By Tucker Bagley
The Eagles are fighting for their playoff lives and hosting the Houston Texans in their Week 16 matchup. At the half, the Eagles are trailing, 16-13, but the offense has shown signs of life. Here's what I saw in the first 30 minutes of action:
- Nick Foles and company got off to a fast start with a surgical drive that saw the Birds convert three third downs and cap it off with a fourth-down, 37-yard pass to Darren Sproles for a touchdown. For a team that has been notorious for their slow starts, the Eagles have now scored in the first quarter in three of their last four games.
- Speaking of Sproles, the veteran seems to have found new life in recent weeks, coming up with big play after big play. Since returning a few weeks ago, Sproles has three touchdowns since returning from injury, each one responsible for tying the game or giving the Eagles a lead.
- Doug Pederson has rediscovered his aggressiveness, going 3-3 on fourth down in the first half, converting two of those opportunities into touchdowns.
- The Eagles defense looked good on the game's opening drive, forcing a quick three-and-out. But the defensive line struggled to get pressure on the Texans next series, allowing 4 first downs, including an 11-yard scramble from Deshaun Watson that converted a third-and-11. The Texans eventually settled for a 30-yard field goal, but the Eagles inability to pressure Watson behind arguably the worst offensive line in the NFL was certainly troubling.
- Things were going well for the Eagles before Foles fumbled inside the 10-yard-line and Watson scampered five yards for a go-ahead touchdown on the next play. Foles' stats look good, but he's been far from sharp outside his two passes to to Sproles.
- Jason Peters left the game early with a quad injury and Halapoulivaati Vaitai has struggled in pass protection, getting beat a couple times and being flagged for a pair holding penalties.
Halftime Adjustment: More Blitzing
Jim Schwartz clearly entered today expecting his defensive line to handle the Texans abysmal pass protection, but they have struggled in the first half, sacking Watson just once on a rollout. The Eagles generated a lot of pressure last week using stunts and blitzes and it's time shake things up a bit to confuse the young Houston quarterback. Granted, Brandon Graham got a hit on Watson, but was flagged for a ridiculous roughing the passer penalty.
Second Half X-Factor: Time of Possession
The Eagles defense has played 175 snaps over the past two weeks and have struggled to finish games this season. The offense's first drive lasted over seven minutes and their second scoring drive did the same. Despite that success, the Eagles have struggled to run the ball, averaging under three yards per carry against the Texans stout run defense. The Eagles need to control the ball again in the second half and give their defense a chance to rest up and put the game away late in the fourth quarter.