By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) – After studying film on the Tennessee Titans,
Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy said their defense is blockable.
Whether that was knock on his offensive line is another story, but the film
doesn’t lie. McCoy saw the Pittsburgh Steelers open holes and create running
lanes for Le’Veon Bell, who rumbled for 204 yards and a touchdown on 33
carries in a Monday night win.
McCoy hasn’t had more than 24 carries in a game this season and will try to
prove the naysayers wrong Sunday versus Tennessee at Lincoln Financial Field.
After leading the NFL in rushing last season with 1,607 yards and 5.1 yards
per carry, McCoy has been a hot topic for criticism for down numbers in 2014.
But, he still has 729 yards and only two touchdowns, and was asked if he is
the same player from years past.
“I’m not going to address, ‘Am I the same player?’ I won’t address that. For
what? What are we talking about, am I the same player? That’s for y’all to
figure out. You crazy? Am I the same player? I am the same player,” McCoy said
Well, McCoy hasn’t looked like the same player probably because defenses are
loading up and forcing the Eagles to beat them through the air. McCoy had only
19 yards on 12 carries in a blowout win versus Carolina, then managed to post
88 yards on 23 carries in last Sunday’s lopsided 53-20 loss in Green Bay.
“It’s the same way when we win,” McCoy said. “When you win, you celebrate,
enjoy the win, and then you have to get past it. This season is all about the
next week … We lose to a good team, we come back, we prepare and get ready
for the next week.”
Darren Sproles was brought over to take the load off McCoy and had only 21
yards on two carries Sunday. Sproles, who’s a dangerous weapon in the return
game, hasn’t had more than seven carries in a game since posting 11 in Week 1.
He needs to be more involved in the run game to make the Eagles more balanced
and dangerous. McCoy and Sproles are rarely on the field at the same time.
The Titans are 31st against the run (143.5 ypg), while the Eagles are
averaging 114.2 ypg rushing.
Mark Sanchez made his second start for the Eagles and didn’t play as sharp as
he did versus the Panthers. Sanchez was picked off twice and one interception
was returned 52 yards for a touchdown by Julius Peppers. Sanchez also fumbled
a bad snap and it was returned 49 yards for a score by Casey Hayward. When the
frost settled at a chilly Lambeau Field, Sanchez finished 26-of-44 passing for
“I know for sure that this team won’t quit,” Sanchez said, “and that’s going
to be important, because down the stretch here we’re going to need to fight to
the finish and come back and get a great win next week.”
The Eagles entered Lambeau having won two straight and four of five games.
Philadelphia is favored to win Sunday and 5-0 at home, but has a gauntlet to
go through afterward with two games against Dallas sandwiched around a meeting
with Seattle. The Eagles, who have won nine straight regular season games at
home and are tied with the Cowboys atop the NFC East with identical 7-3
records, will close the season with road games in Washington and New York.
Tennessee enters the City of Brotherly Love riding a four-game losing streak
and fell to 2-8 after Monday’s 27-24 home loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Bell ran all over the Titans, who blew a 24-13 lead by allowing 14 points in
the fourth quarter.
Titans rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger connected on 15-of-24 passes for
263 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, while fellow rookie Bishop
Sankey carried the ball 11 times for 38 yards and a score.
“We feel very close,” Mettenberger said. “We’re not doing enough to win
football games. That’s the bottom line and the most important thing. But
rookie running back, rookie left tackle, rookie quarterback, rookie middle
linebacker. We’re doing a lot of good things.”
The Titans have a short week to prepare for the Eagles and should expect an
aerial show. They are strong against the pass this season, sitting ninth with
226.9 yards allowed. Cornerback Jason McCourty leads the team with three
interceptions, while free safety Michael Griffin and linebacker Wesley
Woodyard have two picks apiece.
Look for Tennessee to try and force Sanchez into making poor reads and errant
throws. Tennessee is sixth in sacks with 29.0 this season and defensive tackle
Jurrell Casey boasts a team-high four. Titans linebacker Avery Williamson had
two of the Titans’ five sacks of Pittsburgh.
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is not taking the Titans lightly.
“I think the one thing everybody in this building comes away with is how hard
Tennessee plays,” Kelly said. “I think they’re a tough, hard-nosed physical
team. They’ve got some very good players on the defensive side of the ball. I
think they’ve got a very aggressive attack and scheme that (defensive
coordinator) Ray (Horton) put them in. We know it’s going to be a heck of a
game on Sunday.”
The Titans have won four in a row against the Eagles and trail the all-time
series by a 4-6 count. They destroyed Philadelphia, 37-19, the last time the
teams met on Oct. 24, 2010 in Nashville, where McCoy ran for 48 yards and had
54 receiving. Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin had five catches for 42
yards. Maclin and improving rookie wideout Jordan Matthews hope to have a big
Tennessee’s only visit to Lincoln Financial Field on Nov. 19, 2006 resulted in
a 31-13 rout. Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt is 3-1 against the Eagles,
including the playoffs.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Eagles are second in sacks with 33.0, but only managed one (Vinny Curry)
against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers had all the time in the
world to pick apart Philly’s secondary, passing for 341 yards and three
touchdowns with no interceptions.
Rodgers even had time to chuckle during the debacle that saw Eagles
cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher get torched early and often.
That seems to be the theme even if the Eagles play well.
Philadelphia is trying to bounce back Sunday and has won the last four games
directly after a loss dating back to Week 8 of last season.
“I think the biggest thing is that we’re eager to get better, to make the
corrections that we need to make,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “We’re
excited, and we’re looking forward to the opportunity to get better. We still
have all the confidence in the world, we still know we’re a great team, and
we’re looking forward to proving that this week.”
The Eagles are 19th against the run, but Tennessee doesn’t have much of a
rushing attack. The Titans are 25th in passing (216.5 ypg), 26th in rushing
(92.5 ypg), 30th in points scored (16.8 ppg) and 31st in total yards (309.0
ypg). The Titans hope to get tight end Delanie Walker (concussion) back and he
leads them with 512 yards and four touchdowns.
Walker has to be cleared in order to play. Wide receiver Kendall Wright has
473 yards and four scores on a team-high 43 receptions.
Of course Mettenberger has to get them the ball. Rookie left tackle Taylor
Lewan described his QB as a “savage.” When asked to elaborate on that, Taylor
responded, “Savage: A guy who doesn’t care about much and just wants to go in
and do his job. He doesn’t care about whether he’s going to be popular or not
… he just wants to throw touchdowns.”
Mettenberger said he would like to get his first win out of the way.
“I’ve got to keep working,” Mettenberger said. “I’ve yet to get a win, and
really that’s the most important thing. And it’s kind of eating at me.”
Brandon Graham (4 1/2 sacks), Curry (6 sacks) and Connor Barwin (10 1/2 sacks)
hope to add to their total Sunday with an inexperienced quarterback coming in
on a short week. Barwin has 8 1/2 sacks in the last three games at home.
“Zach’s improving and doing a lot of good things for us,” Whisenhunt said of
his QB. “We’ve just got to continue to see him grow in that. A short week is
another test for him. Going on the road into this environment is another test
of seeing a defense that will bring a lot of pressure, being able to handle
that. What you want to see is us win a game. That’s what we need to do.”
In injury news for the Eagles, guard Matt Tobin suffered a concussion at Green
Bay and his status versus Tennessee doesn’t look good. Andre Gardner took
first-team reps at guard in Tobin’s absence during practice.
“I just try to approach it the same way I approach it every week because the
reality is I could play every snap but one at any position any given week so
it was the same thing, but it’s been a little more concentrated work on
guard,” Gardner said.
The cliche you are only as good as your last game doesn’t apply to the Eagles
this week for three reasons: They have been tough to beat at home over a long
stretch, McCoy is determined to shut everyone up and the defense is eager to
get a horrible taste out of its mouth.
“I’m sure I speak for everyone in here,” Eagles linebacker Casey Matthews said
Tuesday, “when I say that Sunday can’t come fast enough.”
The same goes for the fans.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Eagles 34, Titans 14