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Eagles vs. Los Angeles Rams: 5 keys to the game

Eliot Shorr-Parks
December 16, 2018 - 5:30 am

The Eagles will try to shock the world on Sunday night when they take on the Los Angeles Rams. 

Even as 11-point underdogs, they might just have the quarterback to pull it off. 

Nick Foles will be under center on Sunday, and despite his many flaws, there is no denying he knows how to pull off an upset. Just as Tom Brady. 

So how can the Eagles keep their season alive and beat the Rams?

Here are five keys to a win for the Eagles. 

Get Foles in a rhythm: Obviously, starting fast on Sunday night will be key. It has bene all season for the Eagles. It has also been one of their biggest issues, and if they struggle again on Sunday night to start the game, they stand almost no shot of winning. That is especially true with Foles at quarterback. Foles is one of the streakiest quarterbacks in the NFL. When he is on, he can beat any team, anywhere. When he isn’t, he is capable of looking like a guy who should be benched. 

Getting Foles in a rhythm early has to be the top priority for the Eagles on Sunday night. Get him some easy completions to start the game, play with tempo and get him locked in. 

Pressure Goff: The Rams’ offense is certainly intimidating. The quarterback that runs it isn’t. Jared Goff has put up impressive numbers this season, but as he showed last Sunday against the Chicago Bears, he is more than capable of throwing a game away. The Eagles don’t have the Chicago Bears’ defense, but they do have a defensive line capable of making Goff’s night a long one.  According to ProFootballFocus.com, Goff has a quarterback rating of 53.1 when under pressure, with five interceptions to four touchdowns. When he has had a clean pocket? His rating is 119.5 with 23 touchdowns to six interceptions. 

More than likely the Eagles are not going to be able to win a shootout with the Rams. Getting into the 30’s is not going to be easy for them. That means they are going to need to defense to keep them in the game, and that starts with players like Fletcher Cox, Michael Bennett and Brandon Graham playing up to their potential. 

Keep it close early: As mentioned above, quick starts are not exactly a speciality of the 2018 Eagles. In an ideal world that would change for them on Sunday night, but if it doesn’t, they have to find a way to at least keep the game within reach. They weren’t able to do that against the New Orleans Saints, who dominated them from the opening kickoff and made it very clear early on they wouldn’t be letting the Eagles even come close to winning. 

How the Eagles keep it close on Sunday night really doesn’t matter. If the offense is struggling, the defense has to step up. If the defense gets lit up early, the offense has to finally do their part and move the ball. Maybe even a big play on special teams — something this team hasn’t gotten often this season — will keep them in it. 

Keeping the game close early, however, is an absolute must for the Eagles.  

Contain Gurley: The good news for the Eagles is that they have had plenty of experience this season having to matchup against elite, do-it-all running backs. The bad news is they haven’t shown they are even remotely capable of stopping them. Both Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants and Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys have had their way with the Eagles’ defense this season, which is not an encouraging sign for their chances of slowing down Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley. 

Gurley already has a career high in touchdowns this season with 15 rushing touchdowns, and has also added four scores through the air as a receiver. He is arguably the best running back the Eagles will face this season, not only because of pure talent, but because of the coaching staff he plays for. The Rams do an excellent job of getting Gurley the ball in space, where he is extremely difficult to bring down — and that is likely going to be especially true for an Eagles’ team that has struggled to tackle this season. 

If the Eagles can somehow keep Gurley in check, the Rams don’t have a ton of other weapons that are capable of single-handily beating them. It will be very interesting to see what kind of game plan defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz comes up with on Sunday against Gurley. 

Run the ball: Most weeks, the Eagles’ fans yelling at Doug Pederson to run the ball is foolish. This is a passing league, and you win by throwing the ball. That being said, against the Rams, the Eagles should absolutely go in with a mindset of trying to win on the ground. The Rams are dead last in the NFL stopping the run, with an average of 5.1 yards-per-attempt allowed this season.

After giving him the ball just five times against the Cowboys last Sunday, Pederson should make sure rookie running back Josh Adams is involved early and often. Establishing the run will not only help put points on the board and make Foles’ life a lot easier, but it will help the Eagles control the clock. 

During his close to three years as head coach of the Eagles, Pederson’s teams have always been at their best when they are winning the time of possession. It was a staple of the 2017 team and it will be key to them saving their season on Sunday night. 

You can reach Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at esp@94wip.com!

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