Eagles’ D has five takeaways in 27-24 win over Niners

By MATTHEW WATERS
Staff Writer — mwaters@highhopesblog.com

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Brent Celek muscles his way into the endzone to complete a beautiful play from QB Kevin Kolb. (Photo: Philly.com)

After breaking the century mark in total yards from scrimmage for the third time this year, injured Eagles running back LeSean McCoy felt only one thing after Philly’s close-call 27-24 win in San Francisco: embarrassed.

That’s because McCoy dropped to the ground untouched at the Eagles’ 28 yard line after some smooth footwork got him out of the back field, thinking he was securing the ball, the first down and the win for his Eagles. Problem was, the first down marker was at their 30 yard line.

“I was trying to be a smart player, I thought I had the first down…but I was a little short,” McCoy told Sunday Night Football’s Andrea Kremer after the win.

The Eagles couldn’t convert on third and two and gave the ball back to the 49ers, who scored on their previous possession to cut the deficit to three. San Francisco’s quarterback Alex Smith completed a convincing 27-yard bullet to tight end Vernon Davis to get the Niners within field goal range, but eventually threw up a duck that was intercepted by rookie corner Trevard Lindley to seal the Eagles’ third win of the season.

Kevin Kolb looked like an entirely different quarterback than the one we saw on short notice against the Washington Redskins last week and completed a convincing 21-of-31 attempts for 253 yards and one touchdown. More importantly than the numbers, Kolb wasn’t hesitant to go for the big play and spread the ball around to seven receivers in the game, most frequently to Jeremy Maclin who caught six passes for 95 yards. Tight end Brent Celek notched another touchdown to go with his three catches for 47 yards.

Philly head coach Andy Reid noted Kolb’s performance during the opening of his press conference, complimenting his play and his 103.3 passer rating—but he was quick to answer everyone’s first question.

“Michael’s still the starting quarterback,” Reid said matter-of-factly of the injured Vick.

San Francisco opened the game with a seven minute, 11-play scoring drive aided heavily by a 44-yard kick return by Ted Ginn Jr. Smith hooked up with star receiver Michael Crabtree twice on the play, once for 11 yards and the other for a seven-yard touchdown to give the Niners the early lead. Smith and his offense didn’t play like a team that was 0-4, though they showed their true colors down the stretch: though he threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns, Smith also turned the ball over three times including a fumble that was returned by safety Quentin Mikell 52 yards for his first defensive touchdown in his eight-year career.

The Eagles answered back with their a touchdown on their opening drive as well, an eight-yard reception by Celek to cap a 10 play, 75-yard drive.

“We knew they were going to come out with a give-it-all-they’ve-got mentality,” Kolb said. “We wanted to match them in intensity from the start.”

Philly’s only other offensive touchdown came off of a 29-yard run by McCoy, who wouldn’t have scored if it wasn’t for Todd Herremans getting down field to block linebacker Patrick Willis not once but twice to free up a lane for Shady to scamper to the end zone unscathed.

Herremans also had the heads-up play of the game early in the fourth quarter when McCoy fumbled the ball on a screen pass. Herremans, who was not pulled for blocking on the screen and was simply hustling and following the play, jumped on the ball an extra four yards down the field to not only recover the ball but also convert a first down. The drive lead to kicker David Akers’ second field goal of the night, hitting from 33 and 45 yards. Akers missed his first of the season on a 53-yard attempt, knocked wide by the swirling winds at Candlestick Park.

The defense showed promise by finally shutting down the run against a marquee back in Frank Gore and allowed a total of 74 rushing yards all night. Plenty of yards were eaten up by the passing game however, and a huge fear of many Eagles’ fans was confirmed tonight: middle linebacker Stewart Bradley cannot cover tight ends. This was made apparent by Davis’ five receptions for 104 yards, including one touchdown and a 36-yard wide-open reception.

Mikell, who recovered two fumbles in the game to go along with his team-high eight tackles, was knocked out late when tackling the stout Davis after Bradley blew coverage again. Other injuries included offensive linemen Jason Peters who went down with a knee injury. Peters’ injury had its ups and downs: his replacement, King Dunlap, got manhandled most of the game and allowed heavy pressure on Kolb, who was sacked four times and lost one fumble. On the other hand, Peters’ absence led to the Eagles least-penalized game of the year, drawing the flag just five times for 30 yards.

DeSean Jackson was also out of the lineup briefly due to knee pain, which stemmed from a group tackle on a punt return. Luckily for the Eagles he wasn’t out for more than a few plays, but they might not catch a break like that next time. Newly added wideout Chad Hall returned some punts in the preseason and could be an option, as is cornerback Jorrick Calvin.

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