First and 10: Raiders give No. 1 Seed to Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Give the Oakland Raiders credit for one thing, they learned the most important Christmas lesson of all ... it's better to give than receive.
In a game that resembled the ugliest of Christmas sweaters, Derek Carr and the Raiders gave the Eagles the No. 1 seed in the NFC with five second-half turnovers, the penultimate of which set up a moribund Philadelphia offense on a short field, ultimately leading to a 48-yard Jake Elliott field goal with 27 seconds remaining that proved to be the difference in a 19-10 game.
The Eagles managed just 216 yards of total offense on the night but needed just 21 on the game-winning drive after an awful Derek Carr pass intended for Amari Cooper was intercepted by Ronald Darby. Derek Barnett returned a fumble for a touchdown on the final play of the game as Oakland tried a series of laterals in desperation.
"I was just trying to steady his releases," Darby said of Cooper. "... On film, I noticed that when they ran on slants and press, they try to pick up and then, boom, hit one step and get you to overcommit. So when it started out slow, I just stayed square the whole time. I just flipped and then looked for the ball and caught it."
The victory assures that the road to Super Bowl LII runs through Lincoln Financial Field and the Eagles will not have to leave South Philadelphia again unless they reach the big game in Minneapolis.
"It's reassuring," defensive end Chris Long said of securing the top seed, the first time the franchise has done that since 2004. "But, we have to beat good teams no matter what. That's what the playoffs are."
The No. 1 seed is the good news.
The bad is that Nick Foles was awful in his second start in place of the injured Carson Wentz, completing 19 of 38 passes for 163 yards with a touchdown and interception for a dismal 59.4 passer rating.
He was especially poor on third downs as Philadelphia converted just 1 of 14 attempts in the game.
"I didn't play good enough," Foles admitted.
Doug Pederson, however, emphasized the part of the glass that is half full.
"We found a way to win," the coach said. "That's the bottom line. We found a way to win."
And 10 Things You Should Know:
-The last time Foles played the Raiders as a member of the Eagles was his record-setting seven-touchdown performance. On Christmas night, it was the polar opposite as Foles and the offense were bailed out by a defense that wouldn't be denied in the second half as Oakland continuously got the ball in excellent field position but Derek Carr could do nothing with it.
Carr, the second-highest paid QB in football, was arguably even worse than Foles completing 15-of-29 passes for 140 yards with one TD, two picks and a 48.1 passer rating.
"It was just one of those games where our defense needed to get some stops for our offense to put some points on the board and put is in a position to win," star safety Malcolm Jenkins said.
-Foles just could not get the football outside the numbers in a wind chill that was under 20, as evidenced by the fact that Alshon Jeffery was shut out on two targets and Torrey Smith caught just one of five targets for five yards.
"It was gusty at times," Pederson said. "Heading away from our tunnel, you were kind of into the wind just a little bit, made it probably a little more difficult. But, it's never an excuse, the weather. We've just got to learn to handle it."
-Even Jason Kelce's shotgun snaps were a bit off, often arriving low and impacting the timing of pass plays.
"I have to do a better job with some of the snaps," Kelce admitted. "I think I had some low snaps. It's not fair to Nick."
-Darby and Patrick Robinson had the picks of Carr while Jenkins stripped Jalen Richard with the Raiders driving, Vinny Curry forced Marshawn Lynch to fumble for the first time in about three years and Long forced yet another fumble. Long has a career-high four forced fumbled this season.
-The one issue for the defense was the fact it came in allowing an NFL-low 71.5 rushing yards per game and the Raiders rolled up 137. Chalk that up to it being cold outside and the fact that tackling Lynch isn't fun.
"We let up one long run and it was just basic stuff," Long said. "We settled in and got back to playing our game."
-The Eagles have now outscored opponents 55-6 in the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field this season.
-As bad as the Eagles were on third downs, they continue to dominate on fourth downs, finishing two for two and are an NFL-best 17 of 24 on the season.
-Carson Wentz was in the building and even made it on the field pre-game, watching his teammates get ready while on crutches. He and Nick Foles shared a few laughs in the end zone and Wentz ultimately joined in the team huddle just before the Eagles headed back to the locker room. Wentz, along with Jason Peters, also joined the team captains at midfield for the pre-game coin toss.
With his current lack of mobility, Philadelphia didn't want Wentz anywhere near the field for the game and he retreated to the club box level.
-Joe Walker was the surprise inactive as veteran Dannell Ellerbe got his first start as an Eagles at MLB in base. Ellerbe, a much more physical option with the powerful Lynch on the other side, finished with four tackles, one for a loss.
-Former Eagles DE/OLB Trent Cole officially retired as an Eagle tonight. Cole is second on the team's all-time list with 85 1/2 career sacks and was a two-time Pro Bowl selection.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen