Sunday’s win was necessary on so many levels. After four straight losses, the Eagles were staring a 1-5 start directly in the face. At 1-4, your chances of making the playoffs are extremely slim, but it’s happened before. But, at 1-5, you can start planning your OTAs and Training Camp right then. Also, this was a division game, which is always one of the six most important games on your schedule. Even though they were 1-4, the Eagles were just 0-1 in the division, which meant their season wasn’t completely lost. But, if they dropped to 0-2, with losses against the two worst teams in the division, you could have started scouting possible draft picks.
Sunday’s win against the Redskins was a step in the right direction. The Eagles were by no means perfect, but they got the job done. They finally utilized their fantastic running back like they should have been all along, and the bounces went their way. They took better care of the ball, and created four turnovers of their own.
As I wrote last week, the biggest on-the-field problem with this team was their defense. Most notably, I wrote that they just weren’t creating enough turnovers, which has always been a staple of the Eagles’ defense over the past decade.
Certainly, the turnovers on offense were right there as a huge problem, but those seemed more fixable than their problems creating turnovers. In the NFL, at the end of the year, turnover differential may be the single most important statistic in terms of a team’s success. Prior to Sunday, the Eagles were -10 in that category, which was a huge reason for their horrible start to the season.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but inserting Kurt Coleman for Jarrad Page (who should have never started a game on this team, by the way) paid off huge dividends with his three interceptions of Rex Grossman. Even outside of his picks, Coleman played very well all game against the run. If the Birds can get safety play from Coleman and Nate Allen like they did on Sunday, their defense will be much improved for the rest of the year. Together with the defensive line playing a little less wide-9, the defense was able to hold the Skins to 42 rushing yards on the game. Also, their linebacker play was much improved, as Jamar Chaney had his best game of the season in the middle.
On offense, McCoy was definitely the MVP. He had another great day, with 28 carries for 126 yards and a touchdown. I don’t expect the 28 carries to happen very often with this offense, but I’ve been saying all season that McCoy absolutely HAS to get 20 touches per game. He’s just too good to not give him the ball. I would still like Marty to use him more in the screen game, ala Brian Westbrook, as McCoy is even more dangerous in the open field than from seven yards deep. The Birds have gone away from the screen game a little bit in the past couple seasons, and I’d love for them get back to the quick flat routes and short screens that allowed Westbrook to be so successful. In my opinion, Shady is far and away more naturally talented than Westbrook was, and he just needs to get the ball more to start cementing his legacy with this franchise.
Now, let’s not get TOO excited. This Redskin team is horrible. I know, I know, they were 3-1 coming into the game. Looking a little deeper, two of their wins were against Arizona and St. Louis, two teams with a combined 1-9 record. They also beat a Giants team who won’t be better than 9-7 this season (sorry to break it to you, G-Men readers). The Skins are sub-par at almost every important position on the field, with the most glaring problem also being the most important one: QB. They are now in a full-blown QB controversy, and when you have two QBs, you really have none. Neither Grossman nor Beck is the answer in Washington, and they will be lucky to make it to 8-8.
So, as this is a solid start to a turnaround, the real test comes after the bye, with three straight home games against Dallas, Arizona, and Chicago. The Birds must go 2-1 at worst, but they really should go 3-0 and be over .500 after the mini “homestand.”
For a week, the Eagles proved they still have some fight left in them. But, to prove they truly are alive and well in the division race, they have to keep throwing the punches when the ‘Boys come into town. Never been a problem before.