EAGLES WIN UGLY, CLINCH NO. 1 SEED IN PLAYOFFS
It’s a good thing for the Eagles there are no style points in football.
The Eagles survived an ugly, physical game against an Oakland Raiders team that showed up to play by the score of 19-10 at windy, frigid Lincoln Financial Field Christmas night.
The victory secured the No. 1 seed in the upcoming NFC playoffs meaning the road to Super Bowl 52 goes through Philadelphia for the first time since the 2004 season, the last the Eagles reached the NFL championship game.
The Eagles finish the season on Sunday (1 PM FOX) against the Dallas Cowboys, who were eliminated from post season play after their 21-12 loss t the Seattle Seahawks.
Both defenses played well, the Eagles though came up with five turnovers, all in the second half holding the visitors to just 10 points.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was 15 of 29 for 140 yards, one touchdown pass and two interceptions. He was sacked once. The Raiders did rush for 137 yards as a team, Marshawn Lynch carried the ball 25 times for 95 yards.
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles wasn’t much better going 19 of 38 for 163 yards, a touchdown pass and one interception. He was sacked twice. The Birds rushed for just 78 yards as a team on 21 carries with Jay Ajayi accounting for 52 yards on 14 carries. He fumbled the ball away with 4:05 left in the third quarter after a 14-yard gain, his longest run of the day.
Defensive end Chris Long, who had one of his best games of the season recording a sack, four quarterback hurries, and a forced fumble reminded everyone how often the offense had their back this season.
“Sometimes you have to win games like that,” said Long, who helped the New England Patriots win Super Bowl 51 in Houston last year. “At the end of the day, a couple weeks back we went to LA (Rams) and we didn’t play our best game. We let up about 35 points on defense…and the offense bailed us out. At the end of the day, we’re a team, we’re going to stick together and we knew we had to step up a little bit tonight and we did that.”
Eagles Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson gave his own description of the game.
“It was just a hard fought game,” Johnson said. “It was ugly. There was nothing pretty about it. We got the win. It is what it is.”
Head coach Doug Pederson said he wasn’t going to pick the game apart, at least not Monday night. He said he was just glad to get the win and lock down home field advantage.
“We found a way to win,” Pederson said. “That’s the bottom line. We found a way to win. I’d love to win 40-3 or 34-28, but sometimes you’re going to be in these games. We’ve got to be hard on ourselves as coaches and players looking at this film, moving forward, and get things fixed offensively. I thought the defense played really, really well. They kept us in the football game, special teams…team effort, though. We found a way. We’re sitting here today 13-2. Everybody’s got to come through here now. That’s the exciting part.”
Predictably Foles was tough on himself. The Eagles offense only one third down for the game.
“I didn’t play good enough,” Foles said. “I have to play cleaner and, obviously, play better. Third down is a big thing with a quarterback; pin-point accuracy, making good decisions. I’ll look at the film, I’ll improve. These wins are tough; wins in the NFL are tough. This was a crazy, sloppy game. I thought our defense played wonderful – giving us an opportunity – I believe it was five turnovers. That’s huge, that was big.”
Each team scored a touchdown in the first half and neither team turned the ball over.
The Eagles went three-and-out on their first possession. All three plays were passes.
On their second possession, running back Jay Ajayi touched the ball six times on a 58-yard, 11-play drive that ended with a 17-yard screen pass to Ajayi for a touchdown.
In the second quarter, Oakland got on the board when Eagles second-year cornerback Jalen Mills was turned around by an inside-out route from Amari Cooper that turned into a 63-yard TD for the Raiders to even the score at 7-7 with 12:36 left until the half.
Nick Foles engineered a productive 15-play drive that stalled at the Raiders 15-yard line. Rookie Jake Elliott smacked the ball hard but wide right with eight seconds left in the half, the Raiders then took a knee ending the half with the scored tied.
The Raiders oepned the third quarter 19 yards running by Marshawn Lynch on two plays and a five yard penalty for defensive holding followed by a 34-yard run by Jalen Richard setting up first and ten at the 11-yard line.
The Eagles defense held and the Raiders settled for a 25-yard Giorgio Tavecchio field goal.
The Eagles got the big play on defense when Patrick Robinson intercepted Carr and returned it to the 30-yard line.
Jay Ajayi handed the ball right back on fumble after an eleven-yard gain.
On the next play Marshawn Lynch fumbled on a strip by Vinnie Curry and recovered by Mychal Kendricks.
Foles was not able to get the Birds into the end zone and the Eagles had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Elliott.
The fourth quarter started with the score 10-10.
The Eagles forced a punt only to see their offense go in reverse including a 16-yard sack on third down by defensive end Denico Autry. The Birds were forced to punt at fourth and 28 from their own nine yard line.
The Raiders and Eagles traded turnovers and Oakland’s Tavecchio missed a 48-yard field goal with 8:03 left in the fourth quarter.
That Raiders field goal try was set up by Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby who committed an illegal contact penalty on third down keeping Oakland’s drive alive.
You may remember Darby got into a Twitter fight with some Eagles fans after his poor play against the Giants last week (he apologized for the rants). He got back in the dog house after that penalty against the Rams.
Darby’s dog house stay was a short one after intercepted Carr at the Eagles 48-yard line with :57 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Six plays later Elliott kicked his winning field goal.
The Raiders got the ball back with 22 seconds left on their own 35-yard line. Carr threw three consecutive incomplete passes before tossing the ball to Cooper on fourth down for the Hail Mary lateral drill. The ensuing fumble landed in the hands of rookie defensive end Derek Barnett who ran untouched 23 yards for a touchdown that no doubt sent some hard core gambles to a 12-step program Tuesday morning.
Johnson talked about what the offense need to work on over the next three week including getting the run game going again, turnovers (the Eagles has three), penalties, “A few by me,” overall sloppiness and getting a rhythm going. He admitted Foles would likely want a few of his throws back.
“But when the game was on the line,” said Johnson, who was called for two holding penalties and jumped offsides once. “Guys took up their position and won the game, that was big time.”
When asked about his own performance, Johnson bristled.
“Khalil Mack didn’t have a sack did he?” Johnson said about the Raiders Pro Bowl defensive end. “He’s supposed to be the best player in the league. I’m not happy about the holds, I’m sure that ref will be reviewed on his calls. To be personal, I don’t care if I get fined, I think it was ticky-tacky bulls**t so, you can put that in the paper, I really don’t care. Other than that, it is what it is. That guy (Mack) didn’t stick the quarterback all night, he’s supposed to be the best player in the league, don’t tell me…”
Johnson, like many Eagles fans, was frustrated with Foles and the way the offense played. It was just one game, the Eagles won and now have three weeks to get it fixed. Eagles fans will be counting on it.
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii