The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football, 30 to 23. Here are some thoughts on this very exciting game.
1 - The Eagles are alive in the playoff picture
With two games to go, the Eagles have a 37% chance of making the playoffs. Who would’ve thought?
The Eagles still need some help to get to the postseason. The most realistic way is for the Eagles to win out, the Vikings to lose at least one of their last two games, and the Panthers to lose at least one of their last three. That’ll put the Eagles in the playoffs as a wild card team.
The Eagles can still win the NFC East if they win out and the Cowboys lose out. That’s not likely but crazier things have happened.
Speaking of crazy, it’s amazing how this team’s outlook changed so fast. Losing to the Rams would’ve putting the Eagles’ playoff odds down to 1%. The season essentially would’ve been over. But after beating the Rams, hope is very much alive. It feels like this team might actually have a run in them.
I’m not saying a Super Bowl repeat is imminent. The Eagles still have their work cut out for them. But it’s at least nice to see the reigning champs go down swinging instead of ending the season with a whimper.
2 - Doug Pederson had his guys ready to play
The great thing about Sunday’s win over the Rams is that it truly was a complete team effort. That phrase can easily get overused but it’s just true in this case. The coaches and players really stepped up in a big spot.
Doug Pederson deserves credit here for getting his guys ready to play. This team easily could’ve folded. They were entering this game as 13-point underdogs with a backup quarterback under center. They were coming off a demoralizing overtime loss in Dallas where they had to play a ton of snaps. Instead of crumbling, the Eagles showed resiliency. That says a lot about the character of this team.
From a game plan perspective, Pederson kept things balanced. The Eagles threw the ball 31 times and ran the ball 30 times. You can pick out some specific calls to criticize (running on 3rd-and-8, using Josh Adams as a short-yardage back after he’s been ineffective in that regard, not being aggressive early on) but Pederson did a good job for the most part. He ultimately did enough to outcoach Wade Phillips, one of the best defensive coordinators in the league, for the second year in a row.
Omg Doug came in the locker room last night like Stone Cold yelling gimme a hell yeah pic.twitter.com/kkQLQ1z4fL— Jeff McDevitt (@JeffMcDev) December 17, 2018
3 - Nick Foles still has some magic left in him
Like I’ve said all along: why would you ever doubt the Super Bowl MVP? He just WINS!
Foles’ stats weren’t mind-blowing; he finished the game 24/31 for 270 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, and a 89.4 passer rating.
But we all saw it: the offense just seemed to run smoother with Foles under center from the jump. It probably helps that he’s not coming off ACL/LCL surgery in addition to dealing with a back fracture, as is the case with Carson Wentz.
Foles threw some really nice passes. A third down conversion to Alshon Jeffery, who made an over-the-shoulder catch along the sideline, was right on the money. Foles’ willingness to take deep shots and get chunk plays was refreshing since that’s an element that’s been lacking. Foles threw a dart to Zach Ertz in the end zone. Unfortunately, that one was broken up on a great play by the defense.
Foles also had some bad moments. The pick he threw prevented the Eagles from really stomping on the Rams’ throat and instead let Los Angeles back into the game. The Rams dropped an interception on a Foles pass that was high and behind Zach Ertz late in the fourth quarter. Foles also missed Ertz for a wide open touchdown early in the game; he just overthrew the tight end.
Ultimately, Foles played better than his individual stats indicate. The team numbers show as much since Philadelphia scored 30 points and averaged 8.7 yards per attempt.
Foles obviously stepped up big when the Eagles needed him most in 2017. BDN answered the call once again on Sunday night. Shame on anyone who ever doubted him, like that dummy who runs that website.
4 - The Eagles don’t have a QB controversy
The Eagles don’t have a quarterback controversy. Carson Wentz is still very much the Eagles’ franchise quarterback. He’s the long-term answer at the position. Go back and watch his 2017 tape if you need to remember why that’s the case.
In the short-term, though, Foles should probably continue to start for the Eagles. If Wentz was healthy, he should be the one starting. The problem is he’s not healthy right now. Wentz’s back fracture requires three months to heal, according to Pederson. The Eagles should just rest him and roll with Foles.
As far as the outlook beyond this season goes, remember that Foles has a $20 million option the Eagles can choose to activate. Foles can then pay $2 million back to the Eagles in order to become a free agent and get out of that contract. In other words, if Foles wants to test the market, he can. Maybe the Eagles will opt in to the deal and try to trade Foles, assuming he’s cool with that. We’ll see. Plenty of time to figure that out once the season is over. We’ve got a playoff hunt to focus on right now!
5 - It’s hard not to be impressed by Jim Schwartz’s efforts
The Eagles’ defense was missing six starters on Sunday night: Jalen Mills (IR), Ronald Darby (IR), Rodney McLeod (IR), Jordan Hicks (out), Timmy Jernigan (out), and Sidney Jones (out). Despite this, Schwartz’s unit held offensive genius Sean McVay to just 23 points. Keep in mind the Rams were averaging 32.7 points per game (third best) heading into Sunday. And three of those 23 came on a drive after the Eagles offense turned the ball over on downs at midfield.
Schwartz simply outcoached boy wonder McVay on Sunday night. The Eagles’ defensive coordinator brought extra pressure at the right times to make Jared Goff uncomfortable. Los Angeles was just 4/13 on third and fourth down conversions. The Rams were 2/6 on their red zone trips.
No one is going to mistake the Eagles as the ‘85 Bears. But the feeling here is that this unit has really played above their heads given all the injuries. I don’t think the Eagles should be looking to get rid of Schwartz if his unit continues to show up like this.
6 - Alshon Jeffery is important
I’ve written this before because I believe it to be true (anecdotally, at least): As Alshon goes, so does the Eagles’ offense. It just feels like the game is usually going well when Jeffery is getting involved and making plays. It was good to see him come up with some big receptions against the Rams.
Jeffery caught all eight of his targets for 160 yards. That’s his highest yardage total with the Eagles and the third highest in his entire NFL career.
For whatever reason, Jeffery and Wentz weren’t clicking this smoothly in recent weeks. They DID seem to have a good connection earlier this season but then it went away. And it’s not just a matter of Foles targeting Jeffery more often:
Career targets/game for Alshon Jeffery by starting QB— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) December 17, 2018
Carson Wentz: 7.6
Nick Foles: 6.5
2018 targets/game for Alshon Jeffery by starting QB
Carson Wentz: 7.4
Nick Foles: 8
The idea that Wentz is “locking in on Ertz” too much also doesn’t seem to hold up when you consider Ertz had just one fewer target than Jeffery against the Rams. Really, the Eagles’ target distribution from last week to this week wasn’t all that different.
Whatever the case is, I’m all for Jeffery being more involved. Good thing happen when that’s the case.
7 - Avonte Maddox is a baller
I can’t get over how Maddox is such a stud. In his first game back from injury, the Eagles trusted their 22-year-old rookie to start on the outside for the first time in his NFL career. He responded to the challenge by playing sticky coverage and even making a great pick. Maddox also came up in the clutch by tackling Todd Gurley inbounds on the Rams’ final drive. He then defended Josh Reynolds on the final play of the game.
Boundary corner, nickel, safety ... Maddox has done it all this season. The Eagles have put a ton on his plate and he’s been able to answer the call.
After the game, Eagles defensive captains Fletcher Cox and Malcom Jenkins had a lot of praise for Maddox. The 2018 fourth-round pick out of Pittsburgh certainly looks like a keeper. Potential building block for years to come.
8 - The Eagles’ trenches are stepping up down the stretch
The Eagles’ offensive line allowed the running game to pick up 113 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. They also allowed ZERO sacks and just three hits on Foles. Really good performance from those guys up front, especially going against some of the league’s best interior defensive linemen in Aaron Donald (arguably the best player in the NFL) and Ndamukong Suh.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles ultimately contained Todd Gurley by holding him to just 48 yards. The Eagles made Goff look uncomfortable for most of the night by sacking him once and hitting him seven times.
The Eagles won the Super Bowl by having elite offensive and defensive lines last year. These units came up big for the Eagles in Los Angeles and they further provide hope down the stretch.
Fletcher Cox = Certified Difference Maker ✔️— Philadelphia Sports Nation (@PHLSportsNation) December 17, 2018
9 - Wendell Smallwood is back from the dead
After Smallwood took the first carry of the game, some moron tweeted this:
Eagles still giving Smallwood carries for some reason.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 17, 2018
Smallwood finished the night with 48 yards and two scores on 10 carries. He did a real nice job of fighting through contact on his touchdown runs.
Credit Smallwood for staying engaged after previously getting phased out of the running back rotation for the second season in a row. Smallwood had only ONE touch in the last three games prior to last night. With Corey Clement on injured reserve and Josh Adams getting banged up, the Eagles had to rely on Smallwood more often. And to his credit, he stepped up. His performance really exemplifies the complete team effort we saw from this group.
10 - Quick hitters
- Media darling Sean McVay is now 0-2 against Doug Pederson. It’s still a joke to me that McVay won Coach of the Year over Pederson last season.
- Jared Goff … not looking so impressive! I like how BGN reader Noah Becker calls him “West Coast Eli.”
- G.J. Kinne is still the GOAT!
G.J. Kinne, the best QB in Eagles history, is at the game tonight. Philly winning this now. https://t.co/sez0cYE062— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 16, 2018
- Special teams deserves some love: D.J. Alexander had the muffed punt recovery, Cameron Johnston averagd 51.7 on three punts, and Darren Sproles had a 13-yard punt return to help set up field goal drive (51-yard make from Jake Elliott).
- This Eagles win was just so impressive. The Rams were 6-0 at home. The Eagles had only won one true road game all year. The Rams’ 53-man roster is completely healthy. The Eagles have a billion injuries. The Eagles’ defense played two games worth of snaps in Dallas last week. There were many factors working against the Eagles ... but it didn’t matter. They won.