The best part for me about the Eagles’ 24-15 win over the Falcons on Sunday was the way all the guys on the game-day roster and the coaching staff seemed to coalesce and pick each other up when the game remained tight and small battles were being lost.
No finger-pointing on occasional breakdowns — nobody playing the star — guys moving up for injured players and holding down the fort — coaches keeping their collective cool in the face of some very odd officiating non-calls and making measured strategic decisions throughout the game…
That’s the kind of “team” psyche and effort which can carry over to next weekend and weeks after that. Not just because they won a game together as a cohesive unit, but they are discovering football can be fun again when teammates and coaches are self-aware in not just individual preparation but also as a colony looking out for each other on game day.
An example of this mentality is how rookie CB Jalen Mills got thrown into the fire covering Julio Jones after Nolan Carroll had to leave the game to undergo concussion testing.
It was cool to watch how the coaches and players, including Mills himself, reacted to that apparent mismatch challenge.
First off, the coaching staff got together with the safeties and linebackers and calmly instructed them to provide specific roll-over help for Mills.
Then they told Mills to play Julio aggressively, don’t worry about giving up any underneath stuff or defensive holding calls.
“I had so much fun out there going against Julio and competing,” said Mills. “I understand why he’s so great, the way he gets into and out of his breaks, how fast he is, how strong to go get the ball he is. It was a challenge and I accepted it.”
Jones was targeted 16 times and had 10 catches for 135 yards. The good news was Mills and his helpers actually limited Julio in a relative sense and kept him from coming even close to taking over the game.
“My confidence has grown a lot especially with everybody trusting me,” Mills said. “For coach to trust me with Nolan Carroll going down, for him to tell me I was covering Julio, that boosted my confidence by 1,000 percent. Every week you have to accept the challenge. It’s the best of the best that you’re going against.”
“You see the way he goes out there and battles and that’s what you want,” head coach Doug Pederson said of Mills. “Tough guy. Extremely competitive. Has those long arms. He’s really improved a lot.”
That’s esprit de corps, baby!
Winning by closing out a tightly-fought game by holding a lead certainly helps, too:
“It’s a huge win for us,” said center Jason Kelce. “Obviously, we can’t afford many more losses. We have a tough schedule ahead of us. This was a big opponent this week and we have been in every single game and for us to come down to the wire and actually close it out for the win, this is what we have to do.”
“I think winning this one can really help us,” said defensive end Connor Barwin, who had a quarterback sack and two tackles for loss, part of a defensive effort that limited Atlanta to 303 total net yards, just 48 on the ground. “We’ve had our chances the last few weeks and it turned turn out our way. Winning this one makes everyone here understand that we can do it and helps us understand how to do it. It’s big.”
“Great effort by the entire team,” middle linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “Our offense held the ball the whole game. That kept us fresh and rested. Our special teams made big plays all over the field. Defensively, we all did our jobs, limited the damage the Falcons did to us. This is a win we needed. I felt we practiced well all week. We wanted to start the second half of the season the right way. We did it. It feels great. Next week is Seattle, another great team. We have a big one in front of us for sure.”
“It’s something we’re going to build on,” rookie QB Carson Wentz said during his postgame press conference. “Obviously, the other four losses we had a chance every game. Whether it was a minute left, three minutes left, whatever it may be, we had a chance. It was good to kind of get over that hump, so to speak. We know we can finish ball games. We know we have the guys to do that. It’s good to show that finally.”