1 - The Eagles have Big Nick Energy
With the season on the line, Big Dick Nick came to the rescue once again.
The reigning Super Bowl MVP completed 71.4% of his passes for 471 yards (an Eagles single game franchise record!), four touchdowns, one interception, and a 120.4 passer rating. Incredible.
The truth is that Nick Foles didn’t get off to an amazing start in this game. He missed some throws high, fumbled while getting sacked, and even threw a bad pick. But he ultimately bounced back from those mistakes, especially when it counted most.
With the Eagles at 3rd-and-10 from their own 11-yard line with only 1:55 left in the game, Foles delivered a jump ball throw to Alshon Jeffery to move the chains. He took a big shot from Jadeveon Clowney on the play and even had to come out of the game for one snap. But then jolly old St. Nick replaced Nate Sudfeld and ultimately drove the Eagles down into field goal range, thanks in part to a clutch 20-yard throw to Zach Ertz on another 3rd-and-10 situation.
Nick, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry for being so harsh on you in the past. I always wondered what you were even actually good at. It’s clear you have amazing poise in pressure situations. Doug Pederson wasn’t kidding when he said you have the ability to “calm the storm.”
Sunday’s victory over the Texans was just the latest chapter in Foles’ incredibly unique career. Seriously, I can’t think of anybody else who has a story similar to this one. It’s just incredible. The high highs, the low lows ... it’s truly been unpredictable.
Eagles fans will obviously always be grateful that Foles helped the team win their first Super Bowl in franchise history. They’ll also be grateful he helped keep the 2018 season alive up until Week 17, at the very least.
It’s very possible that this was Foles’ final home game. It’s also possible this might’ve been his second-to-last game as a member of the Eagles.
It remains to be seen what the future holds. The team has been very vocally committed to Carson Wentz as the “quarterback of the future.” The feeling here is that the 25-year-old is still very much the long-term answer.
And, really, the people criticizing Wentz should take a closer look at Foles’ path and consider it might take some time for Ginger Jesus to truly reach his peak. Maybe Wentz will develop the poise that Foles has with more experience. Maybe have some patience. I don’t think you can just say that Foles is the same player he was before he originally got traded away. This new version is significantly better than the old version. Foles’ maturation as both a football player and a human being probably factors into that.
Again, we’ll see how the Eagles quarterback plays out moving forward. In the short-term, the Eagles are in good hands with Foles under center.
(Foles’ ability to win over one of his biggest skeptics just might be his most impressive feat yet!)
It’s only fair to give the Eagles offensive line credit for how well they’ve protected Foles, by the way. They’ve only allowed two sacks and seven hits in the past two games combined. J.J. Watt and Aaron Donald did not come close to being the game-wreckers they’re capable of being.
2 - The Eagles have Big Kick Energy
Jake Elliott put the Eagles in a bad spot by missing an extra point (his second of the season) but not unlike Foles he came up big when it counted the most. Elliott drilled his 35-yard field goal attempt to give the Eagles a 32-30 lead as time expired in the fourth quarter.
Elliott now has six game winning kicks in his career. He misses the easy ones sometimes, as evidenced today, but you can’t say he’s not #clutch.
3 - The Eagles are big Bears fans
Chicago is a great city. I love going there. Deep dish pizza. The italian beef. The dogs. The disdain for ketchup. The river. All of it. It’s beautiful. My most favorite city not named Philadelphia.
Eagles fans, it’s time for you to embrace Chicago as well. After beating the 49ers on Sunday, the Bears now have a chance to potentially get a first-round bye by winning in Week 17. The Bears winning is super important for the Eagles, mind you, because Minnesota losing means Philadelphia makes the playoffs if the Eagles beat Washington in Week 17.
Don’t rest your starters, Bears. Play for that No. 2 seed! Keep your NFC North rivals out of the playoffs! Do your friend and former Chiefs assistant Doug Pederson a solid, Matt Nagy!
Let’s go Bears!
4 - Big Balls Doug is back
Great to see Doug Pederson getting back to being aggressive.
The Eagles scored a touchdown on their first fourth down conversion attempt and almost had another if not for Dallas Goedert slipping with open field in front of him. It was clear that Pederson’s aggressive mentality gave the Eagles an edge in this game.
Contrast his style to Bill O’Brien’s cowardly decision to punt on a 4th-and-2 from the 50-yard line when the game was tied at 16-16. BOB “flipped the field” for a net gain of 33 yards. That really made a difference as Foles connected with Nelson Agholor on a 83-yard touchdown just one play later!
This wasn’t a perfect game by Pederson. But it was certainly a good one.
Again, you have to give Doug credit for how he has this team playing down the stretch. It’s not just about Foles. The entire team is really putting forth great effort. Pederson is coaching these guys up.
“These guys never quit,” said Pederson after the game. “They don’t quit, and it would have been easy today just to kind of let your guard down at the end and not finish the game. But again, kind of goes back to your question, just it’s a veteran group, resilient group.”
“They hang together, and they find a way to win and as a head coach, that’s all you can ask for, really.”
5 - Zach Ertz is a record breaker
With 113 catches on the season, Zach Ertz moved ahead of Jason Witten as the NEW record holder for single season receptions by a tight end. With one regular season game left to play, Ertz can make it even harder for someone to break his record in the future.
Also, as long as he stays healthy and on the roster, it’s pretty clear Ertz is going to be this team’s new franchise leader in receptions one day. He’ll move into second place next season. Stud.
EAGLES ALL-TIME RECEPTIONS— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 23, 2018
1 - Harold Carmichael (589)
2 - Pete Retzlaff (452)
3 - Zach Ertz (434)
4 - Brian Westbrook (426)
On a side note: the narrative that Wentz only locks in to Ertz and Foles distributes the ball more evenly doesn’t really hold up. Ertz had 16 targets from Foles in this game! Wentz was throwing to Ertz a lot this year because the tight end is very good, not just for the sake of force feeding the ball.
6 - Waiting for Darren Sproles was worth it
The Eagles did a good job by not preemptively shutting down Sproles for the season. It’s a bummer they had to wait for him as long as they did but it’s clear that it was ultimately worth it. Even at 35 years old, Sproles is still one of the best weapons on this offense.
Mighty Mouse finished the game with nine carries for 32 yards (team high 3.6 average), three receptions for 76 yards and one touchdown, and one punt return for 11 yards. He’s so freaking unstoppable on the wheel route, and he knows it. There was one point in the game where Sproles picked up a nice gain and seemingly yelled to the sideline “GIVE ME THE F***ING BALL!” Sure enough, the Eagles went to Sproles and he torched the Texans defense for a 37-yard gain.
With one regular season game left to play, Sproles is 200 all-purpose yards shy of tying the all-time career record. He probably won’t get it done, but it’d be pretty awesome if he did.
Or maybe he does it next year? Is he truly going to retire after this season if he can clearly still play?
While we’re on the running backs: it’s time to cut down on the Josh Adams touches. Adams had the hand prior to last week’s game but in the past two weeks he’s rushed 26 times for 49 yards (1.88 average). His fumble late in today’s game ultimately opened the door for the Texans to take the lead late in the game. Adams doesn’t need to be phased out entirely but he should see some kind of reduction if he’s not going to be effective.
7 - Nelson Agholor CAN be a deep threat
Agholor isn’t typically thought of as a deep threat but he reminded us he has that capability on Sunday. No. 13 did a great job of tracking a beauty of a deep ball from Foles and taking it to the house. It’s not like Agholor burned some scrub on that play, either. He beat the Honey Badger himself: Tyrann Mathieu.
Watching this play reminded me of the Agholor I saw in training camp: a guy who was burning defenders with his speed more than ever. It’d be nice to see Agholor continue to be utilized as a deep threat.
8 - Chris Long is invaluable
Chris Long made a shrine to Nick Foles this week. It paid off.
Chris Long on the Nick Foles shrine in his locker:— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 23, 2018
“Well, I have to take a little credit for the shrine. You all are looking at me crazy, but I think that’s what put us over the top.”#Eagleshttps://t.co/mq4Q4WCh2q
The veteran pass rusher had a fantastic game. Long notched three quarterback hits, two solo tackles, two sacks, one tackle for loss, and one forced fumble. His strip-sack allowed the Eagles to take a 29-16 lead. Pivotal play.
Long is an amazing dude both on and off the field. He’ll be missed when he’s gone.
9 - The Eagles are finishing the season strong
Things weren’t looking so great after the Eagles lost to the Cowboys in Week 14. It looked like the season was going to end on a whimper.
Now there’s a real good chance the Eagles will finish the year at 9-7. We’ll see if they make the playoffs or not. If they don’t, it’s not like they had some disastrous year trying to defend their Super Bowl title.
I’m not sure how much late season momentum really carries into the next season. A lot of people said going 4-0 in the final four games of the 2011 season was really going to help in 2012. Well, it didn’t. The Eagles finished 4-12 that year and Andy Reid got fired.
In the short-term, it’s great to see the Eagles aren’t going down without a fight. They’ve at least found a way to make the season meaningful until Week 17. It’s not like we’ll have to watch a glorified preseason game in the regular season finale.
And if the Eagles DO make the playoffs, well, they just might be the team no one wants to play.
BONUS - NFL officiating still sucks
I didn’t want to have more than nine points in honor of Nick Foles but I couldn’t not touch on the AWFUL officiating in this game.
Alexis already touched on the bad roughing calls (HERE). I just can’t get over how the refs miss Foles getting both facemasked AND horse-collared on the same play. It’s not like the pocket was collapsing around Foles. Clowney just grabbed his facemask DIRECTLY in front of the ref. How do you miss that? What else are you looking at on that play?
As for Brandon Graham’s roughing penalty, I just don’t know what he’s supposed to do differently other than not touch the quarterback at all. With Michael Bennett’s BS roughing from earlier this year, I can at least understand why that stupid penalty is called. Bennett barely touched Kirk Cousins low but he did get him there. In this case, Graham seemed to hit Deshaun Watson in a fair area. And yet he was penalized ... but Clowney can murder Foles and it’s fine. At least be consistent!
But whatever. The Eagles beat the Texans AND the refs on Sunday.