Allan Ray once said, “The real good teams and the real great teams find a way to win.” Despite Monday night’s game being one of the most painful games I’ve watched in recent memory, the Eagles found a way to win that game and clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs in the process.
Nick Foles looked scared, our kicker missed a chip-shot field goal, the Raiders defense was swarming all night long, etc. Things looked bleak for a while during the game. However, the Eagles never said die and found a way to come out with a nine point (read: three point) win to secure the number one seed in the NFC. This was a huge win as anything can happen in the playoffs and the Eagles are a completely different team at home. Without getting too far ahead, let’s look to the takeaways.
1. Doug Pederson went to the run early.
This shocked me a lot actually. On the Eagles’ touchdown drive in the first quarter they ran the ball nine times, called one screen (which went for a touchdown). The only other designed pass play was a check down to LeGarrette Blount which went for a couple yards.
Doug Pederson only called 12 more run plays for the rest of the game. Jay Ajayi finished with 14 carries for 52 yards, Corey Clement had two carries for 14 yards, LeGarrette Blount had five carries for 12 yards. He also had a big run called back due to a holding call.
The run was there early, but the Raiders were stacking the box. Doug tried hard to use the pass to open up the run but it didn’t work and led to a lot of short drives, Jones had eight punts on the night.
The Birds need to work on incorporating the run into their game plan moving forward.
2. Jay Ajayi will be the feature back in the playoffs and moving forward
This was made incredibly clear on Monday night. The Jay Train is a bonafide playmaker, he finished the game with 73-scrimmage yards and the first receiving touchdown of his career. Every time he touches the ball it looks like he can break off a big play.
Between Philadelphia and Miami, Ajayi has his second season with over 1,000 scrimmage yards. The fact that the Eagles got him for a fourth round pick still blows my mind. The Eagles offense is more dynamic with Ajayi in the game.
He will lead this backfield for the foreseeable future, even if he has fumbling problems.
3. Nick Foles has seen better days.
Anyone who watched the game on Monday night could have told you that. Foles finished the game 19/38 for 163 yards, one touchdown and one interception which should have been at least two. Foles looked like a rookie out there, which is terrifying because the Raiders defense isn’t nearly as good as any of the defenses he will see three weeks from now.
He looked okay at times, he tried to spread the field early on some deep throws. He also made the necessary throws to put the Eagles in position to kick the game winning field goal. That was about all the good I can come up with right now. On the bright side, he can’t really play much worse than he did against the Raiders. He can only improve, right?
Nick Foles needs to play better if the Eagles want to make a Super Bowl run, plain and simple.
Unrelated but kind of related: Lane Johnson, for the umpteenth time this season, took away the opponents’ best pass rusher. Khalil Mack was a non-factor and Nick Foles didn’t take advantage of this
4. Where in the world was Alshon Jeffery?
Someone file a missing persons report for Alshon Jeffery, please. He was only targeted twice in the game, and I don’t think either ball was particularly catchable.
Needless to say, this is unacceptable. Nick Foles needs to find a way to get him the ball next week to build some chemistry with his number one wideout.
Jeffery knew it was a bad night and dipped out of the locker room early:
Alshon Jeffery just left without talking to us
— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) December 26, 2017
On a personal level I don’t blame him. Would you want people asking you about how bad your day was after you just finished a miserable night in the cold? On a professional level this is a bit concerning, he should have stayed to answer some questions.
I’m generally optimistic (if you couldn’t tell from my past pieces), I think this week was a fluke. Jeffery and Foles will be on the same page moving forward. He will have a few catches next week against Dallas.
5. Pro Bowl snubs.
There were a couple of Eagles who were disrespected in the Pro Bowl voting, here is a list with some brief descriptions:
Brandon Graham: BG was the biggest Pro Bowl snub this year, in my humble opinion. Graham is the heart of the defensive line and can take control of a game. He has a career high in sacks (9.5) and is incredible against the run. I know it’s tough narrowing a team to three defensive ends, but Brandon Graham played at a Pro Bowl level and should have been given the nod.
Jason Kelce: I didn’t think I’d be writing this at the beginning of the season; Jason Kelce should have made the Pro Bowl. Much like BG above, he was likely a product of limited roster space. Alex Mack and Travis Frederick are two very good centers. I don’t think either of them can play in space like Kelce can, though.
Nigel Bradham: I don’t necessarily know if it’s a snub because two of the outside linebackers (Chandler Jones and Ryan Kerrigan) are more pass rushers than true 4-3 outside linebackers, but Nigel Bradham has been playing some high level football all season long. He has 88 total tackles and has been the quarterback of the Eagles’ defense. He has more tackles than all three outside linebackers that made the cut. If he hauled in a few of those interceptions he should have had I think he would have been a shoo-in to make it.
6. Rookie Watch 2017.
Derek Barnett: Barnett, much like every week leading up to this point, got a lot of snaps and generated some pressure on Derek Carr. He didn’t get a sack, but he did get credit for one tackle, a forced fumble, and scored his first career touchdown to seal the game. I like this kid a lot, he can only get better.
Rasul Douglas: ‘Sul was active for the first time in weeks but didn’t see the field much. It’s understandable because Patrick Robinson has been playing pretty well in the slot. I’m excited to see how he plays next week against the Cowboys
Mack Hollins: Hollins has been a non-factor on offense in recent weeks; he’s pretty good on special teams, though. Like Douglas above, look for him to see some more time next week against the Cowboys.
Corey Clement: Clement needs to touch the ball more. He was getting a lot of time as the third-down back, but he only had three touches for 20 yards. He played pretty well in the first quarter where he took his two carries for 14 yards. Make it three-in-a-row on seeing more time in next weeks game.
Jake Elliott: Legatron had ice in his veins when he kicked the 48-yarder to put the Birds up 13-10 with about 30 seconds left in regulation. He made two field goals, missed one, and nailed his extra point attempt. He is the kicker of the future in my opinion.
7. Sluggos will be the death of this team.
For the second time in as many weeks a team hit a sluggo (slant-and-go) on Jalen Mills and made him look silly. This is something that needs to be cleaned up ASAP.
Aside from that one play the corners played a pretty good game. It might have been a product of the pass rush getting pressure on Carr, but the corners looked pretty good for the most part.
I’m not going to beat a dead horse, but the corners need to play at a high level from here on out.
8. Chris Long is a gamer.
I knew he was pretty good, but my man was on a different level on Monday night. He had three tackles, one sack, and a forced fumble. If he didn’t jump offsides on one play he would have had another sack.
He was a force to be reckoned with on the line all night long, he showed up big when it mattered most. Save for him celebrating instead of jumping on the loose ball, he played an incredible game. Chris Long, being Chris Long, took to twitter after the game to eradicate his error:
I sincerely apologize to the city of Philadelphia for running away from a live ball. I was a bit confused as to there being a live ball. Obviously. Glad we could get off the field!!! Thanks for bringing it fans!!! Ugly win over a pretty loss!!!
— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) December 26, 2017
Evidently I had too much Mountain Dew
— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) December 26, 2017
Chris Long’s veteran presence and past playoff experience is going to pay off for this team in the long run. I think he continues to make a difference in the postseason.
9. This defense bounced back well.
I know it didn’t look good at times, but the Eagles held the Raiders to 277 yards of total offense. 63 of those yards came on Amari Cooper’s touchdown. Think about that for a second, almost a quarter of their total offense came on one play. The Eagles’ defense played outstanding on Monday night.
Ronald Darby came back after a poor performance against the Giants and intercepted Derek Carr to set the Eagles up with great field position which led to the game winning field goal.
Patrick Robinson intercepted Derek Carr as well to try to swing the momentum to Philadelphia’s side. Jalen Mills played a ball to perfection and dropped an easy interception as well.
The Eagles also forced four (!!) fumbles, three of them recovered by the Birds. That’s five turnovers, the most by any Eagles team since 2014. If the defense can keep playing at this level the Eagles will have no problem winning in the playoffs.
10. This is Malcolm Jenkins’ team now.
When Carson Wentz went down against the Rams (pour one out) the question arose: “Whose team is it now?” After Monday night’s game I think the answer is obvious: Malcolm Jenkins. I think he and Brandon Graham go back and forth on the leadership, but Jenkins is more vocal.
Jenkins took control of the game on defense, he finished with seven tackles, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. He literally pulled the ball out of Jalen Richard’s hands to give the offense the ball back. He knew he had to make a play to keep his team in the game and he made it happen.
He is so versatile on defense, he can line up almost anywhere and still make an impact on the game. I think he’s technically a free safety but made the Pro Bowl as a strong safety.
Malcolm Jenkins, as of week 16 2017 is the unquestioned leader of this football team and I couldn’t be happier given the circumstances. He brings a lot to the table both on and off the field, he is the leader this team needs and deserves.
THE ROAD TO THE SUPERBOWL RUNS THROUGH PHILADELPHIA, BABY!
“Negadelphia” was in full swing during and after the game on Monday night, but at the end of the day the fans need to remember that this is a good football team. They have in the past and will come back a stronger, better football team. In the past the offense has been bailed out by the defense and the offense has bailed out the defense. As I said in the beginning of this piece, good teams find a way to win games and that’s what the Birds did on Monday night.
My favorite declaration about the Eagles after last night. “If the Eagles Offense plays like this in the playoffs they’re gonna be one and done.” Well, what if the Defense plays like this in the playoffs(10pts forced 5 turnovers)? They’re gonna win most games ! 🤔 #GlassHalfFull
— Ike Reese (@Ike58Reese) December 26, 2017
Instead of focusing on the bad, why don’t you look to the good? The defense played like a number one defense. If you take away the 63-yarder to Amari Cooper the Eagles held the Raiders to 214 yards and three points (include that play and it’s 277 yards and 10 points).
If you must focus on the bad think about this: Nick Foles is a professional who has arguably the best offensive coaches in the NFL. Between John DeFilippo, Frank Reich, and Doug Pederson, they will work out the kinks and come back better. He’s not going to have games like the one against the Giants, but I’d be willing to bet he doesn’t have games as bad as Monday night’s.
This is the NFL. There are games like this. Last week the defense gave up 500 yards and the Eagles won. Tonight the offense gained 216 yards and the Eagles won.
There’s something to be said for a team that knows how to win.
They’re 13-2. Show a little faith!
— Reuben Frank (@RoobNBCS) December 26, 2017
I don’t usually agree with Reuben Frank but I think he hit the nail on the head with this take. The Birds are 13-2 and the road to the Super Bowl runs through Philly. This is a huge advantage. Get excited Philadelphia, this is something to be proud of.