And So It Ends

Posted: January 13th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

This was one of the weirdest, wildest football seasons I’ve ever been a part of.

The Eagles looked terrible at times, but came together late and made us all believe. They got us to buy in and think another run just might be possible.

In the end, there were just too many injuries to overcome.

I feel terrible for Alshon Jeffery. He’s been nothing short of great for the Eagles since coming here, but had the ball go through his hands to seal tonight’s loss.

The 2018 Eagles were absolutely maddening at times. Blowing the late leads against CAR and TEN left me as frustrated and angry as I’ve been in a long time. Seeing this team beat the Rams, Texans and Bears made me love this bunch.

Give the coaching staff a ton of credit. They had to deal with injuries in a way that I’ve never seen. Players coming and going, sometimes within games. The scouting department deserves a ton of credit as well. Finding guys like Cre’Von LeBlanc made a real difference.

Somehow this team stuck together, showing incredible toughness from a physical, mental and emotional standpoint.

Losing to the Saints hurts because the game was there for the taking, but I leave the 2018 season proud of what I saw from the players and coaches. They dealt with tremendous adversity, but found a way to stay a family and win games.

It was fun to believe in FolesMagic right up until the end.

I expect big things next year. Let’s get these guys healthy and add some talent.

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Game Preview – PHI at NO

Posted: January 13th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

There are a lot of storylines for today.

Can the Eagles get revenge for the November beatdown the Saints put on them?

Can Nick Foles keep working his magic?

Can the Eagles keep their hot streak (4 in a row and 6 of the last 7) going?

Most important, can the Eagles advance another round in the playoffs? Set all the stories aside. This is a playoff game. Survive and advance. That is the message Doug Pederson is preaching to his players. All the other angles are mostly background noise.

Win. This. Game.

I wrote a preview for PE.com.

If you want to boil things down to the simplest level, the Eagles must win the line of scrimmage. They didn’t do that in November and the scoreboard shows that.

The good news is that the Eagles are a very different team right now. The offensive line is healthy and playing really well. Just ask Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt, Ryan Kerrigan and Khalil Mack.

The defensive line is playing their best football of the year. The return of Tim Jernigan has helped a lot. The Eagles finally can do something if you double Fletcher Cox. Haloti Ngata is healthy as well and contributing. Over the last month, the Eagles have the best run defense in the league. That’s not an accident.

The Saints were the best team in the league this year. It takes a total team effort to beat them. The defense must make plays. The offense must sustain drives and score TDs. Your STs must do their part.

Look at the three losses and you’ll see a couple of common denominators. The Saints lost the time of possession battle in each of those games. The team also had turnovers in each of the games.

I wrote yesterday about how the Eagles need to play the run well. Drew Brees might be the heart and soul of the team, but you must stop their run game. If the Saints can run the ball, that makes Brees and the passing game deadly. A big part of handling the run is simply tackling well. The Eagles didn’t do that in November. That must change in today’s game.

Are the Saints ready for this game? They rested players in the season finale and had last week off. In Saturday’s games, rest proved to be more of a factor than rust. We’ll see if that holds true today. The Eagles have been in playoff mode for a while so they should absolutely be ready.

The Eagles don’t need to be perfect, but they cannot make the amount of mistakes they did last week. They must play a cleaner game. They must make plays when they have the chance.

The Eagles have been winning the line of scrimmage in recent weeks. They also have been making key plays at the most opportune times.

I think that continues today.

*****

Aditi is at today’s game. Did she bring some good history with her?

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Running Men

Posted: January 12th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 7 Comments »

The Eagles and Saints have met three times in the playoffs over the years.

The Eagles beat the Saints in New Orleans in a wild card game after the 1992 season. That is one of my favorite Eagles games ever. Seth was outstanding. Randall threw a couple of glorious bombs to Arkansas Fred for long TDs. Reggie sacked Bobby Hebert for a safety late in the game and life was good.

The teams also met in 2006 and 2013. New Orleans won both those games.

One of the big reasons why…the Eagles couldn’t stop the run. The Saints fan for 208 yards in the 2006 win and 185 in 20-13. That is dreadful run defense.

The Saints ran for 173 yards in the November shellacking of the Eagles. That has me wondering if Jim Schwartz will make run defense a real key for this game.

It is easy to throw all the attention to Drew Brees. He is headed to the Hall of Fame and is one of the greatest QBs in league history. But all QBs tend to play better when they have a good run game. Take his away and let’s see what happens.

Brees is also in a bit of a slump.

It goes beyond numbers as well.

Read the article and Doug points out some plays where Brees is making bad throws due to poor mechanics. That’s not like him at all. Brees is one of the most consistent QBs in the league, in terms of his mechanics and his production.

Even with Brees cooling off a bit, the idea of putting the game in his hands may seem crazy. But history would disagree. When Brees throws 40 or more passes in the postseason, he’s 1-6.

Have him throw 40 or fewer passes and he is 6-0. Wow.

There is one caveat. The only game Brees won while throw more than 40 passes came against Jim Schwartz. The Saints beat the Lions 45-28 in 2011. Schwartz was the head coach, but you know he had a lot to do with that defense. They were gouged for 626 yards that day. Ugh. To be fair, the Lions gave up 550 yards to the Packers and backup QB Matt Flynn in the season finale so that defense was really starting to fall apart.

Let’s say Schwartz does decide to focus on stopping the Saints run game. How?

The return of Tim Jernigan and Haloti Ngata getting healthy will make a difference. You can’t expect Fletcher Cox to do it all on the inside. He needs help.

The improvement of Nigel Bradham will help. He was outstanding last week. I don’t know what has happened to him in recent games, but Bradham suddenly looks like the stud he was last year. Maybe the training staff finally gave him the Funyuns therapy I’ve been telling them about all year. The NFL doesn’t have rules against Performance Enhancing Snacks.

The Eagles played mainly dime defense last week and it worked really well. The Saints have physical RBs so I wonder if Schwartz will go with a nickel look this time out. The Saints don’t have a ton of speed on offense so there is something to be said for this.

Schwartz has seen Dallas shut down the Saints. He saw the Panthers hold them to 12 points. He needs to steal an idea or two from those games. The Eagles don’t need to shut down the Saints. They need to slow them down. If you can keep to less than 24 points, the Eagles have a great chance to win this game. That’s a big if to be sure.

The Eagles secondary is playing better but they still have issues.

What do you do with Jones? Or do you just use him for depth and on STs. I know plenty of fans are down on Jones right now. Let’s see him get healthy and really show what he can do before we write him off. He’s looked very good at times. The potential is there.

One reason to stick with Maddox-LeBlanc-Douglas is because of tackling. Those guys can all tackle well. That’s going to be critical. Jones played LCB in the first Saints game and missed Mark Ingram early. That became a 38-yard run. The current corners aren’t perfect by any stretch, but they haven’t missed many tackles. That does make a difference.

Schwartz and the coaching staff have some interesting decisions to make…strategy, scheme, personnel.

Let’s hope they come up with the right answers.

*****

One area where I feel like the Eagles have a clear advantage is mood. The Eagles are a loose team. That can help a lot in the postseason, where there is tremendous pressure.

I don’t have a great feel for the Saints, but things do seem a bit different with them. They played like a nervous team down the stretch. They scored at least 21 points a game for the first 11 weeks. In three of the last five games, they were at 14 points or less.

All the pressure is on New Orleans. They’re the top seed. They have the Hall of Fame QB. They’re supposed to win.

https://twitter.com/JamieApody/status/1083857603590000640

Maybe that’s a brilliant motivational ploy. Just feels weird to me.

Eagles players get excited for dog masks, ski masks and ice cream. There is a natural joy to this bunch and that shows on the field.

*****

Very cool.

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Captain Calm

Posted: January 10th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

John Elway’s arm. Joe Montana’s leadership. Randall Cunningham’s mobility. Peyton Manning’s brain. Tom Brady’s competitive spirit. Michael Vick’s speed. Dan Marino’s quick release. Aaron Rodgers ability to create. Drew Brees accuracy.

You could build one heck of a QB if you could combine all of that into one player.

You might also want something from Nick Foles. No, not that. I’m talking about his ability to stay calm, even in the most pressure-packed situations.

That’s a pretty brilliant way of putting it.

One of the few weak spots for Carson Wentz is that he’s too aggressive in tough situations. He can force things, rather than just finding the open guy and getting him the ball. That’s really all being a clutch QB requires. Stay calm. Find the open guy. Make a good throw.

Clearly that’s much harder than it sounds, but it can be simple if you can have that mentality when you’re on the field. And that’s part of Foles magic.

This is absolutely fantastic.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1083405427717459968

That is 8 minutes of pure heaven.

I have no idea how Foles will do on Sunday, but I do know this. If the game is close in the fourth quarter, every Eagles player will believe they’re going to win and every Saints player will be scared to death of Foles. Until someone stops him, his late game voodoo has to be something on the minds of opponents.

Foles is just more than a late-game hero. He’s playing really well right now.

Foles is getting rid of the ball quickly most of the time, but also mixing in some aggressive downfield throws. He’s taking calculated chances.

Foles is spreading the ball around. Get open and he’ll get you the ball. Foles doesn’t care who it goes to.

There were a couple of bad picks in the Chicago game. Give the LB credit for making a really good play, even if Foles should have made a better throw. The pick in the end zone was just terrible. Foles didn’t bury his head. He didn’t panic. He kept right on playing and made some clutch throws after that.

Foles really does live in the moment and that is a big part of his success. He doesn’t get too high or too low. He stays focused.

He stays calm.

*****

Want some stats to make you feel better about Sunday?

I am really excited for Sunday’s game. The Saints might wipe the field with the Eagles. They had the best record in the NFL so there would be no shame in losing to them.

But this Eagles team is starting to make me believe. They’re flawed, but they do seem to have a bit of magic.

I look forward to finding out if the Eagles can win the toughest game of the year.

*****

The Saints do have a banged up OL, as Jimmy Bama points out. That could be critical on Sunday.

If you can pressure Drew Brees, things change in a hurry.

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Early Points Matter

Posted: January 10th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Stats can be deceiving. The Eagles are undefeated this year when they run the ball 27 or more times. So just run it a bunch, right?

Wrong. When the Eagles run that much, it usually means they have a fourth quarter lead and they’re trying to work the clock. While the stat is true, the reasoning behind it doesn’t work the way so many think.

Some stats are not deceiving.

You can update that to 19-0 now.

But what does this stat mean? What does it really tell us?

The Eagles are probably going to have two possessions in the first quarter of an average game. If the offense goes and gets points, that means one of several things.

Good gameplan – Doug Pederson and his staff scouted the defense and came up with the right formula to beat them. Their ideas are working. That usually translates to a good overall showing.

Big play – Maybe Nick Foles hit Alshon Jeffery or Nelson Agholor for a big gain or even a long TD. The Eagles tend to do pretty well when they come up with big plays.

Hot players – There are times when the offense comes out and is just in a groove. The QB is hot, the line is blocking well and the skill players make plays. It is extremely encouraging when you see this.

Field position – Either the defense or STs made a big play to put the Eagles in or near scoring territory. Another good sign.

There is also the possibility of the defense or STs scoring a return TD, although neither has happened this year. It becomes a lot easier to win games when you get non-offensive points.

Getting early points isn’t so much about playing with a lead, as keeping the game close and having the right frame of mind. If you fall behind by two possessions, it affects the confidence and mentality of a football team. If you’re down 7-3 or 10-7, no biggie. Just get the ball back to the offense and let’s see what happens.

There is also the old axiom that the first points are the hardest to score. George Blanda used to tell that to John Madden. Blanda was a veteran player with the Raiders when Madden got hired as part of the coaching staff. Blanda offered advice to the young coach and Madden listened. The longer a team sees a goose-egg on the scoreboard, the more it messes with their heads.

When the Eagles score early, it helps their confidence. It helps them to feel good about themselves, the gameplan and matchups with the opponent. It does make a difference.

The flip side is that when the Eagles don’t score early, it is going to be a tough day. Points are going to be challenging.

The coaches want to score on every possession so they’re not doing anything different to get points early in a game. The plan varies from opponent to opponent. Running. Throwing. Quick passes. Deep passes. They have to figure out what they think will work that day. And we know Pederson is an aggressive coach so it isn’t like he’s sometimes focused on the run game and field position. He wants to score every time his guys get the ball.

It will be interesting to see if the Eagles score early on Sunday…and if the stat then holds up.

*****

I went back and re-watched part of the Saints game.

The Saints were up 17-0 early. The Eagles then had a good drive to cut it to 17-7. The Eagles stopped the Saints and got the ball back. They drove to midfield and had a 3rd/3 play.

Stefen Wisniewski failed to block someone and Carson Wentz got sacked. If Wiz makes that block, Wentz had someone running wide open. If the Eagles make that game 17-14 or even 17-10, I don’t think things snowball and completely get away from them.

Jim Schwartz talked about how you can watch plays at the very end of a game and know their impact, but it is much harder to know the impact of plays from the middle of the game. This is so true with the sack on third down. If Wiz makes the block, that could have changed the whole game.

The Saints are likely to still win. They were the better team that day. But that mistake just deflated the Eagles. And the Saints went and scored another TD to go up 24-7.

This is a very different Eagles team. I think this is going to be a tight game on Sunday. The Saints aren’t operating at peak efficiency on offense and the Eagles are not going to crumble the way they did in November.

Can the Eagles get enough stops and score enough points to win? That’s the real question.

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