Once again, turnovers made a game closer than it should have been. It's a testament that the Birds coughed up four turnovers (one on a defensive fumble from a now-finished DeMeco Ryans), only had one takeaway (Ryans' pick), and still won by ten points. It will be restated that the Eagles would be blowing more opponents out with less mistakes, but it's a point with whip-marks so deep that necrotized blood oozes out.
Maybe Nick Foles was afraid of taking sacks with the wounded left shoulder, that poor passes became preferable to him? In that case, letting him heal fully may be a blessing in disguise, especially since Mark Sanchez can run the offense. With better talent around him, and better offensive minds on the sidelines, Sanchez has the best cast he's ever had in the NFL.
Can't really complain about Sanchez's performance on Sunday. "The Sanchize" came right in and began heaving confident throws to Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews, showing good command of the offense. Chip Kelly praised Sanchez's studiousness after the game, and the amount of preparation was evident. Sanchez, likely, is looking for that bigger payday in 2015, but he's keen to put on a show in Philadelphia to earn those dollars.
KEY STAT: Sanchez averaged 55.2 percent completions as a Jet, but begins his Eagles career completing 68.2 percent of his throws.
Still only one touchdown, but McCoy comes off the second 100-yard game of his season, and is getting closer to four yards a carry on the season. The re-insertion of Jason Kelce into the line-up is only creating more holes for McCoy (particularly in the second half), while getting All-Pro Evan Mathis back this coming week only sweetens the pot. Carolina owns one of the worst run-defenses in the league, so you'd figure McCoy could be Monday's star.
KEY STAT: Averaging just under 3.9 yards a carry on the season, McCoy averages 5.3 yards per run in the last three games.
Maclin continues to be the number one receiver of the team's dreams, in spite of all of the offensive miscues. With 790 yards and eight touchdowns at the halfway point, Maclin is on pace to set team records in both categories. Once thought of as the more-pedestrian counterpart to DeSean Jackson, Maclin has blossomed into a deep ball threat that corners struggle to cover one on one.
KEY STAT: The Eagles have completed eight passes of 50+ yards, five of which have gone to Maclin (three touchdowns).
David Molk was a fine run-blocker, but he couldn't replace the genuine article. Kelce helped aid McCoy's 100-yard day with good middle blocking and his standard second-level blocking. While J.J. Watt was sucking wind, Kelce got better in the second half, and was a key component on that four-run touchdown drive in the third quarter. The team missed that versatility.
KEY STAT: Despite playing against the amoebic Watt, Kelce was the only offensive lineman to not surrender a quarterback pressure on Sunday.
26.2 points per game given up is bad enough without the offense only scoring 19.7 a game. The offense has only allowed one score, a fumble return for a touchdown, so the defense is on the hook for the other 28 touchdowns allowed. Greg Hardy's absence can't be solely blamed for the group crumbling like tissue paper as often as they have.
Their third-down percentage has elevated 13 percentage points from a year ago. Opposing running backs are easily finding daylight around the edges. If the pass rush doesn't get there, quarterbacks are finding targets without much hassle. Sean McDermott's group is one in general disarray, which is hard to believe given that he was short-listed as a future head coach candidate one year ago.
With Hardy placed on the exemption list, Short has been the team's most reliable defensive lineman. Although Short has recorded only one sack, he's been invaluable as the team's rock-solid middle presence against the run. His season-high five run-stops came all the way back in Week 1 against the Buccaneers, but has added seven since. His general knack for run-stopping leads backs to go outside the tackles, which is where Carolina loses its punch.
KEY STAT: With the one sack, Short has also recorded nine hurries and five hits in the passing game.
The golden boy of the defense is shouldering a heavy burden for a group in severe straits, but has mostly come through when needed. Kuechly has accounted for 46 stops in the running game through tremendous instincts, and has impeccable timing for a young defender. Kuechly is averaging more than eight tackles a game (he's topped ten on three occasions this year), and is mostly effective covering backs and tight ends against the pass. He's as versatile a weapon as you could go up against.
KEY STAT: In seven of nine games, Kuechly has played every defensive snap, including 84 against the Bengals, 77 vs. the Saints, and 73 against the Lions.
The 97.4 passer rating against the Panthers defense is inflated by targeting Cason who, despite two interceptions, is easily shredded. To wit, Cason has been targeted 55 times, allowing a whopping 45 completions to go with five touchdowns and 518 yards. That's 11.51 yards per completion his way. At times, Cason has proven to be a decent run-stopper, but he's an utter liability covering in one-on-one situations.
KEY STAT: Cason recorded ten run stops in the first five games, but hasn't recorded one since.
Statistics from Pro Football Focus were used to write this story.
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