I have no idea how they won this game. But they did win this game, and the Eagles are now securely the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoff bracket.
The defense forced five second-half turnovers, Jake Elliott made his second long game-winning field goal of his rookie season and the Eagles overcame a lackluster performance by Nick Foles to find their way to 13-2 with one meaningless game left against the Cowboys Sunday.
Eagles 19, Raiders 10, in a game the Eagles appeared to be on the brink of losing with a minute left (see breakdown).
Onto the playoffs!
1. All year, the Eagles have stared adversity in the face and laughed at it, and they did it again Monday night, stealing a game they had no business winning and clinching No. 1 seed in the process. Despite an offense that did virtually nothing after halftime, the Eagles somehow sent everybody home from the Linc happy after a long, cold, weird night. They did the impossible. And that's what this team is best at.
2. The Eagles' defense really showed me something down the stretch. They gave up a bunch of big plays early but made plays when they had to, forcing five turnovers in the second half, two of them deep in Eagles territory. Vinny Curry forced a Marshawn Lynch fumble, Patrick Robinson and Ronald Darby picked off Derek Carr and Malcolm Jenkins forced a Jalen Richard fumble. Darby's INT led to the winning field goal — all in the span of 20 minutes. While the Eagles' offense was stalled, the defense held the Raiders to 41 yards with five turnovers on their last nine drives of the game. The offense has won a few games for this team, and Monday night, it was the defense's turn. There are still a lot of big questions facing this football team. Some will say this was an ugly win, but the standings say 13-2 and No. 1 seed in the NFC playoff bracket, and there's nothing ugly about that.
3. As well as Foles played Sunday at the Meadowlands, this was a disaster. And certainly not the sort of performance you wanted to see three weeks before the postseason opener. Foles was victimized by a couple drops, but he was largely ineffective and totally unable to get the ball down the field to his wide receivers, who combined for five catches for just 40 yards with a long gain of 12 yards. Foles needed to attack that 23rd-ranked Raiders pass defense far more aggressively than he did. Foles had guys open down the field, but either missed them or elected to throw underneath instead. What's most alarming is Foles got worse as the game went on. He was just 6 for 17 for 44 yards with no TDs and an interception in the second half — a 19.5 passer rating. He did hit a few short passes in the final moments to get into field goal range, but Foles has to be dramatically better if the Eagles have any hope of beating a playoff team. This was terrible (see report card).
4. Key point late in the second quarter was Foles throwing the ball away on 3rd-and-4 from the 15-yard line just before halftime when he had Corey Clement wide open just past the sticks. Can't afford to miss those chances. Elliott missed a short field goal, and the Eagles ended up getting nothing when they had a chance to go into the locker room with some momentum.
5. And speaking of big plays … the Eagles had 10 offensive plays of 40 yards or more in their first 11 games and just two in the last four. It's not just in the passing game that the Eagles have lost their explosiveness. The long runs we saw earlier in the year have largely evaporated as well. Something else the Eagles have to figure out in the next three weeks.
6. The Raiders had nothing to play for. They flew across the country. They had to play on Christmas far from home. A team like that, the last thing you want to do is give them a reason to play, and that's exactly what the Eagles did. During their nine-game winning streak, the Eagles jumped on people early, outscoring their nine victims 68-15 in the first quarter. Taking command early. The last month, they just haven't started out strong, and it's snowballed. They've been outscored 37-28 in the first quarter the last four games, and although they managed to come back late and beat the Rams and Giants, it's a dangerous way to operate. You hoped getting back home after three road games would solve the Eagles issues with slow starts, but it happened again Monday night, and the Eagles never recovered.
7. We don't talk enough about Robinson, but in a very young group of corners, the 30-year-old veteran has been really good this year. His interception Monday night was his team-leading fourth this year, tying his career high set with the Saints in 2011. The Eagles have historically had terrible results acquiring veteran corners — you know the names — but Robinson has been a pleasant surprise after a disastrous training camp. He's the first Eagles corner with four INTs in a season since Brandon Boykin in 2013 and the first who the Eagles acquired from another team since Asante Samuel in 2010. He's been sound in coverage and when he jumps a route, he rarely guesses wrong. And he's been a good tackler.
8. Since Darren Sproles got hurt in Week 3, the Eagles really haven't thrown to the backs very much. LeGarrette Blount isn't a receiver, and Clement has good hands and has made a few plays on third down but doesn't play enough to make a big impact in the screen game. In fact, going into Monday night's game, Wendell Smallwood — who's been inactive the last five weeks — had the most receptions of all Eagles running backs. But the last two weeks, Jay Ajayi has looked pretty sharp in the screen game. Ajayi has never been much of a receiver. He only caught 48 passes in 31 games with the Dolphins, but in the Giants game, he had a couple catches for 40 receiving yards — second-most in his career — and Monday night, he turned a screen into a 17-yard touchdown, his first career receiving TD. This offense operates so much better with a running back who can make plays as a receiver, and it's encouraging to see Ajayi show signs of becoming that guy.
9. Marshawn Lynch is not the Marshawn Lynch of old, but he sure moved the chains against the Eagles Monday night. And that just shouldn't happen. Lynch is averaging just 53 yards per game, but he hammered the Eagles for 95 yards on 25 carries, his second-most yards this year and third-most since 2014. The Eagles' run defense has been stout all year, but add it to the list of concerns going down the stretch here. That's the most rushing yards the Eagles have allowed in their last 26 games.
10. This is where I was going to ask if the Eagles have a kicker issue. After Elliott missed a 33-yarder? His third miss inside 40 yards all year? Second-most misses inside 40 yards of any NFL kicker this year? Then he bombs a game-winning 48-yarder with 22 seconds left and just like that, Elliott is once again a hero in Philadelphia. That was a tough kick in tricky wind, but he crushed it. That kid showed me a lot.