Published January 08, 2015
(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 this week.
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 346 yards.
"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 day Sunday.
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