By Kevin McGuire
Winning doesn’t have to be pretty all of the time, but the Philadelphia Eagles’ 19-10 victory on Christmas night at Lincoln Financial Field was not one that inspired much confidence for the fate of the 2017 season. Despite locking down home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs with the win, the Eagles showed there are a number of concerns that must be addressed if they are going to take advantage of the home-field advantage in the postseason.
The entire offense was a complete mess on Monday night. Nick Foles showed how the lack of mobility can hurt the team, but he also had poor protection from the offensive line all night long, and the running game never had much of a chance to help level the playing field with the Raiders showing no need to respect the passing game. Wide receivers failed to make key catches to bail Foles out on some plays. Against one of the worst defenses on third down, the Eagles converted just one of 14 third downs in the game. The Eagles were two-for-two on fourth down, however. They accumulated just 216 yards of offense.
The defense had some rough moments, including Jalen Mills getting torched by Amari Cooper on a double move for an easy long touchdown in the second quarter, but the Eagles defense had a solid night that allowed them to scratch their way to a victory in the end. Oakland had just 13 first downs and five turnovers, including a fumble on a lateral that was returned for a touchdown on the final play of the game that served as the icing on an otherwise forgettable cake. Pressure on Derek Carr was abundant and forced Carr to throw the ball away at times on key downs. Despite the fine outing, there were some slips and missteps as well, including being unable to pull down an easy interception and a premature celebration while a loose fumble was out for the taking.
Special Teams: B
Rookie kicker Jake Elliott missed a field goal late in the first half, but he nailed the 48-yard attempt he needed to make in the final minute of the game to make up for it. Punter Donnie Jones was in for a busy night and did all he could to prevent the field position battle to be as lopsided in favor of Oakland when he was backed up in his own end for the majority of the second half. Out of eight punts, Jones pinned down just one inside the 20-yard line, but he averaged 41.8 yards per punt all night long. Punt returner Kenjon Barner avoided a disaster in the second half when he recovered a muffed punt return deep in the Eagles’ end. He averaged six yards per return on three attempts.
Doug Pederson and Frank Reich have to get to work to get the offense on the same page with quarterback Nick Foles. The weather may have been far from ideal, but the Eagles are going to be playing in this weather for the rest of their season, for better or worse, so that cannot be an excuse. The offense was having all of their biggest weaknesses exposed in their second game without Carson Wentz on the field, and nothing ever seemed to really improve against the Raiders.
The defense may have been in a good shape, but the issues that were glaring the previous week against the New York Giants were scouted by the Raiders and exposed at times as well. With the way other teams in the NFC have been playing, the Eagles will have some serious work to do on both sides of the football before the postseason comes knocking. They only get one more week to work out the kinks in a game day atmosphere.
Up Next: Having already locked up everything they can possibly clinch before the postseason (division, home-field advantage), the Eagles will use next week’s regular-season finale against the Dallas Cowboys to see how much they can clean up before the playoffs while also giving key players a chance to get a relatively light workload. Or will they? Given how the team has played the past two weeks, starters may get a few more snaps and plays than you would typically like to see in this situation. The game means nothing for the Cowboys either, taking all of the sizzle out of a regular season finale between the Eagles and Cowboys for a second straight season.