WE went into the game missing key players. We went against a playoff team, which many thought we probably should have lost to, in the playoffs last year. We went into the game with our back-up QB opening the season. And what did we do? Oh yeah.
It wasn’t pretty. Then again, I flat out told you that it wouldn’t be. “War of attrition” is the term I used three days ago. NBC announcer Cris Collinsworth, reiterated those words during the game. I told you that our QB would be solid, and he was. He wasn’t great, but he did a solid job of managing a shorthanded unit. And what did we do? I said, what did we do?! Oh yeah, we did this:
EAGLES 18 – Falcons 12
Last night, the team that scored the last touchdown of the 2017 season, scored the first touchdown of the 2018 season. For the third straight game against the Falcons, an Eagles QB didn’t throw a single touchdown pass. For the third straight game against the Falcons, it didn’t matter, and the Eagles won anyway.
Back-up QB Nick Foles (19/34 – 55.8 – 117 – 0 – 1) played caretaker of a unit which despite it’s struggles, still managed to go 8/16 (50%) on third down. Atlanta only managed 4/15 (26%), despite having an All-Pro WR for their All-Pro QB to throw to. We also converted 2/3 (66%) of our red zone trips into touchdowns, while our opponent only managed a meager 1/5 (20%).
I hear you asking, “What about all the stuff that stats don’t reveal?” Well, that’s the reason for these “Four Things” articles. We introduce an idea of what needs addressing BEFORE the game, so that fans have to honestly answer questions about those things, AFTER the game. This helps to get us, and keep us, all on the same page.
So, of the Four Things we were looking for in this last game, what exactly did we see?
1) Lean on the run:
27 rushes, 114 yards, 4.2 per tote and two touchdowns. RB Darren Sproles (5 – 10 – 2.0 – 0 – 0 / 4 – 22 – 5.5 – 0) got a little too much early work for my taste. However, RB Jay Ajayi (15 – 62 – 4.1 – 2 – 0) ended up at the head of the table in touches, which should be the case for a starter. RB Corey Clement (5 – 26 – 5.2 – 0 – 0) got most of his yards on a 21 yard jaunt up the middle. It was good to see him get the work, but he needs to trust his line, lose the stutter step, and just hit the hole. On a night when offense was hard to come by, the Eagles didn’t abandon the run and just start chucking the pig. As a result Philadelphia was rewarded with the win. DONE
2) Chase that bird: We needed to pressure the Falcons QB Matt Ryan (21/43 – 48.8% – 251 – 0 – 1), and that’s just what we did, limiting the All-Pro QB to a QB rating of just 57.4. That pressure helped CB Rasul Douglas (0 – 0 – 1 – 0) snag an interception off of Ryan. He was sacked 4 times, including 1.5 by DE Chris Long (4 – 1.5 – 0 – 1) who also forced a fumble. While Ryan saw pressure from the edges, he also got it from up the gut. MLB Jordan “Cowboy Killer” Hicks (7 – 1.5 – 0 – 0) and DT Fletcher Cox (2 – 1 – 0 – 0) contributed pressure from the inside. As a result, the Falcons offense took off like a lead balloon. DONE
3) Go for the knockout: We really didn’t try to establish the deep ball. By that, I don’t mean we didn’t throw it deep, enough times. I mean that the play-calling didn’t seem at all geared towards stretching the defense vertically. NOT DONE
4) Win hidden yardage: Field position makes a difference. Especially on a night where points and offensive yardage are both at a premium. Last night, both teams earned over 100 penalty yards, apiece. The Falcons surrendered 135 to the Eagles 101. Also Special teams yards saw the Falcons generate 11 yards on 2 punt returns, and zero on kickoffs. Meanwhile, the Eagles racked up 29 on punt returns and 43 on kickoffs. The Falcons managed 20 yards on an interception return, while the Eagles produced zero yards on the teams only theft. Still, overall the Eagles still did better with hidden yardage than our opponent. DONE
So the Eagles begin the season with a Four Things score of 3 out of 4 (75%). Next week we travel to Tampa Bay for the battle of the second string QB’s.
On The Whole:
A gritty win over a playoff team is a great way to start a season, and let the world know that 2017 was no fluke. I didn’t watch this game with disgust, nor disappointment, nor boredom. I watched it with hope.
In this game I saw what we could be, when we get all of our pieces back. Consider that the last two times we faced Atlanta, we didn’t have many of our key guys. This game was a street fight, and we won it while sending Falcon after Falcon to the sideline for medical evaluation. Dear NFL: You are NOT ready for us.