I kind of feel like the guy at the end of Billy Madison who is moderating the debate between Adam Sandler and Bradley Whitford, but instead of academia, just tweak the famous quote to make it about football:
That football game is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever seen. At no point in the rambling, incoherent four quarters were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational play. Everyone in this stadium is now dumber for having watched it.
It was, unfortunately, one of the worst football games I’ve seen in recent memory, with the Eagles missing a field goal, dropping an interception, going 1-14 on third down, and putting up 216 yards of offense.
The Raiders were even worse, blowing a pick-six, also shanking a field goal, and turning the ball over five times.
At the end of the day, the Birds got it done on the strength of an inspired second half defensive performance, doing enough to get Jake Elliott in position for a game-winning field goal. It was a meaningful bounce-back performance after three weeks of defensive struggles, marred by ineptitude on the other side of the ball.
And that’s the thing here. Last week, the offense was great and the defense was awful. This week, the defense was great and the offense was awful.
The optimist would say that the Birds can win in the playoffs if both units play the way we know they’re capable of. The pessimist would say, well, that they’re cooked. And maybe they are cooked, but we’ve got a home playoff game on the horizon, so you have to decide whether to be bright and cheery or sardonic and mopey.
1) Nick Foles
19/38, 163 yards, 1 touchdown (screen pass), 1 interception, 59.4 rating.
We can go a million different ways with this, but the biggest problem was that he just looked slow – slow in making his reads, slow in getting rid of the ball, and slow in moving out of the pocket. He rarely steps through the pocket and always seems to move sideways and backwards, where he’s not nearly elusive enough to make Carson Wentz-type plays.
In Foles’ own words:
On his overall performance:
“I didn’t play good enough. I have to play cleaner and, obviously, play better. Third down is a big thing with a quarterback; pin-point accuracy, making good decisions. I’ll look at the film, I’ll improve. These wins are tough; wins in the NFL are tough. This was a crazy, sloppy game. I thought our defense played wonderful – giving us an opportunity – I believe it was five turnovers. That’s huge, that was big.”
On only targeting WR Alshon Jeffery twice:
“There were times when they were trying to double him and rolling the coverage. The rest of them I have to look at, too, with different ways to get him the ball because he can make so many plays.”
I really want to see the All-22 film when it comes out, because that will tell us whether the receivers were getting open or not. Nelson Agholor had a key drop. Ertz had a few that came at him high. Jeffery had one thrown behind him that he might have been able to snag.
I think the play that sums up Foles’ overall performance was the 3rd and 4 here, where he ended up throwing this away for whatever reason:
Nick Foles could’ve ran himself or thrown to 1 of several options for a 1st down. Instead, he THREW THE BALL AWAY HERE. pic.twitter.com/4f90Ne3EHP
— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 26, 2017
2) The defense
It looked like we might be in for a long day when Jalen Mills got torched on a double move to allow a 63-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter:
Jalen Mills just got embarrassed in coverage. Yikes. pic.twitter.com/By7fnfrlx7
— Patrick (@PatrickMCausey) December 26, 2017
Not a great game for Mills, who was dealing with an ankle injury coming in. He dropped an interception in the second half.
The secondary was cooked again in the second quarter but bailed out by holding call:
Graham in as a DT on 3rd down, slices through and draws a hold to prevent this 45-yard completion to Cooper pic.twitter.com/5E6a0PGRNI
— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) December 26, 2017
It looked like another brutal day of sluggo routes and ineffective front play, but that Amari Cooper touchdown was the only Raiders score of the game. Jim Schwartz’s unit came up with numerous, humongous takeaways and put the offense on the field time and time again. Derek Carr went 15/29 for 140 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Oakland fumbled three times.
I know it’s just the Raiders, but we said that if the Eagles were going to win in the post-Wentz time frame that it would have to be on the strength of the defense, and that’s what happened last night.
3) “There should be an investigation”
Jason Kelce looked like a Pro Bowl snub on the first Eagle drive, pulling and pancaking and rumbling downfield with ease.
He was clinical on the Eagles’ screen pass touchdown, getting out in front and laying a big block:
LISTEN TO THE ANNOUNCER!!! Jason Kelce, BEST Center in Football, Should be an investigation into ProBowl? "Never seen a more athletic Center in Football" [Ballsy! kudos Announcer-man, I couldn't agree more!] Robbed, just like Alex Smith. But alas, I love this sport! Just venting! pic.twitter.com/DA9E8oOaoY
— Cristie Young (@Mytwograces) December 26, 2017
Kudos to the announcer-man.
The one thing I don’t understand with Kelce is the seemingly high number of shotgun snaps that are low and hard to handle. Foles struggled several times to get a handle on those snaps and it really disrupted his rhythm. I think that’s another area that Wentz was able to paper over.
Here’s Kelce on what went wrong last night:
“It’s difficult to say. [We’ll] probably have to watch the film a little bit. From the running – I can’t really speak that much on the passing game – I have to do a better job with some of the snaps, I think I had some low snaps. It’s not fair to [QB] Nick [Foles]. I think sometimes you’re trying to block the guy in front of you and you lose track, then he’s got two steps instead of just catching the ball and going down field, he’s bobbling it, but he’s got to find it. It takes time for him. The run game – we started off pretty good I thought, especially the second drive, and then they were doing some different things to try and throw us off a little bit. It just felt like we didn’t really get in a great rhythm after that.”
4) Forced fumbles
Chance Warmack played a second straight game for the injured Stefen Wisniewski. He had a great block on the Eagles’ screen pass touchdown.
He also forced his first career fumble with a nice hit on Jay Ajayi:
— NFL France (@FirstDownFR) December 26, 2017
5) Dannell Ellerbe
Joe Walker was a surprise inactive, so Ellerbe started and played in the middle. It started with some subbing confusion with a timeout burned on the first Raider drive.
He had a monstrous tackle for loss in the third quarter, when he was clean through the line for a big hit.
Otherwise, he didn’t seem to be near the ball in the first half, did he?
Ellerbe ended up playing 27 snaps, or 39% of total defensive plays:
Playing time distribution, Eagles-Raiders: pic.twitter.com/mvCDdojVzf
— Zach Berman (@ZBerm) December 26, 2017
Last week’s MLB starter, Najee Goode, only played 8 snaps total, way down from what Ellerbe saw last night. The Eagles played much more base defense against the Raiders, compared to the nickel and dime looks we saw against the Giants. That’s not what you’re looking for, especially since Jordan Hicks is done for the year. They’ve been able to account for that injury by staying out of their base more often than not.
6) Twist and shout
A little wrinkle here, pointed out by Chicago guard Kyle Long:
All offensive lines hate that twist the eagles and Seahawks do where they line up a defensive end next to a defensive end – challenge you vertically and create opportunity for the defense to set you up for games. Eagles run it very well
— Kyle (@Ky1eLong) December 26, 2017
He’s talking about the clip I showed above, where the Raiders were called for holding on the heave that Amari Cooper snagged over three Eagle defenders.
The Birds actually line up Brandon Graham inside of Chris Long and “challenge vertically” as the other Long points out:
That’s the hold right there.
Right to left, the line on that 3rd and 10 play was Vinny Curry, Fletcher Cox, Graham, and Long. In an obvious passing situation, they group Cox with three guys who can rush the quarterback and wind up drawing a penalty flag.
Good job by everyone involved.
7) Running away from a live ball
Speaking of Long, he didn’t cover himself in glory when he began to celebrate what he thought was a sack by running off the field early.
Here’s the play:
Chris Long has been drinking all day like the rest of us pic.twitter.com/mTji28IUbT
— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) December 26, 2017
And the inevitable apology from a stand-up guy, who had, indeed, been drinking all day:
Evidently I had too much Mountain Dew
— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) December 26, 2017
8) Doug’s worst call
I didn’t agree with the decision to take the penalty on the illegal crack back block to set up a 2nd and 13 instead of a 1st and 25. They got the interception on that series but it was a risky move.
Also didn’t really enjoy the bootleg left where Foles threw high for Zach Ertz on the interception. That’s a low-upside, bullshit play, though I think Doug was just trying to get his quarterback going with a bit of movement and a pass that should have been an easy completion.
Overall, I think they could have run the ball more, but by the time the Raiders knew that Foles couldn’t throw it last night, they were selling out to stuff Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement.
9) Doug’s best call
Going for it on 4th and 1? I feel like I can just copy and paste that into every takeaway article, since it happens once per game.
I did think the 4th and 3 play call for Ertz made a lot of sense. Short yardage, little three-yard out pattern, fair enough, and makes a lot more sense than the left-sided roll on the INT.
If we’re judging Pederson on this game, I think he’s just got to figure out a way to get his offense in a rhythm somehow. They looked out of sync all game long and got progressively worse on each drive. That’s the key here. It didn’t get better, it kept getting worse.
10) Downtown Philly
There was an exchange with Jon Gruden in the first half where he apparently said that the sports complex is in “downtown Philadelphia.” Now, I didn’t get the entire context clearly, because I was at the in-laws on Christmas night surrounded by six other people and trying to keep it going after a marathon day of festivities. But I think he was talking about how other stadiums in the division are away from city centers, right?
Anyway, I got a big laugh when Gruden was heaping praise on the defensive line and said, “Long… Cox…. Vinny Curry… Graham…” with way too much enthusiasm at the end of the game. What a guy.
And the play of the game was probably Howard Eskin getting knocked over during the first series:
Howard Eskin *almost* got out of the way…. pic.twitter.com/91Uu5918oH
— Matt Mullin (@matt_mullin) December 26, 2017
Merry Christmas, the Eagles are 13-2 and wrapped up the #1 seed in the National Football Conference.