1. Nick Foles is more than capable of leading this team
In the immediate aftermath of Wentz injury the city spiraled into what I would describe as an acute depression. Within hours, that depression turned to speculation over whether this team could continue to contend with Nick Foles at quarterback. Some fans pointed to reasons for optimism while others derided those fans for even considering it.
After a 4 touchdown performance on 38 pass attempts it’s more than clear that those saying Foles is one of the best (if not the best) backups in the NFL were validated. The numbers supported that statement prior to Sunday and now the tape supports it as well. Foles may not be the reason for our success, but he certainly won’t get in the way of it – which is all you can ask out of a backup quarterback. It may be a small sample size, but when you take into account his track record – this is the same guy who threw for 7 touchdowns vs Oakland in 2013 – it’s more than enough to be encouraged moving ahead.
2. The running game continues to produce
It’s obvious that if Foles is going to have any success the run game will need to keep producing. This much is true for any quarterback. Behind an offensive line missing starting LG Stefan Wisniewski the committee produced 108 yards on 25 touches, good for 4.3 yards per carry.
This output was good enough to keep the offense (for the most part) ahead of the chains and Foles in manageable situations. Other than the left side of line collapsing at times, I would say the ground game held up its end of the bargain without Wentz, but they’ll have to play much better in the playoffs if they want a real shot at the Super Bowl. Ideally Wisniewski returning to the lineup along with additional reps in front of Foles will help the running game find its stride in time for the playoffs.
3. If they realistically want to compete for a Super Bowl, the defense needs to step it up
Much of the conversation on the Eagles still being able to compete has been predicated on the defense and running game picking up the slack. Not only will it compensate for Wentz playmaking, but it’s the ideal identity for playoff football.
However, despite the win, we walk away from this game with more concerns about our defense than we had going in. For the first time all season we allowed over 500 yards of total offense; and Eli Manning, who had his share of concerns entering the game, threw for a season high 429 yards. The performance by the secondary was reminiscent of the porous play that plagued the Birds for the past 4 years, and in no way looked like the secondary of the previous 14 weeks.
The other concern defensively was their tackling – or lack thereof. All season the Birds have been a solid tackling team, and when they’ve missed they have had teammates there to clean it up. However the last two weeks have been concerning in that regard, and Jim Schwartz acknowledged as much after both games.
Considering our opponent, this was by far the worst defensive performance of the season. And with the teams success more reliant on that side of the ball than ever before, it’s as legitimate a concern for our Super Bowl chances as any. If Schwartz and company can’t get things back on track by mid-January we can forget about contending for anything this season.
4. They’ll need to keep winning the turnover battle
We’re well aware that the last time the Eagles made the playoffs was in 2013, with Foles as their starter. For those that remember, a key identity of that Birds team was their ability to force turnovers and create easy opportunities with their defense and special teams. They had a +12 turnover margin that season along with a litany of blocked kicks and punts.
If the Eagles are real about contending then this is something that they’ll need to replicate moving forward, and they got off to a good start on that front yesterday. With an interception, blocked extra point, blocked field goal, and a blocked punt – the latter two leading to short fields – the opportunistic turnover and special teams blocks arguably won the game for the Birds. There isn’t a signal caller in the league who couldn’t stand to benefit from a short field, and continuing to help out the offense like this will be key to keeping pressure off of Foles in the future.
5. After one game without Wentz, what should we look for in the upcoming few weeks?
If you had told me the Eagles were on the road against a divisional opponent, after spending 2 weeks on the west coast, with the defense putting out their worst performance of the season, all to go along with starting our backup quarterback, I would have asked you how bad we got beat. That just about says it all in terms of this team’s resiliency.
A week ago I wrote about how the Birds – with a dominant defense and strong running game – were built to compete for a Super Bowl, even without Carson Wentz. Seven days later and that argument has some merit to go along with a few holes. The running game proved capable, Foles proved capable, but the defense was far from dominant; and that should be the main area of concern for the Eagles coaching staff moving ahead.