Eagles

Eagles 43, Rams 35: Studs, duds, turning point and more

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USA Today Images

Eagles 43, Rams 35: Studs, duds, turning point and more

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES — The Eagles won a game, but they might have lost their season. 

With Nick Foles under center, the Eagles came back to beat the Rams, 43-35, at the L.A. Coliseum (see Roob's observations), but franchise quarterback Carson Wentz left the game early with a knee injury late in the third quarter (see story)

Now all they can do is wait and hope. 

The Eagles clinched the NFC East and also took back sole possession of the No. 1 spot in the NFC after Carolina beat Minnesota earlier in the day. With the win, the Eagles got back to their winning ways after a loss in Seattle. They improved to 11-2. This is the Eagles' first 11-win season since 2009. 

It's just that everything feels so hollow after the Wentz injury. 

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the Eagles fear Wentz tore his left ACL, but the team hasn't confirmed anything since they ruled him out for the game. 

With the loss, the Rams fell to 9-4. It was just their second loss in their last eight games. 

Chris Long made a huge play in the fourth quarter (see report card). He had a strip sack that set up Jake Elliott's eventual game-winning field goal. 

After Wentz came out, Foles did enough to help the Eagles come back and win the game. It might be his job for a while.

The Eagles took a 10-point lead into halftime, but that wasn't going to be enough in this shootout. The Rams were able to come back and score the first 14 points of the second half to take the lead. 

When Wentz threw a touchdown pass just before leaving the game, the Eagles took a 31-28 lead, but the Rams answered on the next possession. The Eagles' defense had trouble stopping Todd Gurley and the Rams' offense. 

Turning point
Long's strip sack came at a time where the Eagles absolutely needed somebody to step up and make a play. The veteran pass rusher did just that. 

Key stat
Before leaving, Wentz had another four-touchdown game. Before the Arizona game this season, he had never had a three-touchdown game. Since then, he's had six in nine games. 

Offensive stud
Before going out, Wentz was having another Wentz-like game. With his third-quarter touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery (No. 33), he became the Eagles' single-season passing touchdown record holder. He broke Sonny Jurgenson's franchise record that had stood since 1961. 

Offensive dud
LeGarrette Blount had some opportunities but didn't make the most of them. Meanwhile, Jay Ajayi was much more explosive. For some reason, he didn't get the bulk of the carries. 

Defensive stud
Fletcher Cox is always disruptive but he really seemed to get after Goff on Sunday. It had to feel good facing a quarterback who isn't as elusive as Russell Wilson. 

Defensive dud
Nigel Bradham didn't have a bad game, but he dropped a couple possible interceptions. One came just a couple plays before the Rams scored their second touchdown. He could have kept points off the board. 

Rodney McLeod didn't have a very good game either. He was beaten in coverage a couple times and missed a couple tackles. 

Key plays
• Brandon Graham scooped up the ball and scored a touchdown at the end of the game. 

• Long got a strip sack on Goff and McLeod was able to scoop it up to give the Eagles the ball on the Rams' 25-yard line. That eventually set up a 33-yard field goal from Elliott to give the Eagles a 37-35 lead. 

The Eagles' defense forced a three-and-out on the next drive. And the Eagles were able to kill some time. 

• Foles led a drive that was capped with a 41-yard field goal from Elliott. That made the score: Rams 35, Eagles 34. 

• Gurley seemed pretty unstoppable as the Rams drove down the field on a 75-yard touchdown drive to put them up 35-31 as Wentz was taken into the locker room. 

• After Wentz threw touchdown pass No. 4 of the game, he left with a knee injury and did not return. 

• On 4th-and-goal from the 2-yard line, Doug Pederson left his offense on the field and Wentz found Alshon Jeffery for a touchdown to put them back on top 31-28. It was a tremendous fingertip catch from Jeffery. 

• Donnie Jones had his punt blocked by WR Michael Thomas. It was then scooped up by Eagles 2016 draft pick Blake Countess and returned for a 16-yard touchdown to give the Rams their second lead of the game (28-24). It was their second touchdown in 1 minute and 34 seconds. 

• The Rams came out after halftime and went down the field to score easily. They went on a 71-yard touchdown drive and had the Eagles completely off balance. 

• Pederson challenged a first down spot around the two-minute warning and got it overturned to force a punt. The Eagles were then able to march down the field and get a field goal to give them a 10-point lead (24-14) heading into the locker room. 

• Bad tackling got the Eagles again in the second quarter. Jim Schwartz wasn't happy with his team's tackling in Seattle and this play was like seeing that again. Cooper Kupp caught the ball near the left sideline and made Malcolm Jenkins and Patrick Robinson miss on his way to a 64-yard play. He scored a touchdown a couple plays later to make the score 21-14. 

• Burton's second touchdown catch came early in the second quarter. This time, he caught an 11-yard pass for a touchdown. It was also Wentz's 32nd of the season, tying the franchise record. 

• The Eagles third drive resulted in a touchdown too. This drive went 88 yards on seven plays. Wentz hit Burton for a 20-yard touchdown, his first of the game. Somehow, Wentz was able to weave it through traffic and Burton made a tremendous catch. 

• After a bad first drive, the Eagles responded, going on a 75-yard drive of their own. The big play was the first of the drive when Wentz hit Corey Clement for a 28-yard screen pass. It was the longest pass to a running back all season. 

• The game didn't get off to a good start for the Birds. Wentz's second pass of the game was bobbled by Nelson Agholor and then an interception. On the ensuing drive, the Rams went 37 yards with no trouble to take a 7-0 lead. Gurley broke off a 30-yard run.

Injuries
Wentz left late in the third quarter. He suffered a knee injury and did not return. 

Left guard Stefen Wisniewski injured his ankle in the first half and did not return. Chance Warmack and then Isaac Seumalo filled in. 

The Eagles didn’t have Zach Ertz (concussion) or Joe Walker (neck) for this game. Both were listed as questionable coming into the weekend. 

Up next
The Eagles return to the East Coast, but their road trip isn't over. They're up in North Jersey to face the Giants next Sunday. 

Jeffery's role, Pederson's personality, and more in Roob's observations

Jeffery's role, Pederson's personality, and more in Roob's observations

Danny Amendola and Dion Lewis, record-setting third-down conversions, and Vince and Mike Lombardi highlight Monday's edition of 10 random Super Bowl observations, which will appear every day between today and Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4 in Minneapolis.

That should be 140 total random Super Bowl observations! 

1. You could just sense Nick Foles and Alshon Jeffery building up their chemistry over the past few weeks, and in these two playoff games Jeffery has played like the star the Eagles hoped they were getting when they signed him. Jeffery was 4 for 61 against the Falcons and 5 for 85 with two TDs against the Vikings. Foles targeted him five times and he caught every one, including that 53-yard TD on a scramble drill. Jeffery needs 66 yards in the Super Bowl to break the franchise record for receiving yards in a single postseason (211 in 2008 by none other than Kevin Curtis). Jeffery is just blossoming now. His two TDs Sunday give him 11 this year, and only Harold Carmichael, Tommy McDonald, Terrell Owens and Mike Quick have had more in a season in franchise history. He just looks more and more comfortable each week, especially in the red zone, where he has a real flair for going up and getting the ball. I have a hunch he's going to have a big game in Minneapolis.

2. The Eagles have allowed 15 second-half points in their last five games. 

3. Pretty funny after everything that’s transpired over the past few months that the Super Bowl winner receives the Lombardi Trophy. Definitely not named after Mike! 

4. According to Pro Football Focus, 69 of Jay Ajayi’s 73 rushing yards Sunday night came after first contact. That means 94.5 percent of his yards came after he was hit. That’s remarkable and speaks to just what a tough runner he is. 

5. Corey Graham was such an underrated signing. He’s been very solid as a third safety and like newcomers LeGarrette Blount, Torrey Smith, Chris Long and Dannell Ellerbe, he’s a winner and has a Super Bowl ring. He knows what it takes. Graham’s interception Sunday was his third career postseason INT, and only two active players — Antoine Bethea and Tramon Williams, with four each — have more. Solid guy, solid player.

6. Soon after the media was allowed in the locker room after the game Sunday night, linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill snuck over to this panel on the wall and plugged his iPhone into a jack and instantly music began blasting over speakers throughout the locker room. Grugier-Hill closed his eyes and started dancing. Rodney McLeod cracked up but yelled over, “Come on, Kamu. You can’t be playing Lil Yachty in the locker room while the media is in here,” and everybody cracked up. This team is so loose and having so much fun right now. Doug Pederson deserves so much credit for letting these guys show their personality all the time, whether it’s in an end zone celebration, in the locker room before a game or on the sideline with the German Shepherd masks. If you’re loose, you can just go out and play your game. If you’re tight, it’s tough to be at your best. Pederson understands this as well as any coach I’ve ever been around.

7. Amazing that the Patriots’ top two receivers this postseason are former Eagles: Receiver Danny Amendola (18 for 196) and running back Dion Lewis (16 for 111). Amendola spent the early part of the 2009 season on the Eagles’ practice squad before the Rams signed him. Lewis was the Eagles’ fifth-round pick in 2011 and spent his first two NFL seasons with the Eagles before getting traded to the Browns for linebacker Emmanuel Acho.

8. The Eagles’ 456 yards of offense Sunday are the most they’ve ever had in a playoff game, two more than they had in the 2008 NFC Championship Game. It was the second most the Vikings have allowed in their 49 franchise playoff games. The Giants netted 518 in their 41-0 win over the Vikings at Giants Stadium in 2001. The Eagles' 27 first downs are also a franchise playoff record. 

9. I can’t get past the fact that 24 months ago Pederson had never coached above the high school level and Foles was mulling retirement. Twenty-four months ago! Look at ‘em now! This is why sports rule!

10. Maybe the craziest thing about Sunday’s game was the Eagles’ ability to convert on third down against a defense that came into the game historically among the best in NFL history on third down at 25.4 percent. The Eagles were 10 for 14 on third down, good for 71.4 percent. That’s third best against the Vikings in any game — regular season or postseason — since 1991, which is as far back as available records go. To put that 71.4 percent figure in perspective, the Eagles converted more third downs Sunday (10) than the Vikings’ last four opponents had combined (eight). 

Former Eagles assistant named Giants head coach

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AP Images

Former Eagles assistant named Giants head coach

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has been hired as the New York Giants head coach.

The Giants announced the hiring late Monday afternoon, less than 24 hours after Shurmur and the Vikings were beaten by the Eagles in the NFC title game.

The 52-year-old Shurmur replaces Ben McAdoo, who was fired in early December with the team mired with a 2-10 record and owners and fans upset with his handling of the benching of two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning.

Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo took over for the final four games and posted a 1-3 record.

"He has an outstanding track record in developing young players, and it is clear his players respond to his guidance and direction," co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch said in a statement.

"We interviewed six talented and qualified candidates, and we feel like Pat, with his vision and experience, is the right person to lead our team."

The Giants won't officially introduce Shurmur until Friday. A winter storm in the Midwest is preventing him from coming to New Jersey on Tuesday and he will be at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, from Tuesday night through Thursday.

Shurmur returns to the head coaching ranks for the first time since leading the Cleveland Browns in 2011-12. He takes over a troubled team that posted a 3-13 record a year after making the playoffs.

Shurmur was interviewed on Jan. 6 by Mara, new general manager Dave Gettleman and assistant GM Kevin Abrams.

Following that meeting in Minneapolis, Shurmur had an hour-long phone conversation with Tisch.

"I can't wait to start working with Pat," said Gettleman. "I know he will provide the type of leadership we need to take our team back to where it belongs. I have followed Pat's career for many years, and he has had great success wherever he has been.

"What struck me during our conversation is that being the head coach of the New York Giants is not too big for him. He is made for this moment and this opportunity."

The Giants interviewed five other candidates, kicking it off with Spagnuolo three days after the season ended.

New York also spoke with New England coordinators Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia, Carolina defensive coordinator Steve Wilks and recently fired Broncos running backs coach Eric Studesville, who has since been hired as a running backs coach by the Dolphins. Wilks was hired as the head coach in Arizona on Monday

Shurmur has earned a reputation as a quarterback whisperer. NFC title game opponents Nick Foles of the Eagles and Case Keenum of the Vikings were tutored by him.

With the Giants, Shurmur will get to work with Manning and possibly the No. 2 pick in the draft, if New York uses the pick to pick an heir apparent.

But the Giants also had problems in the locker room. Three defensive backs -- Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple were suspended for a game for conduct detrimental to the team.

Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen said Shurmur constantly put players in position to contribute and he doesn't take anything for granted.

"He's not a stubborn guy. He's going to throw stuff out if it's not working, and he's going to find things that guys are good at," Thielen said Monday as the Vikings cleaned out their lockers.

"So I think as a head coach, he's going to do that on both sides of the ball. Special teams, he's going to find guys who can make plays and let them do what they do. So I think he's going to have a lot of success as a head coach."

Shurmur has been a part of teams that have qualified for the playoffs nine times and won seven division titles. He was the Eagles' quarterbacks coach when the Eagles played in the Super Bowl against New England in the 2004 season.

Shurmur is finishing his second year with the Vikings. He began last season as the tight ends coach and for the final nine games was also the offensive coordinator, the title he retained this season.

The Vikings finished 10th in the NFL in scoring (23.9 points), 11th in total yardage (356.9), and seventh in rushing yardage (122.3) this season.

Shurmur posted a 9-23 record in his two seasons with the Browns, going there after a two-year stint as the offensive coordinator with the Rams. He spent three seasons as the Eagles offensive coordinator after being fired.

Shurmur's NFL coaching career began with a 10-year run (1999-2008) with the Eagles. He coached in college at Stanford and Michigan State.