Good morning. The Eagles made January interesting again with a 16-15 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. They advance to play the New Orleans Saints next weekend and will try to avenge a Nov. 18 blowout. I’m writing this on board a flight home from Chicago after midnight and there was just an “E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!" chant, so I can already hear the excitement from the fan base. Doug Pederson has a noon news conference today.
— Zach Berman
By this point, there’s no reason to be surprised. The Eagles have a resiliency about them that allowed them to rebound from a November loss in New Orleans and somehow create a January postseason game in New Orleans. That was made possible because of the Eagles’ 16-15 win over the Chicago Bears, during which the Eagles needed a fourth-down conversion from the 2-yard line and the Bears to miss a 43-yard field goal to survive.
When Cody Parkey lined up for the field goal, Malcolm Jenkins said he expected the Eagles would somehow win. Because, why not? Maybe in November, I would have thought that was crazy. It was a field goal that should be made. But something’s clicking with this team.
The Eagles are making plays at the right times and getting the bounces right now. Remember the first postseason game last season, when a Foles pass at the end of the half hit an Atlanta Falcons defender in the knee and bounced into the hands of Torrey Smith? Then the Eagles kicked a field goal and Foles excelled for the rest of the playoffs? Sometimes, the bounces go in a team’s direction.
The Eagles had games this year when they were on the other end of it, but everything is now turning up Eagles. There was an intangible quality during their run last season, and you can’t help but feel parts of it again. The path will be more difficult, and I don’t think this team is as good as last season’s. But with the way they’re playing now, don’t count them out.
Despite the fact they held on for the win, let’s be clear: The Eagles were the better team Sunday. They made too many mistakes and were still in position to win the game. That’s a good sign. They were better on third downs (6-for-13 vs. 5-for-16) and in the red zone (2-for-3 vs. 0-for-3), which are both keys to winning. They can’t turn over the ball like they did and they must run the ball better, but they won at the lines of scrimmage and their skill players made more plays.
Relief didn’t seem to be the prevailing emotion. It was pride — almost a defiance — and they know they can win these games. It doesn’t matter that they were 9-7 or that they’re the No. 6 seed or that they needed help on the last day of the season just to punch a ticket. They’ve been on this stage before. They’ve won with Nick Foles before. This defense has made big stops before. That’s where the experience matters.
“I do think being in this situation last year has prepared us for this time,” coach Doug Pederson said.
Give credit to Foles, who didn’t play a great game but was great when it mattered. I was impressed that he didn’t let the two interceptions torpedo his day. That’s a sign of maturity, and he mentioned after the game how he’s learned. He didn’t start forcing plays or try to compensate for the interceptions. He made winning plays. That’s what the third-down pass to Alshon Jeffery was on the winning drive. That’s what the touchdown pass to Golden Tate was.
The defense gave up plays in the fourth quarter, but kept Chicago out of the end zone for three quarters. The Eagles bottled the run and forced Mitchell Trubisky to try to beat them. (He came close in the fourth quarter, to his credit.) They didn’t play on their heels. It will be different in New Orleans, but they should be confident that this is a different team going in there than in November.
That November game is going to be a big topic of conversation this week, and it should. The Eagles were awful that day. But they created another game against New Orleans, which I never would have guessed when flying home the next morning. And with the way the Eagles are playing right now, anything is possible.
Yes, absolutely. The offensive line is clicking right now, and it has faced some of the NFL’s best defensive fronts. It can do it next week against New Orleans. With the way Lane Johnson is playing at right tackle, it’s like last year’s Super Bowl line.
The Eagles need to get their running game going again, but the offensive line is giving them a chance. They won’t see defensive players better than Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, or JJ Watt the rest of the way.
Don’t judge Darren Sproles entirely by his size — he can be an efficient short-yardage running back. Chip Kelly used to like him in those situations. In third-and-short and fourth-and-short, Sproles actually averages 6.6 yards per carry.
There’s sometimes a misconception that a running back needs to bulldoze through the line in short yardage, but Sproles can find slivers of space. Of course, it didn’t happen Sunday.
Definitely the running game. The Eagles had 23 carries for 42 yards, an average of 1.8 yards per carry. The Bears have the NFL’s top-ranked run defense, so give them credit. But the Eagles will need to run the ball better against the Saints. Sproles and Wendell Smallwood had too many empty runs.