The Eagles offensive line protected Nick Foles on his three touchdown passes, including a second-quarter strike to DeSean Jackson.
Forget the final score for a moment. Take Nick Foles out of the equation. There was a reason the Eagles won this game on Sunday.
Does it have to do with a great performance by Foles? Yes. Does it have to do with some timely defensive stops? Yes. Does it have to do with DeSean Jackson out-running Darrelle Revis? Yes.
For the Eagles, the road to success all starts at the same place: the line of scrimmage.
Offensively, the Eagles were at their worst when Foles couldn’t get protection. It is the group of Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremanns, Lane Johnson and Evan Mathis that are the usual protectors of the quarterback.
When Foles had time in Sunday’s 31-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he used it to his advantage. Given the proper time, Foles found Riley Cooper for a 47-yard strike and Jackson twice from 25 yards and 36 yards.
Foles also used the offensive line to score a rushing touchdown from nine yards out in the first quarter.
On the defensive side, the Eagles contain Mike Glennon and the Buccaneers offense best when applying pressure to the quarterback. Third-down conversions came with fair ease for the Bucs throughout the game, but the most notable stops all occurred in the cases where the defense penetrated the line and forced Glennon to rush the play.
As the game progressed, it was linebackers Connor Barwin, DeMeco Ryans and Fletcher Cox establishing that part of the game. Barwin had one of two sacks for the Eagles, and Cox did a solid job being on top of the line. Ryans led the team with 12 tackles, despite having trouble on several running plays by Doug Martin.
Success comes with the pressure that the Eagles are able to initiate and contain. It is the offensive line’s job to prevent the quarterback from rushing the play. Sure enough, Foles’ most important passes were always completed when the line held its ground.
From the opposite perspective, the defense is most successful when the play starts with pressure from the linemen and linebackers. It is that kind of pressure that forced three fourth-quarter interceptions from Eli Manning in Week 5. There may not have been turnovers, but when the Eagles applied pressure, they found a way to put the ball back into Foles’ hands with failed third-down plays.
So a lot of what keeps the Eagles going starts on the snap of the football. If they block well and protect the quarterback, good things happen for Foles or Vick or whomever is under center. When the defense applies pressure, there’s a pretty good chance the result won’t be pretty for the opponent.