The Eagles have faced a murderers’ row of great pass rushers during their four-game winning streak.
Guys like Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Ryan Kerrigan and Khalil Mack have the ability to completely destroy games.
Didn’t happen against the Birds.
Because during the Eagles’ late push into the playoffs and then in their wild-card win in Chicago, their offensive line has been playing at an extremely high level. So go ahead and give credit to Nick Foles and the defense (they deserve it).
But, to me, this offensive line has been the biggest reason for this team’s turnaround.
I’ve said this all season long, we've got a ton of confidence in our entire offensive line unit, and we just found a little bit of a groove, I guess,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said.
“Got some traction and guys are playing confidently, playing well and really preparing hard and preparing smart and taking advantage of the reps that we get every day out there at practice. We're going out there and we're executing at a high level right now.
It’s not all about sacks, but that’s part of the story. Check it out:
• In the first 12 games of the season, the Eagles gave up 32 sacks (2.67 per game)
• In the four-game winning streak, they’ve given up just five (1.25 per game)
So the Eagles have cut down on the number of sacks given up by half. Some of that credit goes to Foles for getting the ball out quickly, but the bulk of the kudos needs to go to that healthy and stout offensive line.
Here’s what Foles said about this group:
They’ve done a great job this whole season. They’re the best group I’ve ever been around. As a group that can communicate and play well with one another, they’re the best. Our offense runs off of them. If they’re blocking, doing their job, it helps us … you know, they’re the key to our offense. I can’t say enough. The last couple years I’ve been here, we’re fortunate to have a great group of guys up front that are the best in the game.
In the playoff win against the Bears, the O-line gave up just one sack to that extremely talented front seven. No, the Eagles didn’t have a ton of success running against the Bears, but no one did this year.
Let’s take a look at each member of the starting offensive line and figure out how they got to this point:
LT Jason Peters: The future Hall of Famer played every snap Sunday and pretty much shut down one of the best defensive players in the league. At 36, it wasn’t easy for Peters to come back from his torn ACL and he wasn’t completely healthy until about Week 8, he estimates. And from there, he’s had a myriad of other injuries. During this season, he hurt his biceps, quad and ankle. But he’s also playing his best football right now at the perfect time.
LG Isaac Seumalo: It raised some eyebrows when the Eagles went back to Seumalo for the wild-card game. Seumalo missed the previous three games with a pec injury and the Eagles were winning with Stefen Wisniewski, who was the starting LG in the Super Bowl. But the Birds went back to Seumalo, who is bigger, stronger and more athletic, and it worked. He had a good game and has played pretty well all season.
C Jason Kelce: He hates to admit it, but Kelce was hurt earlier this season. He had a significant knee injury and played through it. Since that knee has healed, he’s been back to his normal dominant self. For the second straight season, he wasn’t named to the Pro Bowl but was an All-Pro. He means so much to this team, not just athletically, but as a brilliant mind at the center position.
RG Brandon Brooks: Of every offensive lineman, Brooks has been the most consistent this season on the way to his second straight Pro Bowl bid. He had some trouble with Akiem Hicks last week, but Hicks is pretty monstrous. Brooks has been able to stay healthy this season and his ability to remain a mainstay at right guard has really helped the team.
RT Lane Johnson: The Eagles should hope Johnson gets snubbed for the Pro Bowl every season. Because since that happened, he’s been incredible. Johnson, like Kelce, had an MCL sprain earlier this year and that came after a high ankle sprain. Once he got healthy, Johnson has been back to his normal level of play. He’s been one of the best tackles in the league recently.
The other part of all this is that, aside from Seumalo, these guys have been able to play a lot more together since everyone has been healthy. That has paid off with their communication and cohesion. If this game Sunday becomes a shootout, the Eagles have the firepower to stay in it … but only if the O-line continues to dominate.
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