LOS ANGELES - For one night, it was 2017 all over again. It's probably too little, too late. The Eagles' playoff chances went from 15 percent to 36 percent with the 30-23 win over the Rams, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. So they're still facing long odds to even get in the tournament.
But before a massive and LOUD crowd at L.A. Coliseum - maybe half Eagles fans, half Rams fans - the Eagles proved they can still go head-to-head with one of the NFL's best.
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And it was a ton of fun.
With Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles back at the controls, the Eagles built a 17-point lead and then hung on through the final agonizing seconds and a wild Rams comeback bid to beat the NFC West champions.
The Eagles are only 7-7 but for a few hours, it felt like they were back on top of the NFL world.
Here are my 10 Instant Observations from the Eagles' 30-23 win over the Rams.
1. I've been a huge Carson Wentz guy and I still am. But it's impossible to ignore the juice that Nick Foles brought Sunday night. The Eagles just looked like a different team from the start. Confident. Cocky. Juiced up. They scored early, they played with confidence and swagger and I think it was contagious because the beleaguered defense played lights out as well. Everybody was. Even Wentz's biggest defender can't ignore what Foles brings to the table. It's clear they're both exceptionally talented. But it's important to remember that everything Foles brought Sunday night Wentz brought last year for the first three months of the season. He was that good, and there's no reason to believe that a healthy Wentz can't lead this team the way Foles did Sunday night.
Wentz is 4½ years younger than Foles and he's, for the most part, managed to avoid the extreme highs and lows that Foles has experienced throughout his career. I'm fine moving forward with Wentz. But man, Foles is really, really special. And, yeah, sometimes I wonder.
2. This was a terrific performance by the Eagles' defense against one of the NFL's most explosive offenses in a building where the Rams hadn't lost this year and were averaging 38 points per game. There was no magic to it. They tackled well, they covered well, they got turnovers, they didn't give up big plays for the most part and they hung on late when they had to. The Rams made it interesting at the end, but remember that's an offense that hadn't scored fewer than 29 points at home all year. The defense was tremendous.
3. Was interesting how well Foles and Alshon Jeffery connected considering this was the first time they've even played together since the Super Bowl. Foles just looks down the field in a way that Wentz really hasn't this year, and the result was a succession of big plays down the field from Foles to Jeffery, who hadn't even had a 40-yard game in a month and a half. Jeffery finished with eight catches for 160 yards, his biggest game in five years and the most yards by an Eagle since Jeremy Maclin had 187 in Arizona in 2014.
4. They were only field goals, but I felt like it was huge that the Eagles scored on their first two possessions - something they hadn't done since the Broncos game in November of last year. There've been so many games the offense has just sputtered early and the Eagles haven't recovered. It seemed like just being in the game, showing early on that they could compete with this team, gave everybody on both sides of the ball some extra juice. Really energized everybody. Scoring early against this team and developing some confidence and just feeling like they belong on the same field as this Rams team was big.
5. I'm an unabashed Wendell Smallwood fan. I love the fact that this kid never complains about his role and produces whenever he's asked, no matter how long he's been on the shelf. Smallwood had four carries for three yards in his last five games but when he got the ball in a crucial situation in the red zone he ran nine yards for an acrobatic TD, the longest of his career. With Adams dealing with a sore back Sunday, Smallwood got his first extending playing time in nearly two months and responded in a huge way, with 10 carries for 48 yards and the two TDs. Not a star but a solid player.
6. You could see immediately how much Avonte Maddox brings to the defense. The rookie fourth-round pick, who missed the last three games with ankle and knee injuries, is one heck of an impressive kid. He picked up his second interception and just gave the secondary some much-needed consistency in coverage and run support. And he was physical and aggressive on the final play of the game covering Josh Reynolds but not too physical where he got a penalty. Smart kid. Tough kid. Instinctive kid. Physical kid. He's a player. And what a steal in the fourth round.
7. One thing a game like this shows – and this is important - is just how much Doug Pederson still commands this locker room. This has not been an easy season. The Eagles have struggled most of the year coming off a Super Bowl title. They're on back-to-back road games and still decimated by injuries. And facing a powerhouse 11-win team that averages close to 40 points per game at home. And they showed up. They showed up in a big way. The odds are still against the Eagles making the playoffs, but top to bottom you have to feel better about where the franchise is after a performance like this.
8. One other thing about Doug - I thought this was one of his best game-calling performances this year. Maybe his best. I'm not sure how much has to do with having Foles in there, but he certainly was able to open up the playbook with a healthy quarterback out there. But he also mixed the running game in nicely - Adams, Smallwood and Sproles combined for 104 yards and three TDs on 24 carries.
9. I still think the offense wasn't balanced enough. Alshon was great but nobody else was really involved. Golden Tate caught five passes for 43 yards, which was good to see. I still think this offense is at its best when the ball is going to everybody.
10. Somebody needs to make sure Darren Sproles doesn't retire. Please.
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