ABOVE PHOTO: (Photo: Webster Riddick)
The Philadelphia Eagles may have a home field advantage throughout the playoffs, but if Monday’s game against the Oakland Raiders told us anything, it’s that they’re going to need to play better if they’re going to live up to being the number one seed.
By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
If we’re truly honest with ourselves, the Philadelphia Eagles 19-10 “win” over a hapless Oakland Raiders squad probably gave fans more to worry about with the playoffs on the horizon.
Of course, the good news for the Eagles is that they got the win and the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs that comes with it. The road to Minnesota for the NFC goes through Broad and Pattison now, which means that the Eagles can rest their starters for Sunday’s meaningless regular-season finale against the Dallas Cowboys, who were eliminated from playoff contention last week.
For the all the optimism that this fact can give Bird fans going into the playoffs, the Eagles have not played a complete game in the last three weeks and don’t look like a team that’s the prohibitive favorite to make it to the Super Bowl.
Monday’s victory over the Raiders, a game that nobody deserved to win, raised some concerns among fans looking at the postseason.
For starters, quarterback Nick Foles didn’t inspire any confidence for the postseason with his performance against the Raiders. Foles had a horrible game, completing just 50 percent of his passes. He also had an interception and was sacked twice.
The Eagles also had just 216 yards of total offense and only one third-down conversion on 14 attempts. That’s something that can’t happen during the postseason or they’re going to be one and done.
“It was the only time in my life I’ve ever clinched the NFC,” Eagles center Jason Kelce said. “You’d think you’d be pretty happy, but obviously the performance of the offense is frustrating, to say the least. Last week, the defense kind of had their turn. This time it was ours. The good news is that the other side is picking up for you when they need to, but I think everybody knows obviously that these last two games… You know we are going to play a lot better teams in the playoffs and we have to play a lot better football.”
Foles lack of mobility made things a little easier for the Raiders defense and when he wasn’t getting hit, he was holding the ball too long or getting hurried on his throws. It didn’t help that the Eagles wide receivers were having problems finding their way open. Alshon Jeffery was a target just twice for zero catches.
What the Eagles will really miss about not having Carson Wentz during this playoff season is his ability to make plays with his legs in both the passing and running game, especially on third down.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said there were times when Foles threw the ball too high at times but had no mechanical issues. With a bye-week and home field advantage, there’s time to make adjustments, he said.
“The thing is, everything is fixable, and everything is correctable,” Pederson said. “He’ll learn from it. We’ll learn from it. It’s really a good thing, too, when you can play again.”
In spite of Foles’s very lackluster performance, Pederson was impressed with his quarterback’s resilience at overcoming his mistakes and finally putting his team in position to win late in the ball game.
“You play sort of as poor and sloppy as you did offensively, but still have a chance to pull it out in the end with a two-minute drive to put yourself in position to kick the game-winner,” Pederson said.
The Eagles running game, led by Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, and Corey Clement, managed just 78 yards on the ground as a group.
After giving up a combined 800 yards to the New York Giants and the Los Angeles, the Eagles defense allowed just 274 yards of offense against the Raiders. The red-flag here is that the Birds defense gave up 137 yards on the ground, 95 from running back Marshawn Lynch.
If there’s a good thing to all this is that it is better for the Birds to get all that bad play out of their system before playoffs begin. After Sunday’s game against the Cowboys, they will have more than enough time to get ready.
“We’re going to have three weeks of practice before the first [playoff] game. There are ways to make it count that way,” said Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith.