Brandon Boykin intercepts Robert Griffin III in the final minute of the Eagles 24-16 win over the Redskins. Photo Courtesy of ESPN.com
For three quarters on Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles had all the makings of something Philadelphia is starving for: a contender, a playoff team. But don’t let the glossy, well-polished Eagles of the first 45 minutes win you over completely just yet.
Yes, the Eagles did win against the Washington Redskins on Sunday – 24-16 being the final score. Without question, the result alone silences some critics right away. And yes, a dominant first half where the Eagles grabbed a 17-0 lead and really didn’t look back was definitely the desired result.
However, there are certain things about Sunday’s win that simply can’t be ignored.
The Eagles succeeded at the main goal: win. They did. They can claim first place all to themselves at this moment. Thus, there is a certain word that has to enter the conversation: playoffs.
By leading the NFC East, the Eagles are currently in one of the top-four playoff spots in the NFC. Win the division and the Eagles will host an NFC Wild Card game.
Yet there was more to the 24-16 result than meets the eye.
Take the first half. This was a sound team, good on offense - combining the run and pass well, using the read option in the right places, exploiting teams with screen passes – and on defense – making key stops, creating turnovers and flat out frustrating the Redskins as a whole.
The issue was the fourth quarter.
The Eagles took a step back in the fourth quarter. Forget the final score. The two touchdowns were the result of two big plays.
The first involved an unfortunate collision between a natural defensive lineman in pass coverage as a linebacker and a battle-tested safety working through a shoulder injury. They both went to break up the play with a big hit and hit each other. It happens.
The second Redskins touchdown, again, comes as a result of learning and adjusting on the fly.
The Eagles were clearly shorthanded in the secondary. So with Patrick Chung dealing with a bad shoulder and Brandon Boykin serving as the only serviceable corner, Roc Carmichael was the victim. And the Redskins picked on him with everything they had.
To that, the offense seemed to just shut off in the final 15 minutes. That is on Chip Kelly more than anyone else. The play calling seemed illogical. The pace was gone. The Eagles were a confused offensive team. There wasn’t something right about what the Eagles were trying to do.
Perhaps that was due to the success the Eagles had in Green Bay in the final nine minutes of the game – running the ball to kill the clock. That didn’t work against the Redskins, who were 18 yards shy of creeping to within two points.
Did the offense really prove anything we didn’t already know: not really. Nick Foles continued to show why he should start: accurate throws, generally good decisions on the field, no turnovers again. For the second straight week, it was nothing close to record setting for Foles. But a quick look across the field at the trouble Robert Griffin III was having made that easy to overlook.
Foles stood his ground again without making mistakes. At the very least, the Eagles can feel comfortable knowing how calm, cool and collected Foles seems leading the Eagles.
Perhaps the best thing for the offense is that they get a week off. Foles was victim of some heavy hits courtesy of his offensive line and LeSean McCoy suffered a hamstring injury that looked worse than it was. Either way, a week off, especially at this juncture of the season, helps. That is especially true for a defense that was without Earl Wolff, Bradley Fletcher and had to hang on for dear life with Cary Williams, Boykin and Chung.
45 minutes of that game were the results of a playoff team. They ran nearly every play to perfection. They had the crowd on their side. The forced the Redskins to build up frustration. Talk about home-field advantage.
But before everyone starts lining up for playoff tickets, consider the finish and how close the Eagles came to losing the game that moves them into good playoff position.
Overall, the outlook of the Eagles was 15 minutes away from changing drastically. This appeared to be a team that not only belongs in the playoffs, but also seemed so good at every aspect of the game in Week 11 that they actually had acquired the potential to win a playoff game.
The final 15 minutes changed all that.
After that fourth-quarter performance, the Eagles are now what they were going into Sunday’s game. They are still a giant question mark.
Can this team compete? It remains an unanswered question.
Getting a win in Week 11 to move to 6-5 and take the NFC East lead is wonderful. It is great for a success-starved city as Philadelphia is. It is great for the fans who are dying for a winner. But don’t be fooled. This is a team that is setting up fans for heartbreak.
It may happen in the first round of the playoffs, when the Eagles can’t seem to find what’s working now and have the abrupt end to the season hit: at home, no less. It could even be Week 17, when the Eagles still have to face the Dallas Cowboys one more time.
There is no doubt that over the final six weeks of the season, there will be plenty of playoff talk. All of it is warranted. Just don’t get too far ahead of the picture that was painted on Sunday. The Eagles might be a playoff team. But a contender? It’s too soon to tell.
Kevin Durso is a contributor for Eagledelphia. Look for his Game Preview every Sunday morning, his recap of the game immediately following the action and his weekly Monday Review the morning after every Eagles game. Follow him on twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.
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