Nick Foles left the field with the lead..
…this time he won.
Holy mackerel! Holy cow! Holy cannoli! Pick whatever animal or dessert you want; you just can’t write a crazier script than that. I thought for sure we were watching a replay of the 2014 Saints game, a walk-off field goal to knock the Eagles out of the playoffs. The Foles era and the Super Bowl title defense would come to an end at the foot of Cody Parkey, who instead hit the upright AND the crossbar on the final play of the evening. It was a double doink, like that one time the WWF brought out two clowns at the same time to beat the crap out of Crush at Wrestlemania IX.
Seriously though, what a game. The Eagles blew opportunities and made mistakes, namely the pair of interceptions and a couple of dropped picks to go along with a bobbled third-down hand-off and some killer, drive-extending defensive penalties. I thought it was over when Chicago started picking on Avonte Maddox on their fourth-quarter touchdown drive, but “not so fast my friend,” as the great Lee Corso once said. Foles got it done, Doug Pederson just barely out-dueled Matt Nagy, and the Birds got some luck to go their way, which really hasn’t happened too often this season.
It sets up another crack at the Saints in the Superdome, this time with Foles leading the charge. If you like the “underdog” storyline, then this is your type of game. The Birds get their revenge shot and really have nothing at all to lose heading into the divisional round against asshole Sean Payton, who ran up the score in the regular season meeting.
On the flip side, the only thing we’re going to hear about this week is the “Nick Foles vs. Carson Wentz” argument, which I think will continue throughout the summer and into eternity, or as long as 94 WIP and 97.5 the Fanatic are broadcasting.
But for now let’s enjoy the win, beginning with:
1) The final drive
12 plays, 60 yards, 3:52 off the clock.
They started on their own 40 yard line with 4:48 remaining and methodically moved the ball down the field. Foles was 6-9 on the drive with a two-yard touchdown on a pseudo-sprint out that targeted Golden Tate on the goal line.
I wasn’t sure about Doug’s decision to run Darren Sproles twice in the red zone, but some of the other play calls were superb. He and Nagy really started going deep into the playbook in the fourth quarter, and Pederson rolled with this:
- play action, deep seam to Alshon Jeffery
- pre-snap motion, play action, Foles pressured and incomplete
- trips left, fake screen left, fake screen right, RELEASE THE TIGHT END up the right seam (Goedert breaks two tackles)
- play action, shallow out to Nelson Agholor, broken tackle, nice pickup
- 12 personnel, more pre snap motion, Zach Ertz in the middle, difficult catch
- Wendell Smallwood left guard for about a yard
- empty set, clear out for Agholor, incomplete
- jumbo/pistol, motion Jeffery, hit him on seam for first down
- Sproles run
- Sproles run
- Jeffery pre-snap to weakside, incomplete quick out
- Foles dash right, Tate touchdown on quick out
A couple of those plays in there just featured huge individual efforts – the Goedert YAC, the Agholor YAC, and that tough catch from Ertz in traffic, the pass thrown almost over his head. Foles hit four different receivers on the drive and two different backs carried the ball. They showed some 12 personnel and some 11 personnel.
My favorite play call was #8, where they lined up Alshon in some sort of pistol/jumbo hybrid look, then motioned him down and threw it to him for about a ten yard gain. I couldn’t rip a clean video of this, because there was a hitch in the stream, so I’ll show you the diagram instead:
Wild stuff. Alshon in the pistol? Two tailbacks running flares? Two tight-ends also running routes? Really cool stuff.
I also swear I saw a Chicago three man rush in there somewhere, which was ridiculous. It could have been on the drive before this one, but still, who rushes three, ever? It should be illegal for Vic Fangio to rush three with the personnel he has.
Cody Parkey’s field goal was actually tipped by defensive tackle Treyvon Hester, which nobody realized until something like 45 minutes or an hour after the game.
This was the first clip to make the rounds:
— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) January 7, 2019
Here’s another good angle, and if you pause it right at eight seconds, the ball does indeed appear to be slightly misdirected to the left:
— Z (@KingZouric) January 7, 2019
I kind of felt bad for Parkey after the game, getting booed off the field and whatnot. But I’m sure most football fans don’t give a shit, since he’s still a millionaire.
3) Offensive success
Some 11 personnel, some 12 personnel, some timely deep shots and penalty flags, plus a few wrinkles here or there. All of that was good enough to win the game.
The Bears came into the postseason allowing 299 yards and 17.7 points per game and the Eagles finished with 300 and 18, so this matchup really played out the way a lot of people thought it would. Philly couldn’t really run the ball but stayed committed to the tune of 23 attempts for 42 yards, which is a 1.8 average. 17 of the Eagles’ 21 first downs took place through the air, two were from penalties, and the other two came on the ground.
Doug’s squad converted six of 13 third down attempts, good for 46.1%, which is 14 percentage points better than what Chicago was allowing on the season. That’s pretty significant. The Bears had only been allowing a 32% success rate on opponent third downs, but the Eagles got some key pickups to move the chains and balance the time of possession.
41 to 22 was the pass/run split, so that’s 65% to 35%, right on the money, which I think is probably where we expected it be. I would not have been surprised to see that number move into the 70% range, considering that they threw it that frequently in the Houston win.
Chicago finished with six tackles for loss and five quarterback hits, but Nick did a great job of taking those hits while getting rid of the ball and he was sacked just once on the evening. The offensive line did a nice job pass protecting against Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, and the rest of the excellent dudes on that line.
Sheil had a good stat about the line:
Eagles have faced Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt and Khalil Mack during their four-game winning streak.
Those three players have combined for a TOTAL of zero sacks and three QB hits against them.
Big credit to the offensive line and coaches for game-planning.
— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) January 7, 2019
Bravo, offensive line.
4) Defensive success
They did what they needed to do, which was put the game on Mitch Trubisky’s shoulders.
“Tru” finished 26/43 for 303 yards, a touchdown, and zero interceptions (should have been at least one), so I guess you could probably make an argument that he did enough to win them the game. He made some really nice fourth quarter throws to pick up chunk yardage and get Chicago down the field.
Four things I think the Eagles did well:
- showed good discipline with Nagy’s gadgety/bullshit type of plays (which he didn’t seem to rely on as much last night as he did in the regular season)
- tackled well (not a lot of whiffs)
- limited Trubisky in the scramble and running game
- essentially shut down Tarik Cohen until the late kick return
In addition to that, Jordan Howard only carried the ball ten times for 35 yards, so he wasn’t much of a factor. Cohen carried the ball once for zero yards, but the Eagles also limited him to just 3 catches for 27 yards and didn’t allow him to do much in space.
Trubisky took two sacks for 12 yards and ended up with nine ground yards on three carries. Nigel Bradham did a superb job spying him and moving laterally all game long, stuffing a bunch of the east/west stuff Chicago threw at the Eagles.
The only true disappointments you could point to were Maddox (who played well for three quarters) biting on those late double moves, plus the interceptions that were dropped. Allen Robinson was the only guy who did any kind of consistent damage, and the defense kept this game close when the Eagles were having trouble scoring early. Chicago averaged 23.3 points per game in the regular season and the Birds held them to 15 in their own building last night.
5) Drive positioning
In the regular season, the Eagles began their drives, on average, at their own 28 yard line.
For a while last night, the Bears were on top of the Birds with expert field-flipping, and the game finished with the Eagles starting their drives from these points:
- own 25
- own 1
- own 7
- own 25
- own 32
- own 17
- own 17
- own 26
- own 14
- own 40
Don’t underestimate the defensive series leading up to the game-winning drive. The Birds forced a three and out, pushed Chicago back two yards, and then got the benefit of a weak, 36 yard punt from Pat O’Donnell. That set up the Eagles with their best field position of the entire night, if you can believe it.
Prior to that drive, the Eagles only started past their season average once. If you add it all up, the Eagles started at their 20 yard line on average last night, which is eight yards deeper than their typical starting point. They really were pinned down a couple of times and did a good job of digging out. The only real nail-biting moment was Smallwood’s escape from what could have been a safety on the second drive.
6) “hey ref, you’re blowing the game”
Officiating items of note:
- The Sproles 3rd down run on the third drive: He was stopped about a half-yard short of the marker and was given the first down anyway.
- Michael Bennett roughing the passer: obviously he can’t punch the guy in the face, but Kyle Long is grabbing him by the shoulder pads up around the neck area well away from the play, which was corny.
- The Avonte Maddox non-interception: pretty straightforward; his elbow touched down out of bounds. Avonte bobbled the first clean look, then ran out of real estate at the sideline.
- The helmet to helmet hit on Zach Ertz: obvious contact with helmet, easy call.
- The pass interference against Jordan Matthews: correct, Amukamara had him hooked and Matthews couldn’t free up his arm
- Golden Tate: felt like he was interfered with on that no-call in the fourth quarter; the linebacker didn’t even turn his head around at all before making contact
- The Smallwood two-point conversion: man, that was close.. I’d love to see goal line technology, the kind they use in some soccer leagues, though with all of the bodies in there I’m not sure how accurate the video would be
And then you have the “no clear recovery” ridiculousness before halftime, which still has me scratching my head.
Here is the explanation from the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE:
Instant Replay Casebook, Page 11: pic.twitter.com/2YhK2qT310
— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) January 6, 2019
I guess the lesson is this: jump on any loose ball you can find, anywhere on the field, even if the whistle was already blown dead.
7) Auxiliary wins and losses
Here they are:
- won time of possession, 30:48 minutes to 29:12 minutes
- -2 turnover margin
- 6-13 on third down (46%)
- 1-1 on fourth down (game winning score)
- allowed Bears to go 5-16 on third down (31%)
- lost 8 yards on 1 sack
- 2-3 success rate in the red zone
- 3 penalties for 25 yards
They were -2 in turnover margin and found a way to win. I think that was primarily due to the great first-half defense and the way they limited Chicago on third downs. After that string of defensive penalties it was pretty much clean football down the stretch, so they really just executed well in other areas to wipe away the pair of interceptions. This was one of those games similar to a Sixers’ performance, where the turnovers don’t matter because they do well in offensive rebounding, three-point shooting, or a different auxiliary category.
The TOP is a big win as well. Plus-48 seconds doesn’t seem like much of an advantage at all, but Philly and Chicago were both top-three time of possession teams this season on the strength of their run defenses, and the Eagles went on the road and were able to do what they normally do in a difficult environment.
8) Doug’s best call?
I liked his play calls on the final drive and opening drive, particular the way he mixed and matched formations and personnel groupings and varied his under center and shotgun looks to keep Chicago off balance. Maybe he did run the ball too much, but he at least committed to the ground game, which did not allow the Bears to simply tee off in what would have been obvious passing situations. I think that probably helped the offensive line a bit.
One that I didn’t mention earlier was the Smallwood screen on that first drive, the big 22 yard gain that sort of set the tone and allowed them to continue down the field for three points. I honestly thought we might see more of Sproles in the screen game, since that’s something that stood out to me as a Bears’ weakness when I watched the film, just like Mike Mayock.
I also liked the wildcat look on the failed two-point conversion. Nice wrinkle, just about an inch away from success.
9) Doug’s worst call?
I liked the first Smallwood screen, but the one near the goal line was really iffy. I also didn’t really get the delayed handoff to Sproles on that one third down, the bobbled snap. Sometimes you can catch teams off guard with those third down runs, since they think it’s an obvious passing situation, but the Eagles weren’t running the ball for much of anything last night, so that felt risky to me.
The only other thing I disliked was obviously running Sproles twice in the red zone on the final drive. Imagine if the Eagles had lost this game; people would be outraged with those two calls and calling for Doug’s head.
10) The broadcast
Listen, I’m alright with Cris Collinsworth because it at least seems like he gives a shit about his job and shows some natural emotion throughout the course of a game. He seemed pretty dialed-in last night and identified some good X’s and O’s type of things. He did a nice job with the “color” part of color commentary.
Al Michaels was Al Michaels – kind of sleepy and only sort of there, though he did perk up at times. He blessed us with a Chase “Daniels” reference and I also appreciated how he tried make “LeBlanc” sound as French as possible every time he said Cre’Von’s last name. Michaels also had a weird sentence after the LeBlanc pass break-up/non fumble where he jumbled something like five words together. Did you hear that? It sounded like he just mushed an entire sentence into three syllables.
I also appreciate Michaels taking shots at the NFL rulebook and NFL officiating. He’s right, you know. It is easier to understand the Dead Sea Scrolls than whatever is written in that 400 page PDF file.
The only true gripe I had with the broadcast was that there were too many shots of Carson Wentz on the sidelines. Yes, he was the starting quarterback. No, he’s not playing in this current game. We are going to be subjected to 40 million hours of “Foles vs. Wentz” takes in the next five weeks, so I don’t need to see it or hear about it during the national game broadcast. Foles is in the game, so show Nick Foles.
Here’s the thing:
We are only blessed with 20-23 days per year that we can actually watch the Eagles. On the other 341 to 344 days, we just talk about the same shit over and over again, so let’s please keep it to on-field storylines when the game is actually taking place.