Sunday, January 14, 2018

Eagles - Falcons Takeaways: 53 Pick Up

As accurate as Nick Foles
We've officially entered the Obvious Bonus Round of this Eagles season, where every moment of joy and relief is way beyond anything you could have hoped for at the start of things. Which makes quibbling and having a memory and sense of realism completely unwelcome, but I am what I am. (And I am a guy that run 10 miles on a gym treadmill with closed captions during all of this, in a region where no one gave a damn about the game. The sacrifices I make for this team, which can seemingly only contend for championships when I am far, far away.) And with that... on to the takeaways!

10) K Jake Elliott's habit of missing PATs, then making monstrously important 50+ yarders, is downright freakish. It also is a little worrisome and speaks to a need for coaching, but for now, the whole makes up for the flaw. (Fix the flaw already.)

9) LB Nigel Bradham seemed like a knucklehead last year with off the field distraction stuff and middling play. When people talk about Coach of the Year accolades for HC Doug Pederson, it's the improvement in guys like Bradham, more than the Xs and Os. (And yes, the best player on the field last night was DT Fletcher Cox, but saying Fletcher Cox is good is too obvious by triplicate.)

8) Pederson's seeming willingness to go for it on 4th and 2 while up 12-10 in the fourth was, well, insane. Cooler heads prevailed and the figgie was kicked, but only after a timeout was wasted. This game really was a coin flip away from being blown, but Pederson is having a year for the ages on shaky decisions.

7) Special shoutout to Falcons OC Steve Sarkesian for taking a unit that returned intact from a Super Bowl run and making them punchless and ineffective. This, despite multiple good RBs, a deep WR core, a credible QB and a Pro Bowl C. Oh, and his game planning in this game was also highly impactful in the Eagles winning. Seriously, go look at what the Falcons were getting on outside runs, then ask yourself, um, why not just do more of that?

6) That's not to say that Falcons QB Matt Ryan doesn't have a hand to play in this. That crazed shuffle pass to deep reserve RB Terrion Ward during the Eagles goal line stand to win it was a pure gift, and his inability to convert on any number of third downs when nearing field goal position put his team in a hole all night. I get that conditions weren't dome field ideal, but when they write your legacy as an NFL player, not winning exceptionally winnable playoff games matters more than counting stats.

5) Turning to the Eagles, there will be a great rush to hope in the second half play of QB Nick Foles... which I'd like to put into a trace amount of perspective. The team scored six points after the half. Foles didn't throw a TD pass. He should have been picked, easily, in the deflection ball that turned the tide of the game by getting the club in position for a long field goal before the half. He missed TE Trey Burton on what would have been a massive play in the first. He spent most of the first half looking like, well, a terrible QB, squandering opportunities from bailout defensive flags.

He, well, sucks. He sucked less in the second half, against a defense that sold out to stop the run and brought no pressure. If you think he's going to suck less against an actually good defense next week, you are living with hope that just isn't supported by facts or the eye test. But you do you.

4) Kudos to WR Alshon Jeffery, who did what he could with what was there and was huge in the win tonight. I don't know if he ever puts up monster numbers in this system, because this system spreads the ball and he's older and more brittle than you'd like, but in terms of impact per play, he's everything you could hope for.

3) Let's not diminish what the defense did tonight. The Falcon TD was aided by a short field and terrible officiating. They pretty much played perfect defense on the downs that mattered the most. They kept the Falcons not from moving the ball, but scoring points. And they did it while not getting very much in the way of turnovers and sacks. It's crazy that they won this game, but they won it.

2) Similarly, the offensive line was balls nasty all night. Trucking multiple DBs on screens and gash plays used to be just a Jason Peters thing, but now it looks like everyone is doing it. They avoided crippling holding and false starts, especially important when you are wet nursing a QB with little ability to improvise or convert long third downs. It's less crazy that they won this game, but they won it.

1) The team will be home, and an underdog again, for the winner of Saints-Vikings. I'm hoping for the Vikings for the simple reason that Case Keenum hasn't won a Super Bowl and Drew Brees has, but Keenum is more mobile, and the Viking defense might be the best in the game.

But all of that doesn't matter as much as this: the Eagles won as a full team tonight. With a liability at QB, they overcame adversity, sold out for each other, got past unforced errors (multiple fumbles, missed extra point) and several deficits, and gave us all a memory and hope. They've made it to the final four. Do that twice more, and one of the most improbable championships in NFL history, and the end to something that most of us have been waiting our entire lives to experience will end. Stranger things have happened, right?

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