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An ugly win, but it counts the same for top-seeded Eagles | Early Birds

A look at Nick Foles and the play of the defense. All the links from the Eagles-Raiders. Three questions with Mychal Kendricks.

Eagles kicker Jake Elliott kicks the game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter of the Eagles 19-10 win over the Raiders. He made 2 of his 3 field-goal attempts.
Eagles kicker Jake Elliott kicks the game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter of the Eagles 19-10 win over the Raiders. He made 2 of his 3 field-goal attempts.Read moreCLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer

Good morning, Eagles fans. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't convincing, but the Eagles' 19-10 win over the Oakland Raiders counts the same as it did when Nick Foles threw seven touchdowns against the Raiders four years ago. And with the win, you can take a deep breath and won't need to worry about the Week 17 game. The Eagles have the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs and won't play a game with significance until the second weekend of January.

This is the Tuesday edition of the Early Birds newsletter. It's free for anyone to sign up here to receive in your inbox every weekday. 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.

— Zach Berman

Yes, the Eagles won. Can they win in the playoffs playing like they did Monday?

Doug Pederson walked out of his postgame news conference after midnight when someone offered him congratulations. Pederson smiled, thanked the well-wisher, and then reminded everyone around him that the Eagles did, in fact, win the game.

It might not have seemed like it based on the questions Pederson had fielded. It might not seem like it based on the panic that could fill this week. It's an odd reality after the Eagles clinched the No. 1 seed and earned their NFL-best 13th victory.

It's an incredible accomplishment, and one that should not be taken for granted. It's rare to be this good. But it's impossible to view a Week 16 victory that clinched the top seed without considering the context of what will come in January. And that's why it's understandable to be worried this week. Pederson and the players acknowledged that the Eagles (and particularly members of the offense) must play better than they did Monday to win in the playoffs.

The players weren't panicking in the locker room after the game. One sentiment I heard was that they just need to play a complete game. Last week, Nick Foles and the offense looked playoff-ready and the defense looked sloppy. On Monday, Foles and the offense were the problem and the defense carried them. Put last week's offense and Monday's defense together, and the Eagles will be a tough out. Put last week's defense and Monday's offense together, and the Eagles will be out.

Foles can and will play better than he did against the Raiders. Against the Giants, he was best with quick throws to get in a rhythm – not when he's sitting in the pocket. The Eagles lose some of their big-play ability, but they should take it if they're getting completions. If the running game is effective, Foles' best work will come with the play-action. That's what the Eagles need to see from him in the postseason. Pederson was most vexed about going 1 for 14 on third down. That was Carson Wentz's money down. You win in the NFL on third down and in the red zone. The Eagles weren't good enough at either against the Raiders, and it's fair to wonder if Foles will be good enough in those areas in January.

On the other side of the ball, other than one big play in the first half when Jalen Mills bit on a slant-and-go, there's little room for criticism. The five second-half turnovers were incredible and took points off the board. This has been an opportunistic defense most of the season. If the Eagles are plus-3 in turnovers in playoff games, they're going to be in good shape.

The bottom line in the locker room after the game was that they found a way to win. The players don't care if it's ugly this time of the year because the wins all count the same. If they win a game like this in January, they live to play another week. That's the goal: survive and advance. But the opponents are going to be better, and there will be no margin for error. The Eagles have much work to do during the next two weeks if Pederson is going to accept congratulations after a playoff game.

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. On Christmas night, the Eagles gave fans the present they wanted most: the No. 1 seed.

  2. Ronald Darby went from goat to hero, Jeff McLane writes.

  3. Nick Foles struggled for most of the game but brought the Eagles to the finish line, Les Bowen writes.

  4. The win helped the Eagles in the standings but not in the confidence department, Bob Ford writes.

  5. Marcus Hayes thinks Monday was more the "Wentz-loss norm" in a game when Foles heard boos.

  6. After the final kick, Paul Domowitch offered his five observations. Domo also gave out his grades.

  7. Trent Cole retired as a member of the Eagles and will focus on the outdoors.

  8. Stefen Wisniewski missed another game.

  9. From the Sunday Inquirer, Brandon Brooks' Pro Bowl season came after confronting anxiety.

  10. From the Sunday Inquirer, McLane looks at how the Eagles could potentially lose executive Joe Douglas.

3 Questions With | Linebacker Mychal Kendricks

Zach Berman: What worked for the defense in the second half?

Mychal Kendricks: "I think we just realized that it was going to be us. [Stuff] wasn't really turning over for the offense. We all saw that. But that's our squad, so they bail us out when we need bailing out and we bail them out when we need to be bailed out. So that's what happened."

Zach Berman: What's it like trying to tackle Marshawn Lynch?

Mychal Kendricks: "It's always fun playing against him, bro. Honestly, I love playing against Marshawn. He'll bring out the best in you. He's talking s*** the whole game, I'm talking  s*** the whole game. And you know it's just a competitive spirit. It's nothing but the competitiveness between him and his opponents. Everyone loves him, but everyone loves to hit him, too – not so much when he gets the best of you, but when it's the other way, it's fun."

Zach Berman: Does it matter if it's an ugly win?

Mychal Kendricks: "A win is a win. We're going to take it for what it is. Also take the opportunity to learn from it … because it very well could have been the other way around. We made some plays when plays were needed. Man, that s*** was crazy, bro. … That's a crazy, f***ing game, bro. … That was wild. I got gray hair."

Elsewhere in the NFL

  1. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave coach Jason Garrett a vote of confidence after they were eliminated from the playoffs. [New York Post]

  2. Is Kirk Cousins' future with Washington? [Washington Post]

  3. The Giants are sticking with Eli Manning as their starter for the season finale. []

  4. You saw it on Monday: The Raiders are one of the NFL's biggest disappointments. [San Jose Mercury News]

  5. Jimmy Garoppolo is leading a late-season revival in San Francisco. []

From the mailbag

Sure they do. The postseason is all about matchups. I don't know who that opponent is going to be yet, but the Eagles are going to have home-field advantage and extra rest. I'd want to avoid New Orleans. That's the team that should concern the Eagles most in Round 2. Atlanta has talent, but has been inconsistent. That's probably the team I'd most want to see in the first game at this point, although I'll look at matchups much more closely during the bye week. The Eagles need to play better than they have the past two weeks and there's reason to be concerned, but it helps being at home with the top seed.

I'd play Nick Foles for a quarter before taking him out. I'd want him to go through the week getting work with the first-team offense and try to lead a positive drive or two, then I'd remove him — and a few other key players — to avoid injuries. I know Foles' approval rating is low this morning, but the Eagles can't afford for him to get injured. A full week of practice and maybe some work with the first-team offense vs. the first-team defense could be beneficial.

The Eagles signed Foles to a two-year, $11 million contract in the offseason for a reason. They wanted him to be their No. 2. So I don't think they were thinking as pessimistically about Foles as you were. But they didn't sign another veteran quarterback after Carson Wentz's injury because they've already invested time in Foles and Nate Sudfeld, who both know the offense. The offense would be limited with a quarterback who arrived in December. Furthermore, Pederson didn't want to take time away from coaching and developing Foles and Sudfeld to worry about introducing a new quarterback to the team.