People seem surprised that a divisional road game was way too close for comfort.
It’s almost like they forgot that the Giants were 0-2 when the Eagles need a 61-yard field goal to win the first matchup back in September.
That doesn’t excuse Sunday’s atrocious defensive performance, but we should all know better than to expect mid-December blowouts and we should probably just stay off of Twitter until the second half begins.
They came from behind to get the job done, just like last week. There’s a cornball saying about teams that find a way to win even when they don’t play well, and this squad fits the bill.
It was 20-7 Giants when LeGarrette Blount failed to convert a 4th and 1 and it looked like the Eagles were headed for a bitterly disappointing, dog shit loss. Then the defense came up with a key interception, the special teams unit blocked a punt, and the offense converted twice to make it a 21-20 game. What followed, then, was a back-and-forth second half where the Eagles simply made a few more plays than the Giants.
What now? It’s home against the Raiders, home against the Cowboys, home in the playoffs. If the Birds get it done on Jesus Christ’s birthday, they shouldn’t have to travel again until you know what game.
Buckle up and enjoy the ride. Stop being a whiner and celebrate your 12-2 football team.
1) Nick “The Franchise” Foles
24 for 38, 237 yards, four touchdowns, zero turnovers.
Yea, he misfired and double-clutched on a couple of looks, but that’s to be expected when starting your FIRST GAME OF THE YEAR ON THE ROAD AGAINST A DIVISION RIVAL WHILE BEING UNFAMILIAR WITH YOUR RECEIVERS.
They came out passing the ball to get him going early, which we all knew would happen. Any thoughts of going run heavy, which I doubt Pederson was going to do anyway, went right out the door when the Birds quickly found themselves playing from behind.
The offense really did not change at all with Foles in there.
They ran the run/pass option, sometimes effectively…
…and sometimes ineffectively:
The biggest positive, in my mind, is that Nick showed off a lot of the traits that make Carson Wentz effective. He shrugged off a defender with a head fake and step-through. He took hits in the pocket. He connected a few times while rolling right. He went through his progressions and picked out a variety of targets for scores, just like Carson. All four touchdowns were caught by a different player.
Sure, it’s only one game against a 2-11 team, but that performance should significantly assuage the concerns of fans who were ready to throw in the towel.
2) Giving credit where it’s actually due
I thought we might be in for a hell of a ride when Stefen Wisniewski was ruled out for this game, meaning that the Eagles were rolling out a backup quarterback playing behind a backup left tackle and backup left guard.
Chance Warmack started and did alright.
How many times did you hear his name called on the broadcast? How many times did you hear Big V’s name called?
The one that jumped out was this play, where Eagles’ Twitter was quick to pounce:
— Don Bell (@DonBellonCBS3) December 17, 2017
We’re always ready to jump on Vaitai when he does something wrong, as if the guy is gonna be perfect in every single game. He rightfully deserves criticism for that sequence.
But I didn’t see a lot of people giving him credit for this textbook block:
And I didn’t see a lot of people give him credit here either:
In fairness, they were probably focused on Jason Kelce pancaking a guy 20 yards from the line of scrimmage.
Yeah, Vaitai he got beat badly on the strip, but he was mostly sound otherwise, especially in the running game. And you have to consider that, when Jason Peters went out, they initially gave him help in the form of a tight end or RB to help on the left side. That’s been slowly drawn back every game since, to the point where he’s on his own for a lot of these plays.
The thing that annoys me is the bullshit cherry picking of negative plays because the guy is a backup. Then, when it comes to giving credit where it’s due, you don’t hear much at all, do you?
3) The screen game
Have we seen a lot of this in recent games? No, we really haven’t.
But Pederson used it effectively a few times in this game, with Kelce just putting on a clinic in the downfield blocking department, which you saw in the clip above.
This was another look, with acres of space and more linemen rumbling:
One of Wentz’s limitations, at least early in the year, was his touch on these types of plays. Foles wasn’t perfect on his screen deliveries yesterday, but he put the ball in the right spot and allowed his skill players to take it from there. They gashed the Giants a few times with well-timed and well-executed screens.
4) Adventures on special teams
The Birds’ special teams played a massive, monstrous, monumental role in the win.
About 85% of it was good and the other 15% was nerve-wracking:
- blocked field goal
- blocked punt
- blocked extra point
- 2/2 on field goals
- neutral zone infraction on a punt
- double-clutch on a Donnie Jones punt
- line drive Donnie J special on the final punt of the game
The neutral zone infraction was a killer, but special teams accounted for a four-point swing with the blocked FG and XP. The blocked punt led to a touchdown for the offense, so you could legitimately say the ST unit was responsible for a net of +11 points on the day.
When’s the last time a team ripped off a hat trick of blocks in one game?
Eagles PR, that’s your cue:
The @Eagles are the first @NFL team to block a punt, field goal and PAT in the same game since the Buffalo Bills on 11/24/91 at New England (blocked 2 FGs, 1 PAT and 1 punt). (@EliasSports)#FlyEaglesFly
— John Gonoude (@john_gonoude) December 17, 2017
5) The defense…
This requires its own 2,000 word video breakdown, and maybe we’ll do that Tuesday, or just say “fuck it” and move on.
The energy was lacking, the game-plan was kind of crappy, and the tackling was again subpar.
If you go back to the first Giants/Eagles game, you probably recall that the Eagles played soft and allowed easy underneath routes, since Chris Maragos and Rasul Douglas were forced into starts because of the absences of Ronald Darby, Corey Graham, and Rodney McLeod.
The game plan was to allow those short passes while not letting yourself get beat deep by Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall.
In this game, you saw a lot of the same, with Eli Manning throwing early, the Giants running up-tempo offense, and the Eagles playing with a big cushion:
Manning finished with 434 passing yards.
He only has two 300+ yards this season and both are against the Eagles.
With the Giants banged up and missing a bunch of key players offensively, they should have pressed these scrubs into oblivion. Instead they played soft coverage and got burned all over the field.
There were some positives, however, and Brandon Graham had a huge tackle for loss to complement a Darby first-half interception. They got enough stops to win the game, but hardly inspired in a woeful defensive performance.
6) Ref, you suck?
I didn’t spy a ton of bogus crapola from this crew, but the Giants clearly got away with a pick play on the second touchdown. Not like it matters, since the Eagles’ tackling was shambolic after the catch.
The other one that jumped out at me was the Nigel Bradham/Shane Vereen dust-up, where Bradham got the ole’ retaliation flag. That stuff drives me crazy. If you see two guys engaging in handbags like that, just flag ’em both, let the penalties offset, and get on with life.
At the end of the game, I think the refs got the two holding calls on Darby correct, and on Manning’s final pass of the game, I don’t think it was a catchable ball anyway, was it? Either way, there really wasn’t a ton of contact.
7) Run me sideways
Without writing down the actual number, I felt like we saw more east/west runs in this game.
I hated the outside zone and shotgun sweep plays earlier in the year because the line wasn’t great at creating seams and Blount wasn’t great at getting through them. Darren Sproles, however, was another story. Corey Clement did okay on those looks and Wendell Smallwood was decent, too.
But I feel like they can feature that play again because Jay Ajayi does a much nicer job of staying low, finding the gap, and turning up the field:
If they insist on running those east/west designs, he’s the guy that should be handling the rock. Blount would have turned that play into a one-yard loss.
8) Doug’s worst call?
It was probably the decision to challenge the incomplete pass in the second quarter. That’s a low upside play and wasn’t exactly critical at that point in the game.
As far as play-calling, I didn’t like the fade on 3rd and 5 in the end zone. I might be alright with Wentz throwing that ball, but I’m not a fade guy in general, whether it’s football or hair cuts.
9) Doug’s best call?
They didn’t convert, but going for it on 4th and 1 in the second quarter still made sense. You were 12 for 12 at that point, now you’re 12 for 13. So instead of 100% conversion rate, you fall to 92.3% on the year. Big deal. Blount up the middle is fine there. They would have ran a sneak if Wentz was in the game and did try it with Foles a little bit later.
Blount gets stuffed on 4th-and-1, Eagles had been 12/12 on 4th-and-1 this season before that play. pic.twitter.com/40bSJYWX7a
— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) December 17, 2017
I also agreed with the decision to kick field goal in the fourth quarter to force the Giants to drive the length of the field for a touchdown. Take the points there. No need for a possibly killer momentum swing.
Overall, I think Doug did a nice job of establishing Foles’ passing ability early and put him in a position to be successful.
10) Alshon Jefferies and Wayne Gall
We got Thom Brennaman and Chris Speilman for this game.
I’m pretty sure I heard Brennamen say that Evan Engram went to college at Alabama. He did it once in the first quarter and once in the second, but Engram didn’t go there, he went to Ole Miss. He also referred to Wayne Gallman as “Gall” on one play:
“Swings it out of the backfield to Gall..”
We also got an Alshon “Jefferies” from Speilman, which I think happens every other game.
Also, a lot of talk about Dean Blandino on Twitter. Obviously the guy is relatively new to TV and looks somewhat uncomfortable on camera, but I think the issue is that they shouldn’t be double-boxing him anyway. He needs to be looking at a monitor at the same time his shot is up, so I think the better way to do it is just place his audio over the live picture and let him talk while checking different replay angles. It’s goofy when the broadcast team is saying, “yea you can see here on the replay…” while Blandino is looking at the camera. He should be looking down at the same replay the booth has, so he can reference what they’re talking about.