Good morning. It's the first time in nearly a month that Eagles fans can enjoy the morning after a win, the result of the Eagles' 25-22, come-from-behind victory over the New York Giants. The Eagles are 5-6 and still remain contenders for the NFC East title. They won the first of the crucial three-game stretch of division games, and next one comes a week from tonight against Washington. Doug Pederson has a noon news conference today.
This is the Early Birds newsletter, which will arrive in your inbox Monday through Friday for the rest of the season. I want to know what you think, what we should add and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.
— Zach Berman
The Eagles survived, and that’s what mattered
The Eagles remain alive, which was what mattered most on Sunday. They knew all week it was a make-or-break game, and it came with injuries accumulating and the team under heavy scrutiny. Doug Pederson said he didn't bring up the necessity of the win in his Saturday night meeting, but did he need to? Everyone knew. There was no delusion about the importance of this three-game stretch.
And when the Eagles were losing 19-3 in the second quarter, there was reason for concern. They looked like the team that had disappointed their fans so often this season. The way they played in the second half was going to tell much about this team. And it did. The Eagles were resilient. They made plays. The opponent was far from a contender, but the Eagles responded when it was needed. They deserve credit.
It wasn't a decisive rout that leaves you convinced that the Eagles can fulfill their preseason potential, but frankly, it didn't need to be. They survived and lived to compete another week, and at this point, that's enough.
"If you can sign up or fill an application to get all pretty wins, we'd do it," Malcolm Jenkins said. "Unfortunately, that's not the way it works. … We understand nothing is going to be easy for where we want to go. And I don't think we want it easy, either."
The second half went as I thought the whole game would go. The Eagles had the advantage on the lines of scrimmage, but they didn't capitalize on either until the second half. A big message from the locker room was simplifying what the Eagles were doing on both sides of the ball.
When I was doing my prep work for this week's game, I looked at the Week 6 win over the Giants. It was the best game the Eagles played all season. And one thing that stood out in talking to players that week, particularly on offense, was that the Eagles kept their game plan simple and relied on their core plays because it was a Thursday night game and they didn't have much time to prepare. There was a lesson there: perhaps the game plans were becoming too intricate. Pederson acknowledged on Friday that "there is something to that because that's kind of what the players know," and he said last week was similar because of Thanksgiving.
The Eagles relied on their offensive line to win at the point of attack. They mixed in their ground game. They trusted Carson Wentz to make tough throws and deliver the ball where it needed to go. It was a winning formula.
"Sometimes when you're in a slump – especially offensively – you want to try and scheme up things too much and try to be too perfect," Wentz said. "Sometimes it gets guys to play slower and this and that. I thought we did a good job this week of just trying to keep it simple and just letting us play ball and doing things that we've done really all offseason. I thought that helped us a ton today."
And then on defense, the Eagles apparently changed their approach after Saquon Barkley's second-quarter touchdown. Jim Schwartz went with more vanilla coverages to help their young cornerbacks and relied on their pass rush. It was also a winning formula, because the front four won their matchups in the second half. (The Giants' play calling and roster usage also helped. It was odd to see Barkley less involved in the second half.) The Eagles survived their secondary, which was a key to the game. And the pass rush played to their potential.
It was a game the Eagles couldn't afford to lose; the pressure was on them, and they left with a win. But I'm curious how this week goes. They can't take a breath and think they have this figured out. The Eagles haven't won back-to-back games this season. They still went scoreless in the first quarter. They still struggled to stop the run and allowed too many third-down conversions early in the game. The problems that were present through the first 10 games didn't suddenly go away.
The urgency they had last week must continue this week and the week after. The margin for error is thin; that's the situation the Eagles created with a poor start to the season. But they're still alive, and their path is entirely reasonable. However, it will require them to play better than Sunday.
What you need to know about the Eagles
The Eagles kept their season alive with a 25-22 win over the Giants on Jake Elliott's game-winning field goal.
Carson Wentz proved clutch, Jeff McLane writes.
The Eagles committed to running the ball and relied on Josh Adams and their offensive line, Les Bowen writes.
The defense kept it simple to help with the win, Paul Domowitch writes.
Malcolm Jenkins had a lot to say last week. He backed it up on Sunday, Bob Ford writes.
The Eagles didn't fold, David Murphy writes.
Doug Pederson was fearless with his fourth down call, Marcus Hayes writes.
Elliott kicked for the Eagles' season, and other Eagles notes.
Who's up and who's down? McLane lets you know.
How did Domo grade the Eagles?
Listen to the latest Birds' Eye View podcast, discussing all the hot topics in the minutes after the game.
From the mailbag
I don't know if I'd say Josh Adams is the long-term answer, but he's definitely the Eagles' best option this season and can, at the very least, be part of a rotation in the future. Adams has good size and I like his patience. When he gets a head of steam, he has the necessary burst – you saw it on the opening drive. The Eagles were committed to getting him the ball on Sunday, and he answered. He's going to continue to be a big part of the offense this season. I still think the Eagles address the position during the offseason, but if Adams remains this productive during the final month of the season, it could affect what the Eagles do.
I'm not sure this is the week to offer disapproval of Jim Schwartz. The defense held the Giants to three points in the second half and forced three consecutive punts with a secondary that ended the game with Cre'von LeBlanc and De'Vante Bausby as the only healthy cornerbacks. They let up too many plays in the first half, but over the course of the game, they made plays to win and they kept the Giants' scoring down in the second half. Schwartz has his shortcomings, but he's a very good defensive coordinator. That's been proven in Philadelphia and elsewhere. The Eagles have five wins this season in large part because of the defense, and they won a game with more injuries at cornerback than any time in recent memory in Philadelphia.
Good question. The reason they do it is because they can try to score going into the half and then get the ball out of halftime, essentially giving them two consecutive possessions. It's something the Patriots have had a lot of success with over the years. Here's how Doug Pederson explained it:
"I think it's more about the number of touches, possessions the offense can get. When you study it and look at it, if I can gain one more possession in the first half…kick a field goal, then come out the second half, get the ball, go down and score, that's the object. That's what you're trying to do.If you can give your offense another touch or two, especially at the end of the half, it's what we want."
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