By: Michael Quinn
Cold, Hard Football Facts Eagles Expert (@PJbleedsgreen)
Two numbers that are burned into the heads of Eagles fans for months to come. It was a close game, surprisingly, even after the Saints took a commanding 13 point lead.
The game went a little different than the normal 2013 script. Nick Foles (105.0 QBR) was automatic as usual, but LeSean McCoy struggled early and often. On 21 carries (averaged 19 during 2013) McCoy only managed 77 yards. The lack of production could be due to the offensive line, which was no match for New Orleans' lackluster defensive line.
DeSean Jackson was a non-factor until the second half, and even then, his biggest contribution was drawing a pass-interfence late in the game.
Riley Cooper, who was one of the regular season heroes, was the team's leading receiver on the night despite a bad (I mean BAD) drop on 3rd-and-2.
The defense played pretty well in the first half, intercepting Drew Brees twice. Unfortunately, the offense wasn't able to score any points off of the only turnovers of the game.
In terms of coaching, Chip Kelly, as he has all year, made a couple questionable calls. There was a bad timeout taken, and of course his knack to go for it on fourth down. Though one fourth down resulted in a touchdown, another fourth down conversion later turned into a intentional grounding followed up by a huge sack by Foles. Instead of kicking it at the 20 or 25, Alex Henery (82% on the year, tied for 22nd) was forced to kick from 47-yards out. By now, we all know how that went.
Had Kelly not gone for it on fourth down, it would have been a chip shot. Instead, the trouble kicker missed yet another field goal, and likely lost his job in the process.
With all the rocky play from Saturday night, the Eagles have a lot of good to take out of it. First of all, being down 13 points in the second half of his first playoff game, Nick Foles kept his head cool and brought his team back into control and actually had the lead, 21-20 (their first lead in a Playoff game since 2008). That's not something you can always find in even a Pro Bowl quarterback, much less a second-year former third-rounder.
Second, the defense is clearly on the rise. Despite seemingly collapsing in the second half, players like Brandon Boykin, Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks are clearly mainstays on the unit.
Last, and maybe most importantly, Chip's gameplan worked. Before the season got started, analysts and experts were split -- it would be hit or miss. After the first thirty minutes, we all knew it was a hit. Kelly's offense not only came as advertised, it broke just about every franchise record that previously stood. Sure Kelly is 0-1 in the postseason, but at least he made it there his first year.
You can blame the Eagles Wildcard loss to the Saints on a variety of things. But in the end, they surprised the entire nation this year. The team, coaches, and fans for that matter, have a whole lot to be proud of.
Between finding your franchise quarterback, and of course beating out the Cowboys for the NFC East title, this year wasn't that bad at all. As long as Nick Foles and Chip Kelly stay on the same page headed into the 2014 season, they can and likely will find all the success in the world.
The Philadelphia Eagles are flying high and will be ready for 2014.