The Philadelphia Eagles find themselves in another NFC Championship game among some unlikely circumstances. The ravages of football have a battle of the backups playing for a right to the Super Bowl, probably an indication that the playoff system as it is doesn’t really measure who is the best team. Regardless, with backups comes the opportunity for the defenses to exploit the weaknesses that made these backups quarterbacks rather than one of the 32 starters. Ironically, those exploitable facets are difficult to take advantage of.
It’s completely fair to claim that Case Keenum never got a good chance as a starter in the NFL up until this season—middling seasons spent in Houston, two years under the ousted QB killer Jeff Fisher in St. Louis and Los Angeles. Keenum finally had an opportunity this season with a strong defense behind him to prove he’s not destined backup material. But there is one weakness that made an appearance last week against New Orleans that will keep a QB in the backup role.
Winding down the third quarter, up ten points, but with New Orleans starting to figure out the Minnesota defense enough to put some serious pressure on them, Keenum gets heavy pressure in his face and throws a wobbling duck of a pass floating high enough towards the secondary for the entire state of Minnesota to say two whole prayers before it landed in the hands of someone. The play resulted in an interception and eventually to New Orleans taking the lead late in the game.
The Philadelphia Eagles need to force Case Keenum to make bad decisions. This season Keenum has been one of the strongest in the league with pressure all around him. However, he doesn’t run much, totaling just 13 first downs on the run, and deep down there exists that spontaneous and bad decision to throw off the back foot to a receiver who is only partially open.
The Eagles don’t necessarily have to sack Keenum, but constant pressure with four will make it difficult for him to spot receivers. While it’s never smart to rely on turnovers as a strategy, the strip sack specialists of Chris Long (four on the season) and Brandon Graham will likely need to continue those efforts as ball security is one of the most crucial pieces to a game with such strong defenses.
With two of the NFL’s top defenses and two backup quarterbacks with plenty of starting experience a lone turnover could be the difference between advancing and prepping for the offseason.
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