Good morning, Eagles fans!
We are back in the playoffs and this remarkable season will have another chapter. The Eagles shut out Washington yesterday 24-0 and thanks to the Chicago Bears' 24-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings, we are in as the sixth seed in the NFC. The 9-7 Eagles stole the second Wild Card spot and will take on the Bears in Chicago next Sunday in the NFC Wild Card round at 4:40 p.m. EST. The players have the day off but head coach Doug Pederson will speak with the media at noon and we will carry it live. Here's what you need to know in today's Morning Roundup presented by Microsoft leading off with the mindset of a red-hot squad.
1. Ready For A Run
In a wild day at FedEx Field, Eagles fans packed into enemy territory prepared to cheer loudly for both their Eagles and the Chicago Bears. The Philadelphia-dominated crowd roared as the Eagles dominated Washington, holding the ball for more than 43 minutes and not allowing even a field goal attempt, and the Bears took care of business in Minnesota. An imperfect regular season had a perfect ending.
Now, the 9-7 Eagles, winners of five of their last six, are in the playoffs and will have to take their fight to the road as the NFC's final seed. But there's no intimidation factor with this team. These players have been here before and know the type of discipline it takes to win when it matters most. As a matchup with the Bears at frigid Soldier Field awaits, Dave Spadaro writes that the Eagles are a confident team ready to take on the challenge:
"We've had a lot of growth through the ups and downs of the season," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "We have to go back to the process and prepare well for a big challenge. The road hasn't been a straight line to this point. To be here is not surprising, because we expected to be here. We're playing good football and we have to take it up another notch for the playoffs. Most of the guys have been in the playoffs before. We are not sneaking in. We're here because we earned it. We're here to do some damage."
2. Defense Dominates
The Eagles' defense set the tone of the day on the game's very first play from scrimmage. Washington quarterback Josh Johnson rolled out, threw a deep ball, and was intercepted by cornerback Rasul Douglas. The ski masks were out and the Eagles didn't let up for the rest of the game.
Washington was held to just 89 total yards and was 0-for-9 in the Eagles' first shutout since a 27-0 win over the New York Giants in 2014. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox picked up three sacks, two of them on fourth down, as the front seven got pressure on Johnson and stopped the run all day long. Alex Smith writes that the Eagles took away any hope in their controlling performance and set the tone for the playoffs:
"We know they're a prideful group and we didn't want to give them any life or give them anything to play for," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "When we step on that field, everybody's a competitor. We knew they weren't going to lay down, so to start that off, get the momentum on our side – our fans showed up. It felt like a home game at some points. We made sure we had that energy. We came out on fire."
3. Fletch Leads The Way
Cox's three sacks on the day put him at 10.5 on the season as the Pro Bowl defensive tackle reached double digits in sacks for the first time in his career. With 6.5 sacks in just the last five games, he has been a dominant force that has led a ferocious defensive front. The defensive line has aimed to be the engine of the defense all season long. And as Dave Spadaro writes, Cox is leading a well-oiled machine into the most important games of the season:
"We kind of had to lift up the entire defense, our line as a group, and that's what we did," Cox said. "Things just clicked for us. We knew we had a lot of new players in the secondary, a lot of injuries. We found a way. We have a winning mentality and we just need to keep punching.
"I feel good about our defensive line. We've got a lot of guys who have played a lot of football in big moments. I've said this all along that this defensive line is like the engine of the team. This D-line is what drives this team. One more notch, man. One more notch for the postseason."
4. Foles 'Optimistic' About Health For Playoffs
Nick Foles led the way on offense once again, completing 28 of 33 passes for 221 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He tied an NFL record and broke the Eagles' record for consecutive completions with 25. He was dominant all game until a hit to the chest from defensive end Ryan Kerrigan on a third-down sack in the fourth quarter took him out the game.
Foles said after the game that he is "optimistic" about what he confirmed to be a rib injury but did not know anything definitive. He expects to learn more about his injury, and whether he can play in the Wild Card round, in the next couple days. If he's good to go, Foles said he is pumped for another playoff run:
"It's been a crazy year," Foles said. "It was really special as we were waiting for the other game to finish after we had taken care of business on the field. It's super exciting. Any time you're blessed to be able to play in the playoffs and especially the road we've had the last several weeks, I mean, it hasn't been an easy ride and we got some help today.
"I mean, it's really special. We get to keep playing. We get to wear the Eagles jersey one more time. And, I'm really excited, the locker room's really excited. It will be hard to sleep tonight."
5. Get That Ball, Sud
With Foles sidelined for much of the fourth quarter, it became a victorious homecoming for Nate Sudfeld. The Eagles' third-string quarterback was picked up from Washington last season and made the most of his opportunity to beat his former team in front of his parents and brother in the stands. Sudfeld threw just one pass, but it was a perfect one, going for a 22-yard touchdown by wide receiver Nelson Agholor.
Like anyone, Sudfeld wanted to keep the ball from his first-career touchdown. But there was a problem. Agholor had already handed it to a young Eagles fan in the end zone seats. Dave Spadaro writes that it created an awkward situation for Sudfeld the became just a minor, humorous blip from a great afternoon:
"I went up to Nelly and said, 'No, no, please keep it!' But he gave it to a little kid, so I went up to his dad and asked them if I could switch out a football for them. They were really nice about it," Sudfeld said. "We switched out the ball and got them another ball and they were really nice about it."
Check out the best photos from the Eagles' Week 17 game against Washington.
6. News And Notes
The Eagles clinched a berth to the playoffs yesterday for the 26th time in playoff history. Foles tied an NFL completion record and the defense pitched its first shutout in four seasons. Douglas became the first Eagle to record an interception on the opponent's first play from scrimmage with Eric Allen picked off Steve Young on a pass intended for Jerry Rice in a 1994 game at San Francisco.
There were plenty of historic feats and impressive numbers in yesterday's win. Check them all out in The Leftovers: News And Notes From Eagles' Win.
7. Player Of The Week
Yesterday's win was another complete game effort but saw impressive individual performances as well. Vaughn Johnson compiled a list of Eagles who stood out the most who fans can vote to be the Toyota Player of the Week. There were so many standouts yesterday that a player with three sacks wasn't even able to make the ballot:
Honorable Mention: DT Fletcher Cox
Cox may not be an official candidate for Toyota Player of the Week, but we couldn't leave him out completely, as he produced his most dominant outing of the season with three sacks.
Cox, along with the rest of the front seven, stifled the Redskins' rushing attack to the tune of a meager 21 yards.