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January 13, 2018

Handing out 10 awards from the Eagles-Falcons playoff game

Eagles NFL
011318EaglesPicture James Lang/USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles are one game away from the Super Bowl.

Despite all the doubters (self included), the Philadelphia Eagles pulled off an "upset" of the Atlanta Falcons with a narrow 15-10 win in the divisional round of the playoffs.

As always, win or lose, we hand out 10 awards.

1) The 'Competent' Award: Nick Foles

The much-maligned Nick Foles did enough to win, with a major assist from the Eagles' defense. On the evening, he was 23 of 30 for 246 yards, 0 TDs, and 0 INTs. If you asked any Eagles fans if they would sign up for that stat line prior to the game, they would have taken that in a heartbeat.

On the eye test, Foles' performance did not match his stat line, particularly in the first half. He missed a WIIIIIIIDE open Trey Burton on a reasonably easy throw in which Burton might still be running. He also had a miraculous completion to Torrey Smith that should have been an easy interception.

In the second half, Foles got into a rhythm, aided by smart play calling from Doug Pederson. Foles looked like a competent quarterback who did a good job climbing the pocket and making more aggressive throws, instead of passively drifting back in the pocket like he had been doing.

Take your momentary victory ride atop a dragon, Nick.


2) The 'Underdog' Award: Lane Johnson and Chris Long

After the Eagles' win, Lane Johnson and Chris Long donned dog masks, as in "underdogs," that were being held in the coat pocket of Jason Peters all game long. 

As we noted, the Johnson got the masks via a friend on Amazon for the low price of $12.98. Eagles fans have begun purchasing dog masks of their own, and they're already sold out.

3) The 'Qualified' award: Doug Pederson

Before the season began, former NFL GM Mike Lombardi infamously said Doug Pederson “might be less qualified to coach a team than anyone I’ve ever seen.” Re-live the scorching hot takery here:

OOOOOOOPS.

Doug Pederson is now in the NFC Championship Game, despite leading a team without Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, and Darren Sproles.

On Saturday, Pederson called a really good game, while having to mask the deficiencies of a backup quarterback. Pederson has the Eagles in position to win the Super Bowl, though it remains an uphill climb.

4) The 'Bust No-More' Award: Brandon Graham

Brandon Graham's stat line won't wow anyone. He had two tackles (one for a loss), and two hits on the quarterback. That's it. And yet, he greatly affected the game by putting pressure on Matt Ryan all evening. That's been something of a microcosm of his career.

Labled a bust for a big chunk of his career, Graham has become one of the core players on a defense that won the Eagles a playoff game.

5) The 'Playoff Drought' Award: Riley Cooper

Prior to their playoff win over the Falcons, the Eagles hadn't won a playoff game since the 2008 season. Only nine teams had a longer current drought. They are the Bengals, Lions, Bills, Browns, Dolphins, Raiders, Buccaneers, Rams, and Redskins, or, you know, a who's who list of recent NFL awfulness.

Riley Cooper had a hand in the signature play of the game in each of the last two Eagles playoff losses. First, Michael Vick probably shouldn't have thrown this ball against the Packers, but holy crap this is a terrible job preventing the interception by Cooper:


And then, of course, this:


Now Cooper can go back to "only" being known as a racist, as opposed to the guy who helped cost the Eagles their last two playoff games. So he has that going for him.

6) The 'Thank You' Award: Steve Sarkisian

On the final Atlanta 4th down play, Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian called a quarterback sprint-out, cutting out two-thirds of the field for the Eagles to defend. 

In the locker room after the game, every Eagles defender said they knew that's what was coming, and were ready for it. In other words, it wasn't just a stupid call. It was also a predictable one.

7) The 'Finger Wag' Award: Jalen Mills

Heading into this matchup, there was some concern about Mills' recent struggles in coverage, most notably his penchant for falling for double moves. He had the coverage on Julio Jones (the primary receiver on the Falcons' dumb 4th down play call), and made several other plays throughout the day, including this one:

Wag that finger proudly, Jalen.


8) The 'Never Give Up' Award: The crowd

Crowd noise was excellent all game long, even when the Eagles were struggling at times. The fans realized that they could affect the game by being loud, and turned in an effort that undoubtedly affected the game.

Eagles fans have been outstanding all year, really. They turned the Chargers game into a home game for the Eagles out in L.A., and showed up in big numbers against the Rams and Giants on the road as well. Eli Manning even credited Eagles fans with affecting the outcome of their Week 15 matchup by making noise on the Giants' final drive.

Please excuse my shameless pandering.

9) The 'Road Grader' Award: The Eagles' offensive line

It was a given that the Falcons were going to pack the box against the Eagles' offense, and pack it they did. Still, the Eagles' offensive line did an outstanding job moving the Falcons' defensive linemen off the ball in the run game, and made some really good blocks down the field in the screen game.

Here's Stefen Wisniewski tossing Falcons safety Ricardo Allen like a rag doll, and then following that up with a second block on safety Keanu Neal.

The Eages' offensive line also gave Foles plenty of time to throw, which was a necessity. Big game for the fat guys up front.

10) The 'Sit and Wait' Award: The Eagles

The Birds can now enjoy their Sunday, and watch the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings duel it out for the right to come to Philadelphia to play the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game.

The Eagles are likely to be underdogs once again, and the Eagles will almost certainly use that for added motivation.


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