I’ve tried to write about the Eagles this season without any sort of emotional attachment to the team.
But the truth is that I grew up a Birds fan in the suburbs, so it would be disingenuous for me to say that I didn’t really care about the results. Of course I wanted them to win just as much as you did, and not just for “clicks.”
So it’s kind of strange, because I didn’t know how to feel after the Eagles put together the most comprehensive beatdown I’ve seen in more than a decade. I just sort of sat there in my living room, typing away with a shit-eating grin, happy for people like my 67-year-old dad, who has never seen the Eagles win the Super Bowl. I thought about the five uncles who have watched the Birds bomb out year after year after year. You think about the blue collar family from Bridesburg or Bordentown, where Sunday means more than just watching football.
It’s about the people, you know? It always has been, and it means something to this town that you just can’t explain to outsiders. Philly fans have been through a lot.
That said, I’ve never seen a local team play better in a “big game” scenario. Never. And if you want to kind of boil it down to one line that really explains everything, it’s this:
They scored 38 unanswered points in the NFC Championship Game.
I mean.. Lord Jesus Christ in Heaven. They scored 38 unanswered points in the NFC Championship game, coming from behind after the Vikings went 75 yards for the easiest of touchdowns on the game’s opening drive. You probably had that sinking feeling. Crossing Broad slack chat was “tight,” if you know what I mean. And drunk. At least four people were totally hammered. It was that familiar feeling of impending doom.
“Not so fast my friends!” as Lee Corso once said.
What we witnessed after that first Eagle drive was nothing short of total destruction.
We’ve seen so many losers come through this city, and yet here we are in 2018, with Doug Pederson and Nick Foles, of all people, leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl.
What a time to be alive.
1) Nick Foles
It was, by far, the best game he’s ever played. Better than his seven-touchdown performance in 2013, because that wasn’t a high stakes playoff game.
I really don’t even know where to start.
Hanging in the pocket and finding Alshon Jeffery on a 53-yard touchdown pass?
Dropping a dime for Torrey Smith on a flea flicker?
Foles said post game that he’s never even run a flea flicker before:
“It was my first time so I just tried not to smile. Any time you’re a quarterback and you can have a play like that, it’s pretty exciting. Sometimes they go really bad. I’m just glad it worked and we were able to get a touchdown out of it.”
He finished 26-33 with 352 yards and 3 touchdowns for a 141.4 QB rating. That’s insanity, but to do it against that Vikings defense in the NFCCG is beyond insanity. Lunacy? Is that the word I’m looking for? It was lunacy.
I think the most impressive thing was that he didn’t get rattled at all. He looked extremely comfortable under any kind of pressure, going 13 for 14 for 174 yards and a touchdown against the blitz. That’s 93%, and apparently the best completion percentage against the blitz in any playoff game dating back to 2006.
And he had a 149.3 passer rating on deep throws:
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 22, 2018
There’s not much else to say. He put on a clinic.
2) The second drive
For the second-straight week, Doug Pederson called a brilliant early drive to get his offense on track.
This one went 12 plays and 75 yards for a touchdown, and it featured a 50/50 split with six running plays and six passing plays, including a nice mix and match of various personnel and some RPO looks.
- RUN – Jay Ajayi out of shotgun for 13 yards
- RUN – Ajayi out of shotgun for 7 yards
- PASS – Alshon Jeffery 8 yards on slant
- RUN – Nelson Agholor end around for 0 yards
- PASS – incomplete
- PASS – Zach Ertz 11 yards (on third and 10)
- PASS – RPO to Ertz for 8 yards
- RUN – LeGarrette Blount off tackle for 2 yards
- PASS – RPO to Jeffery for 9 yards
- RUN – Jay Ajayi up the middle no gain
- PASS – RPO to Ertz for 6 yards (on third down)
- RUN – LeGarrette Blount 11 yard touchdown run
It ate up 6:20 on the clock and put the Birds up 14-7.
And it was the game-winning drive, only none of us knew it at the time.
Talk about downhill running:
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) January 22, 2018
3) The pick six
Play of the game for me, easily, more than the flea flicker or strip sack.
Not only did it get the team on the board, but it just swung momentum like I’ve never seen it swing before. You level the game at 7, Case Keenum is starting to doubt himself, and the crowd is brought right back into the game.
And it was such a team play, too. Chris Long got the hand on the QB. Patrick Robinson got the pick. Guys were throwing blocks like gang busters. Ronald Darby got CRUSHED on the play but put just enough of a block on Jerick McKinnon to get his teammate into the end zone:
I mean, that’s the kind of stuff that makes a play. Robinson credited his teammates for the touchdown:
“Well, really it’s the d-line. I’m definitely appreciative of our d-line. When I went out to the flat, I saw the ball coming out. I was like, ‘Oh man, it’s going to be an easy pick.’ Like two hours before the game, I was like, ‘If I get a pick, I’m not going out of bounds.’ I was running down the sideline and I was like, ‘No, I definitely can’t go out of bounds.’ So I just cut it back upfield. Darby made a great block.”
Rachel is spot on here:
Gotta give Howie kudos. All players involved in that pick 6 were acquired prior to the regular season. Chris Long, Patrick Robinson and Ronald Darby
— Rachel Micali (@RachelNBCS) January 22, 2018
Huge shout to Robinson, who has been so good this year, a guy who Vinny Curry said post game has just been “making play after play after play.” Robinson endured a nightmare training camp, with half of the city wanting to cut his ass back in August. His is one of the more underrated stories of the season.
4) The strip sack
Remember how the Vikings sent the Eagles a first round pick for Sam Bradford?
That pick turned into Derek Barnett, who pulled off a crucial strip sack Sunday night inside the red zone to keep Minnesota off the board when it was still 14-7:
— NFL (@NFL) January 22, 2018
Hell of a play off the edge there, but I have no clue what Minnesota is trying to do, with tight end David Morgan coming all the way across the line to try to pick up Barnett. Something about this blocking scheme definitely was not executed correctly, with a double team on Fletcher Cox leaving Barnett free off the end and putting Morgan in a difficult position to try to pick up the rookie:
Maybe the most important thing about the turnovers is that both took place on third down. The pick-six? 3rd and 8. The strip sack? 3rd and 5?
Big plays at big moments.
5) The polar opposite of Andy Reid clock management
How about Doug’s aggression before halftime?
The Birds got the football back on their own 20 yard line with 29 seconds left to play. Instead of taking a knee, they went 60 yards in three plays and added a field goal, taking a 24-7 lead into intermission with control of the ball to begin the third quarter.
“We had time and timeouts. I just told myself before the game I was going to maintain the aggressiveness in this ballgame. Listen, it was a you win, you keep playing, you lose, you’re going home [situation]. I didn’t want to go home and regret any decision. So we put a drive together. Frank [Reich] did a great job of orchestrating a drive at that point, and he and I collaborating on that drive. Great way to finish with three points and come out with the ball in the second half.”
And two of the plays were the same, a little flat pass to Jay Ajayi that Minnesota was not ready for on either occasion. Doug, to his credit, has remained aggressive throughout the year and it was no different last night.
6) Situational football
Last week, the Birds went -2 in turnover margin and missed an extra point, but won the game on the strength of sidebar victories that piled up, such as clock control, third downs, and field positioning.
Sunday, they just smoked the Vikings in every auxiliary category you can come up with.
This alone tells the story:
Philly and Minnesota were #1 and #2 in time of possession this regular season, holding the ball for an average of 32 minutes per game. The Eagles crushed the Vikings in TOP on the strength of that +3 turnover margin.
Third downs were another victory for the Eagles. The Vikings were first this season with a measly 25.2% third down allowance rate on defense, but the Birds went 10-14 last night for an outrageous 71% conversion rate. That’s just an incredibly wild swing in that category. Both of Alshon Jeffery’s touchdowns took place on third downs as well, so not only did they move the chains on third, they gashed Minny with demoralizing scoring plays.
7) The offensive line
They made a killer Viking front look average.
Shout out to Big V for a great performance at left tackle. He shut down Everson Griffen almost entirely, a Pro Bowl defensive end with 13 sacks and 3 forced fumbles this season. Griffen finished with 2 QB hits but no sacks and no tackles for loss. Overall, the offensive line limited Minnesota to 1 sack, 5 QB hits, and 4 TFL.
Afterward, Griffen said that the Vikings needed to “accept the suck”:
— Zone Coverage (@zonecoveragemn) January 22, 2018
The Birds asked a lot of Vaitai last night, especially on the flea flicker, where he was left alone to hold his block forever, allowing a really slow play to develop into this:
— NFL (@NFL) January 22, 2018
8) Doug’s worst call?
Not pulling Nick Foles earlier? That’s about it.
I can’t think of any play call that I truly disliked off the top of my head. I stopped taking notes midway through the third quarter since the game was basically over.
As the season progressed, I feel like this weekly entry got shorter and shorter, to the point where I could have probably just removed it from the piece entirely.
9) Doug’s best call?
The urgency before halftime was perfect. The 12-play scoring drive to go up 14-7. And he ran Jay Ajayi 18 times as well, closing out the game smartly without any real hairy moments in the second half.
10) Sleeping on the job
I’m not a Joe Buck hater by any means, but was he on downers last night? He sounded bored throughout the game and was just sort of going through the motions during the first few touchdown calls.
I don’t think he “hates” Philly like some believe, but it just sounded like he was calling a Week 2 game instead of the NFC Championship. Sorry we can’t be as exciting as Madison Bumgarner or whatever the fuck he actually does get excited about.
No issues with the broadcast otherwise. I think they were pretty fair and nailed the Eagles’ injury montage. They even included Chris Maragos and Joe Walker, so I can appreciate that.
And maybe the best part of this game is that it did not feature a lot of bullshit penalties or reviews or the typical crapola that’s been slowing down the NFL for a few years now. There was one penalty through the first 44 minutes of play (on special teams) and we survived without any controversial calls or goofy “what is a catch?” nonsense. I also appreciated Ed Hochuli accidentally leaving his microphone on while working through the review of the Adam Thielen end zone play.
On to the SUPER BOWL then, where the Eagles will square off against the disgusting and loathsome New England Patriots.
Just thinking of those cheating bastards makes me want to ralph all over the place.