The Best Individual Performances from the Eagles' Super Bowl Season
We’re still basking in it.
I’m in a self-imposed moratorium on “looking ahead” pieces about the NFL draft, Nick Foles trade scenarios, and whatever other crapola people wanna talk about, less than two weeks after the Eagles’ first Super Bowl parade in franchise history.
This installment of our season review takes a look at the best individual performances of the year, of which there were many. You’ll understand if I missed a few along the way.
In no particular order:
Nick Foles vs. Minnesota
26 for 33, 352 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 1 sack (6 yards), 141.4 QB rating
Simply put, one of the best playoff performances in Philadelphia sports history, if not the best. I mean, I can’t really think of anything else off the top of my head that even comes close to this. I think Wilbert Mongomery ran for something like 200 yards against Dallas back in 1980, and Van Buren did something similar long before you and I were born. Moses Malone put up 28 and 18 in game four of the 1983 finals and, of course, there’s Allen Iverson vs. the Lakers back in 2001.
There might be some comparisons in the title-winning years of the Flyers, Sixers, and Phillies, but as far as the Birds go, this might be #1. And Foles did it against one of the NFL’s best defenses.
Nigel Bradham at Carolina
Eight big plays, four in each half:
- key pass breakup on 3rd and 9
- blanket coverage on a dropped short yardage pass
- tackle for loss on a Fozzy Whittaker run (knocked him out of the game)
- big tackle on Cam Newton to keep Carolina out of field goal range
- monstrous 3rd and goal tackle to force a field goal
- tackle for loss on stuffed run play
- injured himself putting his body on the line to make another first-down preventing tackle
- came back into game, batted pass on 3rd and 1 of final Carolina drive
I mentioned Bradham when I wrote about the most important play from every single Eagles game.
He really was fantastic in this game, covering all sorts of ground as the Birds tried to contain Newton and Christian McCaffrey.
One of my favorite plays was this one, when he tracked Newton laterally to get him down inbounds and keep Carolina out of field goal range before the half:
LeGarrette Blount at LA Chargers
16 carries for 136 yards and confirmation that the Eagles actually had a legitimate running game. He converted a 3rd down late to kill the clock, and had a season long 68-yarder in the two-point win:
— Mark Schlereth (@markschlereth) October 8, 2017
It was critical for a lot of reasons. People still weren’t convinced that the Birds had a good enough running game. Darren Sproles had gone down one week prior and Blount’s first three games in midnight green were somewhat underwhelming, with zero recorded carries in Kansas City and just one score in 113 yards on 26 carries in Washington and at home vs. New York.
This game really opened the door for Pederson’s offense and gave us our first sniff at the balanced attack we’d see for the rest of the campaign.
Jake Elliott at LA Chargers
Not only did the running game get going in LA, but Jake Elliott was critical in the win, going 4/4 in field goals and 2/2 in extra points. He hit from 45, 40, 53, and 47 on the afternoon to push the Birds to a 3-1 record.
Jalen Mills vs. San Francisco
He was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week after the 33-10 win.
Mills had a pick-six in the second quarter to put this game away at 17-0. At the time, it was his team-leading third interception of the season, and it was further proof that the Birds might be all right in the secondary despite the Ronald Darby injury and a shaky week three.
Corey Clement vs. Denver
Through week nine, Eagle fans thought they might have something special in Corey Clement, but to what degree was still sort of up in the air.
He had made some crucial 4th-quarter plays in the weeks prior, but the depth of his ability really came to the forefront in the blowout win against the Broncos, when he ran for 51 yards and two touchdowns while adding a 15-yard score on a well-executed screen pass:
— NFL Brasil (@NFLBrasil) November 5, 2017
One of his runs was an option that started from pistol formation, something Doug Pederson took from the Chiefs/Broncos film from the week before.
Clement turned out to be a dude who could do it all, an undrafted running back who caught four passes for 100 yards in the Super Bowl.
Brandon Graham at Washington (week 1)
It’s somewhat ironic that the Eagles season began with a Brandon Graham forced fumble and ended with a Brandon Graham forced fumble.
It was week one, a sloppy start for both the Birds and the Redskins in Warshington (actually Landover, Maryland). Caleb Sturgis had just hit a 37-yard field goal to extend the Eagle lead to 22-17.
The Redskins, who had fumbled twice already and tossed a pick, were inside their own 30 yard line with two minutes to drive down the field for a game-winning touchdown:
Just like Week 1, it's Brandon Graham helping out the defense deliver a late-round blow. Strip-sack Week 1, got to Cousins' arm here and int pic.twitter.com/iFlN2qBfZ8
— Kansas More Chaints (@AdrianFedkiw) October 24, 2017
I thought that play might be overturned, but the officials went with the call on the field. Cousins was under pressure on 19-of-47 drop backs and sacked four times, twice from Graham, who added 3.5 tackles for loss in the 30-17 week one win.
Malcolm Jenkins vs. Washington (week 8)
Honestly, it’s hard to pick out individual defensive performances, because this unit played such a strong team game this year. For instance, I was looking for a Fletcher Cox standout showing, but he was stout in almost every matchup this season, so it felt like an exercise in futility.
One that I do recall, however, was Malcolm Jenkins’ week eight performance in the second Washington game. Remember when Mychal Kendricks was ruled inactive prior to the game and Jordan Hicks left injured in the first quarter? Jenkins plugged the holes admirably, finishing with a team-high 10 tackles and one of the unit’s four sacks (his was in the red zone).
He did a bit of everything, too, defending Jordan Reed at the line of scrimmage and shedding blocks from Vernon Davis. The Eagle offense struggled early and Jenkins led the defense in forcing four Washington punts on their first six drives.
Zach Ertz vs. Chicago
After missing the Denver game with a hamstring pull, Zach Ertz returned in Dallas with a quiet 8 yards on two catches. Was he still hurt? Would he be a different player down the stretch?
He roared back against the Bears the next week, catching 10 of 12 targets for 103 yards and a touchdown. It was his first hundred-yard game of the season and sixth of his career, as the Birds rolled out as easy winners, 31-3.
Ertz set a career-high with eight touchdown grabs in 2017 and would have eclipsed every other career stat if he had played 15 or 16 games this year, instead of 14:
Fletcher Cox vs. Atlanta
Actually, I’ll give Cox the shout for the divisional round game, but the entire defense was part of the reason why Atlanta scored 10 points at Lincoln Financial Field, all in the first half.
Cox was a big reason why the Falcons only put up 86 yards on 20 rushing attempts, one week after getting 124 on the ground against Los Angeles. Tevin Coleman had 79 in this game but Devonta Freeman finished with a measly seven yards on ten carries.
Part of the reason why you didn’t hear Fletcher’s name that much in the postseason is because he drew double teams early and often. On a play like this, he still found a way to fight off two blockers and make the tackle behind the line of scrimmage:
Nice job by Kendricks to shoot the gap there and help, which results in the TFL.
Cox was obviously excellent for the majority of the season; just consider the fact that he was often performing with a target on his back. In this game, he finished with 7 tackles (5 solo), 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss, and 2 QB hits.
Carson Wentz vs. Arizona
21-30, 304 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception, 1 sack (7 yards), 128.3 QB rating.
We could pick any number of standout Carson Wentz performances.
The second Washington game was under consideration, but I just felt like Wentz made a lot of killer individual plays in this game. Not only did he go for a career-high four touchdowns, but he only took one sack and really showed soft touch on two deep ball scores. The second touchdown was a slot fade to a tight end and the third was a seam route for another tight end.
The only blemish was a late-first half interception where he led his target a bit too far, but when you put the total numbers together, consider third down success, and look at how he evaded pressure, this performance crushed the eye test:
Bottom of the screen: Torrey Smith seemed to know it was a TD as soon as it left Wentz's hand. Fade to Burton from the slot. pic.twitter.com/eRLE8sAull
— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) October 9, 2017
Doug Pederson vs. New England
A brilliant coaching performance marred only by what I thought was a poor decision to try an early two-point conversion and run a back-shoulder fade on the attempt.
Otherwise, he called a wonderful game in what became an offensive shootout. There really was no margin for error, not in the second half, when Tom Brady was slicing up the Eagle defense at will.
And even though Nick Foles asked for the “Philly Special,” Doug’s decision to trust his players and follow their instincts was a huge complement to his own assertive nature and a big reason why this team won it all.
Trey Burton at Rams
Nelson Agholor at Seahawks
Mychal Kendricks at Panthers
Ronald Darby at Cowboys
Donnie Jones vs. Raiders
Patrick Robinson vs. Raiders
the entire offensive line vs. almost everybody (too hard to single out those guys)