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Fan-Demonium: A Much-Needed Win

Posted Dec 12, 2012


Boy was it good to finally see the Eagles win again. I know the team is still 4-9 and the win doesn't change much, but it was needed. You could see the joy on the faces of the players and coaches. It has killed these guys to lose games for the last two months. I sure know it was good for me to have a smile on my face at the end of an Eagles game.

I was nervous for a minute. That review by the officials seemed to take forever. The play was clearly a touchdown. It felt like the officials were having a discussion along the lines of "I know this is a legit touchdown, but how can we take it away and keep Tommy's suffering at a maximum level. Heck, this could be the thing that breaks him." Thankfully, the score held up and we could be happy for one December afternoon.

Winning aside, it was great to see Nick Foles play like he did. The rookie quarterback got the first win of his career and led a really impressive comeback. The Eagles trailed 21-10 with 7:21 left in the game. The offense had somewhat struggled in the last couple of drives. It wasn't like Foles and his guys were on a roll. A good quarterback steps up in clutch situations. That's just what Foles did.

In crunch time, Foles led the Eagles on a 72-yard touchdown drive and a 64-yard touchdown drive. That gave the team a 23-21 win and made us all feel like winners for about five minutes. I love the fact these were legitimate drives. They featured three third down conversions and a pair of fourth down conversions. There wasn't any play longer than 24 yards. This wasn't a matter of the defense being burned by big plays. This was all about Foles methodically leading the offense down the field and scoring touchdowns, both of which were red zone scores.

Why is that important? Drives like that don't involve a lot of lucky plays. Drives like that can be repeated because they are based on execution and not circumstances. Think about a pair of Eagles-Giants games from the past. In 2010, Michael Vick led the Eagles on a miraculous comeback. That game featured three 65-yard plays in the fourth quarter. There was a short pass to Brent Celek that he turned into a long touchdown. There was an amazing scramble by Vick. Of course, it was all capped off by DeSean Jackson's miracle punt return. Back in 2006, Eli Manning led the Giants on a big comeback win over the Eagles. In the fourth quarter, the Giants scored on a 22-yard touchdown pass. They won the game in overtime on a 31-yard pass. The flukiest play was a catch-and-run where the ball was knocked loose and the Giants recovered it for a touchdown. Oh, that was agonizing to watch. The ball rolled into the end zone and Tim Carter hustled to fall on it for the score.

You can't count on stuff like that. Those are crazy games that happen once every decade. Foles’ comeback can be repeated. I hope he's not behind in games on a regular basis, but it is good to know that he can handle that situation and come through with a victory.

One of the best things you can say about Foles is that he didn't look like a rookie. He's definitely unlike any rookie Eagles quarterback that I've ever seen. Most of them sit for a year or more, but even when they do play they look like rookies. Foles handled the pressure well, both from the defense and the overall situation. There was no panic from him. Heck, he didn't even seem nervous. I'm sure he had butterflies in his stomach (or maybe pterodactyls), but he didn't let it show. That's a big coaching point for Andy Reid with his quarterbacks. Reid doesn't want them showing any stress or frustration. Don't let the defense know you’re nervous. Don't let the guys in the huddle know that.

Foles has good pocket presence. Not just good for a rookie, but good for anyone. That is another huge compliment. Anyone can throw the ball. The quarterbacks who succeed in this league are the guys who can stand in the pocket, with chaos all around them, and stay focused on their receivers. This isn't easy or natural. When defenders are closing in on you and grabbing at you, it is hard to keep your eyes downfield as you wait for Jeremy Maclin or Jason Avant to come open. The natural instinct is to shift your focus to the rushers. Foles is tough and disciplined. He's not afraid to take a hit. He will stay in the pocket and give his receivers a chance to get open.

It is up to the receivers to reward Foles when he does this. Both Avant and Maclin did this on Sunday. Avant made one of the best catches I have ever seen when he leapt up and made a one-handed grab by the sideline. That was an absolutely sensational pass. Foles was under duress and waited as long as he could. He then put the ball near Avant and gave him a chance to make a play. Avant did just that and the play converted a third-and-17 into a first down. The drive resulted in a field goal and the first points of the game. Maclin didn't make any spectacular catches, but his clutch grab on the final play delivered the win.

You want to see how teammates respond to a young quarterback. The receivers really helped Foles out with some key catches. The receivers also had their best blocking game of the year. Maclin had a great block on Foles' touchdown run. There was a short pass to Dion Lewis late in the half that turned into a big gain due to blocks by Riley Cooper and Maclin. You really saw great effort by the whole offense. That was very encouraging.


Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.

The offensive line did not have a stellar showing. They got beat too many times. They did have some success against the blitz. Tampa Bay seemed more effective when just rushing four. The line did a good job late in the game. Foles dropped back to pass 20 times on the final two drives. He was sacked only once. The game was on the line. Tampa Bay knew the Eagles had to throw. The line gave Foles the time he needed and it resulted in a win.

The running game was another story. Tampa Bay dominated the line of scrimmage when the Eagles tried to run. Tampa Bay loves to slant players, shoot gaps and bring safeties up quickly. Bryce Brown was limited to 6 yards on 12 carries. I think the Eagles erred in trying to run wide so much, but there wasn't much room anywhere. Tampa Bay has the top run defense in the NFL and those guys focus on that. They are dead last in pass defense and you could see why. They just don't cover well. It was a good sign that Foles and his receivers were able to exploit Tampa Bay's secondary.

Take a second to appreciate what we saw on Sunday. Would you have ever thought it was possible for the Eagles to throw for 381 yards and score 23 points with Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, LeSean McCoy, Brent Celek, DeSean Jackson and Michael Vick not playing? It really is impressive to see what Foles, all of the remaining skill players and all of the remaining offensive linemen did. The offense is missing a ton of talent.

The defense had a very up and down day. They shut out the Bucs in the first half and looked pretty good. To be fair, part of that was on Tampa Bay for playing very sloppy football. There were some very positive signs from the defense.

Colt Anderson got his first start of the season and played well. He was credited with eight tackles. When he came up in run support, Anderson was very aggressive. He exploded through the legs of the runner. I was pleasantly surprised with how he looked in coverage. Anderson didn't seem to blow any assignments. That can be tricky for someone making his first start in a long time.

Jamar Chaney got the start at SAM linebacker as Mychal Kendricks slid over to the weak side. Chaney played his best game in a long time. He broke up a pass. He was credited with being in on four tackles. I thought he did well in man coverage against tight ends. Kendricks had a very active game. He got a tackle-for-loss early in the game when Josh Freeman made a dumb decision to dump the ball to Doug Martin deep in the backfield. Kendricks broke up three passes. That's the good news. The bad news is that he had a chance to pick them off and didn't make a single catch. None were going to be easy, but the lack of takeaways is killing this team.

Fletcher Cox had a tackle-for-loss and a sack. He had five solo stops. I know some have wondered if the change in systems and coaches would affect his future. No. Cox is a very talented young man. He can play in any defensive system.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had a very good game. He broke up three passes and had two solo tackles. He laid a big hit on tight end Dallas Clark. That shocked me. Rodgers-Cromartie just doesn't do stuff like that. A couple of plays later he made a clean tackle of Martin in the open field. That was even more of a shocker. Rodgers-Cromartie was very good on downfield coverage. My only complaint was his effort on a catch and run that resulted in a touchdown. I don't think he'd have prevented the score, but he was way too passive on the play.

This was not a good game for the Eagles' special teams units. There were two missed field goals, a false start penalty and a muffed punt. Change the outcome of those plays and the Eagles might have won 30-14. Unfortunately, the world doesn't work like that. It was impressive to see Alex Henery's distance on his 58-yard field goal attempt. The ball hit the left upright, but close to the top. That kick would have been good distance-wise from maybe 65 yards. Almost a great kick.

When a season goes awry, you hope to find out as much as you can about rookies, young players and backups. With all the injuries, the Eagles are getting a full taste of that. It was great to see the team come up big on Sunday with the win. You don't want losing to become a habit. You don't want the young players getting too discouraged.

That win really did mean something to the players and coaches. How great was it to see Reid and Howard Mudd hugging afterward? That was a terrific moment in a really miserable year.

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