Tag Archives: Connor Barwin

Silver-Linings Playbook: Eagles Can Still Win NFC East, But Need Help

16 Dec

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Mark Sanchez threw two interceptions in the Eagles loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Mark Sanchez threw two interceptions in the Eagles loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—At this time two weeks ago, the Eagles were flying high after a 23-point thrashing of the Dallas Cowboys on their home field on Thanksgiving.

The Birds seemingly had everything under control and appeared to be in control of their playoff destiny.

Two weeks later, the Eagles find themselves in the precarious position of having to depend upon others in the last two weeks of the season thanks to a 38-27 loss to a suddenly resurgent Dallas Cowboys squad Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

“All I know is we have to win next week,” said Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin. “I don’t know what scenario is but we obviously wanted to win to control our destiny. All I know is we have to win next week and we have to find a way to do that.”

It was the Birds second straight loss and they are now 9-5, one game behind the first-place Cowboys (10-4) in the NFC East with two games left to play.

If there’s a silver lining for the Eagles after this tough loss to Dallas is that they play two sub-500 teams in NFC East rivals—Washington and the New York Giants.

“The only thing that matters is our next game,” said Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. “We can’t think anything long term. We don’t worry about who does what and who does anything. If we don’t go out and beat Washington, then it’s kind of a moot point anyway.”

While it’s always tough to win games in the division, neither one of those teams have been confused with world-beaters this season. In other words, the Birds should win their last two games.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys have to play AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts at home—a game that won’t be easy at all and they close out their season against archrival Washington, who beat Dallas at home early in the season.

Dallas is 3-4 at AT&T Stadium this season and has a terrible tendency to follow up a good game with a clunker. The Colts will have some incentive to win the game because they are still fighting to get a bye in the first week of the playoffs.

And so before you Eagles fans start jumping off the Ben Franklin and Walt Whitman bridges, the Birds could still win the division before it’s all said and done.

Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant speeds past Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher for a 26-yard touchdown pass in the Cowboys win over the Eagles. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant speeds past Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher for a 26-yard touchdown pass in the Cowboys win over the Eagles. Photo by Webster Riddick.

If the Eagles expect to win they’ve got to fix a few dents in their armor they have to fix along the way that really got exposed in the loss to the Cowboys. The combination of quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant simply had their way with the Eagles secondary as the duo combined for three touchdown passes.

Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher simply could not handle Bryant, who caught six passes for 114 yards and the aforementioned three touchdowns. Romo completed 22-of-31 passes for 265 yards.

“I just didn’t make the play I needed to make,” Fletcher said after the game. “It’s something I have to live with. I just have to get back to work and get better. That’s all I can do.”

Getting off to a good start and getting out of the way of your own mistakes will help the Eagles as well.

Against Dallas, the Eagles misfortunes started from the opening kickoff when rookie kick returned Josh Huff failed to field the opening kickoff, enabling the Cowboys to recover what amounted to a long onside kick deep in Birds territory.

Five plays, later the Cowboys took a 7-0 lead on a one-yard run by running back DeMarco Murray. Dallas would score on their next two possessions thanks to touchdown passes from Romo to Bryant to take a 21-0 lead.

The rout appeared to be on. But then the Eagles surged back and scored 24 straight points to take the lead and it looked like they were about to seize control of the game.

Romo and the Cowboys responded with an eight-play, 78-yard drive that finished with a two-yard run by Murray to put Dallas back in front 28-24 early in the fourth quarter.

Just when it looked like the Birds were going to get back in it, they simply could not get out of the way of themselves. Quarterback Mark Sanchez threw the first of his two fourth quarter interceptions to safety J.J. Wilcox. Four plays later, Romo hit Dez Bryant for a 25-yard touchdown pass to give Dallas a 35-24 lead.

“It felt like we were going to take control. I mean we had the momentum and things were going our way, said tight end Brent Celek. “Then things started go sour. It wasn’t good. I’m disappointed we lost. It sucks.”

A Cody Parkee field goal brought the Eagles within eight. With a little over eight minutes left, the Birds had an opportunity to drive for the game-tying score but tight end Brent Celek fumbled a 14-yard pass from Sanchez at the Eagles 34.

The Eagles for the game committed four turnovers and also had a bad habit of shooting themselves with penalties.

“We just have to take care of the football,” said wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. “I don’t know what other way to put it.”

Seahawks Defense, Russell Wilson Too Much For Eagles

8 Dec

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Rough day for Mark Sanchez and the Eagles offense at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks.  Photo by Webster Riddick

Rough day for Mark Sanchez and the Eagles offense at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks. Photo by Webster Riddick

PHILADELPHIA—To break down the Eagles 24-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, you don’t have to be some over-hyped ex-player turned broadcaster or someone well-versed in the Xs and Os.

The Seahawks were simply better than the Eagles, especially on defense. Looking at the numbers, Seattle’s famed “Legion of Boom” just shut down the Eagles fast-paced offense that came into the game averaging over 400 yards per game.

Seattle held the Birds potent offense to just 139 yards. The Eagles were held to under 100 yards rushing (57) and passing (82). The Seahawks held the Birds offense to just nine first downs and limited them to 45 plays. They also sacked quarterback Mark Sanchez three times and forced two turnovers.
“You can hurry up all you want but if you cannot complete passes, then it’s just quick three and outs,” said Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. “We had a lot of guys play fantastic football today.”

The Eagles managed to sustain just one scoring drive over 50 yards. That drive ended with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to tight end Zach Ertz to cut the Seahawks lead to 17-14 early in the third quarter.

“We tried to establish the run. Thought we could do a better job up front,” said Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. “Obviously, we didn’t get stated the way wanted to get it started and they did a good job. ..We got them with (Zach) Ertz on one play, but besides that, there wasn’t a lot to write home about.”

The Birds other scoring drive was set up by a fumbled snap by Seahawks punter Jon Ryan early in the first quarter that was returned by Ertz to the Seattle 14.

Six plays later, the Eagles got a one-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to Jeremy Maclin for a 7-0 lead—the Birds first and only lead of the game.

The turning point of the game came in the third quarter on the Eagles first play from scrimmage in the second half when running back LeSean McCoy’s fumble was recovered by safety Earl Thomas at the Birds 19. Two plays later, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson hit running back Marshawn Lynch with a 15-yard touchdown pass to give them a 17-7 lead.

“Obviously, it was terrible timing. That was my fault,” said McCoy, who became the Eagles all-time leading rusher. “I should have been more aware of ball security. The situation of the game, trying to come back and to get a turnover that fast, that was really bad.”

On offense, Wilson outfoxed the tough Eagles defense with both his feet and his arm. Scrambling around the pocket like a modern-day Fran Tarkenton, Wilson kept the Eagles defense off balance, completing 22-of-37 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns.

Wilson also had 10 carries for 48 yards including a 26-yard touchdown run for the Seahawks first score of the game.

“There were a couple times when we had missed an assignment and that hurt us. You can’t do that against a good quarterback,” said Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin. “Russell Wilson did a really nice job. He made some plays tonight.”

After the Eagles cut the Seattle lead to 17-14 on Sanchez’s TD pass to Ertz, Wilson led the Seahawks on a five play, 91-yard drive that was aided by a 44-yard pass interference call on Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher against Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin.

Two plays later, Wilson hit Baldwin for a 23-yard touchdown pass to put Seattle up by 10. The Eagles would get no closer.

After Dominating Carolina, It’s Bring On Aaron Rogers and the Green Bay Packers

12 Nov

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Happy days appear to be here again for Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. He came up big against the Carolina Panthers Monday night. His next assignment will be at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Happy days appear to be here again for Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. He came up big against the Carolina Panthers Monday night. His next assignment will be at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA— The competitive portion of Monday Night’s Eagles-Panthers game ended shortly before halftime mainly because Carolina was overmatched, undermanned and had absolutely nothing for the Birds.

The Eagles were able to cruise to an easy 45-14 win over the Panthers because they scored in all three phases of the game—offense, defense and special teams-despite having just 37 yards rushing as a team. To be honest, the Birds could have beaten Carolina with one hand tied behind their backs.

Defensively, the Eagles front-seven teed off on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, sacking him nine times and forcing four turnovers—three interceptions and two fumbles. Connor Barwin had three and a half sacks by himself.

The Birds defense cut off Newton’s running lanes and put pressure on him throughout the game.

Connor Barwin (98) and Brandon Graham converge on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton.  The Eagles had eight sacks. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Connor Barwin (98) and Brandon Graham converge on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. The Eagles had nine sacks. Photo by Webster Riddick.

“The idea was definitely don’t let him run up the middle, don’t let him go North,” Barwin said. “When he gets North that stride can open up on you. He’s gonna run East-West, we thought that we could run him down.”

On offense, Mark Sanchez not only managed the offense well, he made some plays in the passing game and basically picked the Carolina defense apart. He completed 20-of-371 passes for 330 yards and two touchdown passes.

After some tough times with the New York Jets, Sanchez looked like a guy who was having funs running the Eagles uptempo offense. Fun was something he didn’t have too much of during his days with the Jets.

The win over the Panthers was his Sanchez’s start in two years.

“I don’t know. It was just a great night. It was so fun. It was so fun to get back out on the field. I’m very blessed and I thank God for the opportunity. It was really cool,” Sanchez said. “It’s been a while, and I’ve been out of it for a little bit and away from the game. It’s good to get back. It’s good to get back in an environment like this in front of this crowd and in front of all of those guys that work so hard during the week. It’s so fun to watch it pay off.”

His favorite target was rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who had a pretty good game, catching seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns. The six-foot-three Matthews is getting better with every game.

“I think it’s definitely slowing down,” Matthews said. “I think early on you look at the game in a sense that I gotta hurry up and do something good. I gotta go out and make a play.

“But you can’t press it, you can’t rush it, you just gotta let the game come to you and just continue to play with that confidence and never get too far outside the game and that’s what I’m learning …Play fast, but in your mind slow the game.”

Meanwhile, Head coach Chip Kelly was not happy with the small numbers the Eagles produced in the running game. Running back LeSean McCoy had just 19 yards on 12 carries.

“We didn’t execute the way we needed to execute in the run game,” Kelly said.

Darren Sproles had another electrifying performance with a 65-yard punt return and an eight-yard run for a touchdown that gave the Eagles a 17-7 lead after the first quarter. It was the ninth return touchdown of the year for the Birds special teams and defense.

By the end of the second quarter, it was a wrap. Sanchez hit rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews for a 13-yard touchdown pass and cornerback Bradley Fletcher scored on a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Next week, the Eagles will face one of their biggest tests of the season when they head out to the Midwest to take on a Green Bay Packers squad that destroyed the Chicago Bears in a 55-14 romp at Lambeau Field.

On Sunday night, Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers carved up the Bears defense for 315 yards and six touchdown passes. The former Cal star can not only chuck it from the pocket, but he can also do it on the run.

Something not lost on the Eagles defense.

“You know what you get when you play the Packers. You know you got an explosive offense that can put up points at any time,” said Eagles free safety Malcolm Jenkins. “Rogers is really the only duel threat quarterback that really excels at both scrambling and he’s one of the real good pocket passers in the league. You have to pick your poison.

“If they get him going, it could be a long day for the defense.”

Talk is Cheap: Eagles Defense Puts the Smackdown on Eli Manning and the Giants

13 Oct

By Chris Murray
For The Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin Gets one of his three sacks of Eli Manning in the Birds 27-0 win over the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday Night. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin Gets one of his three sacks of Eli Manning in the Birds 27-0 win over the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday Night. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—The New York Giants found out in their loss to the Eagles on Sunday that it’s much easier to talk trash and sell woof tickets. No matter how times you deface another team’s logo, backing it up on the field on gameday is a whole lot harder and the only thing that really matters.

As the late great  Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas used say, “Talk is cheap, let’s the play game.”

The Eagles, especially the defense, did all the talking in a resounding 27-0 shutout victory over the Giants at Lincoln Financial Field.

Contrary to Giants defensive Jason Pierre-Paul’s contention that the Birds could easily be 0-5, the Eagles are 5-1 and tied with the Dallas Cowboys (5-1) for first place in the NFC East. New York is now 3-3.

For the first time this season, there was no need for a second-half comeback nor was there a frantic run of points by the other team to make the final score closer than the game itself. Going into the bye week, the Eagles wanted to come out and play a complete game where the outcome was never in doubt.

The Eagles defense dominated a hot Giants squad that came into the contest riding the wave of a three-game winning streak.

“That was the biggest thing we wanted to play quarter straight of clean football,” said Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins. “When we got up, coming off of last week (against the St. Louis Rams) we wanted to finish the game the right way. I think all three phases did that.”

Eagles outside linebacker Trent Cole collars Eli Manning. It was one of eight sacks by the Birds against the Giants. Photo by Webster Riddick

Eagles outside linebacker Trent Cole collars Eli Manning. It was one of eight sacks by the Birds against the Giants. Photo by Webster Riddick

Defensively, the Eagles gave Eli Manning and the Giants offense a good old-fashioned beatdown. The Birds held the Giants to just 253 yards of total offense. They sacked Manning eight times with three coming from linebacker Connor Barwin.

The key to the sacks was the tight coverage of the Giants receivers by the Eagles secondary that disrupted Manning’s timing and forced him to hang onto the ball longer than he wanted.

“Our secondary did a tremendous job jamming their receivers, giving them different looks because the last three weeks what we’ve seen on film is Eli catching the ball and throwing it,” Barwin said. “Today, he was catching the ball and getting to his second or third read and that’s how we were able to get pressure on him.”

After completing 70 percent of his passes last week against the Atlanta Falcons, Manning was 13-of-23 for 151 yards and zero touchdowns.

“(Eagles) did a good job,” Manning said. “They got good pressure and we didn’t win many one-on-one matchups. … They just had good coverage and I held the ball a little too long and I have to do a better job on some instances of getting the ball out and getting through my progressions a little quicker.”

Eagles cornerback Cary Williams said the goal of the secondary was to come out and establish a physical presence against the Giants receivers to help throw of Manning’s timing and allow the front seven the chance to attack the quarterback.

“We were able to get some hands on those guys and disrupt the timing,” Williams said. “The front seven did a tremendous job getting in those windows, putting their hands up and pressuring them and making the pocket muddy and he wasn’t getting too many lanes to throw in and that made our jobs easier.”

With the Giants best running back Rashad Jennings out with an MCL in his knee, New York could not muster a running game against the Birds defense. The Eagles held the Giants to just 85 yards rushing.

The finest moment of the game for the Eagles defense came in the third quarter. After intercepting a Nick Foles pass deep in Eagles territory, the Giants drove the ball down to the Eagles three-yard line and decided to go for it on fourth down and came up short when Manning’s pass sailed over Victor Cruz’s head.

“Our defense goes out in the field and doesn’t give them any points and then our offense goes out on the field and has a 97-yard drive for a touchdown,” said head coach Chip Kelly. “It’s something to build upon. …We’re pleased with the performance tonight.”

Meanwhile, running back LeSean McCoy found his rushing mojo, gaining a-season high 149 yards rushing on 22 carries. Foles threw touchdown a pair of first- half touchdown passes to Zach Ertz and James Casey. He was 21-of-34 for 248 yards, but also threw a pair of interceptions.

Kicker Cody Parkey added a couple of field goals to give the Eagles a 20-0 lead at halftime.

Running back Darren Sproles scored on a 15-yard touchdown in the third quarter. He left the game with a left knee injury later in the period. The severity of the injury is yet to be determined. Cruz left the game with a torn patella on the Giants failed fourth and goal play in third quarter.

Garrett Holding Out Hope for Romo, Orton Says He Ready to Go Just in Case

26 Dec

by Chris Murray 

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Kyle Orton has been getting first team reps for the Cowboys with Romo trying to get relief from a herniated  disc in his back.

Kyle Orton has been getting first team reps for the Cowboys with Romo trying to get relief from a herniated disc in his back.

PHILADELPHIA–With all the reports saying that Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback Tony Romo will probably miss Sunday night’s game for the NFC East crown against the Eagles, head coach Jason Garrett still is not ruling his starting quarterback out just yet.

Romo has not practiced all week and, according to the Dallas Morning News, hasn’t attended meetings this week as well. Garrett said there are some players who can step in play without practice. If Romo, who has a herniated disc in his back, is feeling better by Sunday evening, he could play.

“We don’t have any hard and fast rules that if he doesn’t practice by this day, he can’t play,” Garrett said during a conference call with the Philadelphia media.  “We don’t believe in treating everybody the exact same way in that regard. Certainly a more experienced player is more comfortable and you give him more of an opportunity if he hasn’t practice. Tony would certainly fall into that category.”

That leaves open the possibility that Romo might give fans at Cowboys Stadium a Willis Reed-like moment circa the 1970 NBA Finals. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, back-up quarterback Kyle Orton, who has started 69 games as a pro with 35 wins, said he’s confident because he has weapons like running back DeMarco Murray, wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten to help him out.

“You just ease your way into the game a little bit and get the ball to the guys that can do great things,” Orton said. “We’ve got plenty of those guys. I’ve been here for a couple of years and so timing is not too big of an issue, so we went out and had a good practice today.”

Though he’s only thrown 15 passes in a Cowboy uniform, Orton told the Dallas media Thursday that he’s no spring chicken and has worked extensively with the starters during minicamp and organized team activities back in May and June while Romo was rehabbing from another injury.

“I’ve been here for a couple of years it wasn’t like I was just walking through the door,” Orton said. “I’ve had plenty of experience with these guys and like I said these guys are great players and they get open.”

With the memory of getting picked apart by a Minnesota Vikings squad playing with a back-up quarterback still fresh in his mind, Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin said the Birds are not taking the Cowboys lightly.

“We saw what happened to us the last time we faced a back up,” Barwin said. “There’s nobody taking anybody lightly this week.  … I think (Orton) is hard to get to because he gets the ball off fast. He doesn’t mess around back there. It’s important for us to get our hands up and in get in the way of those.”

On Thursday linebacker Sean Lee was ruled out and Dez Bryant left practice early because of a sore back. With all the injuries cropping up in Cowboys camp these days, it’s easy to say that Dallas has an uphill climb to win on Sunday night against resurgent Eagles squad. Witten said his team doesn’t have time to dwell on their injury woes.

“Obviously, it’s been tough, but now is not the time to feel sorry for yourself,” Witten said. “We’re going out there and so we’re going out there and preparing because we have a tough opponent in the Eagles.”

It would be also easy to say the Cowboys are even more fired up for this game after missing the playoffs in the last two years because they lost in week 17. Witten said the team can’t get too caught up in the emotion of the last two years.

“There’s no question that being in this situation and experiencing what we did the last two years and obviously we came up short, it sits deep in your gut and you feel that,” Witten said. “I really think you have to take the emotion out of it because it’s a new year, a new team.

“What our focus has to be on and needs to continue to be on is what’s going to allow us to execute in a game against a tough opponent?”

That’s a question both teams will know the answer to come Sunday.

Improving the Secondary Highlights the Eagles First Week of Free Agent Signings

19 Mar