PHILADELPHIA -- The good news for the Philadelphia Eagles is they secured the No. 1 seed in the playoffs with a 19-10 win against the Oakland Raiders. The bad news is they once again looked shaky while doing so.
For the second straight week, the Eagles found themselves in a dog fight with a bad team. Coach Doug Pederson likened what happened the previous Sunday against the New York Giants -- a nail-biter in which an anemic Giants offense racked up more than 500 yards and 29 points -- to his old days coaching high school ball, when a power team would enter overly confident against a lesser opponent and get caught off guard. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz cited a lack of urgency, suggesting his unit had grown accustomed to winning easily and wasn't playing with the same fire from start to finish. Both agreed that these were important lessons to learn before the postseason, and that the Eagles would be better off for having been battle-tested.
Monday night's performance raises the possibility that the team's issues might go beyond the need for a mentality shift.
Last week, the defense was the issue. This time around, it was the normally reliable offense that struggled. Quarterback Nick Foles (19-of-38, 163 yards, TD, INT) came back to earth following a four-touchdown outing against New York.
He was off-target on a number of throws -- including a pair to tight end Zach Ertz deep in Oakland territory that could have put them in control. His high pass on a short throw to Ertz midway through the fourth quarter tipped off Ertz's outstretched hand and was intercepted by safety Reggie Nelson. If not for the defense's efforts, that could have been the game's key moment. Behind Foles, a team that had been red-hot on third down went just 1-for-14 in those situations.
Former starting quarterback Carson Wentz attended a game for the first time since tearing the ACL in his left knee against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 14. Using crutches to get around, he joined his teammates on the sidelines pregame before heading to a team box, where cameras showed him taking notes throughout the game. For the first time, his presence on the field was truly missed.
Still, the Eagles found a way to pull the game out -- just as they did against New York the week prior. A Ronald Darby interception of Derek Carr late in the fourth quarter set up a go-ahead 48-yard Jake Elliott field goal with 22 seconds remaining, and the defense capped the night with a Derek Barnett fumble return for a touchdown. The win moves them to 13-2 on the season and ensures that they will not have to leave Lincoln Financial Field until a potential trip to Minneapolis in February for the Super Bowl.
The odds are in their favor historically. Since the 1990 format expansion, there have been 54 No. 1 seeds. Twenty-eight have made it to the Super Bowl (52 percent success rate), and 13 have won it (24 percent). Pederson can rest some of his players in the regular-season finale against the Dallas Cowboys if he chooses, and the Eagles then get to sit back and watch the wild-card round, knowing that the NFC playoffs run through their back yard.
Despite the record, they have not looked like the team to beat of late. Whether they’re able to click back into gear won’t be known until the divisional round of the playoffs.