Tag Archives: Eli Manning

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.

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NFC East More Competitive Than Anticipated

10 Oct

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

Both LeSean McCoy and Nick Foles have struggled so far in 2014. Photo By Webster Riddick.

Both LeSean McCoy and Nick Foles have struggled so far in 2014. Photo By Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—When we looked at the NFC East before the 2014 season, all the sports pundits (myself included) and experts said it would be among the NFL’s weakest divisions and it was given that the Eagles were going to win the division easily.

Five games into the season, it’s starting to look like the NFC East race is going to be a lot more competitive than what we thought and it’s definitely not the worst division in the NFL.

On Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles (4-1) will take on a resurgent New York Giants (3-2) squad that’s won three straight after losing their first two games.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys are the hottest team in the division with four straight wins after losing their season-opener to the San Francisco 49ers.

The Eagles are at the top of the division despite a struggling offense that’s missing center Jason Kelce and guard Evan Mathis. The Birds are winning despite the fact that quarterback Nick Foles hasn’t played as well this year as he did last year.

So far, Foles is having an up and down year. He has eight touchdown passes and he’s averaging 276 yards per game. But he has nine turnovers-five interceptions and four fumbles. Foles has also had some bad starts in games and he has missed open receivers.

“There’s been times when he’s had to get the ball in a little quicker manner than we’d like,” said Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. “There are times where he’s had some bad footing. I’d go to one area of the game (against the Rams) where we missed what appeared to be an easy throw to Jordan Matthews, then he followed it up by ripping a seam ball to Mac (Jeremy Maclin) on the next play.”

The Birds running game has not been the explosive force that it was last season. McCoy has yet to rush/ for over 100 yards in five games this season. He’s averaging just 2.9 yards per carry and just one touchdown. He had his best game of the season in

Sunday’s win over the St. Louis Rams when he gained 81 yards rushing on 24 carries
Running back Darren Sproles has provided a spark for the Eagles—both catching the football, running the ball and on special teams. Two of the Eagles wins have been sparked big plays by Sproles.

The Eagles special teams have been a big factor in the team’s wins. The Birds have produced four special teams touchdowns—a kickoff return by Chris Polk and a punt return by Sproles. They’ve also had two blocked punts for touchdown. Rookie placekicker Cody Parkey is 10-for-11 in field goals including two from beyond 50 yards.

While the Eagles defense rank 29th in the NFL in total defense, they have forced turnovers-two have turned into scores. But they are missing linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who has a sore calf and DeMeco Ryans who has a groin injury, but had limited participation in practice on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the New York Giants will come into Sunday’s game against the Birds on a roll. Thanks to the performance of Eli Manning, who’s starting to get the hang of offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s West Coast offense.

After struggling in losses to the Detroit Lions and the Arizona Cardinals, Manning has tossed eight touchdown passes against one interception in wins over the Houston Texans, Washington and the Atlanta Falcons. His quarterback rating has been above 100 in each of the last three games. He completed 70 percent of his passes against the Falcons.

Eli Manning has had a passer rating 100 or better in three straight Giants wins.

Eli Manning has had a passer rating 100 or better in three straight Giants wins.

Manning also has a variety of receivers including Victor Cruz, who leads the team in receiving yards. Grambling State alum Larry Donnell is having a breakout year at the tight end position and leads the team in receptions (25) and receiving touchdowns with four.

The Giants can also run the football as well. Rashad Jennings leads the team in rushing with 396 yards on the ground and is averaging 4.4. yards per game. Those numbers make him fourth in the NFL in rushing. Jennings will probably miss Sunday’s games against the Eagles because of an MCL sprain.

Rookie Andre Williams will start in his place against the Eagles. The former Boston College star and Heisman Trophy finalist has 131 yards rushing and two touchdowns so far this season.

Defensively, New York ranks 11th in the NFL against the run, but 27th against the pass. Despite that stat, the Giants secondary leads the league in interceptions.

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray has 670 yards rushing.

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray has 670 yards rushing.

Meanwhile in Dallas, the Cowboys are even on a bigger roll than the Giants, with four straight wins thanks to a powerful rushing attack led by DeMarco Murray, who leads the NFL in rushing with 670 yards.

With the exception of last Sunday’s overtime win over the Houston Texans when the Cowboys have run the ball more than they pass, they’ve won games including a big 38-17 a New Orleans Saints squad that blew them out last year.

Because Murray is chewing up yards on the ground, Romo can get the ball out to players Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. The Cowboys are going to make plays in the passing game, but they don’t have to do it on every down and put all the burden of winning on Romo.

The success of the running game has also made it easier for the Cowboys’s 24th ranked defense that everyone said would be the worse in the NFL. It’s still not the best in the world, but it’s not as bad as we thought.

While we still have a long way to go, the NFC East is going to be a dogfight again and there’s always a strong possibility that Washington (1-4) could run off a few wins before it’s said and done.

It’s not going to be a cakewalk for anybody and it’s going to be a dogfight that could go down to the wire.

Champs Again: Eagles Should Win a Weak NFC East

5 Sep

Order of predicted finish: 1. Eagles 2. Washington 3. New York Giants 4. Dallas Cowboys.

Note: Because the nickname of the Washington NFL franchise is considered to be an offensive racial slur to Native Americans, The Chris Murray Report will no longer use that name in its editorial content.

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

PHILADELPHIA—After all the OTAs, off-season acquisitions and sitting through preseason games, we are finally into the regular season. The Eagles will open the 2014 season against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday (1:00 p.m. CBS).

LeSean McCoy says the Eagles offense will be even in better in 2014.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

LeSean McCoy says the Eagles offense will be even in better in 2014. Photo by Webster Riddick.

The Birds will come into the 2014 season as the defending NFC East champions and there’s no reason to think they will not be in that same position when the regular-season ends in January even with a tougher schedule and the loss of speedy wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

I don’t know if Nick Foles (27 touchdown passes, two interceptions) and LeSean McCoy (314 carries, 1607 yards) will put up the numbers they did last season, but they have a year under head coach Chip Kelly’s fast-paced, no-huddle read-option offense and they are expecting to be even better.

With additions like speedy veteran running back Darren Sproles on the team, McCoy said he’s expecting the Eagles offense to be even better in 2014 whether he touches the ball more than 300 times or not.

“I think with the mix of Sproles doing different things, sometimes a 65-yard carry can be the same as a 65-yard (pass) route with Sproles,” McCoy said. “I’m learning that it doesn’t take a lot of reps or a lot of touches to be more productive and get what you want done. You could do it with less.

“I know I’m going to be the key guy they’re watching … but the guys up front with the way they’re blocking and the guys around me, especially with Sproles in there mixing it up with screens and runs and passes. With Maclin getting back and healthy, we have a guy that can stretch the field and do things across the middle. We definitely have weapons.”

Eagles’ fans are no doubt wondering if Jeremy Maclin, who hasn’t played in a regular season game since the end of the 2012 season, can be the deep receiver that can stretch the defense in the way that Jackson did last season.

The question for the Eagles is whether or not the defense can improve upon their performance late last season in 2014? The Birds ranked fourth in the NFL in the takeaway-giveaway category last season, but was 32nd against the pass.

But the big concern for the Eagles is whether they can generate a pass-rush, something that hurt them in the loss to the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs last season. During the preseason, the first team didn’t get a sack.

Defensive coordinator Bill Davis said he’s confident in his defense because his players are more familiar with the team’s 3-4 scheme. He won’t know how better his defense is until the lights come on against Jacksonville.

“Every year is a new year, so you don’t know until the final whistle goes off in the Jacksonville game, really what our starting point is,” Davis said. “But we are more confident because we know them better.”

Both Davis and Kelly said they are expecting big things from backup defense end Vinny Curry and inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks. The Birds added a pair of free agents in veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins and former Miami Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll to bolster the secondary.

The Eagles will win the NFC East because quite frankly the rest of the division isn’t that good. Look for them to finish 10-6. Actually, 9-7 might be enough to put the Birds over the top.

Washington (Predicted finish: 8-8)

Robert Griffin III is expected to make more plays from the pocket in 2014 under new head coach Jay Gruden's offense. RGIII struggled during the preseason.

Robert Griffin III is expected to make more plays from the pocket in 2014 under new head coach Jay Gruden’s offense. RGIII struggled during the preseason.

Among the teams other than the Eagles that could win the NFC East, the Washington squad could be that team.

With defensive coordinator Jim Haslett running the defense and veterans like linebacker Brian Orakbo, defensive lineman Ryan Kerrigan and linebacker Trent Murphy, along with newcomer defensive end Jason Hatcher, who had 11 sacks for the Dallas Cowboys last season, Washington will be decent on defense.

The Redskins will have a veteran secondary with players like safety Ryan Clark and cornerback DeAngelo Hall.

The question is whether Washington’s offense with Robert Griffin III at quarterback can be consistent. The team has the weapons on offense with running back Alfred Morris and wide receivers like DeSean Jackson, Santana Moss and Pierre Garcon.

RGIII struggled in preseason so badly that former Washington quarterback and TV analyst Joe Theismann said the team should start Kirk Cousins instead of Griffin. The former Michigan State star did a better job of moving the team during the exhibition season—albeit against second and third string competition.

In Griffin’s defense, Washington’s first team offensive line didn’t do a good job of protecting the quarterback during the preseason. The same could be said for last season as Washington quarterbacks were sacked 43 times.

One of the things Washington did to get better for 2014 was cut center Will Montgomery, who reportedly made incorrect line calls that probably caused some of the sacks of Griffin and Cousins. This season, Kory Lichtensteiger was moved from guard to center and they also signed six-foot-3, 315-pound guard Shawn Lauvao, who played with the Cleveland Browns.

The offensive line will be the key to protecting Griffin and making holes for Morris.
New head coach Jay Gruden is sticking with RGIII as Washington’s starter for now. If Griffin struggles in the early going will Gruden pull the plug and go with Cousins?

Under Gruden’s system, Griffin won’t be running the read option. He has to make plays from the pocket and not take off and run when his first option is not open. That may be an adjustment for Griffin, but he’s also smart enough to discipline his game to do it.

If RGIII can get off to a good start and can be consistent with the weapons he has on offense, Washington can make this a competitive race and perhaps win it if a few things break their way.

New York Giants (Predicted finish: 7-9)

Eli Manning threw 27 interceptions and got sacked 39 times in 2013 behind patch-work offensive line.

Eli Manning threw 27 interceptions and got sacked 39 times in 2013 behind patch-work offensive line.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning had the worst season of his career in 2013. He threw 27 interceptions. Coming into this season, New York hired former Green Bay Packers quarterback Ben McAdoo as the new offensive coordinator who will install a West Coast-style offense.

With the sudden retirement of running back David Wilson due to a neck injury, the Giants running game will feature former Oakland Raiders ball carrier Rashad Jennings and former Boston College star Andre Williams, who gained 2,177 yards as a senior and was a Heisman Trophy finalist.

At the wideout position, Victor Cruz should be the beneficiary of the Giants new West Coast system. New York also has rookie wide receiver and former LSU star Odell Beckham, who has been slowed down by a hamstring injury. The G-men will also return Reuben Randle who has shown flashes of brilliance at times.

The key to Giants on offense will be their offensive line, which was the main culprit of the Giants woes last season. New York will have a revamped offensive line with left tackle Will Beatty (6-6, 319 pounds) as its most experienced player.

The Giants will need to develop some chemistry along that offensive line to make sure McAdoo’s schemes can work.

On defense, the Giants are hoping that defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul can have the kind of season he had in 2011 when he had 16.5 sacks. The Giants also have veterans Mathias Kiwanuka and Cullen Jenkins. Key free-agent acquisitions include corner back Dominique Rogers-Cromartie and former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain.

The Giants are average at best and don’t necessarily scare anybody on defense. But then again no one in the NFC East does.

Dallas Cowboys (Predicted finish: 7-9)

Much-maligned Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo maybe the Cowboys only hope to be a winner in 2014 for a team with a bad defense. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Much-maligned Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo maybe the Cowboys only hope to be a winner in 2014 for a team with a bad defense. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Speaking of defenses that don’t scare anybody, the Cowboys were awful on defense last season even with DeMarcus Ware and they will be awful without him this season. They lost former Penn State star Sean Lee to a season-ending knee injury during OTAs.

The Boys will be without injured cornerback Orlando Scandrick and cornerback Morris Claiborne didn’t play during the preseason. Throughout the preseason, the Cowboys got pushed up and down the field.

Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will have to figure out a way to make chicken soup out of chicken bleep or lemonade out of lemons. However you want to look at it, Marinelli has to make something out of a defense that is destined to give up a whole bunch of points and a lot of yards this season.

The good news for the Cowboys is that they are stacked offensively.

Everybody’s favorite whippin’ boy, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is not only coming off of back surgery, he’s also coming off a season in which he threw 31 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.

In week 16, his last game before his surgery, Romo rallied the Cowboys from a nine-point deficit in the last five minutes to beat Washington to keep their playoffs hopes alive to that point in the season.
With receivers like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, the Cowboys are going to put points on the board.

They also have a solid running game with DeMarco Murray, who gained 1,121 yards and scored nine touchdowns last season. If you have Bryant, Witten and Murray on your fantasy team, you will no doubt score points.

It is also no doubt in my mind that Dallas’s defense will also give up just as many points as Romo and the Cowboys will score. Dallas will win games by scores like 38-31 or 51-48 and they will lose games like that as well. When you’re playing from behind or having to score on every possession, mistakes are going to be made.

Romo will throw a few “Hell-no’s” along the way which means you’ll be hearing a lot from his critics.

AFC Championship: Win or Lose, Peyton Manning Still Among the Best to Play the Game

19 Jan

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning greet each other after the Patriots 34-31 win on Nov. 24.  Photo by the DenverPost.com.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning greet each other after the Patriots 34-31 win on Nov. 24. Photo by the DenverPost.com.

There are some who are touting Sunday’s AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Denver as some sort of legacy game for both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

It’s like Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier III in boxing or Achilles versus Hector in Greek mythology. We are looking for another epic struggle for the ages that will be etched indelibly on the minds of football fans everywhere.

I guess what folks are really trying to say that this will be a contest of how history will view what Brady and Manning done during their careers.  What people really want to know is who is the greatest between Brady and Manning?

To be honest, I think that both quarterbacks will be voted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. After all, Brady has led the Patriots to three Super Bowls. Manning, who has one Super Bowl ring, he has re-written the NFL record book and considered to be among the all-time greats to play the game.

For all the things that Manning has done as a quarterback, it will not resonate for a lot of fans in this day and age because he doesn’t have as many Super Bowl rings as Brady. Hell, he doesn’t have as many as his brother Eli, who has two with the New York Giants.  Let’s face it, Eli is not as good as his elder brother.

Even if the Broncos can’t get past the Patriots, please don’t go around saying that Manning’s greatness as a quarterback is diminished because he doesn’t have as many rings as Brady or anybody else.

One of the things that bothers me about our current media landscape of 24-hour sports networks, talk radio and social media is that we are so caught up in the bling of championship rings that we tend to forget one immutable fact that’s important to success in sports like football—It’s a “team game.”

In an era where the No. 1 talking point in sports that we all get off on is Michael Jordan winning six rings as a member of the Chicago Bulls, we determine the greatness of players by how many championships they won while playing for a particular team.

The problem that I have with that notion is that Jordan didn’t win those titles by himself and neither did Brady. They were part of some great teams. Their names are not on those trophies by themselves. They played with players that complimented their skills.

I find that reminding fans that teams win championships, whether it’s a column in the newspaper or on social media, is like your mother telling you when you were a kid that you should eat your vegetables because they’re good for you.  You would rather have chocolate cake and other assorted sweets because it tastes better even though it has too much sugar.

We like to believe that our heroes act alone like they do in all the super hero comic books or in the movies. Such things as having outstanding offensive lineman, a great defense and special teams become secondary to making our favorite players larger than life.

In football, success in the postseason, contrary to popular belief, is dependent upon your teammates-offense, defense and special teams.  A bad day in one of those areas and you won’t win.

In Manning’s case, he is 10-11 in playoff games and has just one Super Bowl ring. If you look back through the playoff games he lost, I would venture to say that when you cut it down the middle that some of those losses weren’t his fault and some were very much his fault.

For example, in a crazy 21-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005, a missed chip-shot field goal near the end of that game ended his season.

In some of those games, the defense couldn’t stop the other team’s offense. Last season’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional playoff round was a classic example of that. You know the story.

The Broncos were up seven with under a minute to play and seemed on their way to the AFC Championship until a mistake by the defense allowed Jacoby Jones to score on a 70-yard touchdown pass that tied the game and sent it into overtime.

Of course, Manning’s last pass of the game in overtime was intercepted by Baltimore’s Corey Graham. It doesn’t come to that if Denver safety Raheem Moore is in better position to defend Jones in regulation.

Sometimes, the players on the other team are just better than your team that day. The Patriots beat Manning’s Indianapolis Colts teams twice in the playoffs because the Patriots defense outplayed his offense while the Colts defense couldn’t stop Brady and the Patriots.

There are plenty of great quarterbacks in this game who never won one Super Bowl. I think of the Dan Marinos, the Warren Moons, Jim Kellys and the Dan Fouts who were great quarterbacks, but never won a championship because some aspect of their team’s dynamic was flawed in some way.

I still remember flashes of Fouts watching helplessly on the sideline as the Oakland Raiders offense ran out the last seven minutes of the 1980 AFC Championship after the Chargers had scored the touchdown to come within seven.

The glare of those rings blinds us from the reality that winning a championship in team sports is hard. You need the right mix of players and good coaching along with a little bit of luck to win. You can have the greatest player in the world, but if you don’t have a solid team around him playing together, you’re not going to win jack.

Whether or not he beats New England on Sunday or the NFC squad two weeks later in the Super Bowl, Manning is still among the great quarterbacks in the history of the game.  Losing Sunday or two weeks from now will not dim the glory of his outstanding career.

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In Relief of Vick, Nick Foles Leads Eagles to Win over Hapless Giants

6 Oct

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Nick Foles came up off the bench with two touchdown passes in Eagles win over the Giants.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Nick Foles came up off the bench with two touchdown passes in Eagles win over the Giants. Photo by Webster Riddick.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ.—If there was anything the Eagles learned about themselves in Sunday’s win over the New York Giants, the Birds, for all their troubles with scoring and defense this season, they are not as bad as  the team they beat at MetLife Stadium.

The Eagles (2-3) overcame the loss of their starting quarterback and took advantage of three Eli Manning interceptions to come away with a 36-21 win over the winless of Giants (0-5).

After Michael Vick left the game late in the second quarter with a hamstring injury in his left leg, backup quarterback Nick Foles filled the void well. He completed 16-of-25 passes for 197 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to give New York their fifth straight loss.

“Nick looked great, he played a great game,” Vick said at his locker after the game. “You know that’s what we expect out of Nick and that’s what Nick expects out of himself.”

Vick injured himself on a 13-yard run where he ran out of bounds and started grabbing his left leg. To that point, Vick had run the ball seven times for 79 yards—mostly on designed quarterback runs.  He completed six-of-14 passes for 105 yards.

On the Eagles last series of the first half, Vick played just one play and it was obvious that the sore hamstring was limiting his mobility and head coach Chip Kelly pulled him from the game.

It’s uncertain when Vick will be back. He said he hopes to be back next week.

“Yeah I’m hoping so,” Vick said. “I’ll work extremely hard. I’ve had this type of injury before. You’ve got to do certain things to get it back.”

Before leaving the game, Vick, thanks mostly to his running from the Eagles read option and a huge 56-yard pass to DeSean Jackson, had led the Eagles to a 16-7 lead after New York scored on its first possession of the game.  Running back LeSean McCoy scored the Eagles first touchdown of the game on a one-yard run.

Of course, Foles performance no doubt will bring about the requisite quarterback controversy in Philly.  Most of the questions focused on what Foles needed to do keep the job.   But Kelly sidestepped those questions and said he’s glad to have the luxury of  having a backup quarterback capable of starting.

“No matter where you are in this league, you have to make sure you have two quarterbacks that’s just the nature of this league,” Kelly said during his post-game press conference. “We’re fortunate that we do.”

Meanwhile, Foles was asked about he what he needed to do “win” with the starting job.  To his credit, Foles didn’t feed into the whole quarterback controversy.

“I’m not even thinking that way,” Foles said. “First that happened when Mike got hurt, I prayed for him, ‘Give him strength, God.’ My job was to go in there when Mike was hurt and get a win. I have a great team around me to help me do that. I don’t think that way.”

Even though he has been coaching one of the league’s worst defenses Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis had been saying that despite his teams lackluster performance throughout the season his team was getting better.

In this game, Davis saw his team have its ups and downs in this game and in the end, they played well enough to win. They forced four turnovers-interceptions and a fumble with one sack and they put a lot of pressure on Manning with a wide variety of blitzes.

“You can see yourself moving forward when guys do it more consistently,” Davis said. “You know sooner or later a day like today is going to happen when you have the turnovers. The ball does bounce your way, but it’s stacked on top of more guys playing technique, we’re playing together.”

After allowing the Giants to drive 62 yards and five plays that was capped by a five-yard run by running back David Wilson, the Eagles defense kept the Giants at bay until the third quarter.

But in tha third quarter, Manning and the Giants offense got hot and transformed a 19-7 halftime deficit into a 21-19 lead thanks to a pair of touchdown passes to wide receiver Rueben Randle.

That would be the last glimpse of glory for the Giants offense as the Eagles defense intercepted Manning three times-two of the picks led to Eagles touchdowns.  Mychal Kendricks, Brandon Boykin and Cary Williams came away Manning’s mistakes in the passing game.

“You talk to any of us upfront, we wanted to get more sacks, but hats off to the secondary, “ said left outside linebacker Connor Barwin. “We were making (Manning) run around a little bit and he made some decisions that he probably wants make. The secondary made great plays as far as catching the ball.”

No Ordinary Joe: Flacco Wants to Prove He’s Among the NFL’s Best QBs

31 Jan

By Chris Murray

There are some NFL observers who believe that Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is a Super Bowl win a way from being one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks.

There are some NFL observers who believe that Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is a Super Bowl win a way from being one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks.

For the Chris Murray Report

About 30 seconds after the NFL Network played highlights of the Baltimore Ravens win over the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship, Hall-of Fame cornerback and network analyst Deion Sanders was asked if Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was among the league’s elite signal-callers.SB47_Primary_National_RGB

Sanders answered by saying that Flacco would have to win a Super Bowl in order to be mentioned in the same company as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and Aaron Rogers.

Flacco will certainly have that opportunity this Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII against the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans.

“It will mean a lot if we can go win this game on Sunday,” said Flacco, who has led the Ravens to the playoffs in every year of his pro career, which started back in 2008. “I think when you talk about winning as quarterbacks in the playoffs, I would think that all of them have Super Bowl victories so that’s really the only one that matters and that’s what we’re trying to get.”

But when you look at his performance late in the season, one could argue that Flacco has played well enough to prove that he’s one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL even before winning what could be the biggest game of his career.

“Listen, I am a little biased when it comes to Joe, because you are talking about somebody who has, right now, the best playoff winning percentage ever in NFL history. So, this guy has been proven since day one,” said Ray Lewis, the Ravens legendary middle linebacker.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has outplayed both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the 2012 playoffs. Photo by  Webster Riddick.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has outplayed both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the 2012 playoffs. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Baltimore wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who caught a pair of touchdown passes from Flacco in the AFC title game, said he and his teammates feel that their quarterback is one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, especially after the former University of Delaware star said it himself earlier in the season.

“We backed him up. We all feel that way,” Boldin told reporters on Tuesday. “The perspective that we have is that we get a chance to see him every day. You guys, obviously you don’t. We know what he’s capable of doing. We’ve been in games where he’s won games for us. We know what he’s capable of doing, so we all back him.”

Ever since Jim Caldwell was promoted from the Ravens quarterback coach to the team’s offensive coordinator, Flacco has been the driving force behind Baltimore’s run to the Super Bowl aside from Lewis’ retirement hoopla.

More importantly, Flacco has beaten some of the league’s best quarterbacks in four of his last five games.  He defeated two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Eli Manning in the Ravens 33-14 win over the N.Y. Giants in December. In that game, he completed 25-of-36 passes for 309 yards and threw two touchdown passes.

Two weeks later in the opening round of the playoffs, Flacco outplayed Indianapolis Colts rookie sensation Andrew Luck in the Ravens 24-9 win.  In that game, Flacco was an efficient 12-of-23 for 282 yards and two touchdown passes.

The last two games leading up to the Super Bowl, Flacco simply outgunned two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in a span of eight days. In the double-overtime divisional playoff win over Peyton Manning and Denver Broncos, he passed for 331 yards and three touchdowns including the big 70-yard TD strike to Jacoby Jones that sent the game to overtime.

Against Brady and New England in the AFC title game, Flacco threw three second-half touchdown passes while passing for 240 yards.

“He’s one of the elite quarterbacks and I think he’s proven that,” said tight end Dennis Pitta. “We’ve known that about him all along. We’ve got a ton of confidence in him and he’s finally able to showcase that. Who are the other quarterbacks in the league? I only know Joe.”

Never mind that Flacco has won six playoff games on the road, has the best winning percentage in postseason history, led the Ravens to some clutch wins in the  last couple of years and was one dropped pass away from going to last year’s Super Bowl, he will have to show he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the game by beating the 49ers on Sunday.