Monday Musings – Young is Tebow? DeSean Being DeSean. Thanksgiving – November 21, 2011
Juan Castillo may have coached the Eagles to their best defensive performance since 2008.
1. DeSean Being DeSean – Tonight, DeSean Jackson laid it out there for all to see in a nationally televised 17-10 Eagles win over the Giants on Sunday Night Football. In a contract year, Jackson made the case why he deserves big-time money. Right after he made the case why a large financial investment in his future might not be particularly wise. Jackson caught six passes for 88 yards and returned a punt 51 yards to set up a touchdown. He should have caught seven passes for 138 yards, but he took a costly taunting penalty to negate his biggest catch of the game. That’s DeSean in a nutshell. He’s short, fast and cocky. He wears his heart on his sleeve, in part because that’s how he is and in part because he’s extremely immature.
DeSean will burn you, then he’ll do something remarkably dumb that might undo said burning. Sometimes he’ll get away with it, like running horizontally across the goal line or dropping the ball at the 1-yardline on his way into the end zone, only to have it ruled dead and punched in shortly thereafter. But sometimes he’ll see his play brought back due to his antics. It’s hard to think any of the lessons of the past have sunk in for Jackson, as just a couple of hours after his taunting penalty, Jackson picked up a big first down, threw the ball a bit too forcefully at an official and taunted the Giants fans in attendance. That one he got away with. That’s DeSean being DeSean, the question is, how does it affect his worth?
2. Sticking With Shady – Andy Reid did something last night that is pretty rare for him, he didn’t abandon the run even when it wasn’t working. Certainly part of his motivation was that he was calling plays with a backup quarterback in Vince Young, but still, his faith in McCoy paid off. By the end of the game, the Eagles had run 36 passing plays and 33 runs. Granted, up to five of those were scrambles by Young, along with a quarterback sneak, but given the style of defense the Giants played, Reid’s ratio made a lot of sense. The Giants put at least eight players in the box almost the entire game, bound and determined to make Young beat them over the top and willing to let DeSean Jackson run free at times. Young had mixed success in hitting Jackson, but since Reid kept running the ball enough to keep the Giants defense honest, the opportunities continued throughout the game. McCoy gained just 53 yards on his first 22 carries, a mere 2.4 per attempt. Finally, on his 23rd run of the night, Shady broke a 60 yarder, leaving him with a more than respectable 113 yards on 23 attempts. While it wasn’t the type of game in which McCoy dominated, he did just enough against a run-focused defense and Reid gave him the ball just often enough to keep the Giants attention on McCoy, opening up others.
3. Credit for Castillo – The Eagles defense was different last night, and at the time I couldn’t put my finger on it. I’ll often throw out “best/worst since,” statements in the press box, sometimes in a joking manner and sometimes serious. Last night in the third quarter, I turned to those around me and said “Best defensive performance by the Eagles since…?” I offered up that I thought you might have to go back to Jim Johnson’s days as coordinator to find a better played game by a defense, while others countered that the Eagles were pretty darn good defensively against the Cowboys as well. I knew this one felt different, but at the time all I could come up with was that they were playing more physically. Meaner, if you will. What I didn’t notice was the “time and score” factor.
Last night was the third time this season that the Eagles defense made it into the fourth quarter before surrendering a touchdown. All three games were wins and all came in the NFC East (at the Redskins, at home against the Cowboys and finally at the Giants). However, this was the first in which the opposing offense had its full playbook available for most of the game. The Cowboys were behind 14-0 in the first quarter, more or less forced to the air from the get go. The Redskins trailed 14-0 just two plays into the second quarter, rendering them one dimensional for most of the game. The Giants, though, never trailed by more than 10 points last night. That two possession lead only lasted for 77 seconds, at that. For the vast majority of the game, the Giants were not limited in their play calling by the score or the amount of time left.
In 2010, the Eagles only held an opponent without a touchdown through the first three quarters once, in a 28-3 win over the Jaguars. I find last night more impressive again both because of the time and score and the fact that the Jaguars aren’t as good as the Giants, nor were the stakes as high. You have to go back to Jim Johnson’s final season as coordinator, 2008, when the Eagles beat the Giants 23-11 in the second round of the playoffs, not allowing a touchdown all game long and never leading by more than one score until the fourth quarter.
4. Young is Tebow? – I’ve got to give credit to Tim McManus of Philly Sports Daily for dropping the quote that led me down this road. As we rode the elevator up from the post game interviews and press conferences, we started joking about Young’s ability to win the game despite a poor statistical performance and a poor overall performance until the final drive. It was Tebow-esque. Tim put it best. “Vince Young was Tebow before Tebow was Tebow,” he said.
Truth be told, Vince Young has an impressive and confusing record of winning in spite of his statistics. Prior to the game-winning drive, Young was 16-of-27 for 191 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Then he went 7-of-9 for 67 yards and the game-winning score, an 8-yard pass to Cooper. Obviously Young has a history of winning, going back to his National Championship with the Texas Longhorns. But it goes well beyond that. In 2007, Young threw just nine touchdowns while racking up 17 interceptions. He only threw for 2,546 yards. The Titans went 10-6, and it was LenDale White leading the way at running back – by no means a true stalwart. Somehow, Young found ways to keep winning.
The previous year, Young earned Pro Bowl honors despite throwing 13 picks and just 12 touchdowns. He led four fourth-quarter comebacks. In 2008, Young was 3-1 before an injury sidelined him, despite throwing for a score and two picks. Overall, Young has thrown 44 touchdowns and 46 interceptions, but has 31 wins to outnumber 17 losses.
5. Play Calling – Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg take a lot of heat for their unorthodox or creative plays that don’t work, but when one goes off without a hitch, it sometimes goes unnoticed. On the game-winning drive, the Eagles converted six third downs. The first was a third-and-3 at their own 27-yardline. With LeSean McCoy already on the field, Ronnie Brown checked in as well. Brown lined up in a sort of hybrid position, perhaps as an H-back or a wing back. The Eagles’ terminology will probably be different, but Brown was lined up on the right end of the offensive line, a yard back from the line of scrimmage. The Giants didn’t adjust. Generally the rule is, anytime a skill player lines up in an unusual position, the play is designed for them. This was the case, as Brown and Todd Herremans both came across the formation on a running play up the middle. Herremans sealed off a hole and Brown picked up an easy first down. It was a very well designed play, and the Eagles saved it for the perfect time.
AFTER THE JUMP: NFC EAST PLAYOFF PICTURE, THANKSGIVING SLATE, MARINO’S RECORD IN DANGER
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