Everyone whose an Eagles fan knows the perils of the schedule — after their 1 p.m. date with the Titans Sunday the Birds face the Cowboys twice in 17 days with the defending Super Bowl champs in the middle.
And, to boot, they finish with three straight division games. Suffice it to say, getting their eighth win Sunday against the 2-8 Titans, losers of four-in-a-row is very important. Here are three of the things Metro will be watching.
Running for their life
The run game got off to a slow start, but the Eagles found ways to win.
It’s been inconsistent, with a stellar performance against the Texans leading to two awful running-outputs against the Panthers and Packers.
Hoping it will come around again is no longer an excuse. It’s Week 12, and if the Birds can can actually run the ball, they need to do it now.
Par Shurmur, Eagles’ offensive coordinator still thinks the three-headed monster of LeSean McCoy, Chris Polk and Darren Sproles can do some damage.
“I think maybe in the old days when you had one marquee running back and you could say, ‘Well I’m going to hand him the ball a bunch of times and get him going.’ That’s really one way of saying, ‘Well, I’ve [only] got one choice,’” Shurmur said. “I think the way football is played now, you need more than one running back, and whoever that is in the game has to be able to run the ball, pass protect, and catch the ball when you throw it to him. So that’s sort of how we see it.”
The Steelers were able to run the ball on the Titans last week (with Le’Veon Bell picking up over 200 yards).
“It’s got to do with their offensive line,” Chip Kelly said. “I Pittsburgh’s offensive line did a really good job. They played a lot of two and three tight end sets, formations and gave them some situations and then Bell had an outstanding game. He really kind of got that thing rolling for them.” Kelly cites it as a positive that the Birds have a trio of potent running backs as well as blockers who know what they’re doing. “It’s never just one guy,” Kelly said. “It’s never just the running back. I think it’s the total group in terms of how you move the ball offensively.”
How do you measure success from Mark Sanchez?
He started the year as a back up quarterback but is obviously the starter indefinitely now.
Against the Texans and Panthers, he looked like the quarterback who led the Jets to the playoff two years in a row to start his career. He also compiled the highest two-game passing total in his career against Carolina and Green Bay.
But he turned the ball over three times and was out of synch against the Packers.
So what does Chip Kelly think?
“I think he’s done a good job,” the coach said. “He played a half a game against the Texans; he hadn’t played before that [since the] preseason game. Then he had the Carolina game and the Green Bay game, but I thought obviously from not playing — he missed an entire year a year ago with the shoulder injury and was out for an entire season — I thought for the time we’ve had him for the half of the Texans game and the two games since then, I think he’s done a nice job.”
Exploiting Tennessee’s inexperience
The Titans are just finding their way in the competitive and taxing NFL.
And though he probably isn’t about to emerge as a franchise quarterback, Tennessee has entrusted Zack Mettenberger to run its offense. And it’s an offense with weaknesses the Birds can take advantage of. But he’s also a fighter and has shown resiliency. He won’t be taken lightly by Chip Kelly.
“For a young rookie sometimes… There’s a lot of different things going on,” the coach said, “so your mind is kind of in a lot of different places. He seems to be able to focus in despite what’s going on around him and will stand in there and throw the football. So he’s got some toughness to him.”
Mettenberger opened the Pittsburgh game last week with an interception, but he hung on to get the Titans back in the game.
“Sometimes there’s not enough tape out there to see really what has affected him,” Kelly said.