The Eagles are champions of the NFC East, have a first-round bye and have secured home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Regardless of how they played on Christmas Day, they got the job done. There were some overwhelming positives however. Here’s a glimpse at this week’s report card.
This one won’t need much explaining. Nick Foles was awful on Monday Night. Completing 19/38 passes, Foles missed several would-be touchdown passes and made a few dangerous throws that went unpunished…until they did. Foles was picked off as he sought out refuge in the arms of Zach Ertz, but the struggles didn’t end there. Torrey Smith had one catch for 5 yards and Alshon Jeffery had no receptions whatsoever. Foles struggled on Christmas Day and it very nearly cost the Eagles.
Jay Ajayi led the way in rushing with 53 yards but was also productive as a receiving option, notching a 17-yard touchdown catch to his stat-line. Meanwhile, Corey Clement and LeGarrette Blount chipped in on minimal rushing attempts. The Eagles tried to balance the offense early and drove heavily down the field with Ajayi at the helm early on, but that began to disband as the game went on. Ajayi continued to show improvement and versatility, but this wasn’t the backfield’s finest outing.
All things considered, the offensive line did a great job. Lane Johnson was lined up against the great Kahlil Mack all day long while Jason Kelce was proving to the world why he was deserving of a third Pro Bowl selection. There were some wobbles along the way, but it wasn’t as if Foles didn’t have time in the pocket or holes were never open for the backs. This banged up left-hand side was balanced by a strong outing from Kelce, Brooks and Johnson.
81-yards for Zach Ertz led the Eagles in receiving, but it’s not as if there was much else going on offensively. Ertz did a great job of making the most of the 14 targets that were sent in his direction. Ertz had the exact same amount of targets as the rest of the tight end and wide receiver groups combined. That’s a stark contrast compared to last week’s outing, but not something that falls on the tight ends themselves. Brent Celek had a nice first down reception too and overall, the Eagles went to Ertz early and often for a reason…and he produced.
There is no better pass rush in Football. Chris Long had his finest game as an Eagle so far, while Timmy Jernigan, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry all found themselves making highlight plays regularly. The Birds forced Oakland to run the ball between the tackles, taking out a sense of dynamism and narrowing the pocket…which is exactly what the doctor ordered. Oh, and did we mention a Derek Barnett scoop-n-score? No? That happened.
The biggest surprise of the night was definitely veteran Dannell Ellerbe. A (literally) slow start to his night was followed up with some big plays of his own and a reoccurring theme of the new starting middle linebacker continuing to make the right decisions at the right time. Nigel Bradham was as dominant as ever, leading the team in tackles once again and setting the tone for a group that battles through injuries and setbacks each and every week.
From Ronald Darby’s game-changing interception, to the touchdown given up by Jalen Mills, the secondary had an interesting night for sure. Rasul Douglas stepped in when Mills was forced out of the game with injury, but a snatching interception from Patrick Robinson put the icing on the cake. Oakland tried to use the same sauce as New York did one week ago, but there’s only so many times the same bag of tricks will work. The resiliency and hard-hitting tendencies displayed were encouraging.
Donnie Jones seemed a little off on Monday Night but aside from a missed 34-yard field goal attempt, Jake Elliott was money when called upon. The Eagles special teams unit was as clutch as can be, which is nothing less than we expect at this stage.
Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports