We’re in mid-December which means it’s Christmas time around the world. And Christmas time means it’s Saint Nick time, as Saint Nick created the tradition of Santa Claus bringing gifts to kids on Christmas Eve. In Philadelphia, the people have their own Saint Nick and he starts for their beloved Philadelphia Eagles.
For the second straight year, the Eagles had to start Nick Foles in Week 15 due to an injury to their starting franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz. This time, it was a back fracture to Wentz that caused the quarterback change; while Wentz is still on the 53-man roster, for now, Foles will most likely be playing quarterback for at least the remainder of the regular season. It’s Saint Nick Time!
On Sunday night, Nick Foles stepped onto the field for the first time since week two. And being the spark plug that he is, he helped Philly rekindle its magic from its 2017 Super Bowl run. The Eagles’ backs were up against the wall again, the LA Coliseum was overrun by Philly fans, and the aura just felt different than it has for this team all season long. Philadelphia lived up to its potential for seemingly the first time all season and pulled a major upset over the LA Rams. The Rams, who currently hold the NFC’s two seed, were 13.5 point favorites, making this the third biggest upset of the season.
Here are some other takeaways from the Eagles win:
More Balanced Play Calling
First, let’s get one thing out of the way. Sunday night’s victory led by Nick Foles in no way, shape or form means Foles is a better quarterback than Carson Wentz. Wentz is still the future of the Eagles franchise. However, the offense just seemed to click better last game than it had all season long, including Foles’ starts in Week 1 and Week 2.
A major reason for that was that Doug Pederson’s play calling became much more balanced against the Rams. He called 54 percent pass plays compared to 46 percent run plays; this is a lot more optimal than the 61 percent pass to 39 percent run play ratio he had called coming into Week 15. Maybe the discrepancy was because Foles is not as dynamic as Wentz. Maybe he called more runs because of game flow. But either way, Sunday’s game showed that when Doug Pederson’s play calling is balanced, the Eagles are better able to sustain long, scoring drives.
Supporting Cast Played Much Better
Moving away from the quarterback position, the rest of the team played its best game of the season.
While the Eagles only got one sack, by Fletcher Cox, the defensive line was in Rams quarterback Jared Goff’s face seemingly all game long. Goff was feeling the pressure as he got forced into two interceptions along with a lot of errant passes.
The extremely banged up secondary played as well as it could have. They played a soft zone, allowing underneath passes but giving up no big plays all game.
Rookie slot corner Avonte Maddox, who had to play outside due to injuries, was the defensive star of the game. On the first third down of the game, he had a tremendous pass breakup; later in the first half, Maddox made an incredible interception to halt a Rams drive. Maddox’s most important contributions, though, came when he saved the game on the final two plays. With about 20 seconds left and the Rams out of timeouts, Maddox tackled Todd Gurley, keeping him in-bounds inside the 25-yard line and keeping the clock running. Then on the last play, covering Josh Reynolds in the end zone, he stuck to his receiver. Maddox kept Reynolds, who had about six inches on him, from catching the game-tying touchdown.
If Avonte Maddox can keep playing like this, the Eagles have themselves a cornerback.
The offense played its most complete game of the season. This was partially due to Nick Foles’ willingness to take shots from defenders and fire the ball down the field for chunk plays. However, it was also partially because the players stepped up and simply played their best football.
The receivers, specifically Alshon Jeffery were getting separation from defenders consistently. Every time Foles looked in Jeffery’s direction he was absolutely wide open, ending with eight catches for 160 yards. On one play, a 50-yard completion to Alshon, he and Nelson Agholor had both easily cleared the defense.
The offensive line also played a great game. They double-teamed Rams Defensive lineman Aaron Donald as most teams do, but the Eagles actually shut him down. He was a total non-factor and ended with only one quarterback hit and zero sacks. Nick Foles had a lot more time in the pocket to operate than Wentz has received most of the season. The offensive line also opened rushing lanes for Wendell Smallwood and the other backs, allowing for three red zone rushing touchdowns.
Playoff Hopes Live On
This unlikely victory over thekeepsRams keep Philadelphia’s playoff hopes very much alive. Even though a loss would not have mathematically eliminated them, this win was necessary for a realistic chance at the postseason tournament.
Now, especially because of the Carolina Panthers’ loss Monday night to the Saints, the Eagles’ formula is simple. Win their next two games over the Houston Texans and Washington Redskins. Then, hope for a Vikings loss to either the Detroit Lions or Chicago Bears. If that happens, the Eagles would earn the six seed and make the playoffs.
Of course, there are a couple of other, unlikely ways Philly could make it. If they win out and the Seattle Seahawks lose both of their remaining games, the Eagles get the wild card instead of Seattle. In that scenario, a Vikings loss would give the Eagles the fifth seed while two Minnesota wins means sixth seed. Further, Philadelphia still has a small chance to capture the NFC East title. If they win both games AND the Dallas Cowboys lose both of their games, Philadelphia would win the division. They would get a home playoff game.
Somehow, some way, the Philadelphia Eagles snuck out of Los Angeles with a victory. Nick Foles provided a spark plug that resonated through the entire team. If Philadelphia ends up actually making the playoffs, they just showed the talent is still there to play at a high level.
Watch out NFC. It’s Saint Nick time!
Featured image from NBC Sports Philadelphia
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