After they lost Carson Wentz to a torn ACL, it seems faith in an Eagles postseason run dwindled to almost nothing. But, to the surprise of many, they pulled out a hard-fought defensive win against the favored Atlanta Falcons in the Division Round and get to host the NFC Championship Game. With the Vikings set to meet them for a shot at the Super Bowl, let’s take a look at what we have most recently seen from the NFC’s top seed.
When on, the defensive line is lethal
Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry were all absolutely dominant against the Falcons. As a whole, the Eagles defense sacked Matt Ryan just three times, but they also hit him 11 times plus roughly a dozen more pressures. As a result, Ryan finished with fewer than six yards per attempt and was on the run most of the second half.
And that is not even taking into account what they did in run defense, Cox in particular. According to Pro Football Focus, Cox recorded five run stops on just 17 run defense snaps. The Falcons had absolutely nothing going in the run game up the middle, despite having one of the better one-two running back punches in the game.
They can be run on, mostly on the edge
In last week’s Divisional Round game, the Falcons had something resembling a running game going at times. The Eagles allowed the fewest yards on the ground in the league this year but the Falcons managed 86 yards on 20 carries. However, most of that came on outside runs. Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman split the 20 carries evenly. Of Coleman’s 10 carries, six of them were outside the tackles and gained 61 yards. Four were designed between the tackles and those went for just 18 yards. Freeman had two carries outside the tackles for five yards, whereas he managed just two yards on eight carries between the tackles.
What this likely means for the Vikings is a healthy dose of Jerick McKinnon. McKinnon shouldered much less of the load against the Saints, just eight carries to Latavius Murray‘s 19. But McKinnon was the more efficient runner of the two, averaging 4.3 yards per carry to Murray’s 2.6.
Nick Foles has good performances in him
The Eagles will take stat lines like the one Foles gave on Sunday every week. Though he struggled to get the ball in the end zone, he averaged 8.2 yards per attempt and did not turn the ball over. Against a fast defense like the Falcons’, that is nothing to sneeze at. Granted, he did throw a horrific pass that should have been intercepted but instead went for a big Eagles gain. But if Foles manages the game like he did Sunday and lets the running game do its thing, there is a small chance the Vikings defense will face a little more challenge than fans expect.
Unless he is under pressure
That being said, Foles does not handle pressure well at all. He was not terrible last week, generally speaking, but his offensive line helped out a lot. He can expect more blitzes and more pressure off the edge against Minnesota than he saw last round. When under pressure, Foles’ passer rating was a paltry 23.8 in hist last four games. This is due in part to his nonexistent mobility and in part to his general inexperience facing NFL defenses. He has a number of starts under his belt, but only two in his career in the postseason and none in 2017 until week 15. It may be tough for him to get the ball out effectively against Mike Zimmer’s blitz looks and the Vikings’ secondary.
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