After defeating both the Los Angeles Rams and Houston Texans in consecutive weeks, the Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) needed to beat Washington and get a little bit of help on Sunday from the Chicago Bears, if they wanted to make the playoffs for a second-straight season.
Luckily enough, the defending Super Bowl champs got the help that they were searching for as the Bears defeated the Minnesota Vikings 24-10, while they shutout Washington 24-0.
From the first play in the opening quarter, it seemed as if the Eagles had the game under control as cornerback Rasul Douglas intercepted Washington quarterback Josh Johnson.
However, the Eagles’ offense could not capitalize off of Washington’s turnover due to quarterback Nick Foles throwing an interception of his own in the red zone. After that turnover, Foles and the offense would eventually get into a rhythm and march down the field for a couple of touchdowns.
While the offense was winning the time of the possession battle and moving the chains, the defense was teeing off on Johnson and held Washington’s running game to 21 yards on the ground. It was a dominating performance on both sides of the ball, which is what you wanted to see out of the playoff-bound Eagles.
Speaking of the playoffs, the Eagles, who own the sixth seed, will be playing the third seed Bears on Sunday afternoon at 4:40 p.m. ET in the wildcard round of the NFL playoffs.
Here are three takeaways from Sunday’s playoff-clinching win in the nation’s capital:
1. Offense stays balanced
Ever since Nick Foles was named the starting quarterback a few weeks ago, the Eagles’ offensive coaching staff has done a good job of putting him in favorable situations.
The reigning Super Bowl MVP has rarely been in many 3rd and long situations and that is because of head coach Doug Pederson committing to the running game. In their wins over the Rams and Texans, the Eagles racked up over 100 yards on the ground and averaged 24.5 carries per game.
In Sunday’s game against Washington, the Eagles stuck to this formula and it worked. While Foles and Nate Sudfeld had 34 pass attempts, the trio of Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood, and Darren Sproles had 127 rushing yards on 30 carries.
That is almost perfect balance on offense, which keeps opposing defenses on their heels and helps you win football games. Along the same lines, the Eagles were 8-of-14 on third downs.
They will need to keep this up next Sunday against a tough Chicago defense led by All-Pro defensive end Khalil Mack.
2. Defense continues to assert itself
The Eagles’ much-maligned and battered defense has been under intense scrutiny for most of the season due to their poor play. However, they’ve played better over the past month, becoming a takeaway machine and applying intense pressure with their ferocious defensive line.
Going back to their Week 12 matchup against the New York Giants, the Eagles have racked up 10 takeaways. It is tough to stop a defense that is compiling takeaways at a pace of 1.6 per game over the last six weeks.
The defensive line, however, has been feasting on opposing teams’ quarterbacks. Against Washington, the Eagles’ defense had nine tackles for loss, eight quarterbacks hits, and four sacks.
Out of those four sacks, three of them belonged to defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, while the other went to Michael Bennett. The Eagles are going to need those two, in particular, to have a big game next week against another mobile quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky.
3. Agholor shines for a second straight week
For most of this season, fourth-year wide receiver Nelson Agholor has been an afterthought in the Eagles’ offense, after having a career-year last season.
Last season, he had 62 receptions on 95 targets for 768 yards and eight touchdowns. The former first-round pick shockingly had 59 receptions on 91 targets for 696 yards and two touchdowns through 16 games this season.
Even though his receptions, targets, and receiving yards are not too far off from last season, the lack of big scoring plays from Agholor have been evident. However, since Foles took over, the ball has seemingly found the 25-year-old wide receiver, which has led to big plays in the passing game.
In last week’s game against the Texans, he had five receptions on seven targets for 116 yards and a touchdown. It was his first receiving touchdown since Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons.
On Sunday afternoon, Agholor scored two more touchdowns, bringing his season total to 4. It was the first time in his young career that he had multiple touchdown receptions in a game.