Well, that was a rollercoaster. The Philadelphia Eagles advance in the must unlikeliest of circumstances to face the New Orleans Saints in what’s rapidly becoming a conference grudge match. But before we turn our attention to Drew Brees and company, here are five things we learned from last night’s emphatic victory.
It doesn’t matter who…
There was such a heavy focus on Khalil Mack coming into this week and with good reason. In a tier of his own, Mack has ripped offensive lines to shreds throughout his career and a 12.5 sack season would send chills down even the most experienced group of players…well, the majority of them.
Remember Everson Griffen in the NFC Championship game? Nullified.
J.J Watt a few weeks ago? Nullified.
Aaron Donald a few weeks ago? Nullified.
In fact, the trio of Donald, Mack and Watt combined for 49 sacks this season…none of those came against the Eagles.
Mack ended his night with a single quarterback hit and a flurry of tackles but spent most of the evening in a tenacious battle with Jason Peters…one he really struggled to win.
It doesn’t matter who lines up across from this offensive line. Whether it’s an all-pro defensive end, the best defensive tackle in the league or one of the most disruptive pass-rushers of the last decade, this Eagles offensive line will find a way to negate it and frustrate the impact player in question.
That has to be one of the biggest takeaways from Sunday. Sure, there were pressures, QB hits and forced interceptions, but Foles getting the ball out quick, partnered with some stellar pass protection rendered Khalil Mack’s services virtually invisible when it mattered most.
Leaps and bounds:
If we’re going to talk about improvement, we have to mention the secondary. I don’t think it would be exaggerating to say that the current crop of starters (Maddox, Douglas and LeBlanc) have played far more productively than those injured. From a tackling perspective, the group is lightyears ahead in terms of consistency and taking solid angles, while the ballhawking instincts of Douglas and Maddox continue to bring a new sting to the secondary.
Maddox had a rollercoaster game on Sunday, as most rookie corners do. From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, he stayed aggressive and the Bears ultimately punished him for it. He will learn from that, but if you look at this secondary moving forward, one can only be excited.
Rasul Douglas led the team in tackles while LeBlanc came up with some crucial stops including a (whatever the hell it was ruled) fumble that tilted momentum heavily back in favor of the Eagles once the offense took the field.
With such an important offseason approaching for the backend, Schwartz can rest easy knowing the future is in safe hands.
Nick Foles is a magician:
Fourth and goal, game on the line, season on the line. Was there really any REAL doubt that Foles was going to let that moment pass him by? It wasn’t the best game Nick Foles has ever played, but his unrelenting confidence to sling the pigskin deep, spread the ball around and keep the offense moving. On third down, Foles was just sensational. Whether it was third and long or third and short, the Eagles quarterback was surgical in keeping the offense on the field.
There is bound to be plenty of discussion surrounding his future in the coming weeks, but all that matters right now is the Super Bowl 52 MVP is pushing the unlikeliest of teams back into the big dance for a second round.
Put some respect on Pederson’s name:
Now 4-0 in the playoffs and with a Super Bowl ring to his name, isn’t it about time people start giving Doug Pederson the respect he deserves? He’s been a Head Coach just three years and in that time has endured just about everything a Head Coach is expected to in a ten-year run. Cluster injuries, extreme adversity and trying to save a battered and broken team, rallying them for one last war cry. The fact that the Eagles are still here, still fighting and still swinging at everyone that stands in their way is a true testament to the coaching ability of Doug Pederson, who truly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the best in the league.
A different team…
The Saints humiliated the Eagles a few short weeks ago to the beat of 48-7. But do you really think this is the same Eagles team? A revitalized secondary, a pass-rush that’s beginning to feast like never before and an offense that is being magically lifted by Nick Foles. This isn’t a team that’s just flipping the bird and accepting defeat as the locker room cracks, this is a team who truly believe they can go all the way, in spite of everything. There will be plenty of articles diving into this over the coming days, but it deserved a quick mention. This isn’t the same Eagles team that were blown out by New Orleans…and that’s a scary thought if the Saints want to keep chirping.
Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports