I’ve mentioned the Skins 2012 season as fool’s gold in some recent posts. During the offseason, Jimmy Bama wrote about how some luck was involved in their 7-game win streak. A couple of people have wondered if the Eagles could be in a similar situation this year.
First, I do appreciate the line of thinking. I’m loving the fact the Eagles are winning right now, but I have no problem with trying to figure out how much of this is good football and how much is luck. I’ll enjoy the winning no matter what, but I am curious about the future.
I think the Eagles are much different than the Skins. Let’s take a look at the 2 situations.
* Started 3-6, then won 7 games in a row.
* The Skins beat Nick Foles in his first ever NFL start. They later beat him in his 6th start.
* The Skins beat a 5-11 CLE team.
* The Skins swept Dallas, a team that was missing a ton of key players in each game.
* They beat a banged up Ravens team in OT.
* 4 of the games were at home. The road games were at CLE, at PHI and at DAL. Very favorable schedule.
* WAS only played one team with a Top 12 offense (Dallas). They didn’t play anyone with a Top 12 defense.
* This was Year 3 for the Skins under Mike Shanahan. He did have a rookie QB and RB, but Shanny had been building the team up for a couple of years. The OL still wasn’t good at pass protection. RG3 made up for a some poor blocking. He also made a good running offense into a great running offense. In the one game with Cousins at QB, the Skins ran for their 2nd lowest total of the year. And that was against a Browns team that didn’t play the run well. The only team to truly shut down the run with RG3 was PIT, which had the #2 run defense in the league.
The defense was awful. They were 22nd in Points and 28th in Yards. The Skins were middle of the pack in plays so it wasn’t as if the offense scored so quickly the defense got stuck on the field. The Skins were tied for 26th in yards per play. They were dead last in 3rd down defense. They were 17th in Red Zone defense. They were 5th in run defense, but that’s largely due to the fact that teams chose to throw the ball on their awful secondary.
* The Skins had a bunch of takeaways. And not just any takeaways. They had 5 TD drives of 25 yards or less. They were getting the ball in great field position.
* Started 3-5. Have won 5 in a row since then.
* Got lucky in missing Aaron Rodgers, Andre Ellington and Reggie Bush.
* Played winning teams in ARZ and DET. The Lions were leading the NFC North at the time of the game.
* Won in OAK and GB. Those aren’t good teams, but they are difficult places to play.
* The team is in Chip Kelly’s first year. This is still very much a team in transition.
* The offense is one of the best in the NFL. They lead the league in rushing. Nick Foles leads the league in QB rating. The Eagles lead the league in explosive plays and are on pace to have one of the highest totals ever.
The defense is down at 30th in Yards allowed. They are up at 13th in Points allowed. They are 6th in RZ defense. They are 5th in takeaways. The Eagles are tied for 17th in yards per play. The defense gives up a ton of yards because they face more plays than any other team. The Eagles have almost played 2 more games than teams in the middle of the league in plays faced.
* The Eagles have faced 3 Top 12 offenses. To be fair, GB is one of them and they had a first time player at QB. They faced one Top 12 defense – Arizona. The Raiders were up in that area at the time the Eagles played them, but they’re now down lower.
* The Eagles have gotten plenty of takeaways, but they aren’t generating points. Several of the takeaways came in the Red Zone, so they prevented points rather than creating them.
* The Eagles defense has kept the last 9 opponents to 21 or fewer points. That goes beyond luck.
We won’t know anything for sure until we see how the Eagles finish this season and then play next year, but I do think this is a better team than the Skins were/are. There are some similarities to the late winning streaks, but the Eagles are stronger along the LOS and have better young talent. I think that will help the Eagles stay good.
* * * * *
Back to the earlier Nick Foles discussion we had.
I didn’t communicate very well when I talked about wanting to see him tested by certain game situations. Some of you got the impression that I had very specific things I had to see before I could like Foles or think of him as a good player. That’s not the case.
Nick Foles has been terrific for the Eagles this year. He’s impressed all of us. I’m as happy as anyone by his development.
That said, I’m trying to judge him the way that I would a QB for another team. If Foles played for Dallas, you bet I wouldn’t be the only person wondering about different aspects to his game. We’d all be highly suspicious of this 3rd round pick that was leading the league in QB rating.
My point in wanting to see Foles deal with a 4th quarter deficit isn’t that somehow that is a test that will provide a definitive answer on whether he’s the right QB or not. That would simply give us more information in regard to what he can and can’t do.
We aren’t going to know if Foles is good enough to win a Super Bowl until he actually wins the Super Bowl. After all, there are Hall of Fame QBs who never won the big game.
One of the characteristics with QBs who do win the Super Bowl is that they can come alive in desperate situations. You never feel safe with a lead on Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. It would be great if Foles could play well all game long for every game, but that’s not realistic. We know there will be one week when he’s struggling and the Eagles are down 10 or 14 points with 10 minutes left in the game. Can Foles lead the team to points in a critical situation like that?
Foles helped in Sunday’s win by making some key throws in the 2nd half. He did lead a late comeback last year against Tampa. That was good, but Tampa was a bad team that also had the worst pass defense in the league. There was nothing on the line for the Eagles since the team was dreadful at that point. Foles was terrific, but you do have to factor in the circumstances. Let’s see him do that against a team with an average pass defense in a game that means something.
Some of you see me as being overly harsh. I’ve said this over and over, but it bears repeating. I love Foles and how he’s played, but my goal is to win a Super Bowl. I’m not looking for a pretty good QB. I’m looking for someone that looks like he’s capable of winning critical games down the stretch and in the postseason. I want a QB who can be great, but also handle difficult situations when they happen. One such situation is dealing with a 4th quarter deficit in a tough game.
Just because Foles failed to wake up and get going in the first Dallas game doesn’t mean I’m done with him. He might fail the next time the Eagles trail by 10 in the 4th quarter. That’s okay too. I’m only going to get worried when this becomes a regular pattern. The flip side is true as well. One comeback doesn’t mean Foles is set to be a great QB. It just shows that he can handle that particular situation.
As I mentioned earlier, we won’t know about Foles as a postseason QB until we see him actually play in that situation. Hopefully that will happen this year.
We might not really know about Foles for the next 4 or 5 years. Every game that goes by…every year…we’ll get another hint as to how good he can be. We’d all love answers, but for now we have to settle for hints.
I hope that makes more sense.