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Talking QB Play, Defense, And The Linc

Posted Dec 18, 2017

In the aftermath of Sunday’s 34-29 win over the New York Giants, we know this much: The Eagles have one more win to go to clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, they sustained no long-term injuries from the win, and they have some work to do to get sharp for the postseason. But first things, first. Let’s discuss some of the topics on the table ...

In the aftermath of Sunday’s 34-29 win over the New York Giants, we know this much: The Eagles have one more win to go to clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, they sustained no long-term injuries from the win, and they have some work to do to get sharp for the postseason.

But first things, first. Let’s discuss some of the topics on the table.

  • A week ago the talk was about Nick Foles taking over for Carson Wentz at quarterback, and Foles took all of one drive to show us that he’s more than capable of keeping the Eagles' offense on track. Foles threw four touchdown passes, got the ball of his hand quickly, recognized the many blitzes the Giants sent his way, and had chemistry with his receiving corps. Foles made blitzers miss in the pocket, he gave his receivers a chance to make plays, and he kept his cool in the face of some trying circumstances.

“I thought he played within himself,” quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo said on Monday. “Whenever you change quarterbacks you worry about changing cadence at the line of scrimmage, you worry about huddle procedure. Obviously, having Nick here as a veteran that has played a lot of football games, that wasn’t an issue here at all.

“It’s a difficult process, because the O-line has been used to hearing Carson’s voice for the last two years. Whenever you put a new voice in there, guys can get jumpy at times. I thought our offensive line handled the change very, very well. It’s always difficult when you change quarterbacks to get the play called. Nick did a great job preparing, knowing the offense. We had some long play calls this week trying to shift and motion the Giants a little bit.”

Consider this: Foles had literally taken zero reps with the starters in practice until last week. His performance was outstanding, and nothing less.

“He played exceptionally well,” head coach Doug Pederson said.

  • What is Pederson seeing on defense? Here is what he had to say about it on Monday.

“It’s not lack of effort,” he said. “We’re seeing some mental mistakes being made. We’re seeing penalties a little bit that are starting to creep up. The way we started the game is obviously not the defense that we’ve seen all season long. Now did they rebound and have a great second half of the game? Yes, they did and they played extremely well in the second half and that’s the type of defense we’re used to.

“Eli (Manning, Giants quarterback) came out and it was all quick passing, it was RPOs (run/pass options), double moves, pick routes, and that’s what they do. I think, for the Giants, it was, ‘If we’re going to win this football game, we’ve got to do it this way.’ And they pretty much went up-tempo the entire football game. Our defense struggled to start but really came on at the end, made plays when they had to and then shut them down inside the 10-yard line for the ultimate win.”

Did three consecutive road games play a factor? Could be. The Eagles played like a tired defense at times. And it could be the rivalry, because the Eagles-Giants always means something strange is happening.

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No doubt the emphasis is on improving tackling and making sure any mental busts go away. Pederson is correct that the Eagles' defense was much better in the second half, allowing just six points. That touchdown, by the way, came after the defense forced a three-and-out series and Najee Goode jumped offside on the punt, keeping New York’s offense on the field.  The Giants went 7-for-11 on third down in the first half and just 3-of-7 in the second half. Ten of the Giants’ 27 first downs came in the second half. It was improved, but not where coordinator Jim Schwartz no doubt wants the defense to be.

  • After a 1-7 road record in 2016, the Eagles went 6-2 away from home this season. They lost at Kansas City and at Seattle. It was a remarkable turnaround. And the fans played a part in every city. On Sunday, Giants right tackle Bobby Hart jumped early, moving the football from the Eagles’ 6-yard line to the 11-yard line on New York’s last threat late in the game. Hart could not hear the cadence from Manning.

"I do think you can learn from your past and I think these players have learned from that. Yeah, we did struggle a year ago and now they are having - when you start having success on the road, it sort of continues to go down that path and a lot of confidence when we travel,” Pederson said. “Guys handle their business extremely well from the time we leave to the time we finish the game. There's been no distractions on the road, and I'm not saying that there has been (in the past), I'm just using that as an example. There's no distractions. The guys take care of business. I do agree, the talent is better this season, obviously. And you do learn. You learn from your past and the guys have done a nice job.”

  • Oakland won’t have its standout left offensive tackle, Donald Penn, on Monday night. He injured a foot and has to undergo surgery and miss a game for the first time since 2007. It’s a big, big loss for Oakland. After Penn left Sunday’s game against Dallas, the Raiders moved Marshall Newhouse from right to left tackle and inserted Vadal Alexander at right tackle. Alexander allowed three quarterback hits and two hurries in 39 pass-blocking snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

  • Home, sweet, home: The Eagles are 6-0 at Lincoln Financial Field, winning by double digits in five of those six games. The exception: The 27-24 win over New York in Week 3 that launched the Eagles’ nine-game winning streak. Playing at home has been very, very good for the Eagles this season.

“That’s what you want and that’s our next goal,” Pederson said. “I asked the players to commit for three weeks on the road and we went 2-1. Now we need to catch our breath, come home, and take care of business.”

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