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Eagles Armchair: After 15 years, Jason Peters finally tastes postseason success

By Tucker Bagley

Going Deep

Jason Peters has done a lot in his 15 years as an NFL tackle. He's made nine Pro Bowls and been named first-team All-Pro twice, despite missing a season in his prime with a torn Achilles. Peters has started 182 games in the NFL for two teams and even has a Super Bowl championship on his resume.

However, even with his Hall of Fame candidacy set in stone at the age of 36, one thing still eluded the stalwart left tackle: a postseason win. Until yesterday, that is. The Eagles' thrilling 16-15 defeat of the Chicago Bears was the first postseason victory, coming with a lot of historical footnotes we'll get to in a bit, but perhaps none were sweeter than seeing Peters walk off the field after a postseason game in victory.

Even as Peters finished his 17th game of the season, he still isn't healthy. The 36-year old has a torn bicep and a quad injury that has hampered him for much of the season. But watching Peters on Sunday, the veteran looked as determined as ever against the top scoring defense in the league and a pair of edge rushers who combined for 16.5 sacks in the regular season.

On a day where it looked like Khalil Mack would feast at the expense of the old, broken-down Peters, it was the veteran who shut down the All-Pro, limiting Mack to just two quarterback hits and zero sacks.

It was hard to watch Peters on the sidelines a year ago. Lost in Week Seven to a torn ACL, he was always around the young offensive linemen when they needed guidance. When the Eagles ran onto the field prior to Super Bowl LII, Lane Johnson held Peters' jersey high above his head as a tribute to his hobbled teammate. Four days later, at the championship parade, Peters wore a Brian Dawkins jersey and thanked his teammates for carrying on to a world title in his absence.

Minutes later, Jason Kelce would proclaim Peters was the "best freakin' tackle in the league," but at times in 2018, Peters certainly didn't look like an All-Pro. In fact, he looked like a 36-year-old coming off a serious knee injury. His legendary athleticism seemed to be gone as his age finally caught up with him. 

But even as the season wore on and the injuries mounted, Peters taped up and played each Sunday. He played just eight snaps in Week Two, but rebounded to play 82 one week later. In Week 16, he played just five snaps before aggravating a quad injury. But in the two weeks following that injury, he's missed just five offensive snaps.

Ever the professional, Peters downplayed the significance of yesterday's win, telling reporters the feeling was similar to a season ago when he was forced to watch from the sideline. Peters will turn 37 in a couple weeks and if the Eagles find their way back to the Super Bowl, he will become the third-oldest offensive linemen to suit up in the big game.  

The Eagles still have a long way to go before we can start talking about them repeating as champions and this team has shown no indication they are satisfied with just advancing one round in the postseason. But after 15 years of zero playoff success, Peters has to feel good about finally accomplishing one of the few things not already on his resume.

Injury Report

Did not play: Carson Wentz (back), Mike Wallace (ankle)

It was a pretty good day for the Eagles training staff and the Birds are as healthy as they've been all season. Only two guys out with injury and no one was forced to miss any time during the game due to any ailments. At this point of the season, it seems like most of the guys who are missing practice are doing it for maintenance and precautionary reasons.

Measurables

4: For just the fourth time in franchise history, the Eagles have won a playoff game in back-to-back seasons. They won a Divisional Playoff game against the Steelers before capturing the NFL Championship in 1948 and 1949. It was another 30 years before Dick Vermeil's team beat the Bears in 1979 and won the NFC in 1980. Andy Reid picked up at least one playoff victory every year from 2000 through 2004.

However, if the Eagles can defeat the Saints on Sunday, it will be the first time in franchise history they won multiple playoff games in consecutive seasons.

.048: Since 1990, NFL teams were just 4-83 in road playoff games when losing the turnover battle by two or more. However, the Eagles defeated the Bears yesterday, despite turning the ball over twice and not forcing any giveaways. Ironically enough, the last NFL team to win in the postseason under these circumstances was the New Orleans Saints in 2013, when they beat the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.

4: With the win yesterday, both Doug Pederson and Nick Foles have 4 career playoff wins. That number is good enough to put Pederson second all-time among Eagles head coaches, only trailing Andy Reid's mark of 10. For Foles, he now is eighth among active quarterbacks in postseason wins, however, Russell Wilson is the only guy under the age of 30 ahead of him. 

Turning Point

Following the Eagles go-ahead touchdown, things started to look very similar to the Birds' 2013 playoff loss to the Saints. A huge kick return by Tarik Cohen and a pair of completions by Mitchell Trubisky put the Bears in field goal range, leaving the game on the foot of Cody Parkey.

The former Eagle's first attempt was successful, however it came after Pederson called a time out to ice the kicker. Fortunately for the Eagles, Parkey's second kick wasn't on the mark:

The ball smacked the left upright before bouncing off the crossbar and landing at the five-yard-line. It was a unique miss to say the least, but a local high school performed a similar feat in the fall:

Upon further review, it was confirmed that defensive tackle Treyvon Hester actually got a hand on the kick, affecting its trajectory. No matter, Parkey's miss will certainly be a highlight replayed for years to come.

Up-Down Drill

Up: Golden Tate

I feel like I've been hard on Tate since his midseason arrival, but his performance on Sunday alone was worth the third-round pick Howie Roseman gave up for the veteran wide out. Tate hauled in a 28-yard grab in the first half, taking a huge hit while doing so. He then scored the game-winning touchdown on a sprint out at the goal line in the final minute of the game on fourth down.

You can gripe all you want about the disappointment Tate has been in his short time with the Eagles, but the team simply does not win yesterday if he isn't on the field. And that is worth a third-rounder.

Down: Eagles Running Backs

For better or worse, the Eagles stayed committed to the run during the entirety of Sunday's game, but struggled to pick up yards on the ground, averaging a putrid 1.8 yards on their 23 carries. Akiem Hicks was an absolute monster against the run and seemed to be in on every stuffed run, despite being credited with just four total tackles.

The Eagles lack of success running the football led them to hold the ball for just 30:48, their lowest mark in a win all season. Darren Sproles particularly had a bad day in short yardage situations, failing to convert a third-and-3 after bobbling the handoff and he was also unable to punch the ball in from the two-yard-line on a pair of handoffs on the game-winning drive.

Up: Nigel Bradham

Much like Tate, Bradham has faced his share of criticism in this rather irrelevant corner of the internet. However, Bradham has played well in recent weeks and he was an absolute monster on Sunday. The linebacker had seven tackles, including a pair of tackles for loss, and added two pass breakups as well.

Even with the return of Jordan Hicks, Bradham has remained the Eagles' top linebacker, playing nearly double the snaps of Hicks over the final two weeks of the regular season. For what it's worth, the veteran has stepped up and played his best football of the season as a result.

Down: Eagles Cornerbacks (second half)

If the game ended at halftime, the Eagles' group of young, scrappy cornerbacks would've received rave reviews for their work against the Bears, but they really struggled in the second half. Avonte Maddox bit on a double move and later got beat for a touchdown. Cre'von LeBlanc also struggled, missing a tackle on a screen pass.

Both guys played well in the first half. Maddox nearly came away with an interception and had three pass breakups. LeBlanc added one that stood on a technicality. Still, the struggles of these guys is concerning, considering who they will be lining up against come Sunday.

Three-Step Drop

1. Ian Rapoport said on Sunday morning that the Eagles would like to trade Foles this offseason in an attempt to gain some value from the loss of the Super Bowl MVP. With a weak quarterback class coming out in this draft, certainly teams will be lining up to court Foles, but at what cost?

The Eagles have almost no leverage, as everyone knows they will not be able to keep him around at the $20 million he stands to make in 2019. The only real benefit a team will have in trading for Foles is an exclusive negotiating window while he is still under contract. How much is that worth? Depending on Foles' performance on Sunday, it could be worth a whole lot to the Eagles.

2. Pederson and the Eagles did a great job of keeping Khalil Mack contained for most of Sunday's contest. The head coach's ability to make teams beat him without their elite defenders performing has proven very successful in his time with the Eagles. The Birds have held Mack, JJ Watt and Aaron Donald to zero sacks in their games against them this season. Credit the offensive coaching staff for once again taking an elite defender out of the equation for much of the game.

3. One thing that is interesting about this Eagles team is just how similar they are the Atlanta Falcons of a year ago. Both teams clinched a playoff spot on the last day of the season after a late-season push as reigning conference champions. Then, both teams went on the road and defeated a second-year quarterback in the Wild Card (Atlanta beat Jared Goff and the Rams). Now the Eagles will have to go back on the road to face arguably the most consistent team of 2018.

The Falcons couldn’t pull off another upset, falling to the Eagles 15-10, but maybe Foles has one more trick up his sleeve. Which leads us to…

Who's Next

The Birds have opened as 8.5-point underdogs for their contest against the Saints on Sunday, which is actually an improvement over the 9-point spread the Eagles faced when the two teams met in November. The Saints blew out the visiting Eagles, 48-7, but the Birds have rallied to win six of their last seven games. New Orleans is 4-2 in that same span, but they rested most of their starters in their Week 17 loss to Carolina.

Jim Schwartz will be facing a tough test in Sean Payton and Drew Brees, who must be licking their chops after seeing the Eagles secondary get burned again and again in the second half. The Saints boast the most explosive offense in football and a rush defense that allowed just 3.6 yards per carry during the regular season.

There will be a litany of storylines heading into this game. From the Foles-Brees rematch from 2013 to the fact both QBs went to the same high school and the November game looming large over the Eagles hopes. Add all the cliches you want regarding the Eagles chances of winning. They need turnovers, big plays and very few mistakes from Foles if they want to have a chance to continue their defense of their Super Bowl title.

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