(SportsNetwork.com) – It hasn’t come without some difficulty, but the
Philadelphia Eagles are off to their best start since a Super Bowl-appearing
Some discipline problems have the San Francisco 49ers off to a second straight
The Eagles hope to stay hot on the west coast this Sunday when they visit
Levi’s Stadium to take on the 49ers.
Philadelphia has opened a season 3-0 for the first time since 2004, a campaign
in which it won its first seven games en route to a Super Bowl loss the New
England Patriots. The 2014 edition of the squad is the first in NFL history to
begin a season 3-0 after trailing by 10 or more points in each game.
Dating back to last season, the first under head coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles
have won 10 of their past 11 regular-season games. That includes a 37-34
victory over the rival Washington Redskins last weekend.
Behind an offensive line hit by hard by injuries, and one that also lost left
tackle Jason Peters to an ejection early in the fourth quarter, Nick Foles
rallied the Eagles behind 325 passing yards and three touchdown passes.
Philadelphia trailed 17-7 in the second quarter, but grab a one-point edge by
halftime and saw the game tied at 27-27 late in the third quarter.
Foles appeared to throw an interception early in the fourth frame and was
crushed on a blind-side hit by Washington defensive tackle Chris Baker. That
sparked a brawl between the clubs, with Peters going after Baker and the two
The interception was overturned to an incomplete pass after review and Foles
then finished off a touchdown drive with a 27-yard pass to Jeremy Maclin to
put Philly ahead for good.
“Anyone else I ever played with would be gone,” said Eagles backup center
David Molk. “That’s a strong, tough man. That’s a guy you want to play with.”
Maclin ended with eight catches for 154 yards and rookie Jordan Matthews
hauled in the first two touchdown catches of his career, while running back
LeSean McCoy was held to just 22 yards on 19 carries.
The 49ers, meanwhile, have lost back-to-back games since a Week 1 victory over
Dallas, with penalties a major problem for the club. San Francisco was
penalized 16 times for 118 yards in a 28-20 loss to Chicago on Sept. 14, then
dropped Sunday’s NFC West matchup with Arizona 23-14 while getting flagged
nine times for 107 yards.
Colin Kaepernick threw for 245 yards and a touchdown for San Francisco and
Michael Crabtree and Stevie Johnson combined for 19 receptions and nearly 200
yards, but running backs Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde rushed the ball just a
combined nine times for 23 yards.
“We should have two wins,” said Kaepernick, who set a new career high with 29
completions. “These games were close games that we should have won.”
San Francisco followed up last season’s 1-2 start by winning five straight, a
run that coach Jim Harbaugh hopes his club can duplicate.
“Yeah, there’s definitely frustration and not feeling good after a loss,” said
Harbaugh. “But, the mindset has got to be, going forward is to fix. You push
against something until it’s upright. That’s the process that our team uses
and we have total belief in all of our, and everybody associated with, our
Though the 49ers lead the all-time series 18-12-1, the Eagles have won five of
the past six meetings.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Foles continues to thrive despite an offensive line that looks nowhere near
what was envisioned before the start of the season. Right tackle Lane Johnson
is set to serve the final contest of his four-game suspension for violating
the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, while left guard Evan
Mathis (sprained knee) and backup tackle Allen Barbre (high ankle sprain) were
hurt in Week 1.
Philadelphia then lost center Jason Kelce versus Washington and he is out for
an unknown period of time because of surgery to repair a sports hernia.
That leaves Peters, who will not be suspended for his ejection, and Todd
Herremans, who will be kicked out to right tackle this week, as the remaining
Week 1 starters, with Molk set to start for Kelce this weekend at center. It
will be the first start of his career.
“He’s a competitor,” Kelly said of Molk. “I think he’s extremely quick off the
ball; he really gets into the defender very quickly. He’ll fight you. He’s a
tough, competitive guy in there and he’ll scrap and give you everything he’s
got. So in the games he’s gotten in, whether it be at guard or at center, I
think he’s really competed when he was out there.”
While the Eagles have been unable to run the ball, ranking 19th in the NFL,
they are averaging 310.3 passing yards and 33.7 points per game, both good
enough for second in all of football. Foles is the sixth player in league
history to throw for 320 or more yards in each of his first three games of the
season and can become the first quarterback in club history to surpass 300
yards passing in four straight contests.
Philadelphia’s 26th-ranked defense has a takeaway in 16 straight games, the
longest for the club since a span of 37 consecutive in 1993-95, thanks to
safety Malcolm Jenkins’ second pick of the year last week. That comes despite
linebacker Mychal Kendricks sitting out with a calf injury and cornerback Cary
Williams’ complaints about how hard the team works during the week.
“It’s tough, it’s tough. A lot of guys had no legs,” Williams said. “A lot of
guys coming in here were in a dogfight before the game even started. We’ve got
to start taking care of our guys throughout the week in order for us to be
productive and have more energy on Sundays.”
Williams has since apologized to the team for those statements and Kelly has
no issues with his defensive back.
“I know we ask our guys to run a lot during practice,” Kelly said. “Cary’s
just a competitor. He always wants to play a perfect game, always wants to
make a perfect play … he’ll tell you, he just got frustrated.”
Kendricks, meanwhile, did not practice on Wednesday.
San Francisco’s offense comes in struggling, ranking 20th in the NFL. The
49ers were without a pair of tight ends last weekend in Vernon Davis (left
ankle) and Vance McDonald (knee), leaving Derek Carrier as the starter.
That lack of healthy bodies at the position may have impacted the club’s
ability to run, but it did lead to Crabtree and Johnson becoming the first
pair of receivers to have at least nine catches in the same game for the
franchise since Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens in 1999.
Davis, who has a touchdown catch in each of his last two games versus the
Eagles, is in line to return this weekend and blitzed Philadelphia for five
catches, 104 yards a score when the clubs last met in San Francisco back on
Oct. 10, 2010.
“Optimistic. Very hopeful that he’ll be able to play Sunday,” Harbaugh said of
Davis, who returned to practice on Wednesday along with tackle Anthony Davis.
Davis has missed the first three games with a hamstring issue.
With the Eagles ranking 26th in total defense, including 13th against the run,
Gore and Hyde should have a chance to get on track in this game. Gore has gone
over 100 yards rushing in three of the past four meetings, while Hyde has a
touchdown in two of his first three NFL games, including last weekend.
While the 49ers continue to play without star linebackers Aldon Smith and
Navarro Bowman, linebacker Patrick Willis is topping the team with 20 tackles,
while defensive tackle Justin Smith has five sacks in his last six games,
including three this season.
San Francisco is allowing 312.0 yards per game, sixth-best in the league.
Cross-country road games are never easy for the traveling club, though the
Eagles have won six of their last seven as the visiting team and that span
includes a victory in Oakland.
There is also the fact that the Eagles have outscored their opponents 74-24 in
the second half and the Niners have been outscored 52-3 after halftime this
“Well, we’re striving to improve. That’s definitely an area that we’re working
on getting better at,” said Harbaugh.
The key for the Eagles will be how their offensive line holds up against a
talented 49ers defense, though it is a unit missing two key linebackers and
has totaled just four sacks on the year.
This will likely be another game in which Philadelphia is playing from behind
and that could finally catch up to them so far away from home.
Sports Network predicted outcome: 49ers 24. Eagles 23