UNDERDOGS. That’s what we were. Despite being 13 – 3, the #1 seed in the NFC, and having home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, we came into the game as an underdog. In fact, no #1 seed, playing at home had ever been an underdog in NFL history until someone decided that, we were over-matched and could not defend our home turf. Well. We saw how that shit ended, didn’t we?
Matt Ryan sacked by Rod McLeod. Courtesy Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
QB Nick Foles (23/30 – 76.6% – 246 – 0 – 0) didn’t have a stellar game. All he did was distribute the ball in a saavy, veteran manner, to eight different receivers. He did not push the ball downfield much. Then again he was playing against Cover Three, so why would he. That’s why I said what I said in Four Things. (More on that, down the page.)
While no Eagles Offensive player seemed to do much damage statistically, there were enough collective moments, to sustain a couple of long drives and put points on the board. RB Jay Ajayi (15 – 54 – 3.6 – 0 – 1/ 3 – 44 – 14.6 – 0) was the workhorse and looked much better than his yard per carry average indicates. Same with RB LeGarrette Blount (9 – 19 – 2.1 – 1 – 0). WR Alshon Jeffery (4 – 61 – 15.2 – 0) led the Eagles in receiving yards, catching three of his passes on one drive. That proved that he can find a rhythm with Foles, so should put those questions to sleep now.
DT Fletcher Cox (7 – 1 – 0 – 0) was a terrorist out there.
Cox spent the game blowing up the interior of Atlanta’s offensive line, recking their inside run game and not giving QB Matt Ryan (22/36 – 61.1% – 210 – 1 – 0) a pocket to step up into, most of the time.
The biggest killer in the game however, was K Jake Elliott (0/1x, 3/3fg, 53L).
His five wittle piggies put up the last 9 points of the game, which helped the Eagles capture the lead and then surge ahead.
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) Run. The. Ball: I said we need to run it at least 25 times. There were 27 called (i.e. non-QB) runs to 30 passes. We won time of possession 32:06 to 27:54, gave our Defense time to breathe, and limited Atlanta’s opportunities to score points. (DONE)
2) A thousand cuts: High percentage passes to the TE’s outside of the numbers. Foles said, okay, and I might do you one better! Not only did he get TE’s Zach Ertz (3 – 32 – 10.6 – 0), and Brent Celek (1 – 6 – 6.0 – 0), but he also hit Alshon Jeffery 4 times and snuck in 5 passes to RB Corey Clement (5rec – 31 – 6.2 – 0). Why not? With Atlanta playing Cover Three, it left things like Slant routes, Screens and Crosses open. Foles isn’t flashy, but he is saavy. Teams thinking he’s harmless is probably his deadliest asset. (DONE)
3) Alter the launch: The idea was to get Matt Ryan to throw while moving or resetting his feet. We did that quite a bit (thank you Fletcher Cox). The hope was to get a turnover or two out of him. Well, we didn’t get a turnover, but what we DID do was hold him to 5.8 yard per attempt. That matched his lowest mark of the year, during a Week 4 loss to Buffalo. (DONE)
4) Stay grounded: It’s points like THIS ONE HERE, that separates me from other would-be experts. Nine days ago, the NFL and it’s media bag were praising, lauding, exalting Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay, for being such a young genius. Such a prodigy! Wait no, it was “coaching supernova”. That’s what they called him. And then there’s this-
His career mark is 11-6! It was amazing that they could speak with that much of his shaft in their collective windpipe.
Then what happened last week? He got locked into a close game against the Falcons, panicked because he’s as green as peas, and stopped running the ball, even though his team was doing it better. Experience counts! Our coaching staff is battle-tested, so even when we were down, even though our average run (on paper) was 3.0 yards per carry, we stuck with it. We stayed grounded. We stayed balanced. (DONE)
At half-time I wasn’t sure about some of these, but Nick Foles has a nice second half and in doing so, helped the Eagles deliver a 4 out of 4 Four Things score. This will be out well before we know who our next victim is, so I can’t really offer a tempting tidbit for next week yet.
On The Whole:
It was more grit than glitter. More spit than polish. War of attrition, is what I called this game after the half. This game was about will. It was about who wanted it more, and who had the players who could seize the moment.
In the end (as I said), we were deeper and more talented. The Falcons were no match for us. They were never going to be. While some will point out that we only scored 15 points, we also only allowed 10. Meaning we only needed 11.
I told you not to worry about Foles, didn’t I?
Foles isn’t a Lincoln Continental, he’s more like a Buick LaCrosse. As an Eagles QB, he’s been solid and efficient. Trouble is, solid and efficient are not sexy adjectives, and people like their QB’s to be attached to sexy adjectives. The actual problem isn’t the QB. It’s people perception of him, despite the fact that in Eagles green, he’s 18 -11 (.620) as an Eagles QB. (That’s about 9.9 wins per 16 games.)
No single Eagle won this game. There was no outlandish performance by any one player. This was a team effort. That’s how this team has won 14 games this year. It’s how they’ll keep winning. This year.
How Eagles haters look today: