I’m not usually a fan of deep-diving a season that just ended, e.g.,”here’s part 17 of our year in review.” By now we’re usually talking about NFL free agency and previewing the combine and draft, which really aren’t that far away.
But I’m not ready for the “stay or go” articles, or the mock drafts or whatever, not after the Eagles won the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history. I mean, we’ve got people calling the radio stations to talk about whether Nick Foles should be traded or not. They want to talk about NEXT SEASON ALREADY.
Holy hell, slow it down folks. Take a moment to bask in it. I never thought I’d see the day the Birds won it all, so let’s milk this bad boy for all it’s worth. Why do people seem like they’re in this big hurry to move on? Christ almighty.
It’s worth revisiting everything from a wonderfully triumphant season, over, and over, and over again. I’d like to start with an exercise where we examine the most important plays from every single game, win or loss.
Obviously there’s some arbitrary judgment going on here. I could easily pick out the game-winning sequence from each week, but I tried to look for some other scenarios that sort of set the tone for the season or got a specific guy rolling. There were a lot of formative moments this year, so consider how far this team came in a cumulative sense from week one through Super Bowl 52.
Week 1: at Redskins
You can go a lot of directions with week one. You can talk about four Redskin turnovers, an excellent pass rush, and a controversial game-ending fumble. It was our first joyous glimpse of an elite defense.
You can talk about Zach Ertz starting the season with 8 grabs for 93 yards, but I’ll go with the first touchdown actually, a play that foreshadowed a lot of good things to come for this Eagles team.
It was third down, Carson Wentz scrambled like a madman and found the previously maligned Nelson Agholor for a ridiculous score:
Wentz making a play? Check.
Third down conversion? Check.
Nelson Agholor having the rebound year of a lifetime? Check.
That play really set the tone for what was to come.
Week 2: at Chiefs
In hindsight, it was probably the fourth-quarter interception that did the job.
It was 13-13 at this point, and Wentz tried to dump a screen into the ground to kill the play, but hit a Chief helmet instead:
Kansas City responded with a five-play touchdown drive, the Eagles got the ball back and punted, and then found themselves down 14.
Yea, there was a comeback effort at the end, and the Birds clawed their way back in, but the offense just wasn’t good enough on the day.
Week 3: vs. Giants
Philly was cruising to a shut out before falling apart in the fourth quarter.
Then, the season completely turned with one record-breaking kick of the ball:
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) September 27, 2017
Think about what would have happened if the Eagles lost. They would have been 1-2 going into week three. The Giants would have avoided the 0-3 start. In a lot of ways, this was the most important play of the entire season.
Week 4: at Chargers
Week 4 is when the Eagles started to figure out their running game, pre-Jay Ajayi trade and post-Darren Sproles injury.
It was a three-headed monster of sorts, with LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement, and Wendell Smallwood going for 200 yards on 36 combined rushing attempts. For one of the only times this year, the Eagles ran it more than they threw the ball, and I think the most important plays were a couple of third down runs by Clement and Blount to end the game on a 13 play, 59 yard drive that took 6:44 off the clock:
Doesn’t look like much, but remember how important it was to have Doug realize what he had in the running game. There were questions of run/pass split popping up all over the place in weeks one through three.
Week 5: vs. Cardinals
It was 21-0 in the first quarter, so there really wasn’t a key play or whatever. The defense was lights out.
I’ll shout out Carson Wentz, who destroyed the burgeoning narrative of “he can’t throw deep,” highlighted by this 72 yard strike to Agholor on third and 19 from his own 28 yard line:
Wentz threw a career-high four touchdowns while going 11 for 12 for 225 yards and three TDs on third down alone.
Week 6: at Panthers
The “Nigel Bradham Game.”
He was a monster all night long, tracking side to side to make tackles, keeping Cam Newton mostly contained, and just coming up with big plays to keep his team in front.
Take your pick of those plays. I was going to go with the batted pass on 3rd down during the final drive, but I opted for the diving tackle where he injured himself keeping a receiver behind the chains:
He just made so many big plays in this game, helping the Birds clear their biggest hurdle of the season at that point.
Week 7: vs. Redskins
Wentz to Clement pic.twitter.com/CWuW9lFqTK
— Soulless Hate Bot (@andrewmiller66) October 27, 2017
An elite play all-around.
Week 8: vs. 49ers
Not sure if y’all remember how sloppy this game was. It was raining and crappy and cloudy.
The Eagles were only up 3-0 before breaking through at the end of the first half, scoring two touchdowns in 30 seconds to open up a 17-0 lead. They benefited from a pass interference call on an end zone shot, which allowed them to score on first and goal from the one.
On the ensuing San Fran possession, C.J. Beathard was picked off by Jalen Mills, who scored on the play to seal the deal:
Remember the Fletcher Cox/Joe Staley collision on this return? The NFL investigated but decided not to punish Cox for the hit.
Week 9: vs. Broncos
This game wasn’t competitive.
It was one of Alshon Jeffery’s better performances of the year, a 6 catch, 84 yard, 2 touchdown effort. He burned the Broncos’ on a perfectly executed RPO to put the Birds on the board and start the landslide in a 51-23 win that looks closer on paper than it really was.
Week 10: BYE
The most important thing was that Dallas and Washington both lost, blowing the NFC East wide open for the Birds.
Week 11: at Cowboys
I’m gonna give it to the offensive line on this one.
It was 9-7 Dallas in the third quarter when the Birds’ running game really came alive, sparked by a beautiful blocking scheme that was perfectly executed on this Corey Clement touchdown run:
The Birds would hang 23 more points on Dallas in a 37 to 9 win. They ran for 215 yards and two touchdowns as Cowboy fans bitched and whined about not having Sean Lee available.
Week 12: vs. Bears
This game was a total blowout, so I’m gonna show this play:
GET TO THE CHOPPAH! pic.twitter.com/jmqV5GW9Hx
— Matt Mullin (@matt_mullin) November 26, 2017
Remember that? The play where Kenjon Barner pulled a teammate away from a live ball?
It was such a good example of football IQ, something we saw all season long as the Eagles excelled in situational awareness and understanding what was going on around them. That’s a trickle down from the coach and speaks to how well drilled and prepared this team usually was.
Week 13: at Seahawks
You can pick any assortment of tough plays in this game, maybe the Russell Wilson lateral that I still swear went forward.
But to me, it was the touchdown that put it away for Seattle, because it just exemplified the Eagles’ struggles in coverage on the evening, with Wilson torching the Birds in empty set formations and scrambling effectively:
Week 14: at Rams
Take your pick.
I really wanted to go with Wentz throwing a touchdown on a torn ACL, but I think the Nick Foles 3rd down completion right around the two-minute warning was the takeaway here. It was still a two-point game at that point and the Birds converted here, forcing LA to start wasting timeouts and as they bled the clock:
It was a huge bounce back win after the Seattle game and put the Eagles back in the driver’s seat for home field advantage.
Week 15: at Giants
In a game where the defense really struggled, the offense and special teams came to play.
The third unit blocked an extra point, punt, and field goal in the five point win.
I think the FG block was most important, because it was 31-29 at that point, and the Giants missed a chance to take the lead:
The Eagles responded by going down the field for three points of their own, forcing New York to find the end zone on their final drive.
Week 16: vs. Raiders
And ugly, yet crucial game in locking up the #1 seed.
It came down a 4th quarter Ronald Darby interception near midfield, a play that put the struggling Eagle offense into a position to move about 20 yards to set up a game-winning Elliott kick:
Week 17: vs. Cowboys
The most important thing about this game was the final whistle.
Divisional Round: vs. Falcons
I didn’t go with the Julio Jones 4th down target on the final play of the game because I felt like he had a shot at catching that ball. And there were too many good defensive plays to pick out when the Birds blanked Atlanta in the second half.
I’ll take it to the first half actually, the final drive, where the Eagles hurried down the field and nailed a field goal to cut the lead to 10-9. It started with Bryan Braman punt block, then you had the miracle bounce off a Falcon knee which was caught and carried to the 50 yard line.
Two plays later, the Birds got into FG range with one second remaining when Foles found Jeffery on the sideline:
It was a crucial play to bring some momentum into halftime after a difficult start to the game.
NFC Championship Game: vs. Vikings
The pick six.
You know why it was important. The Vikings scored on the opening drive and had the ball with an early lead. That’s when the Birds’ defense ripped off an interception for touchdown, energizing the crowd and stunning the Vikes at the same time.
When you pressure and get to Keenum inside the pocket, he throws lollipops. Chris Long brought the heat and Patrick Robinson just took one of those lollipops 50 yards to the house!! pic.twitter.com/FmepauElzD
— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) January 22, 2018
Super Bowl 52: vs. Patriots
The strip sack.
You’ve seen it a thousand times already, so watch it one more time with Titanic music overlaid:
EAGLES WIN THE SUPER BOWL IN AN EPIC GAME!!!!
BRANDON GRAHAM'S LATE STRIP-SACK ON TOM BRADY IS EVEN BETTER WITH TITANIC MUSIC!!! WHAT A PLAY!!!
— 🏈🚢🎶TITANIC TD🏈🚢🎶 (@TitanicTD) February 5, 2018
I would have put the Philly Special in here, but it didn’t win the Birds the game. And the Zach Ertz touchdown was the score that put them ahead for good, but Tom Brady was slicing and dicing the defense before he was sacked and fumbled the ball.