NFC East Champions! - Ten Takeaways from Eagles 34, Giants 17
No Zach Ertz.
No Jalen Mills.
No Ronald Darby.
No Lane Johnson.
No DeSean Jackson.
No Alshon Jeffery.
No Nelson Agholor.
No Malik Jackson.
No Kamu Grugier-Hill.
No Hassan Ridgeway.
No Darren Sproles.
Jordan Howard hobbled.
Miles Sanders ruled out of the game.
Brandon Brooks carted off the field.
……and no problem!
The Eagles went out and beat the Giants with Deontay Burnett, Robert Davis, Greg Ward, and Boston Scott at the skill positions to claim the NFC East title and end the season on a four-game winning streak, setting up a home playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday at 4:40 p.m.
It really is miraculous to think about what this team has done in recent weeks. I know the division isn’t great, but the Birds rolled out a bunch of practice squad guys and navigated their way to 9-7 with a handful of clutch fourth quarter wins to boot. This team was so unpleasant to watch all season long, but holy cannoli did they show a ton of heart over the past four weeks. They really turned into a likable group of… underdogs, for lack of a better word, and found a way to get the job done.
In a way, the playoffs are just kind of a bonus, as far as I’m concerned. Their luck may very well run out, or the injuries may finally catch up to them, but no matter what happens in the postseason I think we can all agree that the 2019 Eagles really scrapped and clawed and rose to the occasion when it really mattered. Other teams would have quit.
And the cherry on top was seeing the Dallas Cowboys win 47-16 in a game that ending up being meaningless. Dallas wins, and yet still finds a way to lose. All that talent and they still finished 8-8.
1. Carson Wentz, answering our questions
First Eagles quarterback to pass for 4,000 yards in a season. More than Donovan McNabb with Terrell Owens and Brian Westbrook. More than Randall Cunningham with Keith Jackson and Cris Carter. More than Jaws with Harold Carmichael and Charlie Smith.
Crazy to think Carson did it with the walking dead catching passes for him. There’s no WR1 out there, no Michael Thomas or DeAndre Hopkins 10+ target, uber-chemistry type of guy, unless you want to label Zach Ertz that kind of player. This year was an exhibition in spreading it out, getting running backs involved, throwing screens, whatever it takes to get the offense moving without a lot of dynamic play making out there. It was a constant shuffle of guys at wide receiver, tight end, and running back.
More than anything, Wentz answered most of the remaining questions we had about him. Could he make it through a full season healthy? Yep. Could he put the team on his back in the fourth quarter and carry it to victory? Yep. Could he minimize the mistakes and hold on to the ball? Yeah, for the most part, though the fumbles are still an issue. He did, however, finish this regular season with only seven interceptions, which tied his career low. His INT percentage actually was a career-low, which is based on the amount of total passes thrown. He was better overall in this area.
Hopefully now we’ve heard the end of the Carson Wentz vs. Nick Foles debate, which should have never been a debate in the first place, but people needed something to talk about on Twitter and the radio. The bottom line is that both guys are great quarterbacks and the Eagles would have been fine keeping either one. Now let’s please appreciate these guys for what they are – a Super Bowl winner with a huge dong and a legitimate franchise quarterback.
2. Boston Scott and his three touchdowns
It’s just a great sports story, isn’t it? Little dude comes out of nowhere and puts up 350 scrimmage yards with four touchdowns in the final four weeks of the season.
And then he dropped one of the tweets of the year after wrapping up the division on the road:
Sorry bout the spin move WiFi made the game lag
— DIG B0ston. (@BostonScott2) December 30, 2019
I laughed out loud when I saw the spin move live. It was during the huge screen pass that he took down to the goal line, where he broke free and then hit the B button on Madden in open space. You can see it here, around the nine second mark:
— NFL (@NFL) December 30, 2019
Great stuff. Not sure about you, but I find myself cheering for Boston Scott. How can you not?
3. Stacking, stunting, and stripping
The defensive line came to play on Sunday. The entire defense actually was fantastic outside of one big Saquon Barkley run. If you take away that 68-yard TD, he only ran it 16 times for 24 yards, which is 1.5 yards per carry.
We’ve talked about this over the years, but one thing the Eagles really like to do is stack their defensive ends on the interior and show vertical wrinkles on obvious passing downs. On the Brandon Graham sack in the first half, they actually lined up Fletcher Cox at defensive end, then stacked Graham and Derek Barnett (two ends) at tackle, with Vinny Curry at the other defensive end spot. This was the result:
Brandon Graham with the 3rd down SACK! 😤 pic.twitter.com/HO4Eq70eIg
— Thomas R. Petersen (@thomasrp93) December 29, 2019
As expected, Cox absorbs a double team at the top there, which lets Graham run a stunt underneath and slip past left tackle Nate Solder for a wide-open run at Daniel Jones.
Here’s a freeze frame where you can see Curry and Barnett drive their guys at an angle, which seals off left guard Will Hernandez and center Jon Halapio and doesn’t let them get a hand on a free-running Graham:
It’s almost like an offensive line blocking scheme, if you think about it.
They sacked Jones three more times after that, hit him 11 times in total, and finished with nine tackles for loss while turning the tide with the massive strip sack on the bobbled snap, which gave the Eagles the ball back on the goal line, resulting in a one-play touchdown drive.
Give Jim Schwartz’s entire unit credit. Cre’Von LeBlanc was out there making plays. Malcolm Jenkins. Derek Barnett. Rasul Douglas had three pass break ups outside of the touchdown he gave up. They really put in a great game when it was badly needed.
4. Drop eight and then give up
Not sure if you noticed this, but on the first Eagles touchdown pass, the Wentz-to-Josh Perkins toss, the Giants dropped eight guys into coverage and two of the three rushers basically just quit on the play.
Here’s a still of the roll out, which shows one Giant being triple-teamed while Matt Pryor handles his guy and Jason Kelce and Isaac Seumalo stand around looking for somebody to block:
That’s #99, Leonard Williams, just sort of hovering there because Wentz is 10 yards away and three Eagles are standing between him and the quarterback. The Eagles kept seven guys in to block, only ran two receiver routes into drop-eight coverage, and still ended up scoring a touchdown.
Go figure. This will be a good play to look at when the coaches film is released.
5. Dakota Access Pipeline
This is my nickname for the Carson Wentz to Dallas Goedert connection.
Get it? Dakota Access Pipeline? Since one guy went to North Dakota State and the other went to South Dakota State? And there’s actually a pipeline that runs through both states?
Anyway, that’s not important, but what is important is that Goedert had a nice night in Zach Ertz’s absence, with four catches for 65 yards, including the huge sideline catch on 3rd and 8 at the end of the third quarter that helped the Eagles go up 17-10:
Dakota Access Pipeline? I thought it was pretty clever but some people gave me shit because of the political storyline, which is further proof that politics ruins everything.
6. Mistakes and breaks
Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention, but I didn’t write down much for this entry.
- Boston Scott bobbling the opening kickoff
- Wentz miscommunication with Scott on 3rd and 4 incompletion (the deep shot)
- bogus roughing the passer call on Douglas
- two straight offside penalties on the Giants second-half opening drive
- holding penalty wiped out 41-yard Robert Davis gain
There was a delay of game the refs missed which resulted in the offside call on Derek Barnett. He just timed his rush for when the play clock hit zero, but I don’t know if the zebras were snoozing or what, because they flagged him instead and missed the offensive infraction.
- Golden Tate third down drop
- NYG 15-yard horse collar penalty
- Danny Dimes bobbled snap
- garbage time interception to help seal the game
Jones threw for 300 yards but the Birds did a much better job this time against Darius Slayton. No Evan Engram really helped as well. Other teams have injuries, too, just not as many as the Birds.
7. Ancillary wins and losses
Wins across the board:
- won time of possession 31:25 to 28:35
- +2 turnover margin
- 4-15 on third down (26.6%)
- 1-2 on fourth down (50%)
- allowed Giants to go 5-16 on third down (31.2%)
- lost 10 yards on one sack
- 3-4 success rate in the red zone
- 7 penalties for 55 yards
- 25 first downs, 19 for New York
- ran 72 total plays, New York 72
The only thing that sticks out is that third down number, which is very low for the Eagles. It got pretty hairy there when the Giants tied it up 10-10, when it felt like the Eagles were in an offensive rut and couldn’t move the sticks. Then they ripped off the nine-play, 62-yard touchdown drive and got the gears grinding again.
8. Doug’s best call?
No problem with the 4th and 7 decision on the opening drive. That ball was on the Giants’ 38, so if you failed to pooch that punt, you’re looking at a gain of +18 yards in field position on the touchback, which isn’t much of anything.
The 4th and 1 sneak in the second quarter? Same thing. Aggressive Doug Pederson is the best Doug Pederson.
9. Doug’s worst call?
Hard to say anything was his worst call considering the personnel situation. The job he did over the last four weeks getting this team in the playoffs is nothing short of a masterclass.
I’ll actually take a moment to share this statistic, since I didn’t know where else to put it:
In December, Doug Pederson is 12-6. Three of those losses took place in 2016, his first year, and another was the meaningless 6-0 Dallas loss in 2017. So if you take away that junk, that’s 12-5 or 12-2, however you want to adjust the stat. He has a fantastic record winning late season games that matter. If coaches have a “clutch” gene, then that exists in the fibers of Doug Pederson’s being.
10. The broadcast
Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman, and Shannon Spake. I saw grumbling on Twitter, questions as to why Troy Aikman and Joe Buck were doing the Dallas game and not this one. I dunno. I dunno why FOX assigned the crews the way they did.
What I do know is that we didn’t get enough Dallas/Washington updates during the game. Yeah, we all have smartphones and whatever these days, but sauce up the broadcast, ya know? Give me a graphic showing the score of the other game that matters. Sell it a little bit.
Some people don’t like Brennaman for whatever reason, but I think he’s fine. I did laugh when he called Boston Scott “Byron Scott,” but those Freudian slips happen to all broadcasters. Another good one was when he said there was a little bit of “misconfusion” on the deep ball thrown to Burnett. That’s a good word, “misconfusion,” a splicing of miscommunication and confusion. It’s a “misconfusion.”
Also appreciated this graphic error where some producer forgot to update the chyron, which made me laugh out loud. Looks like the Eagles went nine plays, 55 yards without running OR passing the ball:
h/t Bob Caton for spotting this
Chyron mistakes, they happen. I had a couple of bad ones back in the day. Think I wrote “Germany” instead of “Germantown” when identifying something on Eyewitness News.
And last but not least, Ed Rendell took a little dig at FOP boss John McNesby on the NBCSP postgame show, saying this:
“Malcolm Jenkins is just a clutch ball player, so take that John McNesby”
Happy Monday to everybody.