The season is over but the Eagles ended it on a high note, defeating the New York Giants by a final score of 34-26. In a game full of empty yards, turnovers and a wide variety of expressions on the faces of both quarterbacks, Chip Kelly's squad was able to come out on top with a game-sealing interception by (who else?) Nate Allen. Kelly wanted to beat the Giants this week and dismissed any thought of the future leading up to the NFC East showdown. In the end, his squad somehow delivered, despite giving up over 300 yards to just two Giants receivers.
With the win, the Eagles finish at 10-6 for the second straight season, only this time there will be no postseason for Philadelphia. The Eagles will be in the "no fly zone" for the 2015 NFL Draft which is roughly between picks 16-20. It's a position that most fanbases like to avoid, but that's not really going to impact a professional football franchise. Stay tuned to BGN for our draft coverage starting next week! (sigh)
Anyway, let's get to the winners and losers of the final game of the season.
Jordan Matthews: The rookie finished his season with eight catches for 105 receiving yards, including a fun 44-yard touchdown catch and run. Matthews collected 872 receiving yards and eight scores in his first season, which is very impressive, considering he was rarely thrown to at times with Nick Foles at quarterback. He was essentially the Eagles top pick with Marcus Smith barely registering playing time. The slot has a bright future with him in it.
Chris Polk: The bruiser clearly has had an uneven season but the Eagles trust him in the redzone and he has played well when called upon. He finished with seven carries for 38 rushing yards and a touchdown. He showed his speed on a 17-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Brandon Boykin: He will probably never get the respect of the coaching staff, but he played very well in coverage all game. He broke up a pair of Odell Beckham catches and also played Rueben Randle and Preston Parker tight. He's the Rodney Dangerfield of the secondary.
Jaylen Watkins: Speaking of staying tight in coverage, Watkins really held his own. He fell while playing press against Beckham, who then scored a long touchdown and also missed a tackle in the second quarter. Outside of those two plays, the rookie was terrific in coverage and broke up at least a pair of passes to Beckham. He fared much better than his veteran counterparts, Cary Williams and Nolan Carroll. This was his first game on defense and I felt he delivered. He shouldn't be looked at as a starter but as competition for a starting job next year.
Zach Ertz: Too little, too late with the targets to the tight end, but he has been taking advantage. Ertz finished with four catches for 56 receiving yards.
Nate Allen: He had his ups and downs on the day, including allowing a massive reception to Randle in the first quarter because Carroll couldn't breakup a pass. That said, he had the game-clinching interception. He may walk this year but he will get a chance to compete somewhere. It'd be wise to bring Allen back and have him compete for a starting spot against superior talent at safety opposite Malcolm Jenkins. He would provide good depth. I think there is a misconception that the Eagles were wrong to re-sign Allen. The real issue was that they didn't sign or draft anyone else worthy of competing with him.
LeSean McCoy: He was up and down as well, but showed up when needed in the second half. He finished with 17 carries for 99 rushing yards and added 15 yards on a catch. He will finish with 1,319 rushing yards, five rushing touchdowns and 155 receiving yards. All of those stats have dwindled significantly from last season. This will be an interesting offseason for Shady.
Special Teams: Again, Dave Fipp delivers. James Casey blocked a punt which led to a Trey Burton touchdown. Casey also had a stop immediately after on a kick return. Chris Maragos forced a fumble early on a kickoff but the Eagles were unable to take advantage. That trio has been terrific all year, yet none were voted to the Pro Bowl. (Maragos is a second team alternate, however.)
Malcolm Jenkins' Hands: I remarked during the game on Twitter that Jenkins has the ball skills of Ifeanyi Momah... That's all I've got.
Nolan Carroll: He was abused early and often by the Giants and should have received at least two pass interference calls. If that is the way he plays in practice, you can kind of understand why Bradley Fletcher was able to hold on to his job for so long. It was an unfortunate showing.
Pass Rush: It really wasn't there at all despite Eli Manning throwing 53 times.
Draft Fans: Well, if you were looking forward to trading up for Marcus Mariota, things just got a lot more difficult. If the team doesn't trade up for a quarterback, they could have interest in receiver, cornerback, safety or offensive line. As I said above, stayed tuned for BGN's draft coverage. As others may attest, you won't be disappointed.
Billy Davis: Teach your cornerbacks to turn around or they will consistently give up yardage to even the most mediocre receivers and get called for pass interference.
Mark Sanchez: He wasn't a winner, despite the stats. He threw a bunch of off-target balls, missed open receivers on literally every negative play and got lucky on a handful of would-be interceptions. It was not a terrible day for him as it could have been much worse against a capable defense, but he wasn't what anyone would call good. He finished 23-of-36 for 292 passing yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also added 22 rushing yards on seven carries, including a solid 15-yard sprint in the first half.
Sanchez did have his moments when throwing to Jordan Matthews. His main issue was staring down targets throughout the game. If you were paying attention, you knew when he was going to throw to Ertz or Darren Sproles and the Giants did too. He is likely to continue his career as a backup in Philly or elsewhere. While he was exciting to watch at times, it's clear he's not an NFL starter on a playoff team. Perhaps, he gets a look in Tennessee or St. Louis where he can serve as veteran competition. I think Nick Foles stays based on his contract and flashes in 2013 but the Eagles do need to address the position to get better. Foles will likely start next year because the options seem extremely limited, but that doesn't mean he should be "the guy."