Grayson’s Grades: Eagles at Patriots
FOXBORO, Massachusetts - Many of the so-called experts around the NFL called the coroner to pronounce the Philadelphia Eagles dead. Before the coroner could arrive, the birds showed signs of life by delivering a shocking 35-28 win over the Patriots.
It was a true team effort with the Eagles scoring 35 straight points during this game with only 14 of those points coming from the offense. The Eagles scored 21 points by a blocked punt returned for a touchdown, a 99-yard interception returned for a touchdown and an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown.
A wild game yields an interesting report card. Without further ado, here is the latest edition of Grayson's Grades:
Darren Sproles - Sproles was the feature back in this game and he delivered. He got 24 touches and cashed them in for 215 total yards and one touchdown. The question is whether it was a flash in the pan to throw the Patriots a curve or will it be something Chip Kelly goes to more in the future? Kelly said after the game that it was due to better matchup for Sproles and Barner than Murray. Either way, Sproles looked good in the role. He also delivered on special teams returning a punt 83 yards for a touchdown. Sproles ran it 15 times for 66 yards. He also caught 4 passes for 34 yards. A solid effort from the veteran.
Malcolm Jenkins - Jenkins had a great game for the Eagles. He seemed to be everywhere. Jenkins was second on the team in tackles with seven. Jenkins had one of the biggest plays in the game when he picked off a deflected pass and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown to give the Eagles a 21-14 lead in the third quarter. He had two tackles for a loss, a pass deflection and that interception. Jenkins is one of the leaders on this team and led by example in this one.
Connor Barwin - Barwin had one of his best games of the season. He was able to get in the backfield frequently and harass Tom Brady. Barwin recorded a pair of sacks in the game. Along with his two sacks, Barwin finished with six tackles, two tackles for a loss and two quarterback hits.
Brandon Graham - Graham, like Barwin, was getting in the backfield frequently. He managed to deliver some hits on Brady and also recorded a pair of sacks. Graham and Barwin proved to be a solid tandem in this game. Along with his two sacks, Graham recorded four tackles, two tackles for a loss and three quarterback hits.
Chris Maragos - Maragos does not get too many opportunities to deliver, but took advantage of a huge one when the Patriots left him untouched on a punt rush that Maragos was able to block with :08 remaining in the first half. Najee Goode returned it for a touchdown to tie it just before the half.
Najee Goode - Goode is a special teams player who has definitely done his job throughout the season. He alertly picked up the punt that Maragos blocked and returned it for a huge touchdown with just 8 seconds remaining in the first half. It tied the game and gave the Eagles a lot of momentum heading into the locker room.
Sam Bradford - This was not a great performance by Bradford, but he did a good job of managing the game to the tune of two touchdowns with no interceptions. He completed some difficult passes at times including a big touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews on third down to make it 35-14 at the time. Bradford completed 14 of 24 passes for 120 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Eric Rowe - Rowe got schooled by Calvin Johnson last week, but rebounded very well in his first start. He was picked on at times. When Brady challenged him deep, he had very good coverage resulting in incomplete passes. It was a positive sign for the rookie who is going to be asked to fill the vacancy left by Nolan Carroll's season ending injury a week ago. Rowe finished with just three tackles in the stat sheet, but he did more than that for this defense.
Walter Thurmond - Thurmond did a pretty good job in this game, although he gave up some big catches at times. He led the team in tackles with 10. Thurmond also recorded a pass deflection. However, when the longest pass play allowed is from Danny Amendola to Tom Brady, then the secondary must be doing something right.
Byron Maxwell - Maxwell has been doing a better job in coverage than he was earlier in the season. As mentioned in Thurmond's grade, when the longest pass play allowed is from Danny Amendola to Tom Brady, the secondary must be doing something right. Maxwell did a great job reading a deep attempt by Brady and leaving the receiver to pick off the pass in the endzone for a touchback. He finished with three tackles, one interception and one pass deflection.
Chip Kelly - I struggled with this grade, but ultimately decided on a 'B' over a 'C' because he was willing to do something different. Starting Sproles over Murray and giving him 24 touches in the game was a big difference. Sproles finished with 24 touches for 215 yards and one touchdown on a punt return while Murray had 8 touches for 24 yards with 19 of those yards coming on one play. It was a decision that did take some guts and paid off. I do want to question the decision to have Kenjon Barner carrying the ball on third and five with 1:13 remaining in field goal range up by seven points. Why Barner instead of either Murray or Sproles who, as veterans, understand the value of holding onto the ball with two hands in that situation. Overall, just when everyone wanted to count this team out, Kelly led them to victory in Foxboro where the Patriots rarely lose and that does mean something.
Billy Davis - I also struggled between giving Davis a 'B' or a 'C' and ultimately decided on a 'B'. I questioned whether Davis should still be on the staff after the past two losses, but he put together a game plan that worked. He did what you have to do to beat Brady and that is get to him early in the game and hit him. The Eagles racked up a few sacks early and did hit him even if they did not quite get there in time for a sack. They also kept LeGarrette Blount in check for the most part. Due to all of the Eagles scores by the defense or special teams, the defense had to face 86 plays. The longest play from scrimmage came on a trick play when Danny Amendola hit Tom Brady for 36 yards. The defense gave up some late scores and allowed a lot of Brady's pass yards to come when the Patriots were behind big. 218 of his 312 pass yards came in the second half. Perhaps the biggest key was forcing Brady to throw interceptions. One of them went for a touchdown, the other ended a drive and the Eagles turned it into a touchdown on their ensuing possession.
Jordan Matthews - Matthews is the most targeted wide receiver on this time and as a result needs to lead the way in receiving. On the plus side, he did make a great touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. However, he was only targeted six times and caught three of those passes for 36 yards. He led the team in receiving yards with that total, which must be higher for this offense to find more success.
Lane Johnson - Johnson struggled early in this game and continues to get called for bad penalties. They are drive killers for this offense and his penalty on the opening drive helped to kill what was an otherwise solid possession. Penalties are extremely costly for this team and as a result are weighted heavily in the grading process, especially when they directly kill drives. On a plus side, Johnson and the rest of the offensive line gave up one sack on what appeared to be a run by Bradford. The rest of the day they did a pretty good job protecting Bradford. Run blocking still needs more improvement.
Allen Barbre - Barbre helped to kill the Eagles second offensive possession of the game with an illegal hands to the face penalty. As mentioned in Lane Johnson's grade, those kind of penalties routinely kill drives for this offense. It rarely overcomes penalties and needs to be limited. Other than that, Barbre along with the rest of the offensive line helped to keep Bradford protected. They must do a better job run blocking.
DeMarco Murray - Murray appeared to be demoted in this game. Chip Kelly said he gave Sproles more touches due to the matches in this game. Call it what you will. Murray received just eight of the 32 carries by Eagles running backs. Murray had trouble getting going and tallied 19 of his 24 yards on one play. The offense appeared to run better behind Sproles and Barner. It will be interesting to see if this was a one game situation or if this trend continues.
Nelson Agholor - The first round pick again struggled recording no catches in this game. He was targeted twice with one of them a definite drop. It has been long enough for him to try and get his feet under him in the NFL and he needs to start contributing. I still believe he has the tools to succeed in this league, but time is running out for him to produce in 2015.