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11 things we learned from the Eagles’ playoff win over the Falcons

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Big takeaways from the Eagles’ big win.

Divisional Round - Atlanta Falcons v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional Round of the 2018 NFL Playoffs by a final score of 15 to 10. Here’s a look at some things we learned from this big win.

1 - Eagles going to the NFC Championship Game

The Eagles are really one of the final four teams remaining in the playoffs. They’re just ONE WIN AWAY from going to the Super Bowl.

It’s been nine years since the Eagles played in a championship game (Cardinals in January 2009). It’s been 13 years since the Eagles won a championship game (Falcons in January 2005.)

Now the Eagles will try to end that drought with a win over the Minnesota Vikings.

2 - Eagles fans are truly the best

Eagles fans, you are fantastic.

Lincoln Financial Field was the loudest I’ve ever heard it on Saturday night. You were so loud that the stadium was shaking.

The Eagles are 14-3 at home since the beginning of the 2016 season. That’s the best home record in the NFL. You guys are a big part of that. The Eagles will need your support again on Sunday in order to get to the Super Bowl.

3 - Doug Pederson is a great coach

No matter what happens this season, the Eagles are in great hands for the future. Carson Wentz is a stud and has the ceiling to be the best player in the league. But he’s not the only reason for hope. The head coach is pretty freaking good, too. You gotta give it up for Doug Pederson.

This game was such a strong performance by him. The game plan was great. He went aggressive and attacked the Falcons right out of the gate with a deep shot that led to a big pass interference penalty. Then he did what we all knew he needed to do: pound the rock with the running backs, Jay Ajayi in particular. Committing to the run opened up RPOs.

Diving deeper into the game plan, some of the specific plays he called were just awesome. There was the fake toss to Ajayi, actual handoff to Nelson Agholor that put the Eagles in goal-to-go territory. There was the sequence where the Eagles ran a screen to Ajayi for only three yards but then went right back to it on the next play for a large gain.

Some criticized Pederson’s decision to call a timeout on 4th-and-2 in the red zone before kicking a short field goal. After the game, he explained the Eagles took the timeout to discuss going for it or not. I’m fine with the Eagles talking that one over. That’s a big decision. And I wouldn’t have hated going for it there, but again, it wasn’t an easy call. Taking the points ended up working out.

Overall, Pederson’s presence was a big reason the Eagles won this game. He’s coached his ass off this season. The Eagles are going to need more of that in the playoffs. You have to feel good about this team with Pederson leading the way on game day.

4 - The underdog mentality wasn’t just BS

If you thought being underdogs didn’t provide the Eagles with extra motivation, you were wrong. The Eagles clearly felt disrespected being the first No. 1 seed in league history to not be favored in their first playoff game. Philadelphia played angry.

After the game, of course, the players even had fun with underdog angle by wearing the dog masks. Several players even talked about wanting to be underdogs in the NFC Championship Game. This team truly has an “us against the world” mentality. That makes them very dangerous in the post-season.

5 - The Eagles’ home defense is LEGIT

The Eagles’ defense being awesome at home isn’t just coincidence. It’s a very real thing.

Philadelphia dominated the Falcons’ offense for the better part of the game.

Jim Schwartz’s unit was a little leaky on the Falcons’ first drive, which started at Atlanta’s 38-yard line due to the Ajayi fumble. But the Eagles still held them to a field goal.

From there, the only points the Falcons scored came off a drive that started at the Eagles’ 18-yard line due to a muffed punt by Bryan Braman. The Falcons were assisted on that scoring drive by a really BS penalty on Rodney McLeod. And it took a broken play on third-and-goal for Atlanta to score. So the Eagles still made it tough on Atlanta.

Schwartz’s defense wasn’t perfect. The Eagles got gashed on some Tevin Coleman runs to the outside. Thankfully Steve Sarkisian didn’t try to do those more often.

But for the most part, this Eagles defense was very LEGIT. If they can keep this up, the Eagles absolutely have a shot to win it all.

6 - It’s clear why the Eagles stressed building through the trenches

Howie Roseman has often talked about the Eagles’ emphasis on valuing the offensive and defensive lines. Look no further than Saturday’s win to see the importance of those units.

The offensive line was straight mashing people.

The running game averaged 3.48, which isn’t amazing, but it’s good in the context that the Falcons knew it was coming. The Eagles ran effectively enough to set up play-action.

Pass protection was great as well. Nick Foles only got sacked once and hit four times.

Compare those numbers to what the Eagles’ defensive line did to the Falcons offense. Philadelphia notched three sacks, eight tackles for loss, and 11 hits on Matt Ryan.

Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham were beasts. The entire defensive line played well, really. In addition to pressuring Ryan, they held Devonta Freeman to SEVEN YARDS on 10 carries.

Winning in the trenches wins football games. That was on display on Saturday night.

7 - Nick Foles is capable of being good enough

As I’ve said all along, there’s just no reason to doubt Nick Foles. He’s really good.

Ha, just seeing if you were paying attention. But for real, Foles was fine in this game. He played well enough that he wasn’t a liability.

Foles was a disaster for most of the first half. His first throw of the game, a deep shot to Torrey Smith, was just so ugly. He took a bad sack that took the Eagles out of Jake Elliott range. He overthrew a wide open Trey Burton on third down. And then there was that crazy completion to Smith where he threw it into quadruple coverage but the ball inexplicably bounced off Keanu Neal’s knee. I mean, that’s just incredible luck.

Foles did make a key completion to Alshon Jeffery on that drive, though, to set up Elliott’s 53-yard field goal attempt to put the game at 10-9 at the half. He also showed improved accuracy in the second half. Instead of playing scared, he showed confidence by getting the ball out quick. He climbed the pocket instead of drifting backwards or to the side. The RPOs really helped him out. Pederson did a great job helping Foles in that regard.

The truth is that the numbers look better than tape: 23/30, 246 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 100.1 passer rating. Those doesn’t really tell the true story of how Foles played in this game.

But he was good enough, and that’s all that matters for now. The hope is that he can improve on some of the basics he made.

I still don’t have the utmost confidence in the guy, but I will admit I might’ve been a little too harsh on him. But only a little. (wink)

Baby steps!

8 - Unsung moments go a long way

Just wanted to take this section to point out some of the underrated moments from the Eagles’ win.

  • Jalen Mills, who played well for most of the game, broke up a third down pass where Ryan scrambled and had a receiver wide open. If Mills didn’t tip that away, it could’ve been a touchdown. Huge.
  • Rodney McLeod’s blitz was timed perfectly. Clutch sack.
  • Brandon Graham made a shoestring tackle on Freeman that prevented what could’ve been a big run to the outside.
  • Torrey Smith’s aforementioned immaculate reception. Maybe not an underrated moment but nonetheless worth mentioning again because it was so crazy.
  • Alshon Jeffery’s catch with 0:01 remaining in the second quarter. Jeffery also made the catch that set up Elliott’s 63-yard field goal against the Giants in Week 3.
  • Trey Burton had a clutch lead block after lining up as a fullback on LeGarrette Blount’s touchdown run.
  • Nick Foles did a great job of diving on the Corey Clement fumble near the goal line.
  • Bryan Braman redeemed his muffed punt by tipping the Falcons’ final punt of the first half. That ball only traveled 22 yards instead of potentially pinning the Eagles back way deep. Braman’s “block” ultimately led to Elliott’s 53-yard field goal.

9 - The Eagles need to play a cleaner game

The Eagles were too sloppy early on. Ajayi has been fumbling too much; three times on 85 carries. The special teams unit can’t be muffing punt returns. The big runs to the outside can’t keep happening. Foles can’t be leaving so many plays on the field. These are some of the issues the Eagles need to clean up in order to advance.

10 - No one got hurt

I don’t think the Eagles listed a single injury update during the game. Pretty good news considering this team has already suffered a lot of major injuries.

We’ll see how the practice report looks like this week but as of now the 53-man roster should be ready to go for the NFC Championship Game.

11 - No reason not to believe in this team

This team, man. THIS TEAM!

Everyone should be done doubting this team. They’ve proven people wrong time and time again.

This Eagles team just has so much heart. And they FIGHT. It’s hard not to be proud of this group.

Going into this game, my thinking was that I just needed to see one playoff win. Don’t be a one and done. That alone would make the season.

I still feel that way. Anything the Eagles do from here on out is gravy.

But with that said, they’re sooooooo close.

Just one more win away from going to Super Bowl 52. And then one more win away from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for first time in franchise history.

So I guess there’s only one thing to do ...

Win the whole f***ing thing.