How the Eagles turned what nearly ruined their season into a formula that saved it

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The morning after a victory is always sweet, but when that victory is over an 11-2 team who have run the NFC Table for the majority of the year, it’s even more-so. The Eagles saved their season with a thunderous victory in Los Angeles after coming out kicking and screaming against a Rams outfit that stunningly had no answer for Philadelphia. But how did it all come to pass?

I wrote an article last week detailing how if the Eagles took the same gameplan devised by the Saints in the most devastating loss of the Doug Pederson era, that the team could at the very least, hang with the Rams throughout. That gameplan would consist of smothering the run defensively, taking away deep-play opportunities and forcing Jared Goff to put the game on his shoulders.

How Eagles could use a game-plan that once destroyed them to overthrow the Rams

After all, Goff was coming off of a four-interception game against the Bears and has four games this season in which he’d completed under 55% of his passes. Stopping Todd Gurley was never going to be an easy task, but if the Eagles can force a reliance on a run-game that just can’t find the momentum it has all season, all Nick Foles had to do was be competent and move the ball down the field long enough to stop the Rams dominating time of possession.

It worked like a charm.

In a game where the Eagles needed to take as much weight off the shoulders of the Super Bowl 52 MVP as possible, they rushed the ball 30 times and passed it 31. That’s close to a perfect split which against such a rampant Rams secondary and dominant pass-rush almost seemed impossible. The Eagles continued to stick with the run through thick and thin and even when Josh Adams was taken out of the game with a back injury, were able to find ways to get their running backs into space and make plays.

Defensively, it all started up front. Todd Gurley and his supporting cast had very little success rushing up the middle, with Fletcher Cox doing all he could to fill every lane. The rest of the front four were deployed in some interesting looks, with new twists and stunts that we hadn’t really seen before. Chris Long would almost line up on the shoulder of Bennett/Cox to try and just throw a little hesitation to the Rams offensive line.

They may have only tallied one sack on Jared Goff, but 7 QB hits and a whopping 5.5 tackles for a loss headline what was an extremely productive day for a front four that’s missing two starters and a chunk of depth. The resulting impact of this was that when the Rams lost their early lead, they physically had to throw…and the Jim Schwartz defense started to lick its lips.

At the end of the day, this is where the defense thrives. The corners took away deep areas of the field, supported by a pair of safeties which was previously something rarely seen due to injuries. Playing off-coverage meant that if Goff wanted to push the ball down the field, he had to allow routes to develop…which only leant more time to the pass-rush to get the job done. In a dream scenario, that’s how the Jim Schwartz defense should perform each and every week.

Avonte Maddox, who now has 2 interceptions on the year, played an incredible game that really highlighted his potential. For someone to play outside, in the nickel and over the top in his rookie year and produce the way he has, really does speak volumes about just how high this ceiling really is. But as ‘wowing’ as Maddox was, he was supported by strong tackling throughout.

Rasul Douglas led the Eagles defense with 14, while Captain Cre’Von LeBlanc set a new career high. The Eagles corners were insistent on keeping the play ahead of them and wrapping up ball-carriers, frustrating McVay and the Rams offense and forcing them out of check down scenarios. To put it simply, the Rams offense started to panic and play very uncharacteristically.

Could you imagine a scenario where an offense that averages 30 points per game struggles against a secondary missing all of its starting cornerbacks? Exactly. The Rams hit panic mode and Jared Goff ended up throwing 54 times, while the team had just 18 rushing attempts.

The worst part is, the Rams were never down by more than three possessions. That may seem like a lot, but it shouldn’t be for an offense this explosive and it absolutely shouldn’t be a reason for them to lose their identity…but it happened. Just like it happened to Carson Wentz a few short weeks ago.

Philly came out with everything they had to execute this gameplan and the Rams didn’t adjust. In the end, all the small things mattered and for once, the Eagles were on the right side of fortune.

How did this injury ravaged, beaten and bruised Eagles team, that’s coming off of a heartbreaking loss to Dallas, find a way to overthrow the NFC’s biggest offensive juggernaut? By using the same formula that nearly broke them.

 

Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

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