Eagles

Chris Long plays defensive hero late in L.A.

usa-rodney-mcleod-eagles.jpg
USA Today Images

Chris Long plays defensive hero late in L.A.

LOS ANGELES — The Eagles were running out of time. Their quarterback was hobbled. Their defense was getting torn apart. Somebody had to make a play.

It was Chris Long's turn.

“I think we just realized we have to make a stop or two, if we’re any good," Long said.

With the Rams leading the Eagles by a point midway through the third quarter, Long — who spent the 2008 through 2015 seasons with the Rams — strip-sacked Jared Goff inside the Rams' 30-yard line.

The ball seemed to bounce forever before Rodney McLeod recovered and got the ball down to the 25-yard line, and 4½ minutes later, Jake Elliott gave the Eagles the lead for good with the second of his three field goals.

“They were doing a good job of play-action pass all game," Long said after the Eagles' 43-35 win over the Rams (see breakdown). "Boots, play action. Todd (Gurley) played a hell of a game and it made it easier for them to drop back, and I just had a good read on the sack and stayed at it. 

"Our coverage was good and I just put my hand on the ball."

Long, in his first year with the Eagles, now has four sacks and three forced fumbles rotating in at defensive end.

None of his plays were bigger than this one (see Roob's observations).

"I probably just held on to it a little bit too long," Goff said. "Stepped in the pocket there, and Chris Long came around and made a great play. Probably (need to) get rid of it a little earlier there."

The Eagles got gashed for much of the game Sunday, but that turnover was the biggest play of the game.

"I think at that point of the game, we knew the defense had to go out and win the game," Fletcher Cox said. "We knew that it was our time to get a turnover and put our offense in a position to score and just close the game out. 

"We always talk about it, we have to get turnovers. We got one and it was the biggest one of the game."

The last time the Eagles were trailing this late in a one-possession game and got a takeaway that led to a win?

It was in 2014 against the Colts, when Malcolm Jenkins picked off Andrew Luck with 5½ minutes left in Indianapolis with the Colts up 27-20. The Eagles wound up winning 30-27 on Cody Parkey's field goal as time expired.

“Chris came off the edge and made a great play for us," McLeod said.

"The ball was squirming around, a lot of guys trying to scoop it up, I just felt like if I slowed down the ball was going to come my way and it did, and I was able to capitalize on a big play for my team."

Thanks to Long and McLeod, the Eagles are now 11-2 with three games to go and NFC East champs for the first time since 2013.

"We felt like we had to do our part on defense and go out there and get a score or make something happen," Brandon Graham said. "Chris started it. Chris definitely started it and we just took over after that.”

Eagles missing linebacker as NFC Championship Game prep begins

injury-report-eagles.jpg

Eagles missing linebacker as NFC Championship Game prep begins

What's left of the Eagles' 53-man roster is pretty healthy as the Birds kicked off practice leading into Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the Vikings. 

With one exception. 

Middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe was the only player on the roster who did not practice as the team worked out inside their practice bubble in pads Wednesday. Ellerbe has been dealing with a hamstring injury. Ellerbe was there as a spectator and without a helmet.

The veteran linebacker missed practice last Tuesday, was limited Wednesday and became a full participant Thursday. We'll see if this week mirrors that. 

Ellerbe ended up being listed as questionable for the game, but was active against the Falcons and played 23 snaps (37 percent). Ellerbe is the Eagles' starting MIKE linebacker in their base package. He comes out on nickel downs. 

The Eagles were back in pads Wednesday, trying to keep things as normal as possible. There was plenty of intensity during the open portion of the practice. During special teams drills, rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas ran through veteran linebacker Najee Goode. That's some West Virginia on West Virginia crime. 

Here are some views from Wednesday's session: 

Eagles not distracted by legendary trophy

george-halas-trophy.jpg
Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Eagles not distracted by legendary trophy

It was kind of hard not to be caught up in the moment Wednesday morning, what with the striking Halas Trophy on display at the NovaCare Complex.

The Halas Trophy, named after legendary Chicago Bears founder and head coach and Navy war hero George Halas, is awarded annually to the NFC champion.

The Eagles are one home win receiving that trophy and advancing to the Super Bowl, and on Wednesday, with the trophy resting on a table alongside Eagles and Vikings helmets, much of the focus of the NFL world was on the Eagles.

And a few feet from that trophy, Doug Pederson spoke about how this is just another week.

It's not, of course.

But his goal is to convince his players it is. No matter how much hype, no matter how much media, no matter how much attention.

"I think you just have to continue doing what you're doing," Pederson said. "The guys are going to prepare themselves the way they have all season long. It's obviously a great opportunity, a great honor faced in front of us, and we just attack each day the same."

The Eagles have done a remarkable job staying focused this year and really the last two years under Pederson.

This team has lost just twice this season when playing its starters — at Kansas City in September and at Seattle the first week of December — and has stared down every challenge that's come its way.

On 6:40 p.m. Sunday at the Linc, the Eagles face the Vikings with a berth in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis at stake.

"You've just got to stay grounded (and) in the moment," Pederson said. "You have to block out the clutter, block out the noise and focus on today. Focus on Wednesday and get yourself prepared like it's any other Wednesday."

Out in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, where the Vikings practice, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer may have a tougher task than Pederson getting his team to focus after its wild last-second win over the Saints.

Plus, the Vikings essentially have two fewer days to prepare for Sunday, since they played this past Sunday and they also have to travel one day.

Zimmer told reporters in Philadelphia Wednesday morning that once the Vikings took a look at the Eagles, they were able to move past the Saints game and focus on the task at hand.

"I think they watched the film of the Eagles and I think it gets them focused pretty quick," he said.

"That game was Sunday, today is Wednesday. We're over that. We've got a big task in front of us. This is a heck of an Eagles team, outstanding defense, top in the league in red-zone touchdown percentage.

"I can go on and on about this team. I think they understand the task that we have at hand and the opportunity that we may have as well."