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December 30, 2018

First half observations: Eagles 10, Redskins 0

Eagles NFL

It wasn't the prettiest half of football you'll ever see, but the Eagles dominated their division rival through the first 30 minutes and enter halftime up 10-0 on the Washington Redskins. As of right this second, your hometown Eagles are playoff bound.

It will take another 30 minutes of things holding in D.C. and Minnesota to make that a reality, but so far, so good. Here's what I saw from the Eagles early on.

The Good

• One play from scrimmage, one takeaway from the Eagles' defense. It doesn't get a whole lot better than that.

Rasul Douglas has been one of the best stories of Philadelphia's stretch run, even with many people (myself included at times) pining to stick him at safety long-term. But with a shot to get extensive reps with the secondary banged up, Douglas has done an excellent job and came up with a big interception to open the game on Sunday.

I won't be the first or last person to offer up this opinion, but he deserves a chance to play for the starting job out of camp next year.

• The Eagles fan presence down in D.C. was incredible, as you'd expect. You could hear them through the broadcast before the game even started, and it only got louder after Douglas started things with a bang.

• If Carson Wentz is watching as intently as we all believe he is from the sideline, I think he will have learned a lot about how to make the best use of Alshon Jeffery. I don't think Wentz has anything against Jeffery, but he doesn't give him the same opportunities to make plays as Nick Foles has and does.

Foles' throw to Jeffery late in the first quarter was a perfect example of how to get the most out of him. You're in a big spot and he has a one-on-one matchup on the sideline. Toss the ball up to him and allow him to make a play. Nothing fancy or complicated about that. Foles did the exact same thing late in the second quarter, and it resulted in a huge Eagles touchdown. 

There's room for all the Eagles' top weapons to succeed in this offense, and Jeffery has thrived just because he has simply been given a chance lately.

• The Eagles weren't exactly up against Johnny Unitas, but they did a tremendous job of getting Washington off the field and preserving a small lead with the offense sputtering in the first half. Outside of a Josh Johnson run that should have been stopped for a sack seconds prior, the Eagles allowed Washington to do almost nothing of note. They kept Johnson and his legs in the pocket, and he is not exactly equipped to do much damage from there.

• Nobody has questioned the Eagles' use of Wendell Smallwood than I have. And that's not to pat myself on the back, either — I was mystified that they threw him into the mix in high-leverage situations after burying him for so long.

Well, it certainly looks like he deserved to be involved even more than he has been. Smallwood and Darren Sproles did a lot of the heavy lifting on the ground early, and it was Smallwood who looked dangerous, showing good patience and burst through the holes that opened up for him across the offensive line. He even showed off more strength than I think we've seen from him before, picking up some extra yards after contact.

With Josh Adams looking increasingly ineffective in recent weeks, Smallwood finding his form has been a nice surprise.

• Loved the decision from Doug Pederson to go for it on fourth-and-short late in the first half. With the way Washington was struggling and with Philly's offense finally stringing plays together, it was a slam-dunk decision to keep the drive moving.

It also helps to have a large quarterback to convert the sneak, but that's an afterthought here.

• I'm sure all of us lifelong Chicago Bears fans were thrilled to see them build up a two-touchdown lead over the Vikings. Never doubted our guys.

• How about Pederson summoning the ghost of Andy Reid with a shovel pass to Wendell Smallwood in the red zone? Those plays always give me a few heart palpitations, but the execution was on point and set up the Eagles for a punch in inside the five. Well done.

The Bad

• Boy did Nick Foles pick a terrible time to throw one of the worst interceptions of his career. After Douglas got the Eagles rolling, they moved into field-goal range in short order and had a manageable third down to convert. I don't know what Foles saw on that play, but he threw a pass that never had any chance of being completed to an Eagles player.

Taking points off the board there hurt big time and was certainly not characteristic of Foles' recent play.

The only good news is that Foles' throw came almost precisely as the Chicago Bears scored a touchdown in their game against the Vikings, which is pivotal to Philadelphia's playoff fight.

• Trading a third-round pick for Golden Tate is going to go down as one of the most fruitless Eagles trades in recent memory. Absolutely brutal:

What a waste of a draft asset it was to bring him in. I doubt there will be weepy montages made of his tenure here.

• It was a little disappointing for the Eagles to come out of that half only up by 10 points. The defense put on a dominant display in D.C. and the offense chewed up tons of clock, but they were unable to capitalize on some early opportunities to score, with Foles' interception stinging just a bit.

Washington probably isn't going to get any better on offense at halftime and the Eagles should be able to pull away for a comfortable win at some point. It would just be nice if everyone didn't have to sweat this out until the final minutes of the game, but then I guess that wouldn't be much like the 2018 Eagles.

(An optimist would be right to point out that their 12-minute drive to close the half artificially limited the score some. It was a tremendous drive that helped get them closer to their goal, so I'm not going to argue with that. But this team is better than this version of Washington by a mile, so hopefully we can all tune into the Vikings-Bears game by the time the fourth quarter starts.

The Ugly

• The 49ers sucking it up in their game against the Rams was not what Eagles fans wanted to see. The Bears need motivation to go out and win their game against Minnesota, and while Minnesota's own ineptitude may save Philadelphia, the second halves of each game loom large.

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