An Honest Christmas Story
By Dave Gloeckner (4th and Go)
First posted on www.4thandgo.com
We all saw it with our own eyes. But it will depend on how your mind processes what occurred at Lincoln Financial Field on Christmas Night to decide whether the Philadelphia Eagles still have a chance to reach, and possibly win, the Super Bowl. It’s just like in the holiday classic, A Christmas Story, when “The Old Man” unwrapped the infamous Leg Lamp. To his family is was a ghastly sight. Gaudy and tasteless. But to him it was artistic beauty that beamed like a beacon of light in the open sea. So how do you view the Eagles chances now?
The end result of the game was positive, as the Philadelphia Eagles were able to defeat the Oakland Raiders by a score of 19-10, and clinch the #1 seed in the NFC and homefield advantage throughout the conference playoffs. And just like “The Old Man”, after a disturbingly ugly performance by the Birds, there is one group that will still see the glass half full and realize having the #1 seed means you reach the Super Bowl over 50% of the time. That was my group two weeks ago. Brimming with hope and optimism. Forgetting the Nick Foles that was quietly escorted out of town by then head coach Chip Kelly frankly because he knew he couldn’t win with the Napoleon Dynamite doppleganger. But things were different as Nick had “more talent” around him this time. Plus who can forget 27 and 2? Each of us in this group believed they could still win because of the team around Foles.
Then there’s the other group. The one you didn’t want to hear from after Carson Wentz went down for the season with a torn ACL. They were negative and said things the hopers didn’t want to hear. Those people dismissed there was any football left and acted like the season was officially over when the schedule showed there were 3 more weeks plus playoffs. They said “You can’t win without Carson, it’s just a fact”. And “Nick Foles is bad, which we already know, and the team just can’t rebound from losing the potential league MVP”. They dismissed 13 weeks of glorious football based on one sudden bad break.
However, after watching the Eagles struggle to victory versus an Oakland team that had little reason to play, I have now switched sides. The Nick Foles that I chastised before the Sam Bradford trade reappeared. This is the one read QB with a suspect arm. His inability to dissect defenses and his lack of confidence to target WR’s outside the hashes was once again on display. This is Nick Foles, and those serious flaws have not been corrected. And they are going to be the hindrance to any dream we had of raising the Lombardi Trophy.
I never truly believed in Nick Foles. I just thought this team could do what Minnesota has done once they lost their starting QB. That is buckle down on defense and package an offense around the backup QB’s strengths. And I now doubt even if head coach Doug Pederson was able to do both, that Nick Foles could give you enough to beat quality teams in the playoffs. What I saw on Monday night was an embarrassment. It was pitiful. The Oakland Raiders came in ranked 22nd on defense in yards/game allowed. They were 23rd against the pass and 21st in points/game. And they came into Philadelphia with nothing to play for as their slim playoff hopes were crushed the day before. But the Eagles passing game, and overall offense, could hardly make a dent against a soft moveable object.
The most glaring problem was Nick Foles’ play. His base stats were mediocre, as he went 19 for 38 for 163 yards while throwing 1 touchdown and 1 interception. His QB rating was 59.4 and surprisingly ended up with better overall numbers than his counterpart Derek Carr (who we ripped with this tweet after the game).
Listen Foles sucks. But Derek Carr is trash. Unbelievable fall off a short lived hype train. Thanks for the gift tonight.
— 4th&Go (@4thandgoradio) December 26, 2017
But what was most polarizing about Foles’ performance was hidden deeper in the numbers. He completed only 3 passes that were 6 yards past the line of scrimmage. All three of those were in the middle third of the field. Overall, he was 3 for 14 on throws of 6 yards or more. And as you see in his throwing chart, most of his completions came short and to the right side of the field. He was 10 for 18 when throwing to his right. However, when looking left he went 5 for 12 with an interception. Opposing teams will see this and know how to game plan for the lack of a downfield threat in the passing game as well as his propensity to favor one side.
The other major concern was Foles lack of progressive reads and habit to run backwards when faced with pressure. The ESPN telecast showed a play early in the 2nd quarter where Alshon Jeffrey broke wide open down the left side of the field. However, it wasn’t Foles first read and it was to his left so the opportunity literally had little to no chance. Defenses will also see this inherent flaw and start to commit DB’s into the box. They’ll use them for blitzing as well as to slow down the run game. This is what scares me the most going forward. Defenses will be able to prepare for the Eagles deficiencies and shut down their offense. If the Raiders can do it, you have to realize so can any other team in the playoffs.
Which brings me back to my honest assessment using A Christmas Story theme. I looked at the Leg Lamp and saw potential in it. It was odd, out of place, and quirky. But I liked it because it was one of a kind. People doubted the fixture but they weren’t looking deep enough for it’s inner beauty. Then time ticked away and every chance I passed by it, sitting proudly on display, doubt started creeping in. I finally began to see what the object was with a clearer mind. The lamp was an eyesore that didn’t fit in with anything. It was ugly and tasteless and should have never even made it onto the table. It needed to go and made me question my sense of initial reality.
Unfortunately, the lamp is the 2017 Eagles. A metaphor but so much more. I want to believe in this team and will still cheer my heart out. They are 53 men strong and shouldn’t be discounted due to one polarizing flaw. But my perception has been adjusted and my acuity changed. The somber reality is this team now needs a miracle to make it to the Super Bowl. They can’t win with QB play as poorly as we saw against the Raiders. Reality is harsh, and we don’t often like to hear the truth. We invested too much into this season to let it slip away this easily. But all I’m left with is flipping coins into the fountain at the mall and looking for shooting stars. After Monday, hope is slipping and being replaced with doubt. I can’t let go yet, but I feel like my brain has already made up it’s mind.