Eagles clinch homefield, look far from No. 1 seed in process

Eagles clinch homefield, look far from No. 1 seed in process


Ever get a good Christmas present but the wrapping job was really bad?

That's kind of what happened at the Linc on Christmas night.

The Eagles beat the Raiders, 19-10, to clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC and homefield throughout the playoffs, but it wasn't pretty. It really wasn't pretty (see Roob's observations).

Nick Foles struggled and there was a ton of sloppy play. It still counts, but it's fair to question a lot about this team as the playoffs near. At least the defense really tightened up.

Late in the game, after a sloppy evening, Ronald Darby had a huge interception and the offense was finally able to do enough to get Jake Elliott into field goal range. The rookie hit a 48-yarder to win the game before the defense held one more time.

With the win, the Eagles improved to 13-2 and have a 13-win season for the second time in franchise history. The other one came in the 2004 Super Bowl season.

With the loss, the Raiders fell to 6-9 as their disappointing season continues. Oakland had high hopes coming into the year, but things haven't gone its way.

Foles threw an early touchdown pass, but the offense sputtered with him at quarterback Monday. The loss of Carson Wentz was really felt Monday and if this game was a glimpse into the future, you might want to hold off on buying those tickets to Minnesota.

Turning point
The Darby interception gave Foles and the offense a chance. They did enough to get Elliott in field goal range.

Key stat
The Eagles were 1 for 14 on third downs. That was an area where they excelled with Wentz, who found unique ways to make plays.

Offensive stud
Zach Ertz had a good game statistically but got most of his yards in the first half.

Offensive dud
Not a great game from Foles (see report card). Without Wentz, the offense just seemed limited Monday night.

Defensive stud
Chris Long seemed to have a good game. He had a strip sack and had good pressure a lot of the game.

Defensive dud
Jalen Mills was roasted on a double move (sluggo) in the first half. He was beaten on a double move last week too.

Key plays
• The Eagles scored on the last meaningless play of the game (although it meant something to plenty of gamblers) to make the final score 19-10.

• Darby picked off a pass with just under a minute left to give the Eagles the ball back near midfield. After Foles moved the Eagles into field goal range, Elliott drilled a 48-yard game-winner.

• It looked like the Raiders were nearing a score to give them a late lead, but Malcolm Jenkins ripped the ball from Jalen Richard's hands to give the ball back to Foles and the offense. That came after Foles threw an interception on a high pass to Ertz.

• Late in the third quarter, there were three turnovers in 38 seconds. First, Patrick Robinson picked a pass off, then Jay Ajayi fumbled, then Marshawn Lynch fumbled. At the end of all that, Elliott hit a 35-yarder to tie the game at 10-10.

• Richard broke off a 34-yard run on the first drive of the second half and Giorgio Tavecchio hit a 25-yard field goal to give the Raiders a 10-7 lead.

• After a drive to get down to the Raiders' 15-yard line with seconds left in the first half, kicker Elliott missed a 33-yard chip shot that would have given the Eagles a lead. Instead, the score was 7-7 after two quarters.

• Mills, who came into the game with an ankle injury, was roasted by Amari Cooper on a sluggo route that went for 63 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles have given up five 60-plus-yard passes this year. No team has given up more.

• Foles threw a terrible pass early in the second quarter that was nearly a pick-6. Safety Reggie Nelson jumped the route and had daylight in front of him but dropped the pass.

• The Eagles opened up the scoring on their second drive of the game. After running the ball down the Raiders' throats, Foles threw a screen pass to Ajayi that went 17 yards for the touchdown.

Injury update
Stefen Wisniewski (ankle) missed the game after being listed as questionable heading in. Chance Warmack started in his place.

Up next
The Eagles will finish out the regular season next weekend, on New Year's Eve, with a 1 p.m. kickoff at home against the Cowboys, who have already been eliminated from playoff contention.

How Eagles could shut down Vikings' receiving duo

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How Eagles could shut down Vikings' receiving duo

When you think about the best wide receivers in the NFL today, names like Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and DeAndre Hopkins come to mind and rightfully so, but the Minnesota Vikings have a pair of wideouts who have given opposing secondaries fits.

This season, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have been the perfect complement to each other. Thielen finished the regular season with 91 receptions (eighth-best in the league), 1276 yards (fifth-best) and his 20 catches for 20 or more yards tied for fifth-best overall. As for Diggs, he finished with 64 receptions for 849 yards.

Together, Thielen and Diggs accounted for 54 percent of the Vikings' receiving yards this season. They also combined for 12 touchdowns. In the Vikes' miraculous playoff win over the New Orleans Saints, they accounted for 66 percent of the passing game. They have been the safety valves for Case Keenum all season long.

Minnesota offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has the rare luxury of lining up either one of them on the inside or outside on any given play. Both are excellent route runners — whether it's doing deep or intermediate routes or crossing routes, and both are excellent blockers.

So how should Jim Schwartz defend against these two? Some believe help over the top on Thielen and playing single coverage on Diggs is the way to go. We may see that concept occasionally in the NFC Championship Game but I have a feeling Schwartz will come up with some variation we have not seen before. The Eagles are not going to completely shut these two down, but their damage can be minimized. Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson and the other DBs will put in a full day’s work shadowing these two.

Howie Roseman honored for his tremendous offseason

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Howie Roseman honored for his tremendous offseason

As the Eagles practiced on Thursday afternoon, just a few days before hosting the NFC Championship Game at Lincoln Financial Field, vice president of football operations Howie Roseman stood next to owner Jeff Lurie and watched the team he created. 

Of the 53 members on the Eagles' roster heading into this championship game, 25 weren't on the active roster last season. Roseman had a very busy offseason, molding the Eagles into a Super Bowl contender. 

For his efforts, the 42-year-old Roseman, who began with the Eagles as an intern in 2000, has been named the NFL Executive of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America. 

Roseman helped turn over a roster that went 7-9 last season into a team that went 13-3, earning the first-overall seed in the NFC. He built the team with enough depth to survive major injuries to Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Jordan Hicks, Chris Maragos and Caleb Sturgis. 

Never afraid to make a trade, Roseman came back from his time away from football operations more aggressive than ever. He claims his year away from GM duties while Chip Kelly took over was both humbling and eye-opening. 

For this season, Roseman traded 25 spots in the third round to bring in veteran defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, traded away Jordan Matthews and a pick to bring in cornerback Ronald Darby and pulled the trigger on a midseason move to bring in Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi. 

In free agency, he signed Alshon Jeffery, Chris Long, LeGarrette Blount, Nick Foles, Patrick Robinson and Chance Warmack. He brought in several of those players on one-year prove-it deals, and for the most part, the team has gotten more than their money's worth out of them. 

He also helped hire VP of player personnel Joe Douglas to revamp the scouting department. That hire of a top personnel man was one of the conditions when Lurie reinstated Roseman to power following Kelly's dismissal. 

Roseman and Douglas spearheaded drafting a class that included Derek Barnett in the first round, an injured Sidney Jones in the second and some other contributors in the next five rounds. 

Aside from just bringing players in, Roseman has been able to manipulate the salary cap better than anyone in the league. It's been a strength of his since his arrival in Philly, so that should be no surprise. 

You could actually argue that Roseman's 2016 was more impressive. That's when he laid the groundwork for this playoff season by moving up and drafting Carson Wentz. But 2017 is when it all came together.