This Sunday’s game is no less important as the 7-5 Detroit Lions enter Lincoln Financial Field with a one game lead in the NFC North and a win over Detroit could pay big dividends for the Eagles playoff chances.
Sunday against Arizona, Nick Foles continued to do what he does and that’s put the Eagles in a position to win going 21-for-34 (61.7%) for 237 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. Foles has now thrown 19 touchdowns with no interceptions this season, one away from Peyton Manning's NFL record of 20 straight touchdown passes before throwing an interception to start the season. Foles had a pass intercepted that was called back after a defensive holding penalty (thankfully). He also broke the franchise record for most passes without an interception (233) breaking Michael Vick's record of 224 set in 2010.
LeSean McCoy might’ve had the most impressive performance of the game on Sunday rushing for 79 yards on 19 carries against Arizona. On the surface is might not look like much, especially considering McCoy didn’t score, but 79 yards by himself against the league’s second ranked rush defense is nothing at which to scoff. He is second in the NFL in rushing behind Adrian Peterson. He has rushed for 80 yards or more just once in the last six weeks and it won’t get any easier this Sunday as Detroit boasts the league’s third ranked rushing defense.
Foles targets on the outside continue to impressed, in particular DeSean Jackson. Against Arizona’s Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson, Jackson was held to three catches for 36 yards. But Jackson went over 1,000 yards receiving today for the third time in his career. Jackson's third 1,000 yard receiving season ties him with Harold Carmichael and Mike Quick for the most in Eagles franchise history. He also returned a punt for a touchdown but it was called back due to a Kurt Coleman holding penalty called away from the play.
Between McCoy’s 1,088 rushing yards and Jackson’s 1,021 receiving yards, the Eagles are the only team in the NFL with a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver.
The strength of the Lions falls in their front seven, particularly on the defensive line. Rookie Ziggy Ansah, Ndamukong Suh, and Nick Fairley cause constant havoc in the backfield. Ansah leads the team with seven sacks while Suh (5.5 sacks) and Fairley (3.5) both provide pressure from the defensive tackle position. It is easy to see why the Lions rush defense is third in the NFL.
One thing Eagles fans will certainly notice on Sunday is the formation of the defensive line. The Lions employ the “Wide 9” which had run its course in Philadelphia. Linebacker Stephen Tulloch might’ve been the missing piece for the Eagles “Wide 9” as he is thriving in Detroit. Tulloch leads the Lions with 97 total tackles, seven tackles for loss, three sacks, two passes defends, and an interception. In the middle of the field, he does it all.
The Lions offense runs entirely through their passing game which ranks second in the NFL at 309.3 yards per game. Former No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford has taken every snap under center for Detroit this season and he is completing 59.2% of his passes for 3,825 yards which is second in the NFL trailing only Peyton Manning and 27 touchdowns which is third in the league behind Manning and Drew Brees. One thing that has become a bit of a concern of late is Stafford’s “gunslinger” mentality as he has thrown 14 interceptions this season which is tied for fifth in the league. Stafford has thrown at least one interception in five consecutive games and two or more in three of those games including six picks in the last two weeks.
It is hard to argue why Stafford sometimes forces throws when he has the best receiver in the NFL on his team. Calvin Johnson, aka “Megatron”, is an absolute beast on the outside and is a total matchup nightmare. Johnson stands at 6’5”, 236 lbs. and runs like a deer. He leads the NFL in receiving yards (1,299), touchdowns (12), and receiving first downs (60). He is second in the league in targets (132) behind only Pierre Garcon’s 133 and Johnson’s 118.1 yards per game are second only to Josh Gordon’s 124 yards per game. Only four times this year has Johnson been held to under 100 yards receiving and only once in the last six games. Johnson also recorded 329 receiving yards against the Dallas Cowboys on October 27th, an NFL record for a four quarter game.
Johnson isn’t the only weapons Stafford has in his arsenal. The Detroit backfield features two versatile runningbacks in Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. Bush leads the team with 854 rushing yards while Bell comes in at 435 rushing yards but leads the team with six rushing touchdowns to Bush’s three. Bush is the team’s outside the tackles back while Bell runs between the tackles. However, each player can catch the ball out of the backfield. Bush is third on the team with 448 receiving yards and Bell is fourth with 378 receiving yards. Both backs can make a defense pay.
The Eagles defense has continued to improve since Peyton Manning’s thrashing of them in Week 4. Since that horrible day in Denver, the Eagles defense has not allowed more than 21 points to any opponent.
Defensive coordinator Billy Davis has said that he employs and “bend but don’t break” mentality with the defense which allows the team to give up yards but come back with takeaways or something, ANYTHING to keep teams off the board. It is rather evident when looking at the Eagles defense. They are 19th against the run allowing an average of 115.5 yards per game on the ground and they rank dead-last in the NFL against the pass allowing 296.8 yards per game through the air. The latter could be an issue come Sunday.
Williams has played alright in the last few weeks for the Eagles. He is the type of player who can have a head-scratching bad play followed by an interception which is exactly what happened Sunday against Arizona. He gave a ton of room on a third and long play that allowed the Cardinals to get the first down then followed it up with an interception of Carson Palmer. Overall on Sunday he has two passes defended, the interception, and four total tackles. He’s going to need to play better against Johnson and the Lions.
As I pointed out earlier, Johnson is a complete and total matchup nightmare. No one that big should be able to run that fast while having the ability to catch seemingly everything thrown his way. Johnson caught six passes for 101 yards and a touchdown on Thanksgiving against Green Bay. He has 101 or more receiving yards in five of his last six games. There is no real way to “stop” Johnson so the best bet is to try and contain him and make someone else beat you.