It wasn’t pretty, but defeating the Falcons on Thursday night was an Impressive victory.
At some point during virtually every post-game press conference former Eagles coach Andy Reid conducted after a Birds victory during his tenure in Philadelphia, he uttered a phrase that went something like...
“Any time you can get a victory in the National Football League, it’s a good win.”
I’m paraphrasing, of course, but no matter what the wording actually was, the implication was the same — winning games in the NFL is really really hard, and all of them are impressive.
While I don’t necessarily subscribe to that theory all the time, some Eagles fans have been questioning whether Thursday night’s 18-12 victory against the Falcons was “impressive,” or “unimpressive.” Not that it matters, because the Eagles are 1-0 and history won’t remember too much how they got there. But there are a number of reasons why last night’s big victory should be labeled as nothing less than “impressive.”
Make no mistake, Nick Foles was not good last night. He threw the ball 37 times and gained 117 yards. He averaged an astonishingly-bad 3.4 yards per attempt and had a 50.7 passer rating.
Those numbers are cover-your-eyes bad.
But this came after a preseason in which he didn’t play much, and when he did play, had none of his regular receivers or running backs around him, and no Jason Peters. There was no time to develop any rhythm or consistency with anyone.
Foles and Mike Wallace may still be introducing themselves to each other, and with Zach Ertz having what may have been his worst game in three years and missing two of his top four receivers (Alshon Jeffrey and Mack Hollins), the fact Foles was able to lead the team back in the second half wasn’t nothin’.
It’s also fair to note that, on Jay Ajayi’s second touchdown run, Foles called for an audible, sending Ajayi off the left side away from his protection, for the eventual game-winning score. It was a savvy, veteran play, one that Nate Sudfeld probably doesn’t make.
Winning a game against a quality opponent with your back-up quarterback, even the reigning Super Bowl MVP, is Damn Impressive.
We tend to focus a lot on the offense when looking back at a football game, but what we saw last night was an Eagles defense that may be even better than they were last year.
The defensive line ate all night, especially Fletcher Cox in the middle and Chris Long on the outside. Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill made a few huge plays, including the crucial 4th-and-goal stop on Atlanta’s first possession of the game. Ronald Darby was ridiculous in helping to tamp down the Falcons’ passing game, and the return of Jordan Hicks in the middle was a revelation.
That they were able to be so dominant against one of the league’s best quarterbacks, Matt Ryan, perhaps its best wide receiver, Julio Jones, and two outstanding running backs, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, was also damn impressive.
There’s no doubt Atlanta’s offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian deserves a lot of ridicule for his play-calling near the goalline. After all, how do you get just one touchdown out of five trips inside the 20? How do you score just nine points on those five trips inside the red zone?
The Falcons were 23rd in red zone efficiency last year, so their struggles close to the goal line are well documented. However, that doesn’t lessen the Eagles’ impressive ability to not only keep them out of the end zone but to generate turnovers as well.
The defense looked elite last night against a football team that many think can be a Super Bowl contender. That too, is damn impressive.
Philly Special v 2.0
Doug Pederson showed he remembered how to gamble. And even more impressive, he continues to gamble and win.
2 Philly 2 Special— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) September 7, 2018
The #Eagles discuss what went into last night's "Philly, Philly" call: https://t.co/bnfkkudorM#FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/wdDBFJcQdn
That Pederson ran the exact same play the Patriots ran in Super Bowl 52 but failed to execute properly shows the Birds’ coach is not going to slow down here in 2019. And it was just the play the Eagles needed to energize their flagging offense.
Calling that play, in that spot, and the players pulling it off is super duper damn impressive.
The Eagles came out on fire last night and, specifically on defense, never let up. The offense’s struggles weren’t due to an emotional hangover, it was due to a lack of reps, players out of the lineup, Foles’ known tendency to be hot or cold, and, to be fair, some quality play by a good Atlanta defense.
But all the worries about this Eagles team suffering a post Super Bowl hangover should be vanquished. The team played hard, they played with energy, and they played with emotion.
If anything this game showed there will be no letdown this season. If the Eagles lose, it’s because they are either out-coached or outplayed.
Like Atlanta, the Birds had to overcome a ton of penalties last night, 10 of them for 101 yards, and some killer turnovers. Derek Barnett negated two sacks when he lined up in the neutral zone. The Eagles gave the Falcons the ball deep in their own territory when special teamer Tre Sullivan kicked a punt while he was engaged with about six Atlanta players. They gave up a touchdown after Dallas Goeddert was throttled a millisecond after hauling in a pass from Nick Foles that resulted in an interception.
And on what should have been the final play of the game, a 4th-and-goal from the 10-yard-line, an incomplete Ryan pass that would have ended the game was wiped out because of a suspect illegal contact penalty, giving them one more shot.
Oh, and they had to overcome a rain delay that pushed kickoff back about 45 minutes and truncated their pregame celebration.
Yet, in the end, the Eagles prevailed.
The Eagles didn’t struggle to beat the Cleveland Browns. This wasn’t the Arizona Cardinals or the Detroit Lions or some other also-ran they barely squeaked by. This was a Falcons team that met them just a few months ago in this same building, a team that came within a whisker of beating Philly for a trip to the NFC Championship Game, and a team many believe will win the NFC South and be a Super Bowl contender.
The Eagles went from being 5 1⁄2 point favorites when the lines first went public down to 1 1⁄2 when it became clear Carson Wentz wasn’t going to start. Essentially, Vegas was telling everyone Atlanta was the better team, as home teams generally get a 3-point cushion. It’s entirely possible this game could determine seeding in the NFC playoffs at the end of the year, giving this game a playoff-type atmosphere in prime time.
When people say a win is “unimpressive,” generally that means that team didn’t deserve to win the game, or that they didn’t do anything special to win it. It means the other team lost the game more than they earned it.
That wasn’t the case last night. The Eagles and Falcons played a sloppy, messy, ugly football game, but Philadelphia came out on top because they made more plays and their defense played like a crazed pack of wolves.
To me, that’s awfully impressive.
This post first appeared on Bleeding Green Nation, A Philadelphia Eagles Commu, please read the originial post: here