The Eagles might be a year or two away from contending for a championship—they don’t even know who their franchise quarterback is (or do they?)—but at least one thing is now certain. This year’s team is officially better than the 2012 iteration.
After finishing 4-12 in Andy Reid’s final season as head coach, Philadelphia has already clinched a better record just 10 games into 2013, Chip Kelly’s first season on the sidelines. With a sound 27-13 victory over a limited Packers squad, the Birds improved to 5-5 and once again find themselves in the thick of the playoff picture.
Yes, Green Bay was without 2011 NFL Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers, and down to practice-squad darling Scott Tolzien under center after the first series. The Eagles can only play the opponent that’s on the schedule though, and they took care of business on Sunday.
A Birds defense that has only given up more than 21 points twice all season was able to bottle up power running back Eddie Lacy for 73 yards on 24 carries. That forced Tolzien to carry the Packers’ offense in his first appearance in an NFL game, coming on in relief of Seneca Wallace who exited with a groin injury.
Tolzien piled up 280 yards and a touchdown on 24 of 39 passes, but threw two costly interceptions—one in the end zone. The pass to Jordy Nelson was behind its intended target, which allowed Brandon Boykin to swoop in for the pick (his second of ‘13) and a 73-yard return.
DeMeco Ryans also came up with his second interception of the season off of a tip after Tolzien attempted to thread a pass into traffic. Ryans set the tone for the Philly’s stifling run defense as well with 13 tackles—two for loss—building on another fine season.
The story once again though was the Eagles’ quick-strike offense led by Nick Foles, who finished with another strong line. The second-year passer connected on 12 of 18 passes for 228 yards with zero interceptions and three touchdowns—all over 32 yards. He did lose a fumble however to commit his first turnover of the ’13.
It wasn’t Foles’ best day despite the numbers. Two of his three touchdown passes were underthrown deep passes, the first of which in particular was nearly trouble. Packers cornerback Tramon Williams had the ball knocked away by his own teammate, and DeSean Jackson was there to collect the deflection for a 55-yard score.
It wasn’t a performance that is going to cement Foles as quarterback of the future, but as far as statistics are concerned, he’s still thrown 16 touchdowns with no picks this season. More importantly, his record as a starter this season jumped to 3-1.
If nothing else, Foles has earned another week to continue showing what he can do.
Jackson’s touchdown was his seventh of the season. Philadelphia improved to 5-1 in games where Djacc finds the end zone. Riley Cooper continued filling up the stat sheet as well with three catches for 102 yards and two scores. Coop now has five TDs over the past two games.
LeSean McCoy finally got on track as well, recording only his second 100-yard game since Week 3. How he finished was the most impressive part, with 115 of his 155 yards coming in the second half. The Eagles finished off the Packers with a clock-killing drive that ate the final 9:32 in the fourth quarter, largely Shady’s doing.
It may sound somewhat cliché, but this was a total team victory by the Birds, who toughed it out with several key injuries. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher was inactive, and Philly lost Jason Peters, Mychal Kendricks and Earl Wolff to injuries over the course of the game.
The Eagles forged ahead though and won anyway because they’re a better, more well-rounded team than they were a season ago. Credit Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis for the quick turnaround, and fans should be excited to find out what the ceiling is for this season.
The playoffs are right around the corner, and Philly is in the mix. Even if they don’t catch the Cowboys for an NFC East title, a wild card may be in play. As of this writing, the second wild card spot is currently owned by a five-win team.
First things first though, and that’s taking care of Washington next week, which will require the Birds to end this horrible 10-game losing streak at the Linc. Now winners of two straight, the Eagles will be riding a wave of momentum back to Philly. No reason right now to think they can’t continue to roll.