How do you defend Calvin Johnson? The short answer is, you can’t. He beats every coverage you throw at him, and everyone’s tried everything. He leads the league in yards and TDs and he missed a game. Calvin Johnson is practically immune to defense. On Sunday the Eagles are going to have to try to stop him. If you’re Billy Davis, what do you do?
The Eagles are going to throw up everything they have in their arsenal to stop Johnson, including a new look they showed against the Cardinals that (rightly) gained some attention: bracket coverage with Connor Barwin at the line of scrimmage with corner help behind him. For the most part, it worked. On eight plays, all of which turned out to be passes, Barwin lined up directly opposite a WR and double teamed him. On two of these plays Barwin went up against Michael Floyd, himself no pushover, the other six were against Larry Fitzgerald. In these eight plays, the Cardinals gained 41 yards, for an average of 5.1 yards per play, which for a defense is excellent. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
The Eagles have struggled to sustain drives in the 4th quarter of their previous two games. They did not lose either game, in fact they have not lost any game in which they entered the 4th quarter with the lead, nor have they lost any game where they led at halftime. By Win Probability, the closest game the Eagles have led at the half was against Green Bay, where they had a 77% chance to win and were facing a third string QB. Washington never got above a 17% chance to win in the 2nd half and Arizona never got above 21% despite the offense’s inability to move the chains for large chunks of time. But two poor 4th quarter performances in a row and now some fans want to seriously explore the idea of using Michael Vick as a “closer” in situations where the Eagles should and want to run the ball on every play. (We’ll overlook that the closer is the most overrated position in sports.)
When Vick was the QB and the offense was struggling in the Red Zone, the idea was tossed around that when they got down to the Red Zone that Nick Foles could come in because he’s a better passer and wouldn’t turn the ball over like Vick was doing. Now the offense sputters in the 4th quarter for two games and it is Vick, the player fans didn’t want making decisions in the Red Zone, who should come in during crucial situations. Funny how things change.
Mike Vick as a “closer” is a bad idea.
The argument, as laid by Mark Saltveit, is:
The Eagles head into their final five games of the season after a bye to rest, reevaluate and some other word of your choosing that begins with R. The stakes are high: a playoff spot, potentially a division title, are on the line. The final five games have everything you could want to test where this team is: an outstanding defense to see just how good this Eagles offense is, three good offenses to see just how improved the Eagles defense is, a “trap game” on the road against a poor team and a potential winner-takes-all showdown in Dallas to end the season. With raised expectations from this team, every game remaining is must win. Grab your gun and bring in the cat.
First up, the Cardinals. Bruce Arians says things that are ridiculous, and this week was no different. Arians said that the Eagles run the read option, which is funny because they don’t–he’s confused it with the zone read–and he seems to think they run it all the time, which they don’t do either, and labelled it as a “college offense” which is almost a curse word in the NFL. I would think the guy who’s offense is below average in nearly every category and is facing an offense that is top 10 in nearly everything would give a cliche non-answer about respecting the Eagles’ potent offense. But hipsters need to have their opinions heard. Arians probably doesn’t actually think that, but that’s what he said. I guess he’s trying to get into the Eagles minds. It won’t work. Kelly’s response:
“I think basically to answer everybody’s questions, I don’t care what other people think,” Kelly said. “It doesn’t bother me. To spend time to think about what someone else thinks is counter to anything I’ve ever believed in my life. If I believe what other people think, then that means I value their opinion more than I value my own. That’s not the case.”
That might sound like “I’m not going to admit that someone is in my head but they are in my head” talk, but it’s not. Because Chip Kelly gives the lowest amount of fuck humanly possible.
If there was a contest to see who doesn’t give a fuck the most Chip Kelly wouldn’t win because he doesn’t give a fuck.
The Arizona Cardinals come to town “red hot” having won four in a row against the awful Atlanta Falcons, the awful Houston Texans, the awful Jacksonville Jaguars and the Indianapolis Colts, who have been awful in the first half of their last four games. So kudos to the Cardinals I guess. They are led by 2012 Sports Writers Narrative Award winner Bruce Arians, who has broken his promise of the Cardinals going undefeated at home; quarterback Carson Palmer, leader of a quarterback room “as strong as strong as anybody’s in the National Football League“ who’s 2 touchdown and 0 interception game on Sunday finally gave him a positive TD-INT ratio of 16-15; and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who you should remember from last year as the guy who took over for the incompetent Juan Castillo and did even worse.
Arians is garnering accolades for taking over a team with the worst QBing in the league in 2012 and giving them something like the 25th best quarterbacking in the league, and Bowles is being praised for inheriting one of the most talented defenses in the league and not screwing it up yet. Nice work if you can get it.
Speaking of nice work, the Jaguars of all teams put up a good fight against the Cardinals defense in the first half, scoring 14 points in the 1st quarter and entering halftime tied 14-14, ultimately falling 27-14. I wanted to know how they suddenly played relatively well against one of the best defenses in the league. One thing popped out to me in watching the All 22: Jarraud Powers was awful. Cary Williams level of bad. And what he was awful at fits right into what the Eagles try to do against defenses.
So here we are at the bye, with the Eagles in first place and one big question on everyone’s mind: Is Nick Foles for real?
As I said before Sunday’s game against the Redskins, plenty of QBs have had good stretches of play and then done nothing. Maybe Foles is one of those players. But as I also said hours after the game, we have another game in the books to evaluate him. Against the Redskins he had his second worst game of the season… throwing for 298 yards, rushing for 47 more, completing 65% of his passes and not turning the ball over. Pitful.
Throwing out the one pass attempt while Mike Vick had to leave the game for a play per the rules and his four attempts in garbage time against the Broncos (which actually marginally lowers his numbers), Foles has the following stat line as a starter/entire half substitute: 100/157, 1505 yards, 15 TDs 0 INT. Absurd efficiency, as we know. Historically absurd, as Foles’ adjusted yards per attempt, passer rating and interception percentage would be records, and his touchdown percentage and yards per attempt would be top 10. Yes, he hasn’t thrown an interception yet, but Foles had a very good 1.9% interception percentage during last year’s chaos and his 2.4% in college was above average. Part of Foles’ lack of turnovers is Chip Kelly’s offense. Mike Vick was having the best INT% of his career since his 117 attempts his rookie year, and Kelly’s QBs at Oregon were consistently efficient at not turning the ball over:
The Eagles are no different, at 2.0%, and that’s with Matt Barkley’s contributions. Subtract Barkley and the Eagles lead the league at 1.0%, just ahead of the Chiefs at 1.1%. At some point it has to come back to Earth. Foles is going to throw an INT. But what about the rest? How does he stack up against some of his peers?
Using PFR’s game log passing targets breakdowns, Foles compares extremely favorably with them. I compared his to the four QBs that round out the top five in passer rating:* the great Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees and a fellow second year player bombing the ball down the field, Russell Wilson. Because Foles has only 157 passing attempts as a starter plus the 2nd half of the Giants game, I looked at roughly the same amount of attempts by those QBs, four games for Manning (172 attempts), four for Wilson (146) and Brees (168) and five for Rodgers (165).
When Chip Kelly said he wanted to win now, he was not kidding, and what looked to be patience testing “rebuilding year” is suddenly an exciting season. It is not quite a “Chipism” but every season Bill Belichick tells his team, which always seems to go through a stretch of play where they look average, that the goal at Thanksgiving is to be in position to make the playoffs. And they always do. By then the team knows what its strengths and weaknesses are and can focus on maximizing and minimizing them. Today’s game is the biggest game of the season until the next biggest game of the season. Win today and it could be time to raise expectations, immediately and dramatically. A win puts the team in first place after Thanksgiving, with the bye week to tighten ranks. Play one game better than the Cowboys the rest of the season, or just as good with a lot of breaks, and the Eagles are hosting a playoff game in January. A win puts another coal in the fire. If the iron is hot, strike now.
Like, right now. If there is such a thing as a “window” the Eagles’ very well might begin now, and it might not be this open in the near future. I know that sounds crazy, but they are in some very favorable situations this season that are not guaranteed to exist next year. Every year in sports is different, opportunities must be taken advantage of.
Living in the sprawl,
Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains
This morning the Braves, the one team I have adopted since carpetbagging to Atlanta, dropped a bombshell and announced they are moving to the suburbs of Cobb County. If I had to chose between death and living in Cobb County, I would have to think about it.
Their reasons are pretty self-explanatory: they’re going to make more money off it. Oh they won’t say that of course, but all stadium moves are about money and money only. The stadium will be smaller capacity, which means higher ticket prices. There is no MARTA rail to anywhere near the stadium, so everyone will have to drive, meaning everyone will have to pay to park, which is more revenue for the Braves. They will pay less in yearly stadium costs and keep more in yearly stadium revenue. It all makes sense from the standpoint of business.
But as a fan, it’s bullshit:
The reason for moving is simple. The current location has certain issues that are insurmountable and will only become more problematic over the years. These fundamental issues involve how you, our fans, access Turner Field. There is a lack of consistent mass transportation, a lack of sufficient parking and a lack of direct access to interstates. Furthermore, the Braves do not have control over the development of our immediate surroundings.
Horsecrap. Read more…