jason Avant caught just two passes, he had a nice downfield block on Tramon Williams to help McCoy gain 18 on a third-quarter run and made a terrific grab across the middle for 23 yards on a very risky throw by Foles.
I don’t know when it happened, but Celek at some point became a darn good run blocker. He’s been very good sealing the edges all season and again in Green Bay. He leveled A.J. Hawk on a McCoy 20-yard run, had a seal on Matthews for an 18-yard McCoy run and blocked Nick Perry in pass protection on Foles’ 32-yard touchdown pass to Cooper.
Like I wrote, the game was won in the trenches. The starting defensive line of Cedric Thornton, Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan dominated Green Bay’s offensive line and allowed the linebackers to swarm in and make plays.
Thornton pushed center Evan Dietrich-Smith all the way back into Scott Tolzien to force an incomplete second-down pass to Andrew Quarless. Later, he shot through scrimmage and batted down a pass from Tolzien to Jarrett Boykin. Logan, a rookie making his second start, penetrated on consecutive snaps in the second to slow up James Starks, who managed just two yards total on those runs. In the third, he pushed back center T.J Lang to stop Eddie Lacy for no gain.
It seemed like an ominous sign when Mychal Kendricks left early in the first with a knee injury, but Goode was one of the unsung heroes of the defense. Assigned to run blitz often, Goode frequently got penetration through the gaps to slow up or redirect Lacy and Starks and let his teammates wrap up the tackles.
He had 13 tackles, two for a loss, and picked off his second pass of the season. Ryans is playing at a Pro Bowl level and has become the heartbeat of an emerging defense.
Had a tough assignment in Jordy Nelson and came up with a major momentum-turning interception in coverage against Nelson in the end zone, a pick he returned 76 yards. Nelson caught six passes for 56 yards, 30 coming on a ridiculous sideline grab that Boykin couldn’t do anything about.
Williams surprisingly gave too much cushion to Packers receivers all game and gave up a bunch of underneath receptions that helped Green Bay move the chains behind a quarterback making his NFL debut. He also missed a tackle on Nelson in the flat that turned a one-yard pass into an eight-yard gain.
After a breakout game against the Raiders, Brown was back to his old form. He didn’t make the most of his four carries, getting just 11 yards.
Almost game-ball status. The coaches are getting more comfortable with playing Curry on run downs, a testament to his work ethic. He had two big plays -- a bat-down of a Tolzien pass on 3rd-and-1 and a sack in the fourth. Best part of the sack? He hugged the referee after.
Yeah, he got away with borderline pass interference on a couple of pass breakups, but the guy battled all game in his spot-start in place of Bradley Fletcher. Had a nice diving tackle on Quarless one yard short of first down on a 3rd-and-9 in the first.
Once again showed up on special teams and came up with one of the biggest plays on the 15-play drive in the fourth, catching a short pass across the middle on 3rd-and-7 well short of the marker and shaking linebacker Brad Jones to get the first down.
Another big contributor on run defense. He also had a third-down batted pass in the fourth.
Didn’t get much pressure but was stout in run defense and wrapped up several tackles, finishing with eight.
Keeps making steady plays. I counted three 1-on-1 tackles in the open field, including one on Brandon Bostick that held the Packers tight end to no gain on 3rd-and-14.
• Not sure why offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur didn’t advise Chip Kelly to challenge Jarrett Boykin’s 39-yard sideline catch on 3rd-and-9 in the second. From replay angles, it sure looked as if Boykin’s arm was out of bounds before his right foot came down. It was worth a challenge. A penalty on the play gave Shurmur plenty of time to see replay angles.
• The referees made some bad calls that couldn’t be challenged. The first was an obvious facemask on McCoy in the second quarter, after he was dropped for minus-three by defensive tackle Johnny Jolly, who had a whole handful of Shady’s helmet. The second was a roughing the passer call on Packers linebacker Matthews late in the second. Matthews didn’t lead with his helmet and seemed to hit Foles right after the quarterback’s release. It would have been impossible for Matthews to let up at that moment.
• I have no issue with Kelly's decision to go for a touchdown late in the second quarter with his team up 7-0 and trying to have Foles pass three times from 1st-and-goal at the 10. Foles has been excellent in the red zone this year and the Packers were loading up the box. Judging by my Twitter timeline, folks felt that Kelly left too much time on the clock after Alex Henery’s chip shot put the Eagles up 10-0 with 1:16 to play. You don’t start “managing the clock” in the second quarter when you’re up by only seven, even if Green Bay did get down the field quickly and get on the board with a field goal. Now, if you think Kelly should have ran the ball at least once, I won’t disagree.