Normally we use this space for a thorough recap of the previous day’s game, and there will be some of that.
But it’s a playoff week for the first time in three years in Philadelphia, so let’s lead off with 10 things you should know about the next opponent: the Saints.
1. New Orleans took care of business Sunday, crushing the Bucs 42-17 to improve to 11-5 on the season – that’s 8-0 at home and 3-5 on the road. The Saints won four of their last five and were 2-3 overall against teams that are in the postseason. Going into Week 17, Football Outsiders had New Orleans as the No. 7 team overall – fifth on offense, 11th on defense and 24th on special teams. Read more »
Player I’ll be watching:
McManus: Nick Foles
Here’s how one reporter presented things to Foles earlier this week:
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Looks like Tony Romo won’t be playing in this game on Sunday. Pressure is on you.
So much for subtlety.
Whether you agree with that reasoning or not, there’s no denying that this is a pressurized situation for the second-year quarterback. That’s true simply because of the situation: this is a must-win game, on the road for the rights to play in the postseason. It’s the biggest game he’s played in on this level. Read more »
Here is a complete breakdown of Sunday night’s Eagles-Cowboys matchup.
THE BIG PICTURE
It’s pretty simple: Winner hosts a first-round playoff game next weekend, while the loser goes home.
The Cowboys have been up and down with two losses in their last three games, but they pulled out a 24-23 victory over the Redskins in Week 16.
The Eagles have won six of seven and are averaging 39.3 points per game in their last three. Read more »
A couple good video links to share this evening.
The first is only five seconds. It’s Chip Kelly answering a Riley Cooper question on the sidelines. Read more »
As the Eagles prepared for their final possession Sunday night, Nick Foles stood on the sideline next to tight end Zach Ertz and quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor.
The offense gathered briefly before running onto the field. Foles had a green and black baseball cap on instead of a helmet. He paused his conversation, joined his teammates briefly, put his arm around James Casey and returned to the sideline as Michael Vick took a couple kneel-downs to end the game.
There was a hug from Chris Polk and a handshake from Brent Celek. Foles then made his way past cameras towards midfield to greet the Bears’ quarterbacks as the clock showed triple zeroes. He removed his hat, knelt down for the prayer circle with members from both teams and joined LeSean McCoy for an interview with NBC.
Foles’ performance will not be the first or even second topic of conversation among Eagles fans today. And that’s saying something considering he went 21-for-25 for 230 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 131.7. Read more »
The consensus within the Cary Williams circle of trust was that the cornerback wasn’t playing with the same type of edge that he had in Baltimore. Sounds strange, seeing as the feisty corner always seems to be an inch away from throwing haymakers on the field, but this has more to do with what’s been going on between the whistles. His brother said something about it. His best friend. Even his pastor felt he needed to be a bit more ferocious.
But when his wife, Amanda, broached the subject, that was the tipping point.
“When my wife said it, it really kind of sunk in,” said Williams. “I listened because she has been following me for a long time and watching how I played, and she said I just didn’t have the same aggressiveness like how I used to,” said Williams. “I gave a bunch of excuses why, but then when I look in the mirror it just is what it is. I am what I put out there on the field.
“I just wanted to get back into character.”
The defense as a whole was trying to do the same thing. Read more »
Here’s what we saw during tonight’s Eagles-Bears game.
* Everything the Eagles did offensively worked Sunday night. They started the game on fire, scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions. After a poor punt by the Bears, the offense went 43 yards on six plays on its first drive. LeSean McCoy had a big 19-yard run, and Nick Foles found Riley Cooper in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard TD.
* The Eagles’ second offensive possession came after Bradley Fletcher forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. Foles bought time, scrambled to his right and hit Zach Ertz for a 27-yard completion. McCoy then found the end zone from 1 yard out. Read more »
Here’s a position-by-position look at the Eagles’ defensive performance after having watched the All-22 from Sunday’s game.
* Going in, the Eagles should have expected to dominate the Vikings’ ground game, given that Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart were out. And that’s what happened. Matt Asiata needed 30 carries to get to 51 yards (1.7 YPC). The pass-rush could have been better, but Matt Cassel did a good job of getting the ball out quick, and most of the problems through the air were the fault of the secondary. Read more »
Here is a position-by-position review of the Eagles’ defense after having reviewed the All-22 tape.
* This group led the charge. Joique Bell needed 23 carries to gain 69 yards (3.0 YPC). And the Lions failed to gain more than 8 yards on any single run. Cedric Thornton was outstanding, leading all defensive linemen with six tackles (per team stats) and a forced fumble, which the Eagles turned into a takeaway. Thornton helped blow up a Bell run that gained 3 in the second and was disruptive throughout. Read more »
Chip Kelly might not admit it, but he has favorites.
Players whose names he will bring up unprompted. Guys he’ll go out of his way to mention as underrated or under-appreciated. And atop that list this year has been tight end Brent Celek.
On the surface, Celek’s numbers are unimpressive: 23 receptions for 319 yards. He’s on pace for his lowest per-game averages since 2008 in both categories. But there are plenty of reasons why Kelly has sung Celek’s praises all year long.
“I think Chip respects guys that give everything they’ve got on every single play when you’re out there,” Celek said. “I respect everything that he’s done. Everything that he does makes sense, and you as a football player, that’s what you want. You want answers to some of your questions, and he answers those. And everything he wants you to do, it all makes sense.”
The strong relationship between Celek and Kelly was no given during the offseason. The seventh-year tight end was an Andy Reid loyalist. Even as things fell apart last season, Celek stood at his locker after every game and defended his head coach.
Meanwhile, after Kelly was hired, he made moves to bolster Celek’s position, signing James Casey in free agency and drafting Zach Ertz in the second round. Those moves could have rubbed Celek the wrong way and put his standing with the team in question, but Kelly made sure that was a non-issue. Read more »