The season was electric. Every game mattered — often too much, with too close a margin of victory, or too maddening a mistake at the end to give away the win. The players were inspired. Lane Johnson took every slight personally; Jalen Mills brought out a second season-saving mask; Nick Foles did what only he can do in the biggest moments. We watched the Philadelphia Eagles defend their first ever title with heart, with gratitude, and with fearlessness.
I could not be prouder to root for this squad.
I’m happy for Drew Brees and Drew Brees alone.
We are only one season removed from Alshon — injury-prone and once suspended — playing on a one-year prove-it deal. If you can remember back far enough, Alshon was pretty decently criticized in the early goings of 2017 — I was one such critic — as he transitioned onto the team.
Little did we know about the torn rotator cuff. Little did we know about what a security blanket he would become for Nick Foles; what a trusty sidekick he was in the hero story that number 9 wrote. And today — while we knew little about the broken ribs, we knew plenty about heroic sideline grabs, impossible body contortions, dominant play.
Alshon became everything the Eagles signed up for, and so much more. An avid Sixer fan, an impassioned force against his ex-team in the wild card round, and a quiet leader. Alshon is a winner, and he was told as such by every member of the team on the sideline after things just didn’t bounce his way.
Cox ends the year with career numbers in sacks, TFLs, QB hits, pressures — pretty much every interesting rush stat we have, Cox topped out on this season.
The effect of his play against the Saints was obvious — when he was in, he was home-wreckin’. Dude gutted it out with what is likely a significant foot injury, and deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the defensive stop that got the Eagles the ball back down 6 the first time.
Cox remains an elite player at the DT position, whose dominance is overshadowed by the otherworldly play of Aaron Donald on the Rams. The delta between the two is likely closer than we realize.
It’s easy to forget this: Pederson was hired first and foremost because of his relationships with players. His love for Alshon Jeffery on the sideline, telling him how proud he was of him, was a swift and forceful reminder. I don’t think there’s a coach in this league — the dispassionate Belichick, the youthful McVay, the wily Payton, the even-keeled Reid — who could have rallied this team the way Pederson has, twice in two postseasons.
We will remember him as a special coach.
Easy to blame Jim Schwartz for a lot of stuff. We’ve done it all year.
But 20 points is the lowest scoring total for the Saints at home this season, and they weren’t wanting for opportunities — they kicked two red zone field goals and got up against a 4th and goal on one touchdown drive.
Again, the main complaint must be those close-but-not-quites, as teams continue to convert 3rd and long and an outstanding rate against the Eagles, and they can never seem to get off the field late. But Schwartz looked down the barrel of yet another starter at CB — practice-squader Josh Hawkins — and didn’t even blink. His run defenses remain tremendously aggressive and his pass-rush creates high leverage plays. Schwartz is comfortably a Top-5 DC in the league.
Michael Thomas generally takes snaps all over the formation. For him to avoid Rasul Douglas by alignment speaks to how well 'Sul has been playing these last few weeks. pic.twitter.com/RjO8NyA6VA— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) January 14, 2019
Nobody better leveraged sudden playing time into a roster spot next year than LeBlanc — and plenty had their opportunities, too! While the early interception was more so the product of a poor throw than anything else, LeBlanc has proven for the past few weeks to be physical in the contact window, aggressive addressing the football at the catch point, and a willing tackler.
Where does LeBlanc fit on the team next season? It depends a bit on Ronald Darby, I suppose. An impeding free agent, Darby returning to the team next year would crowd the CB room (Darby, Mills, Jones, Douglas, Maddox) and Philadelphia would need a sixth CB spot to keep LeBlanc on.
If Darby walks, however, you can almost pen LeBlanc in for that spot.
Every time he hasn’t missed a kick this season, I’ve put him up here on the winner list, so.
My lucky Eagles Christmas sweater
Now 4-1 over its career
Man. Total devastation for a player who is the quiet stud on this squad. Every team has one and Brooks — so funny in the locker room, so blunt with the media — played at a level worthy of the recognition he didn’t receive this year. Now, he’s likely to miss out next season on Pro Bowl and All-Pro bids, as his earliest projected return date is October.
Brooks popped his right Achilles on a gut-wrenching play early, and the Eagles’ offense wasn’t the same after him. He’s only a loser because he was lost for the contest; in everything Brooks has done for this team, he’s a winner.
As much as I’m loathe to, I actually have to drop some analysis in the column.
Foles played a poor game on Sunday, and unlike the Bears game, his weapons weren’t enough to help him out. He pushed the ball downfield into tight windows with too much aggression, when he was previously so good at taking the easy stuff that defenses let develop short. He lost some of his touch outside the numbers, when previously he was magically accurate up against the sideline. He fell out of rhythm and touch every so often, which led to late and inaccurate balls against coverage that had rallied.
Foles leaves Philadelphia nothing short of a champion, and deserves better than my feeble loser column. His January legend will be told to children only second to that of the actual Saint Nick in December. His greatest play will always be remembered here, in midnight green, under the lights of the Linc that he loved so much.
What to do with myself
Now that Eagle football is over