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Lawlor: A Great Way To Kick Off The New Year

Months of training, practicing, and playing came down to three hours on Sunday afternoon. Would the Eagles take care of their business? Would the Bears beat the Vikings?

I was afraid Sunday would be incredibly tense and might come down to the wire. Instead, the Eagles dominated the Redskins and won 24-0. The Bears led the entire way against the Vikings and won 24-10. You couldn't really relax with either game. I was nervous about the Eagles being able to finish the shutout. Those are rare and must be enjoyed when they come along.

As for the Vikings, Chicago only led 13-10 late in the third quarter, so that game definitely had some drama. The Bears led 21-10 in the fourth, but you kept waiting for Minnesota's offense to get going. That never happened. The Bears' defense just overwhelmed the Vikings.

I knew the Eagles were a better team than the Redskins, but I wasn't sure what to expect from either side. The Eagles had a lot of pressure on them and any scoreboard watching could have been a real distraction.

Washington wasn't going to make the playoffs, but it had been very competitive the previous two weeks and there was some turmoil from a popular player being cut. I wondered if Washington's defense might play with an edge because of that.

Sure enough, the Redskins' defense did make things tough on the Eagles. Philadelphia scored 24 points and gained 360 yards but had to earn every bit of it. Washington really competed. Give those guys credit for that.

If you wanted exciting highlights and big plays, Sunday wasn't for you. The Eagles moved the ball methodically. There were only two plays that went for more than 20 yards.

If you love good defense, then Sunday was a lot of fun. The Eagles dominated on that side of the ball. They only gave up 89 yards all game. Washington didn't have any third-down conversions. They never got into the red zone.

The Redskins had 44 offensive plays. They were held to zero or negative yards on 24 of those plays. That's insanely good defense. Washington never stood a chance.

Fletcher Cox led the way with three sacks. He was disruptive throughout the game. Cox wasn't alone. Michael Bennett had a sack and seemed to be in the backfield for most of the day. Brandon Graham got regular pressure as well.

It was great to see that the whole line played well. Tim Jernigan played his best game of the year. He got penetration on multiple plays. He chased quarterback Josh Johnson out of the pocket a couple of times. Jernigan looked like his old self, and that's great news. Haloti Ngata and Treyvon Hester also played well. They were active and disruptive.

Washington quarterbacks did not enjoy seeing the Eagles this year. They took a real beating. Colt McCoy left the first game with a broken leg, which ended his season. Johnson was hobbling around by the end of Sunday afternoon. He could no longer escape the pocket and just got pounded. It was great to see the defensive line just dominating the players across from them. Games are won on the line of scrimmage and the Eagles' defensive line looks to be peaking as a unit. That's a great sign now that we know the Eagles are in the playoffs.

The whole defense played well. Rasul Douglas picked off a pass on the first play and set the tone for the game. Nigel Bradham stood out. He broke up two passes and tackled well in space. Linebackers and defensive backs tackled well throughout the game. Washington's runners and receivers couldn’t create big plays.

There was no run game. The Redskins ran the ball 12 times and gained 21 yards. One run went for 9 yards so that should give you an idea how the rest of the game went. Runners were being hit in the backfield or right at the line of scrimmage for most of the game.

The Eagles' defense has played a ton of snaps this year. They got plenty of rest on Sunday, only having to be out there for 44 snaps. Cox was on the field for just 32 snaps. Giving those guys some rest should help them to get ready for the playoffs.

The Eagles' offense played a key part in the defense having such a quiet day. Nick Foles and company were able to sustain drives and really work the clock. The Eagles had the ball for 43:19, the most any team has had the ball all year.

I think that was partly by design. The Eagles didn't throw any deep passes. They seemed to be more interested in ball control than chunk plays. That's how you shorten a game. Move the chains and keep the clock running.

The Eagles had a 3-0 lead in the second quarter with 12:19 on the clock. I thought to myself that this would be an ideal time for a long touchdown drive. I didn't know what I was about to witness. The Eagles marched 87 yards in 19 plays and ate up 11:49 off the clock. Wow.

That gave the Eagles a 10-0 lead and it felt like the game was over at that point. The Redskins weren't going to score 10 points in that game and they knew it.

Foles was red-hot for most of the game. He completed 25 straight passes to tie an NFL record. He should have had 26 in a row, but he made up for that by hitting Nelson Agholor for a touchdown on the next play.

The only real negative on the day was that Foles took a hit and left the game. He's got a rib injury but will play on Sunday at Chicago in the Wild Card round.

With Foles out, Nate Sudfeld got to take the field and threw the first touchdown of his NFL career against his former team, no less. That was his only pass attempt of the day. Sudfeld has come into games in the fourth quarter the last two weeks and hasn't looked nervous. That's a good sign for the young quarterback.

Sunday turned out to be a great day.

The Eagles have now won five of the last six games to finish 9-7. They are one of the hottest teams in the league as they head into the postseason. I think the rest of the NFL might be a little nervous.

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Eagles Message Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. You can also find his work at IgglesBlitz.com where he is the site's editor.

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