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December 18, 2016

First half observations: Ravens 20, Eagles 14

Eagles NFL

In windy and rainy Baltimore, the Eagles are taking on a Ravens team still in the hunt for an AFC playoff spot. Despite the Birds having nothing to play for, they have been competitive in the first half, trailing 20-14 heading into the locker room.

Here's what I saw:

The good

• With the offense sputtering, the Eagles defense stepped up and made a big play. Nigel Bradham got the strip sack of Joe Flacco and Fletcher Cox fell on the football:

The pass rush, which had been nonexistent for a few weeks in the middle of the season, managed a couple of sacks.

• Against an excellent defense, the Eagles are running the ball fairly effectively with Ryan Mathews, who has 11 carries for 55 yards and a touchdown. Mathews looked good, running physical and creating yards after contact. He went up and over the Ravens defense for the Birds' only touchdown:

• The Eagles offense, which is obviously very limited, put together a 17-play, 59-yard drive in the second quarter that chewed up 7:42 of clock. It wasn't exactly pretty, but that type of ball control is exactly what the Birds have to do.

• Matched up against the best kicker in the NFL (Justin Tucker), Caleb Sturgis continued an excellent season with a couple of field goals, including one into the wind.

The bad

• The Eagles defense wasn't put in a good spot by Wentz after an early interception, but the Ravens put together an extremely easy five-play, 36-yard touchdown drive, finished off by a Flacco pass to Kamar Aiken:

• Jalen Mills (primarily) and Jaylen Watkins did a poor job in coverage at the end of the half, letting Steve Smith get behind them for a late 34-yard touchdown.  That is the last thing the Eagles can have happen there.

• Carson Wentz is in a really tough spot, but the first-half numbers are pretty ugly: 7-15 for 43 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.

The ugly

• The protection is bad and nobody is open, but this is a brutal decision by Wentz:

• On this play, Wentz needs to throw the ball away. Someone on Twitter said that it looked like a video game where you accidentally hit the spin button at the wrong time, an accurate comparison:

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann