Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Raiders

Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Raiders


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.

Eagles-Redskins thoughts: A win away from commanding conference lead

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Eagles-Redskins thoughts: A win away from commanding conference lead

8:30 p.m. on ESPN
Eagles favored by 4.5

The Eagles can become the first team in the NFL to six wins in 2017 — if they complete a series sweep of the NFC East rival Redskins on Monday night.

No need to pinch yourself, because you're not dreaming. At 5-1, the Eagles entered Week 7 with the league's best record. They're on a four-game winning streak and are set to kick off a three-game homestand. And the Eagles already knocked off Washington on the road in the regular-season opener, so confidence should be sky high.

With another victory over the Redskins, not only would the Eagles take a commanding three-game lead in the division standings, they also would continue to stake their claim as the hottest team in pro football.

Not the same Redskins
Back in Week 1, when the prospect of a new season gave hope to all 32 teams, Washington was a tough opponent. The Eagles would eventually win the initial meeting by a final score of 30-17, but they led by only two points until just under two minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

But much has happened over the past month-and-a-half, and the Redskins do not appear to be as strong of an opponent now. Frankly, they've been decimated by injuries.

Defensive lineman Jonathan Allen and kicker Dustin Hopkins went on injured reserve this week. All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman is out as well, while fellow starting defensive backs Bashaud Breeland and Deshazor Everett are among six players listed as questionable. The questionables also include left tackle Trent Williams, who is desperately trying to delay knee surgery.

The 'Skins certainly have enough weapons on both sides of the ball that they still pose a threat. However, there's no denying their roster has been weakened by injuries, and their depth will be put to the test against the Eagles.

Bombs away
The injuries to Washington's secondary may be especially problematic, given the way the Eagles attacked this area during the previous meeting.

The Eagles managed to score 30, and seven of those were the result of a defensive touchdown, but the offense easily could've been much worse. Carson Wentz had receivers open deep down the field on multiple occasions yet repeatedly overthrew or underthrew the likes of Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Torrey Smith.

Wentz completed 26 of 39 pass attempts for 307 yards with two touchdowns in the opener, despite missing on some big gainers. In other words, the outcome could've been far worse.

Think Wentz will miss on those shots again should they present themselves? Don't count on it. The second-year quarterback has been connecting on a higher rate of his deep targets of late, while throwing for 526 yards and seven touchdowns in the last two contests. As long as he's in that kind of rhythm, Wentz is capable of doing some serious damage against this group.

An emerging threat
Starting running back Robert Kelley — officially questionable — remains among the many injuries to Washington this week. That being said, his absence has led to something of a silver lining in the form of a breakout season for Chris Thompson.

Thompson has sneakily become one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the NFL. His 515 yards from scrimmage are less than 200 behind his career high with 11 games to play. His whopping 18.9 yards per reception were good for fourth in the NFL entering the week.

This is a so-called third-down running back, who with 340 yards receiving through five games is currently on pace to eclipse 1,000 on the season.

Thompson has become by far the Redskins' biggest weapon, leading the team through the air, rushing with 175 yards on the ground, and touchdowns with four. Find a way to slow Thompson and keep him from getting into the open field and the Eagles will likely slow the entire offense.

We're No. 1
Of course, the Eagles probably aren't too concerned about Washington running the ball against them. After all, nobody else has had much success doing so.

The Eagles may have the NFL's 29th-ranked pass defense through six weeks, but that's at least partially because they boast the league's best run D. Allowing only 67.5 yards per game on the ground, the Eagles are forcing opponents to put the ball in the air, and while that's led to some statistical production, it's also played right into their hands.

One-dimensional offenses have led to plenty of opportunities in the Eagles' secondary, which entered the week tied for 11th with six interceptions. The Eagles' 14 sacks are also tied for 15th.

These aren't incredible rankings, either. Still, it goes to show what can happen when offenses are forced to repeatedly throw the ball for lack of another option against even a suspect secondary. Often times, it's an approach that will eventually lead to mistakes — like Brandon Graham's sack of Kirk Cousins that resulted in a 20-yard fumble return against Washington in Week 1.

Controlling their destiny
Washington is an opponent that's there for the taking. And as long as the Eagles take care of business, they will remain squarely in the driver's seat in the NFC East, and the entire conference for that matter.

The Eagles are the only team with two wins in the division, and the Cowboys are currently the only other team without a loss. In terms of the entire NFC, the Eagles are also a perfect 4-0 going into this game, while only the Falcons (3-0) remain unbeaten in conference play.

This game is all about control. If the Eagles control the Redskins, they will control the East, and they will be well on their way to controlling a conference that's very much up for grabs.

In other words, the Eagles need to take what is rightfully theirs on Monday.

Chiefs rally past Redskins in thriller on MNF to remain unbeaten

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Chiefs rally past Redskins in thriller on MNF to remain unbeaten


KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After Harrison Butker missed the first field-goal attempt of his NFL career, Chiefs coach Andy Reid walked over to the rookie and prepared to instill a little bit of confidence.

"He said, `I got it. I got it. I was just off a tad,'" Reid recalled of their brief exchange. "He kind of gives you that feeling that everything's going to be OK."

Better than just "OK."

Butker responded to his first-half miss Monday night by drilling three field goals in the second half, the last a go-ahead 43-yarder with 8 seconds remaining that helped Kansas City beat the Washington Redskins 29-20 and remain the only unbeaten team in the NFL.

"I didn't have butterflies. I felt confident," said Butker, who was claimed off the Carolina practice squad to replace injured kicker Cairo Santos. "I knew it was going to come down to a field goal. I felt pretty calm. I was excited; I wasn't nervous."

The Chiefs (4-0) an exclamation point on the win when linebacker Justin Houston picked up a fumble as the Redskins (3-2) were trying to keep the game alive and returned it for a game-ending touchdown.

The last time there was only one unbeaten team through the first four weeks of the season was 2010, when the Chiefs were the final team standing. They went on to win the AFC West.

"I mean, it's the NFL. It's any given Sunday for a reason," said Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who had seven catches for 111 yards and a score. "All these teams are scheming everybody up. It's a testament to this team for especially not only being 4-0, but the way we've won."

Alex Smith threw for 293 yards with touchdowns on the ground and through the air, and his 37-yard strike to Albert Wilson on a broken play that set up Butker's go-ahead kick. Kareem Hunt added 101 yards on the ground for the rookie's fourth straight 100-yard effort.

"Winning is more meaningful," Hunt said with a smile. "I could have 50 yards as long as we win."

Kirk Cousins had 220 yards passing and two touchdowns for Washington, but his throw to the end zone with 50 seconds left was dropped by Josh Doctson and forced the Redskins to kick a field goal.

That missed opportunity came back to haunt them less than a minute later.

"We'll go back and try to look at different plays throughout the game that could have made a big difference," Cousins said. "A tough one to lose. Felt like we had a chance there and didn't get it done."

The Redskins stunned the Chiefs early when Cousins found Terrelle Pryor over star cornerback Marcus Peters for a 44-yard touchdown pass, then drove to the goal line before settling for a field goal.

But the plucky Chiefs slowly fought their way back into the game.

Smith started to find his athletic tight end down the seam, then hit Kelce with a 17-yard TD strike late in the first half. The two connected again on third down shortly after the break, and Smith scored a few plays later when he fooled the defense with a quarterback-keeper.

The Redskins needed fewer than 2 minutes to answer: Cousins' 69-yard pass to Vernon Davis set up a short throw to Ryan Grant, who also beat Peters, for a touchdown and a 17-14 lead.

But that's when injuries began to take their toll: The Redskins lost cornerbacks Josh Norman, Montae Nicholson, Kendall Fuller and Quinton Dunbar along with safety Deshazor Everett, and in the fourth quarter had just four available defensive backs.

"I was looking up and I'm like, `Man, we've got all backups in," Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger said. "If you're number is called, you've got to step up. We've got to get better at that as well."

It was 17-all after Butker made his first field goal, and his 32-yard kick gave Kansas City the lead back. The Redskins tied the game once more when Dustin Hopkins hit from 40 yards with 47 seconds left, but that turned out to be enough time to get Butker in position for the winning kick.

"He has a leg," Hunt said, "so I wasn't too worried. Just make it routine. He had a rough start but honestly, I believed in him, that he was going to bounce back."

Pregame tribute
Flags flew at half-staff and there was a moment of silence before the game for victims of the Las Vegas shooting. The Redskins then locked arms for the national anthem, while everyone on the Chiefs side stood with the exception of cornerback Peters and linebacker Ukeme Eligwe.

Injury watch
Norman left in the second quarter with a rib injury and could miss several ribs, while running back Rob Kelley joined the Redskins' defensive guys on the sideline with an ankle injury. The Chiefs lost right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif was sidelined by a left knee injury on their second offensive play.

Up next
Washington gets a bye week before hosting San Francisco on Oct. 13.

Kansas City returns to the road to face Houston on Sunday night.