Mon. Jan 25th, 2021

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Bird Watching: Colts At Eagles – A Quality Start

8 min read
Bird Watching Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Indianapolis Colts – Preseason Week 1

Eagles 36 – Colts 10

Chip Kelly led his Philadelphia Eagles (well … most of his Eagles) into action on a scorching hot Sunday afternoon in south Philly. In the franchise’s first daytime preseason game in decades, they would be without QB Sam Bradford, RB Demarco Murray, LB’s DeMeco Ryans, Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks, as well as TE Zach Ertz.

Yes, it’s August … yes, most of these guys will be bagging groceries come September … yes, the records don’t count … but, there is one undeniable truth … football is back!!

1st Quarter
The Colts won the toss and elected to receive Cody Parkey’s kick, which skittered down the field to an uneventful return. The Eagles defense seemed intent on taking away Andrew Luck’s first look as throughout the opening drive he seemed to be settling for safe, short check downs. The visiting Colts did manage a first down. But, the drive resulted in a booming 59-yard punt by Pat McAfee for a touch back.

Mark Sanchez set a troubling tone on first down when he missed a wide open Trey Burton. After faking the hand-off left, he rolled right and was late delivering the throw which was short and easily broken up. After what amounted to a 9-yard option pitch to Riley Cooper, Sanchez showed no touch whatsoever on a third-and-1 pass to Darren Sproles that could have gone for nice yardage, whistling his close range throw through the hands of the veteran back. PUNT TEAM!!!

Starting at their own 28, the Colts tried to establish a running game. Four fruitless rushes by Zurlon Tipton were redeemed by a pair of third down completions by Luck. Then, mid-drive, after the second of those completions, Luck’s day was finished. Veteran Matt Hasselbeck picked up the drive at mid-field and set up Matt Vinatieri’s 32-yard field goal to open the scoring. Colts 3, Eagles 0.

The Birds answered with a drive that included a few nice runs by Ryan Matthews, a few more errant throws by Sanchez, one timely scramble on 3rd-and-5 by the veteran out of USC and a very nice throw and catch between he and Jordan Matthews. That play was followed by Sanchez once more missing a wide open receiver, Jordan this time, on a sure TD. On 2nd-and-10, a quick hitch to rookie Nelson Agholor seemed to sail high and right, causing Colts corner Greg Toler to play for the pick. When Agholor rose up and made the catch, the veteran Toler was badly out of position as the Eagles top pick scampered 34 yards into the end zone for the score. At this point we all got our first look at the stupidest rule change in recent memory as the 33-yard Point After Touchdown made its debut at The Linc. Kicker Cody Parkey attended to business with little fanfare. Eagles 7, Colts 3.

Linebacker Emmanuel Acho made tackles on first and second down before Hasselbeck’s third down pass sailed out of bounds as the Eagles’ D backed up the O’s score with a solid three and out.

After another big punt by McAfee was returned 15 yards to the 24 by Kenjon Barner, third year QB Matt Barkley assumed the reigns. The former USC Trojan wasted no time, making quick decisions and accurate throws of 26 yards to Matthews and 39 to Miles Austin. Then, a toss left to Barner on second-and-goal from the Colts 9-yard-line. The second-year back from Oregon planted and cut up field as the play flowed past him and he danced, nearly untouched, into the end zone. This time, the ridiculous PAT showed its teeth as Parkey pushed his effort just outside of the right upright. Eagles 13, Colts 3.

Tipton ran twice for 12 yards as Indy tried to mount a response. The first quarter ended at the Colts 32-yard-line and the home team leading by 10 points. Eagles 13, Colts 3

2nd Quarter
On the second play of the quarter, Hasselbeck connected with rookie Philip Dorsett about 15 yards downfield. Eagle Eric Rowe was quick to pound the ball out of his hands and safety Chris Prosinski opportunistically recovered the loose ball.

Taking advantage of the turnover was not in the cards as, on the third play of the ensuing drive, LB Bjoern Werner deflected Barkley’s pass and it was intercepted by Amarlo Herrera near midfield.

The teams then traded three and outs and another Colts drive was mortally wounded by a personal foul call on guard David Arkin.

Starting from their own 35, the Birds stretched the field. A pass down the right sideline to Agholor resulted in a 32-yard Pass Interference call on Colts, CB Deveron Carr. After a few nifty runs by Raheem Mostert, the speedy, undrafted rookie out of Purdue, Barkley had his men nearing the Red Zone. But, a Tripping call on David Molk slowed their roll and the eventually found themselves facing a 4th-and-4 at the 15. Confident in his kicker’s abilities from that distance, Kelly elected to go for it and test his unit’s ability in a pressure situation. They came up short. Herrera stopped Barner after three yards and the visitors took over at their own 12.

Indy managed a first down before the Eagles forced another fumble, this time it was Chris Maragos stripping Tipton. The Colts recovered, but found themselves in a 3-and-13 hole and were forced to punt when Hasselbeck’s pass to Dorsett was incomplete.

After another monster punt by McAfee, it was 1st-and-10 at the 22. Barkley led a solid drive, going 5-for-7 for 50 yards, setting up Parkey for a 40-yard field goal. Eagles 16, Colts 3.

The Colts went into their 2-Minute-Offense but could manage only an 8-yard pass to TE Sean McGrath. This gave punter McAfee yet another chance to showcase his amazing right leg. You had to imagine that he may eventually outkick his coverage and, with the first half clock dwindling, this was the time. Barner took the kick at his own 8-yard-line and ran directly into Colts’ safety Winston Guy. Bouncing off Guy, he spun toward the right sideline. Rookie Josh Robinson took a bad line, blowing the containment assignment and Barner was off to the races. He needed only a cursory shove on McAfee by Mostert to clear the way as he coasted home. Parkey corrected whatever had gone wrong earlier with a clean PAT and the home team took a commanding lead up the tunnel. Eagles 23, Colts 3.

3rd Quarter
The Birds carried their momentum into the second half as a check down to Mostert broke for 40 yards up the left sideline and set up another Parkey field goal, this one from 48 yards out. Eagles 26, Colts 3.

Indianapolis rolled out Bryan Bennett from Southeastern Louisiana to run the offense in the second half. If that name sounds familiar it is because Bennett was the Chip Kelly-recruited, former Oregon QB that transferred when it became clear that Marcus Mariota was Kelly’s QB of choice. There had been murmurings that Bennett may be coming to Philly before the draft. The rookie got right down to business. He effectively marched his squad down the field as the Colts running game finally began to gain some traction. The drive culminated in a 9-yard TD run by Robinson and a Vinatieri PAT. Eagles 26, Colts 10.

… aaaaaaand cue the calliope. Because then, the circus began.

The introduction of QB Tim Tebow was answered with a notable roar from the crowd. Tebow responded with a few good throws and a few ball handling issues in a drive that resulted in a 34-yard field goal attempt that Parkey missed to the right.

The Colts response was a five play 10 yard drive that ended when rookie Brian Mihalik collected the Birds’ first sack of the day and another punt.

The final play of the quarter was a highlight-reel 18-yard grab by undrafted rookie Rasheed Bailey out of Delaware Valley College. Eagles 26, Colts 10

4th Quarter
As the final quarter started, Tebow’s confident decision making had been replaced by tentative ball holding and some happy feet that seemed to be exacerbated by the struggles of right tackle Kevin Graf, who himself was trying to decide if he should be a speed bump or a revolving door for Halloween this year.

The teams traded ineffective drives before the Colts started a drive at the Eagles’ 43. On 2nd-and-11, Bennett looked downfield and was intercepted by safety Ed Reynolds.

Tebow moved his charges out of the shadow of their old goalposts before the drive stalled with successive incompletions.

Starting at their own 13, the Colts found themselves in a 3rd-and-10 before Reynolds once again picked off a Bennett pass, this time setting up the offense at the Indianapolis 12-yard line.

The Eagles managed only to lose 10 yards en route to Parkey’s third field goal of the day. Eagles 29, Colts 10

With the outcome basically decided, it was time for players to ‘get some things on film’. Special Teams ace and reserve LB Bryan Braman had been a pony-tailed demon during the second half. But, when he blasted Bennett and forced a fumble with about three and a half minutes to go in the game and it was recovered by sixth-round pick Randall Evans, it was clear that he was a man on a mission.

From the Indy 20, rookie free agent Kevin Monangai from Villanova ran three consecutive times to create a 2nd-and-goal from the 7-yard line. Tebow perfectly executed Kelly’s Read Option, sending Monangai into the left side of the line before sprinting right all the way to the goal line pylon ahead of three Colt defenders for the game’s final TD. Parkey’s PAT was good. Eagles 36, Colts 10.

Indy bled the clock with four meaningless rushes as time expired.

As is often the case with preseason football, we saw some good and some bad. The defense created turnovers, the special teams carried over last year’s scoring touch and several rookies made solid contributions. But, on the flip side, Sanchez was unimpressive, last year’s top pick Marcus Smith had only one tackle (even though he never seemed to leave the field and was being constantly lauded by announcers Scott Graham and Mike Mayock) and Parkey was unstable. But, a win is a win and success (we hope) breeds success.

Looking Ahead
Saturday’s match-up with Baltimore will be preceded by joint practices with the Ravens, which usually makes for some feistiness when the lights come on. We should see Bradford, Murray and hopefully a few others that were conspicuous in their absence on Sunday.

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