The road to the Super Bowl officially goes through Philly.
After a 19-10 win Monday night, the Eagles assured themselves a hosting role in a potential NFC Championship as the No. 1 overal seed, should the Birds advance that far.
On Christmas they showed that questions may remain as to whether they are the team to beat in the conference. A dreadful performance by Nick Foles (19-for-38, 163 yards) and an offense stuck in the muck was lifted by a miracle interception by Ronald Darby — secured with the game tied at 10-10, inside one minute to play.
A series of short passes helped the Eagles get the Eagles to the 31-yardline and it was Jake Elliott (who made a 61-yarder to beat the Giants back in Week 3) who once again was the hero, drilling a 48-yarder to put the Birds ahead. In the remaining 22 seconds the Raiders failed to pull off their own miracle.
On the hook-and-ladder attempt a fumble was taken into the end zone by Derek Barnett to make the margin of victory a little more impressive. It was the fifth Eagles' takeaway in the second half.
A win is a win, but this one left a lot to be desired.
It was painfully clear that the Eagles left a lot of meat on the bone on Christmas. Here are three things we saw Monday night as the Eagles hung on and improved to 13-2:
The Eagles defense looked stout at times but was vunerable to the big play. In a return to form of recent years, Philly relented on a 63-yard toss from Derek Carr to Amari Cooper to tie the game at 7-all early in the second quarter.
After being one of the top units in football for most of the season the Eagles' defense has now allowed a play of 50 yards or more in four straight games — a stat that could undo them in the playoffs. But the secondary earned it's pay Monday against the shaky Carr.
With the score tied, a great defensive effort midway through the fourth seemed to be all for nothing, as Foles threw a tipped-pass interception to give Oakland yet another try at getting a lead (they missed a 48-yard field goal not long before). But it was safety Malcolm Jenkins who forced Oakland's third lost fumble — also recovering it — stopping a red zone drive right in its tracks. This in addition to Darby's clutch pick made the defense the clear MVP of this contest.
Stuck in neutral
It was clear, all game long, the Eagles were missing Wentz. Several passes were overthrown by Foles, or thrown late. Wentz' quickness and versatility in the pocket would have created several plays against the Raiders defense, which was able to keep Foles in check — particularly in a key third down sack to force a punt early in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles weren't able to get much momentum on offense throughout the game, with their most promising drive ending in a missed 33-yard field goal that could potentially have put the Birds on top at the half.
Another big play came on a 34-yard Jalen Richard run after the second half started, but the defense tightened up to force a field goal and keep the Raiders to a 10-7 advantge.
Highly touted for their third down offense, the Eagles were 1-14 in the game and the offense salvaged just 216 total yards from scrimmage.
Fresh out of their warm houses from unwrapping their Christmas gifts, the Eagles fans who ascended to the Linc Monday night had a direct impact on the game. Early in the first, a delay of game and false start penalty set the Raiders back twice forcing a failed fourth down attempt giving the Eagles the ball and momentum. A Philly fourth down conversion on the ensuing drive helped Foles dump the ball off to Jay Ajay — who dove into the end zone after a 17-yard screen pass.
Without much to cheer about through the middle of the game, the Linc came alive — after over an hour of having nothing to make noise about — when Patrick Robinson picked off Carr late in the third quarter to set up the Eagles at midfield trailing by three. After a run for a first down by Ajayi resulted in a lost fumble, the Birds caused Marshawn Lynch to cough the ball up one play later, setting up shot at the 30-yardline. A 35-yard field goal tied things at 10.
Fans who toughed out the abysmal performance of the offense were rewarded in the end, getting the best Christmas present they could think of, as the Birds clinched the best record in the NFC just before the holiday ended at midnight.