Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the New England Patriots.
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Crane
Sunday’s 35-28 victory over the New England Patriots was spirited yet surprising. There was a general feeling while watching the game that the Philadelphia Eagles wanted to prove their season was not over. While the victory now has them tied for first in the division, there are a fair number of red flags that raise questions as to their viability for a playoff berth.
While 35 marks their second-highest point total for the season, the make up of those points shows the deficiencies. Sam Bradford threw for 120 yards, just two more than his season low. While he’s been interception-free for three games in a row, offenses in the NFL can’t survive off of so few passing yards without a hefty running game.
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The Eagles got a good dose of rushing out of Kenjon Barner (4.3 yards per rush), but DeMarco Murray is going to raise hell if he doesn’t get more touches. The problem with Murray is twofold: the handoffs from the shotgun are not allowing Murray to get going downhill before contact, resulting in stymied runs. Secondly, Murray is not very fast; his skill as a runner comes from cuts and yards after contact. Darren Sproles, Ryan Mathews, and Kenjon Barner make up for any inefficiencies in the offensive line with speed. If the Eagles are going to stick with the shotgun formation as their staple, they will have to find another roll for Murray. In the end the Eagles may have found a new way to win with limiting the amount of pressure on its receivers and relying more on four running backs.
Defensive and special teams production are nice but unsustainable. The Eagles led the league in special teams production last season, and it has certainly been noticeable that they don’t this season. It’s difficult to say if this past Sunday’s efforts are a fraction of what their special teams will be for the rest of the season, but it’s safe not to mark them down for a touchdown every game.
While a win over the Patriots was impressive, I don’t know how much it says about how good the Eagles are. The Patriots were down to one reliable receiver and still put up 28 points. Without the unsustainable production from the defense and special teams, the Eagles would be tied for last in the NFC East. The NFL is fickle, so this win is the sort of thing it will produce every once in a while. But I wouldn’t immediately jump to playoff bound. With four games to go, it will be interesting to see just how real momentum can be.