There was a feeling of collective dread heading into Sunday night’s game against the Rams early in the week, but it took just a few drives in Los Angeles for the Eagles to seemingly recapture the energy they played with last season.
In a bit of a chicken and the egg situation, the team rallied, and while some might argue the guys stepped up for backup Nick Foles, I see it more like they wanted to win for Carson Wentz. Six to one, half-dozen to another, the team got the win and looked like versions of their formerly successful selves.
"When ever someone goes down, we have to step it up a notch. I feel like we all went out there and played for 11 (Carson Wentz) today." -- Wendell Smallwood— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) December 17, 2018
And while it’s not important on the surface, the motivation behind what took players 15 weeks to accomplish needs to be identified. Through 15 weeks, whatever the coaches were telling them in the locker room, or whatever carrot they were dangling in front of them, didn’t compare to the fire that was lit heading into the Sunday Night Football game.
Doug Pederson spoke about working with OC Mike Groh to simplify the game plan ahead of the Rams game — something he says they were planning to do even before learning Wentz would be out — and it worked. Foles spread the ball around, Alshon Jeffery finally had a big game, Golden Tate moved the sticks and found room after the catch, and the running game was actually effective in the red zone. All of these things were areas identified by both Pederson and Groh throughout the season as needing improvement, but it wasn’t until Week 15 that changes were actually made.
Now, with two games left in the regular season, the momentum is back with the Eagles, and the late-season trajectory could help the team return to the playoffs by way of a wild card spot — and perhaps re-capture the same underdog swagger they played with last year.
It seems incredibly preemptive to start calling for a Super Bowl, but the fact that this team was exciting to watch again is at least a step in the right direction.
Everything is easier when you’re playing coordinator from your couch, but the defense created turnovers, actually tackled their opponent, and wasn’t using the long list of injuries to the position groups as an excuse for poor execution.
This team was fun!
They were posing in the endzone, flying across the field, and even Carson Wentz had a big, shit-grin of a smile on his face over on the sideline.
So, whether the team stepped up because they wanted to support Foles, or if they were motivated (once again) by seeing their leader on the side in street clothes, they found a formula that worked. It’ll be up to the coaches now to identify the motivating factor and keep the team trending in the right direction — and, with Houston on a 10-game win streak, they’ll need to keep playing at a high level.
But, I’m heading into Week 16’s matchup against the Texans with far less doubt than I’ve had in a long time, and that’s enough to keep me positive about this team (and their potential) moving forward.