Five takeaways: Nick Foles leads Eagles to a surprise upset over the Rams

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Well, who saw that one coming? The Philadelphia Eagles, who were 13.5 underdogs coming into tonight’s matchup with the high-flying Los Angeles Rams and to make matters even worse, they were without their starting quarterback, Carson Wentz. But after yet another rollercoaster ride, the Eagles come out swinging and ready to close out their season with every chance of a playoff berth. Here are five quick thoughts following the loss.

 

The Foles of old: 
The Eagles offense looked surprisingly confident from the get-go. In fact, capping their first drive with a field goal was a huge step forward, given that the Eagles had been held scoreless in 10 of 13 first quarter previously. There were a few minor errors along the way that were very nearly punished but for the most part, Foles played exactly as expected; efficiently.

Moving the chains reliably, Foles wasn’t afraid to take a shot down the field or go right at the Rams secondary. Alshon Jeffery’s 160-yard explosion came as a result of Foles putting up prayers and allowing his number one wideout to make a play, something that had previously been completely vacant as a hobbling Carson Wentz struggled to spread the ball and get through his progressions.

A simplified offense worked wonders for Philly, with 8 different receivers catching a pass from the Super Bowl MVP. Foles did an excellent job of sustaining drives and being aggressive when necessary. There’s a reason the Eagles kept him around for another year and this was absolutely why.

 

Avonte Maddox is a baller:
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Maddox is going to be very, very good. He’s been asked to play nickel, outside and safety during his first season as a pro and has been exceptional in all three areas. Tonight was no exception, with the Pitt product batting down two passes including the buzzer beater attempt from Jared Goff and hitting like a freight train. Maddox came up big when the team needed a playmaker and he did so time and time again. This was easily his best game yet as an NFL player and his ability to constantly be around the ball making big-time plays honestly left you stunned. The ceiling is very, very high indeed.

 

The plan: 
I wrote an article this week detailing how if the Eagles applied the same logic used by the Saints to dethrone them earlier this year, they could overthrow the Rams. Todd Gurley had 48 rushing yards and Jared Goff threw 54 times, making some peculiar errors in the process. The Eagles pass-rush, although limited in terms of depth, ran rampant and constantly forced Goff off of his perch and into some scary situations.

The run defense, especially at the second level, was excellent. Nigel Bradham had a very strong game, as did Kamu Grugier-Hill and the flurry of cornerbacks who helped seal the edge and stop Gurley from breaking out. The Rams shot themselves in the foot at times, but the front seven were just outstanding against such a strong offensive front and powerful running back.

 

Captain Cre’Von and the rest of the secondary:
Yes, I know I had some fun with the creation of Captain Cre’Von…

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…but our new pirate friend and the rest of the corners played very, very well. Jim Schwartz called a great game and knew the Rams love to take shots deep. He pulled his corners a little further back than usual and ensured plenty of 2-safety looks gave them as much help as possible, forcing Goff to take check downs instead of first downs. This worked wonders, with Douglas, LeBlanc and Maddox all having stellar games. Douglas led the team in tackles and no Rams receiver passed the 100 yard mark…OR SCORED A TOUCHDOWN. The Eagles makeshift secondary that’s literally missing every single starter at CB played excellently and kept the Rams in check.

This was all thanks to Captain Cre’Von….kinda.

 

Scraping by:
The Eagles didn’t make it easy for themselves. A two-possession lead in the fourth quarter was very nearly squandered and it wasn’t by coincidence. There were two key third and short moments where Pederson opted to run the ball up the gut with Wendell Smallwood, which predictably went absolutely nowhere, while a dreadful offensive drive late on was rescued by a heroic Cam Johnston punt that was somehow recovered by D.J Alexander. The Eagles played very well, very, very well, but they were still making those rookie errors and committing penalties that would haunt them in the postseason should they make it.

On a positive note however, Foles threw 31 passes and the Eagles rushed 30 times. OFFENSIVE. BALANCE.  Wendell Smallwood led the team in rushing, scoring 2 touchdowns and picking up 48 yards while Josh Adams watched from the sideline having left early with a back injury. Even without their newly-found bell-cow, back, the Birds kept it 50/50 and that’s huge.

 

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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