LeSean McCoy, Michael Vick, and the offensive line may be the Philadelphia Eagles’ best defense against Peyton Manning and the Broncos. The Eagles have the formula on offense that may allow them to pull off a stunning upset on Sunday.
The last time the Broncos lost in the regular season was Week 5 of last season when they fell to Tom Brady and the Patriots. Many teams lose to Brady and the Pats, but the reason I bring them up is because their offense closest resembles the Eagles’ in terms of philosophy.
In that game, the Pats, who ran their up-temp offense, rushed the ball 54 times for 251 yards and scored three times on the ground. They ran 89 plays to the Broncos’ 66 and won the time of possession 35:49 to 24:11.
The other key stat? The Pats forced three turnovers that day to thwart opportunities for Manning and company. So, how am I comparing Brady and the Pats to what Vick and the Eagles can do? Like I said, they have the formula, they just need to do one thing…
The last two games, the Eagles have dramatically lost the time of possession battle by a 2 – 1 ratio. In other words, their opponents have had the ball twice as long as the Eagles did in each game.
If that happens against the Broncos, the Eagles won’t have a prayer. If the Eagles are to have any chance at all in this game, they need to execute the offense to damn near perfection with no dumb penalties or back-breaking turnovers.
Furthermore, the defense must find a way to create some turnovers of their own. Obvious enough, right? Those rules would apply for every single game they play. But, the need to do this becomes more glaring when facing an offense like Denver’s.
The best competition usually brings out the best in players. The Eagles will certainly need to play their best football of the season this week and will have to rest their hopes on offensive efficiency and playing aggressive defense.
This will be a good test for Vick. Will we see the player we saw in the first two weeks or the one we saw against the Chiefs? He’s always been an up-and-down QB which drives me crazy. He’s good enough to provide hope and get you excited about the future one week, then he can look bad enough to make you wonder why he’s still starting.
Vick needs to play smart, efficient football this week and, above all else, play error-free football in order to give his team at least a chance.
One thing in the Eagles’ corner is the fact they are the NFL’s top rushing team. Yes, they are going against Denver’s top rushing defense, but they haven’t been challenged the way the Eagles will challenge them on Sunday.
Denver has faced Baltimore, the Giants and the Raiders so far. Baltimore’s game plan was to pass as Flacco attempted an absurd 62 passes that game and Rice only rushed it 12 times. The Giants can’t run against anyone and the Raiders, are, well…the Raiders.
Then you add in the fact that teams likely feel they need to pass more because they have to keep pace with Manning (or are trailing), and that’s how you get Denver’s No. 1 run defense.
I’m not saying Denver’s defense isn’t good, but their top ranking against the run could be misleading and their current rank against the pass is just 29th. Therefore, the Eagles should be able to move the ball and score points against them.
Running the ball, and hopefully controlling the clock more like they did in Week 1 against Washington, should be first priority this week.
Everyone’s biggest worry is that Manning will make the Eagles’ defense look like they aren’t even there. I can’t disagree with that notion so we have to hope they can make a few key plays by getting turnovers.
Honestly, I’ll be shocked if we see Britton Colquitt on the field this week (he’s Denver’s punter, by the way) because I expect the Broncos to move the ball down the field at will. The difference needs to be the turnovers.
However, if I was Bill Davis, I would also try to devise a way to get as much pressure on Manning as possible without perpetual blitzing. I’m hoping to see some creative defensive fronts and stunts in order to create pressure without sending more than four or five on the rush.
Last season, when defenses were able to pressure Manning without blitzing, is when teams were most effective against him. His numbers per Pro Football Focus were a 49% completion rate with just one TD against five INTs.
If you blitz Manning, he will burn you. His QB rating this season against the blitz is an outstanding 141.1, which is even better than his rating when he’s not blitzed. This is why getting pressure without the blitz becomes a key factor against him.
Manning has also yet to throw an interception this year (maybe he’s due?). However, their offense has put the ball on the ground five times in three games. The Eagles’ defenders need to be aggressive to the ball and go for strips.
Brandon Boykin could be the biggest difference maker on defense if he can limit Wes Welker in the slot. Welker will make his plays, but Boykin needs to tackle well and provide tight coverage.
Manning’s preferred target in this game might be Demaryius Thomas. When looking at the Eagles’ safety situation, he must be thinking it’ll be an easy pitch-and-catch game with his most dynamic receiver.
With Patrick Chung likely to miss the game, I’d rather see rookie Earl Wolff playing deep and see if he is up to the task. We already know Nate Allen isn’t so we may as well keep him more in the box and send him on a few blitzes here and there.
Vinny Curry better be active for this game because he could be our most effective weapon in getting the aforementioned pressure on Manning without blitzing. If he’s inactive again, I think I’ll fly out to Denver and smack Chip and Bill upside their head!
A lot has to go right for the Eagles to win this game. They have to be crisp in all three phases of the game, limit costly penalties and not commit any turnovers. The defense has to be opportunistic while playing fundamentally sound football and staying within the scheme.
The way the offense executes in this game will be the most important factor for the Eagles having any chance at all. If Vick is on and McCoy gets going, we could be in for a shootout. If Vick is off, then we’ll be in for a blowout.