Just How Different

Posted: January 9th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

Back in November, the 4-5 Eagles went down to New Orleans to take on the 8-1 Saints. It wasn’t much of a game. At the end of the first quarter, the Eagles had 15 yards. The Saints had 10 points. They went on to win the game 48-7.

Sometimes blowouts can be deceiving because of crazy turnovers or fluke plays. That wasn’t one of those times. That was a total butt-kicking.

The teams will meet again on Sunday. This time it is the postseason and things will be different.

Since that woeful day, the Eagles are 6-1 and one of the hottest teams in the league. The Saints went 4-2. To be fair, their loss in the season finale came with some backups on the field so that’s not a true indication of the team’s performance. Still, the huge blowouts and crazy games ended with the Eagles. The Saints were different down the stretch.

Before we get too excited about the Saints struggling, we need to acknowledge that no team could continue at their early pace. In six of the first 10 games, the Saints scored 40 or more points. To put that in perspective, the Chiefs explosive offense had five games of 40 or more points for the whole season.

The Saints are no longer an amazing juggernaut, but they are still very good.

The Eagles are no longer mediocre. They are now a good team. I guess the real question is just how different are the teams from then to now.

The Eagles look worlds different to me. The offensive line is healthy and in a groove right now. Lane Johnson looks like the best RT in football, as he did last year. Jason Peters is playing like a man desperate to keep winning playoff games.

The D-line is improved. Tim Jernigan missed the first game. He’s now healthy and starting. Haloti started back in November, but wasn’t healthy so he made little impact. He is healthy now and really contributing. Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Michael Bennett and Chris Long are in a groove.

Nigel Bradham is coming off his best game of the year. He looked like the Nigel of 2017. We’ve missed that guy.

The secondary actually has…stability. And even some…ability. That’s very different than the first meeting. Rasul Douglas is playing the best football of his young career. Cre’Von LeBlanc has found a home in the slot and is making a case to keep the job into the future. Avonte Maddox is playing well on the outside. The Bears did attack him with fakes and double-moves, but Maddox can learn from that.

Malcolm Jenkins is still his old self. Corey Graham has played better down the stretch. Having good players around him makes a difference. And Tre Sullivan actually looks like a solid role player. Jim Schwartz can use a Nickel or Dime package and feel good about it. He’s got competent DBs.

As for the Foles factor, I don’t know what to say. He was up and down against the Bears great defense, but made the key plays and won. Foles should be happy to see the Saints. They have a good defense, but nothing like the Bears.

Jim Schwartz made a great point in his press conference today. The first game really doesn’t mean anything. The score will be 0-0 on Sunday. The past is the past. The Saints might have confidence based on the first game, but the Eagles will have motivation. I’m not sure who that favors.

I’m really curious to see how this game plays out. The Eagles have beaten the Rams, Texans and Bears in recent weeks. The Eagles won’t be scared of anyone. The Saints had some ugly games late in the season and rested players in the finale. Can they flip the switch and get right back into Hot Team Mode?

We’ll find out a lot about both teams on Sunday.

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Sloppy Football

Posted: January 7th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Eagles made clutch plays in their win over the Bears. But they also made a lot of mistakes. They were able to get away with that in Chicago, but must play smarter football from here on out if they want to keep advancing.

Let’s take a look at some of the problems.

Offside on punt return – LaRoy Reynolds was called offside on a Bears punt. Not a big deal, just five yards right? Wrong. The ball had gone into the endzone, meaning the Eagles would get the ball at the 20-yard line. The Bears punted again and this was downed at the 1.

Ugh.

The Bears had the top defense in the league. This was one team you didn’t want to be backed up against. The Eagles went 3 and out. The defense then got a 3 & out of their own. The ensuing punt also pinned the Eagles deep.

Field position is critical in a defensive struggle. Jumping offside to rush a punt is just dumb.

Not fielding a punt – Darren Sproles didn’t help matters when he failed to catch a punt. I’m not sure if he lost it in the lights or what, but he hesitated and then just let it hit. That cost the Eagles about 10 yards.

Catch the friggin’ ball – I’m not going to complain about receivers dropping passes or DBs not making spectacular sideline grabs. But Tre Sullivan had a ball thrown right to him in the endzone. He dropped it. The Bears got a FG on that drive.

Sullivan’s drop could have been the difference in the game. When QBs make a mistake and throw the ball right to you, catch it. You must make them pay.

Don’t throw it to them –  Nick Foles has been great recently, but he threw a couple of bad picks. The first was a short pass to Wendell Smallwood. Bears LB Roquan Smith read the route and went for the ball. Smallwood was trying to catch it when Smith stole the ball away. Foles needed to put the ball more to the outside, away from the LB.

The second pick was just terrible. Foles got pressure and rolled right. Instead of throwing the ball away, he forced it into heavy coverage in the endzone. There was one Eagle and half the Bears.

To make matters worse, both picks came in scoring territory. You can’t give away points against a team like the Bears.

Don’t be an idiot – Michael Bennett has been terrific for the Eagles this year. He is very disruptive and has made some big plays. He made a costly mistake on Sunday. The Eagles had gotten a third down stop when Bennett got baited by an OL. They got into a shoving match and Bennett is the one who got called for the penalty.

Ugh.

I was screaming at the TV “That is so Seattle.” The Seahawks were undisciplined and always seemed to be in dumb little shoving matches. Bennett hasn’t done that stuff in Philly. Until Sunday.

The penalty kept a drive alive and it ended up with a Chicago FG. Three-point mistake.

Gotta get ’em – Daeshon Hall had a chance to tackle Tarik Cohen on the KOR at the end of the game. Great effort by Hall, but Cohen got away. That almost turned out to be a crushing mistake.

The brick wall – Doug Pederson called too many run plays. The Eagles weren’t getting any movement in the run game. Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman were a brick wall. You don’t want to give up the run completely, but Pederson admitted he probably should have run less on first downs.

******

I’m sure some of you have questions about coverage mistakes. It can be tough to know who to blame on some of those.

******

The Eagles were too sloppy, but they still found a way to win. That says a lot about this team.

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Just Enough

Posted: January 7th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

Style points don’t matter in the postseason, only real points. The Eagles beat the Bears 16-15 on Sunday evening, overcoming some key mistakes and sloppy play. It was anything but beautiful. Still, this is January and all that matters is advancing.

The Eagles are still alive.

Where do you start with a game like this? Nick Foles is the man everyone talks about so let’s begin with him. He threw two TD passes. He also threw two interceptions, with one of them being an absolutely terrible decision. You can argue that both picks cost the Eagles points. This wasn’t Hall of Fame Foles.

To be fair, the Bears were the best defense he’s played in a long time, maybe ever. They made life tough on Foles.

But when the Eagles got the ball back with 4:48 left in the game, down 15-10, I don’t think anyone doubted that a TD was coming. Foles has inspired that kind of confidence in his coaches, teammates and certainly Eagles fans. Sure enough, Foles marched the Eagles 60 yards in 12 plays. On fourth and goal, Foles rolled to his right and hit Golden Tate for the winning score.

Amazing.

The Eagles then made things more complicated than anyone would have wanted. Tarik Cohen got out of a tackle by Daeshon Hall and returned the kickoff 35 yards. Bears QB Mitchll Trubisky completed two passes for 33 yards to get the Bears into FG range. And then this happened.

That is great radio, by the way.

As it turns out, Parkey missed the kick for a reason.

Backup DT Treyvon Hester got a hand on it and that pushed the ball off-target.

Amazing.

This was a game with a lot of heroes. Nigel Bradham played his best game of the year. He had 7 solo tackles, 2 TFLs and 2 pass deflections. The entire defense tackled really well. The Bears didn’t have short throws or runs turning into big plays. Cre’Von LeBlanc made a few key plays. He might be earning the nickel spot for 2019 with the way he’s playing.

The O-line shut down Khalil Mack. He had a TFL, but no sacks and no big plays. Alshon Jeffery had 6 catches for 82 yards and made some clutch grabs. Dallas Goedert caught a TD pass in the third quarter and had a critical catch and run on the go-ahead drive. Jordan Matthews drew a long PI call that set up Goedert’s TD.

The Eagles beat the Falcons 15-10 in the playoffs a year ago. They downed the Bears 16-15. The Eagles can win tough, defensive battles. This team can look pedestrian at times, but they keep games close and then make enough key plays to win.

They’ll obviously need to play a lot better to beat the Saints next Sunday (4:40 pm kickoff).

For now the Eagles can feel good about themselves. They went on the road to play a 12-4 team with the best defense in the league.

And they won.

*****

Field position was a major issue in the game. The Eagles had five drives start at their own 17-yard line or worse. You aren’t going to put a lot of 80-yard drives against a team like the Bears.

The Eagles had some blame in the field position, but give the Bears punter a lot of credit. Pat O’Donnell was putting balls in tough spots. Thankfully he did have one bad punt. That came at the end of the game and helped the Eagles start the winning drive from near midfield.

*****

I’ll do a separate post on the mistakes from the game. There are plenty to analyze and dig into. For now, let’s enjoy the win.

*****

Jason Peters got his first ever playoff win. So did Jordan Hicks.

Darren Sproles won his first playoff game as an Eagle.

And the legend of Nick Foles continues to grow.

*****

Let’s make sure to give Jim Schwartz plenty of credit. He caught a lot of flak early in the year when things weren’t going well.

His defense, with a patchwork secondary, gave up 15 points tonight.

The man can coach.

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Fantastic Finish

Posted: January 6th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Fantastic Finish

Doink.

Doink, pt 2.

What a finish. You had to flashback to 2013. The Saints had a long kickoff return and then kicked a field goal to beat the Eagles in a wild card game.

The Bears got a long KOR and then moved down inside the Eagles 30-yard line. Ugh. It was going to be deja vu all over again.

But then Cody Parkey hit the upright with his 43-yard FG attempt. The ball fell downward and then hit the crossbar. Initially I couldn’t tell what happened. Then you could see the ball on the ground.

Eagles win!!!

I don’t know that I can think of a similar finish right off hand. I’ll have to really turn on the old brain to see if anything comes to mind.

It wasn’t pretty, but Nick Foles and the offense made clutch plays to win the game 16-15. The Eagles had to overcome some bad mistakes to win the game. In a way, that might have been important. This wasn’t a smooth win. In a game where a lot of things go right, you can get a false read on your team.

The Eagles will be confident after this win, but they also will understand they need to play a lot better if they want to win in New Orleans.

There are a lot of heroes after a wild win like this. Lots of guys made key plays and helped the Eagles win.

FolesMagic lives for another week. And this team showed they are legit. That’s the third win over a division winner in the last four weeks. Two of the games have been on the road.

Keep believing and enjoying the wild ride.

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Game Preview – PHI at CHI

Posted: January 6th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Game Preview – PHI at CHI

Playoff football.

There is nothing like it. You win or go home. There is no best of seven. One game decides your fate.

Today the Eagles go to Chicago to take on the Bears, winners of the NFC North. On paper, the Bears should win. They had the better season. The best individual unit in the game is their defense and it’s not even close. They’re the home team and the healthier team.

But…things are not always as they appear. In my game preview for PE.com, I talked about how you have to focus on recent weeks. The Eagles are getting healthier and playing their best football of the year. Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky has been struggling with a shoulder injury.

Over the past six weeks, these teams are pretty even.

The Eagles can absolutely win this game. The key for them is to avoid turnovers and win the line of scrimmage. If the Bears front four isn’t blocked, game over. Nick Foles isn’t going to make enough plays with his legs to overcome the pass rush. If the Eagles OL blocks well and Foles has time, he’ll get his receivers the football.

On D, the Eagles want to stuff the run and force Trubisky to beat them. He is mobile and will make some plays, but will that be enough?

The X-factor could be the weather. It is supposed to be about 37 degrees, with winds in the 15 to 25 mph range. Foles usually doesn’t excel in bad weather. The Eagles didn’t play any real cold weather games this year. Chicago played one, beating the Rams 15-6. That was some terrific defense, but not exactly a lot of offense.

Doug Pederson could turn to more of a short passing game if the wind is gusting. That means Golden Tate, Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz and Darren Sproles would need to be at their best. They would need to make plays after the catch.

Maybe Dallas Goedert will turn out to be a key player. If the Eagles go with two TEs a lot, Goedert would have plenty of chances to make plays. You know the Bears would focus on Ertz.

I’m excited to see what Pederson comes up with and how the players execute the plan.

I’m really interested to see the defense. You can’t make too much of the Skins game because that offense was so awful, but 89 yards? That’s crazy good. The Eagles defense could be hitting their stride at the perfect time. Bennett and Cox are going to be a handful to deal with.

I’m expecting a tough defensive struggle. I think the Eagles will make more key plays and find a way to win.

*****

I thought this was pretty funny.

https://twitter.com/shamus_clancy/status/1081927688221265920

William Perry, Jim McMahon, Mike Ditka and Richard Dent were star players for the Bears. But more importantly, they were also Eagles.

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