Thinking out loud after the Eagles’ 16-15 win over the Chicago Bears on the NFL’s wild-card weekend:
- The Eagles’ front office, with Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas, deserve a lot of credit for unearthing on-the-street talents Cre’Von LeBlanc and Treyvon Hester when injuries struck during the season.
It was Hester who got a fingernail on Cody Parkey’s ill-fated 43-yard field goal try to win the game. Hester, who started the season with the Raiders, has also provided solid defensive tackle depth.
As for LeBlanc, he has solidified the team’s nickel cornerback position since arriving on Nov. 5 a couple weeks after being released by the Detroit Lions. He played 51 snaps (80 percent) in his first playoff game.
- That said, the Eagles’ front office must find a go-to running back in the offseason. Their lack of a reliable short-yardage runner has hampered them all season – or ever since Jay Ajayi was lost for the year early in the season with an injury. Josh Adams isn’t the answer. And speaking of Adams, he was the forgotten man on Sunday, playing only one offensive snap.
Further evidence for this need came when Wendell Smallwood couldn’t cross the goal line on a two-point conversion try after the Eagles went ahead 16-15 with 56 seconds left. Or did he? After several looks at it, I’m not so sure he did not cross the goal line. Still, the Eagles need a consistent threat on short yardage.
- The Eagles played three premier pass rushers in three of the past four weeks in Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt and Khalil Mack. That threesome combined for 49 regular-season sacks, but the Eagles held all three without a single sack and just three quarterback hits combined. That is some amazing work not only by the offensive line, but also offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland and his assistant Eugene Chung for drawing up protection schemes.
- Can we please end the debate about whether or not trading a third-round pick for Golden Tate at the NFL trade deadline was worth it? It was, and now it will be interesting to see if the Eagles allow Tate to walk when his contract expires or if they try to bring him back and part ways with Nelson Agholor. Or keep them both.
- Head coach Doug Pederson was right when he said following Sunday’s win that this Eagles team isn’t the same one that went to New Orleans on Nov. 18 and were torched 48-7 by this week’s playoff foe, the Saints. The difference begins at the quarterback position, where Nick Foles is now under center. Carson Wentz threw three interceptions in that game and probably played his worst game as a professional.
Then there’s the secondary, which was still in the early stages of figuring out how to play without Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby. It has several games under its belt now, and has been helped by a defensive line that has become more ferocious, with defensive end Michael Bennett more settled in his role.
- Dallas Goedert continues to prove that he has a great future, but with Zach Ertz ensconced as the number one tight end, it will be interesting to see how close Goedert can get to his ceiling. Against the Bears, he made a great inside move in the end zone, despite being held on the play by a Bears defender, to get open and catch his fifth touchdown pass of the season The play gave the Eagles a 10-6 lead.
Goedert also made a terrific catch-and-run on the Eagles’ game-winning drive. The play came off a double-fake screen, with Nick Foles first faking to his left then faking to his right. All the while, Goedert was blocking before releasing into open space. Foles’ throw was low, but Goedert scooped it, took a shot to the legs by a defender, but carried on for what was ultimately a 10-yard gain and a first down.
- For the fourth straight game, cornerback Rasul Douglas led the team in tackles, getting eight this time. Some may say it’s a bad thing when your cornerback leads the team in tackles. I say not so. It shows he can play the run as well as the pass. Is Douglas limited for his lack of speed? Sure, but there is no questioning his ability to get a ball carrier to the ground. How many times in the past have we seen Eagles corners whiff in the open field? So embrace what Douglas is doing.
- Pederson is 4-0 in the postseason in his brief head coaching career. That puts him second on the team’s postseason wins list behind only Andy Reid, who had 10. Dick Vermeil had three playoff wins while with the Birds.
- Sunday’s game was just the 12th in NFL history to end with a 16-15 score, and the Eagles have now been involved in two of them. The other 16-15 game they Eagles had was on Oct. 3, 1999 when they lost to eh New York Giants.