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Foles' grade against Raiders cause for concern

Foles' grade against Raiders cause for concern

Grading the Eagles' 19-10 win Monday night over the Oakland Raiders at Lincoln Financial Field (see breakdown):

QUARTERBACK
Nick Foles: 19/38, 163 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT

Not a performance that's going to inspire a lot of confidence in the Eagles' increasingly-long Super Bowl odds. Foles was incapable of throwing anywhere but the flats with any accuracy — and even that was dicey. He missed multiple receivers for would-be touchdowns. He tossed what should've been an easy pick-six. He threw a pass away when he could've run for a first down. He generally held on to the ball way too long. And by the end, Foles resorted to backpedaling from clean pockets, struggling to so much as complete a pass, at one point taking a ridiculous 16-yard sack. Doesn't matter if he moved the offense into field-goal position on the game-winning drive. This was abysmal (see Roob's observations).

Grade: D

RUNNING BACKS
Jay Ajayi: 14 CAR, 52 YDS, 1 REC TD, 1 FUM

Ajayi ran the ball well, besides a turnover. Corey Clement ran the ball well on all two of his carries. The problem is, the Eagles didn't utilize enough of either one of them. LeGarrette Blount, on the other hand, was largely ineffective, rushing four times for eight yards. To be fair, Blount's longest carry, a 22-yarder, was negated by a holding penalty, but he didn't do a whole lot with his touches otherwise.

Grade: C

WIDE RECEIVERS
Nelson Agholor: 7 TAR, 4 REC, 35 YDS

Sort of hard to evaluate the wide receivers when the quarterback is either unwilling or incapable of throwing the ball in their direction. The fact Alshon Jeffery was targeted only twice probably says more about the quarterback than it does the coverage. There were 14 total passes intended for Jeffery, Agholor and Torrey Smith. Five were complete for 40 yards. Agholor made two big catches on the game-winning march.

Grade: C+

TIGHT ENDS
Zach Ertz: 14 TAR, 9 REC, 81 YDS

You can't blame Ertz for this mess. Sure, Foles' interception hit the newly-minted Pro Bowler in the hands, but the pass was high. Ertz was the only vessel the quarterback seemed to be able to find and could've caught two touchdowns had the passes been reasonable, not a mile over his head. This group was more or less in the same boat as the receivers.

Grade: A

OFFENSIVE LINE
Chance Wamack: Started at LG

Lane Johnson drew three flags — a false start and a holding penalty on the same possession, and another holding penalty that negated Blount's 22-yard run and killed a drive. Otherwise, the line was fine. Most of the hits on the quarterback were a product of holding on to the ball too long, and the Eagles still managed 3.7 yards per rushing attempt despite any real threat the quarterback might complete a pass.

Grade: B+

DEFENSIVE LINE
Vinny Curry: 4 TKL, 1 QBH, 1 TFL, 1 FF

The line did a better job of rushing the passer than the five quarterback hits and 1.0 sack would indicate. David Carr was frequently under duress and flushed from the pocket. Chris Long was especially disruptive, getting to Carr three times and recording a sack, though it was Curry stripping the ball from Marshawn Lynch that allowed the Eagles to tie the game in the fourth quarter. The line stayed persistent and never despite their own offense's inability to stay on the field.

Grade: A

LINEBACKERS
Nigel Bradham: 8 TKL

Jalen Richard's 34-yard run was largely the result of Dannell Ellerbe's failure to fill the hole and running over one of his own teammates in the process. This was Ellerbe's most extensive action in a long time, so we'll give him a bit of a pass. Bradham was all over the place, and it was he and Kendricks who held up Lynch and made Curry's strip possible.

Grade: B+

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Ronald Darby: 6 TKL, 1 INT

The secondary may catch some heat after a few embarrassing plays early on, none worse than Jalen Mills biting on a double move to surrender a 63-yard touchdown pass. Yet the unit locked things down pretty tight after that. Patrick Robinson's second-half interception gave the Eagles some momentum, and Darby's pick late in the fourth led to the eventual game-winning field goal. In the end, that 63-yarder accounted for about 40 percent of the production through the air.

Grade: A-

SPECIAL TEAMS
Jake Elliott: 2/3 FG, 1/1 XP

Shaky start for Elliott, missing a 33-yard field goal, but he rebounded and converted when it mattered. Kicks of 35 and 48 yards knotted the score and ultimately put the Eagles ahead for good. Donnie Jones averaged 41.8 yards per punt despite some windy conditions. There were no big returns in either direction.

Grade: B+

COACHING
Eagles' record: 13-2

Can't blame Doug Pederson for losing his starting quarterback to injury, and watching helplessly as his backup flailed around in the backfield. What Pederson could control was the play-calling disparity, which once again leaned heavily toward the pass, no matter how continuously awful Foles played. Give Jim Schwartz credit. His defense gave up some plays, especially early, but adjustments were made and it was really that side of the ball that delivered the victory.

Pederson needs to manage his offense, and while Foles probably won't be this bad every week, the coach needs to realize when it's time to take a different approach.

Grade: C-

Yo! Rocky Balboa has a message for Eagles fans

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Stallone/IG

Yo! Rocky Balboa has a message for Eagles fans

If anyone knows about an underdog from Philadelphia finding that storybook ending, it's Sylvester Stallone.

The man who personified the Philly attitude as Rocky Balboa posted a message to Eagles fans on his social media.

Sly is wearing a custom "Stallone" Eagles jersey in the video and tells viewers he's a diehard Birds fan. He shouts out the great Timmy Brown as his favorite player as a kid. 

"I got the ring, I got the jersey, I got the will, I've got the optimism that the Birds are going to fly triumphant over Philly tonight!" Stallone says.

"Keep punching, Philly."

​The original Rock also shared an image of the Rocky Statue near the Art Museum decked out in Eagles gear.

"Now here is a statue that REALLY knows how to dress like a WINNER!!!!! I have tremendous respect for Tom Brady and the Patriots, but “… It’s about how much you can TAKE and keep moving forward! That’s how WINNIN’ is done!!!!” EAGLES BY KNOCKOUT!!!," the caption says.

Reminder — Jay Cutler beat the Patriots this season

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USA Today Images

Reminder — Jay Cutler beat the Patriots this season

At this point, Eagles fans probably don’t need much convincing that their team is going to beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII. But just in case anybody out there thinks the Eagles have no chance at knocking off the greatest dynasty in NFL history, I would like to introduce Exhibit A into evidence.

A Jay Cutler-led Dolphins squad defeated the Patriots, and not even all that long ago. It happened in December.

Allow me to speak to the skeptics here for a moment. You see, I was once like you. My initial reaction upon learning Carson Wentz had suffered a season-ending injury was something along the lines of, “Well, I still think the Eagles can get to the Super Bowl, but I don’t think they could beat the Patriots.”

The very next day, on Monday Night Football, with Cutler at the helm, the Dolphins went on to upset the Patriots, which should put to rest any notion that it can’t be done.

If Cutler can do it, Nick Foles can.

The Patriots lost only three games all season, and the other two were to playoff teams — the Chiefs and the Panthers — both within the first four weeks of the season. Since then, the Patriots have amassed a 13-1 record, the lone blip in the schedule a 27-20 defeat in Week 14 at Miami.

And in case there is any disagreement over how bad Cutler and the Dolphins are, it was one of only two wins the club had in its final 10 games of the season. The other victory was against the 5-11 Broncos. The Dolphins went on to finish only marginally better at 6-10.

Sure, the Patriots’ loss to the Dolphins is just one game, and it took Tom Brady’s worst performance since they were eliminated from the 2015 postseason to make it happen. In fact, Brady has posted a passer rating worse than his 59.5 against the Dolphins only 21 times in an 18-year career, including playoffs, and just five times this decade.

The Eagles can’t necessarily count on Brady to blink. But it can happen, and their defense is certainly capable of making it happen.

Of course, that was the regular season. This is the playoffs — the Super Bowl, to be exact. Brady is 5-2 in the big game and 27-9 in postseason play overall. He led the Patriots back from a 25-point second-half deficit to win a world championship last year. It’s an entirely different stage.

And yet, Cutler beat them. This team. This season. A guy who literally hopped off his couch in August, whose 6.2 yards per pass attempt ranked 28th out of 32 qualifying quarterbacks, who finished tied for fourth with 14 interceptions in 14 games.

None of which is to say the Eagles will definitely accomplish the same. However, they’re a far better team than the Dolphins, and Foles is a better quarterback than Cutler.

Based on that evidence alone, the Eagles’ chances of upsetting the Patriots in the Super Bowl are a whole lot greater than slim or none.