UNSTOPPABLE. We rolled through Houston last week, while practically in sleep mode. I still can’t tell if it was funny, that they were so helpless once we stopped hitting the snooze button; or if it was terrifying, that even playing sub-optimal football, we still cruised to a double-digit win margin.
This week we get shot at sweeping the Commanders. Understand, the last time we faced them, we rolled over them 24 – 8, in their house. A freak scene in their backfield the last time we hit it, sacking their QB nine times. That’s not a typo. It was NINE TIMES, with DE Brandon Graham leading the way with 2.5. This time they have a lesser QB back there. This time they’re in our house, not their’s. This time, we have an immediate goal.
And they, are standing in our way.
A win here, puts us at nine victories for the year, guaranteeing us to finish above the .500 mark. A win here, means that we swept a division rival. A win here, sees the Eagles at the head of the NFL table, for yet another week. A win here, makes the Eagles 9 – 0 for the first time in franchise history. A loss would see us at 8 – 1, but still atop both the NFC East, and the NFL. Damn. It’s good to be the king.
The point of Four Things isn’t to predict a winner, it’s to discuss which tactics would give our Eagles the best chance to win this game. So here are the Four Things that we need to focus on this week, versus the: Commanders
1) Set hard edges: This is another repeat from the last time. It shouldn’t be hard to do this since neither of the Commanders runners are Toss or Sweep guys. So they likely won’t fight us on it. They mostly like to run between the Tackles, and we want them trying to do exactly that.
The idea is to gum up the middle, define where the trouble spots will be, and let MLB T.J. Edwards patrol those lanes. Once their run game is contained, then we can pin our ears back and hunt the QB.
2) Invert the Pocket: The Commanders are healthier up front than they were the last time, but we just need to be disruptive. Send DT’s Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave through the ‘A’ gaps. Force their QB to move his feet, so he can’t set them, and drive the ball. We just got 9 sacks and a couple batted passes doing this to QB Carson Wentz.
This time we face back-up QB Taylor Heinicke, who’s 4 inches shorter, with an arm nowhere near as strong as Wentz’s. He plays the same brand of “hero ball” that Wentz does. However, unlike Wentz, Heinicke knows that he’s playing with house money, so he’ll play without fear of getting yanked. His eyes see openings that his arm can’t deliver on, and that’s where the Eagles need to capitalize (or should I say Capitol-ize? Get it?!)
If we can keep his feet moving, the ball will sail on him. And we have SS Chauncey Gardner-Johnson lurking out there. It’s unreasonable to expect as many sacks as the last time, but last time we didn’t get any interceptions. Let’s see how that shakes out Monday night.
3) Run the Ball More: Last time we played, QB Jalen Hurts was sacked 3 times. He had 35 pass attempts and ran 9 times. That’s 44 plays with the ball in his hand. Conversely, there were only 21 hand-offs. So it’s not a wonder that Hurts spent the day getting beat to shit.
How about not letting them tee off on Hurts? (I mean, if our playoff hopes are serious.) We didn’t do a great job of running the ball last time (30 – 72 – 2.4 – 0 – 0), but a hand-off isn’t always about yardage. Sometimes it’s about keeping the defense honest, and stopping them from pinning their ears back to hunt your QB. Capiche?
4) Devonta De Decoy: Earlier this season WR Devonta Smith lit the Commanders secondary on fire for 8 grabs, for 169 yards, including this crazy, 45 yard, ladder climb.
I would expect them to shade Safety coverage to his side early, in this game.
If they don’t shade to Smith’s side, then we should just pick up where we left off. Use Smith to put on another clinic on dissection of a secondary. If they do make the adjustment, then play-action towards Smith, should repeatedly result in a pair of one-on-ones to the opposite side. At which point Hurts just has to deliver the ball to a spot.
If the Eagles do these Four Things, then we’ll be virtually impossible to beat. That being said…
This is far from a replay of the last game. The interior of their offensive line is back, but we’re missing DT Jordan Davis (I.R.), who was a huge part of our win over them. They’ll also have the services of their hard running rookie RB, who gives them a presence they just didn’t have, when last we met.
So expect them to be more physical. Expect them to try and make this game into a street fight. Usually as a Philadelphian, I would say, “Pack a lunch and come on wit’ it! ‘Cause we’re going all 15 rounds.” But not this time.
We have playoff hopes. They don’t. We don’t need to spend any more time or energy on this opponent, than it takes to put them down. We know what’s coming. This is just us deciding how it’s going to play out. We’re the better team, but this game isn’t about proving that. We’re just taking care of business. We’re walking into a room, shooting an animal with a bag on it’s head, turning on heel, and walking out. That’s it.
This isn’t a game. It’s an execution. Just like last time.
Prediction: EAGLES 29 – Commanders 10
WARNING: I don’t have the faintest clue as to what a point spread is, and I know even less about how it works. I know football and that’s IT. If you use Four Things as a gambling tool, you are trying to lose your money, and will deserve it when you do.
Check back in a couple of days for Four Things Reviewed, and we’ll discuss how this game went.