Eagles' D recovers for most dominant half since 1999

USA Today Images

Eagles' D recovers for most dominant half since 1999

Nothing was said.

"Nothing needed to be said," Malcolm Jenkins said. "We knew what was at stake."

The Raiders had taken a three-point lead early in the second half with a 69-yard field goal drive, and the Eagles' defense was struggling. Again.

Jalen Mills gave up a 63-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper early in the second quarter, and the Eagles let Jalen Richard ramble 34 yards on the third play of the second half to set up that go-ahead field goal.

Right there you had the fourth-longest TD pass against the Eagles under the Doug Pederson-Jim Schwartz regime and the longest run by an opposing player at the Linc since 2015.

Safe to say many at the Linc felt the No. 1 seed slipping away.

"Our backs were against the wall," DB Corey Graham said. "We knew how things were looking. We knew the situation."

After that long run by Richard? The Eagles' defense finally got its edge back.

After 3½ subpar games, the Eagles' defense played some of its best ball when it was needed most.

The rest of the way, the Eagles held the Raiders to 45 net yards and forced five turnovers in the game's final 19½ minutes.

With the 19-10 win, the Eagles improved to 13-2 and locked up home-field until the Super Bowl.

"We were just locked in," Mills said. "I know I had a mishap early, but at the same time, we're an aggressive defense. We have to stay aggressive, and sometimes that's just what it is. By staying aggressive, you see what happened in the second half. We started getting turnovers."

It was the first time since the last day of the 1999 season and a win over the eventual Super Bowl-champion Rams at the Vet that the Eagles forced five turnovers in a half.

"And we needed all five to win the game," Jenkins said. "It was just one of those games where the defense needed to get some stops to put our team in a position to win. It was the exact opposite last week (against the Giants).

"Whatever it takes to get the 'W.' We obviously know what it means to get turnovers, especially turnovers in the red zone or in plus territory. We had a problem with field position pretty much the whole second half, so those stops were huge to keep points off the board."

It's no secret the Eagles' defense has struggled, allowing 82 points and 1,121 yards in a loss to the Seahawks and wins over the Rams and Giants.

Did they lose their edge? Could they get it back?

On national TV, with the season in the balance, they answered those questions.

"We needed to redeem ourselves because we gave up a long run and a long pass and other than that, we knew if we made them earn it, it was going to be hard for them," said Chris Long, who was in the middle of that second-half revival.

"And once we stuck to just making them earn it we were able to settle down a lot. At the end of the day, it's 10 points, and we have a lot we need to improve defensively, but it's 10 points."

The Raiders' first six drives averaged 34 yards and netted 10 points.

Their next nine averaged 5 yards and netted no points.

Marshawn Lynch, who had 84 yards on his first 17 carries, was just 8-for-11 with a fumble the rest of the way. And Derek Carr threw for just 22 yards with two interceptions in the second half.

"It's one of those games that we really needed as a defense," Graham said. "The last couple games haven't been the type of games that we really wanted. They haven't been the type of games that we should be playing. Really good to see what we're capable of doing when we have to do it."

Patrick Robinson and Ronald Darby had interceptions, Jenkins and Vinny Curry forced fumbles, and rookie Derek Barnett finished things off as time expired by scooping up a loose ball and returning it for a TD while the Raiders tried a bunch of desperation laterals.

"You have these types of games all throughout the year," Graham said. "This was one of the ones that was a defensive game, and we just had to get back to what we do. 

"You want to dominate every game, but you have to be realistic. You're going to have some weeks where the numbers aren't the same as they normally are. But that doesn't mean you're a bad defense, and that's all it was for us. We had a couple games where we played some high-powered offenses and we weren't at our best, but we bounced back."

Bottom line is the Super Bowl now goes through the Linc, where the Eagles are 7-0 this year and 13-2 the last two years and have allowed opposing teams to score just 13½ points per game this year.

"We just needed the win," Jenkins said. "End of the day, we wanted to win the game and we wanted home-field advantage, and we had the opportunity tonight in front of the world to do it and we wanted to make sure this opportunity didn't slip away."

10 random Mike Wallace stats

10 random Mike Wallace stats

In Mike Wallace, the Eagles are getting a veteran wide receiver who’s now playing for his fifth team in the last seven years.
Wallace has put up fairly consistent numbers since the Steelers drafted him out of Mississippi in the third round in 2009.
And we all know what a veteran wide receiver means. Lots of stats!
So let’s get to know Mike Wallace with 10 Random Mike Wallace Stats That You Didn’t Know (And I Didn’t Either Until I Looked them Up!):
• Since entering the NFL in 2009, Wallace ranks ninth in the NFL with 8,072 receiving yards, behind only former teammate Antonio Brown (9,910), Larry Fitzgerald (9,570), Calvin Johnson (9,532), Brandon Marshall (9,316), Julio Jones (9,054), Demaryius Thomas (8,653), DeSean Jackson (8,575) and A.J. Green (8,213).
• Wallace’s 57 touchdown catches since 2009 are seventh-most in the NFL during that span by a wide receiver.

• With a 95-yard touchdown catch from Ben Roethlisberger against the Cardinals in 2011 and a 95-yarder from Joe Flacco against the Steelers in 2016, Wallace is one of just three players in NFL history with two career TD receptions of 95 or more yards.

The others are Gaynell Tinsley of the Chicago Cardinals, who caught a 97-yarder from Pat Coffee in 1937 and a 98-yarder from Doug Russell in 1938, and Pennsauken’s John Taylor, who caught a 95-yarder from Joe Montana in 1989 and a 97-yarder from Steve Young in 1991.
• Similarly, Wallace’s four career TDs of 80 yards or more — the two listed above plus catches of 81 and 82 from Roethlisberger in 2011 and 2012 — are fifth-most in NFL history behind Derrick Alexander, Lance Alworth, Bobby Hayes and Jerry Rice, who all have five.
• Wallace has had at least 725 receiving yards in eight of his nine seasons in the NFL. Since 2009, only Fitzgerald has had 725 or more yards more often than Wallace.
• Wallace’s career rushing average of 7.1 yards per carry is fifth-highest among active players (with 32 or more attempts), behind Cordarrelle Patterson (10.3), Tyreek Hill (8.0), Deshaun Watson (7.5) and Ted Ginn (7.1).
• Wallace had nine catches for the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV against the Packers after the 2010 season. That’s tied with several players (including Nelson Agholor) for eighth-most in Super Bowl history by a wide receiver.
• Since he entered the league in 2009, Wallace has 43 receptions of 40 yards or more, second-most in the NFL during that span behind only former Eagle DeSean Jackson, who has 56. Those 43 passes were thrown by five quarterbacks (Roethlisberger 23, Flacco 9, Ryan Tannehill 7, Charlie Batch 3 and former Eagle Dennis Dixon 1).
• During the same span, Wallace has 19 TD catches of 40 yards or more, again second-most in the league during that span to Jackson’s 26.
• In 2010, Wallace caught 60 passes for 1,257 yards, and his 20.95 average was sixth-highest in NFL history and highest in the last 33 years by a player with 60 or more receptions. Since 1965, only Hall of Famer and one-time Eagle James Lofton has had a higher average (21.95 in 1984).

2017 film shows Mike Wallace is still a burner

2017 film shows Mike Wallace is still a burner

Remember the offseason before the 2016 season?

Howie Roseman was making major moves, among them moving up to pick Carson Wentz, but he was also trying to find some cheap speed at the receiver position. The Eagles drafted Nelson Agholor the year before, but Agholor had a disappointing rookie season and the Eagles simply needed to get faster at the position. They really missed DeSean Jackson after Chip Kelly released him. 

So Roseman went out that offseason and signed T.J. Graham and Chris Givens. Two cheap and fast veterans. But neither had anything to give. Neither made the team. Then Roseman traded for Dorial Green-Beckham and claimed Bryce Treggs. Both spent the 2016 season on the roster but never really gave the Eagles that deep threat. It appeared the Eagles would have to pay a little more for their speed. 

Last offseason, Roseman did that, when he signed Torrey Smith to a little heftier contract (the Eagles also signed Alshon Jeffery, who offered more than speed). Smith was just alright and certainly wasn’t worth a $5 million cap hit in 2018, so he’s gone. The good news for the Eagles is that Agholor has grown into an important player who offers speed from the slot, but they still wanted some more outside, which explains the signing of Mike Wallace. Wallace is 31 but might still have something left in the tank. 

Since he entered the NFL, Wallace has 26 catches of 50-plus yards, second during that span to the 36 put up by DeSean, whose absence sent the Eagles looking for speed this whole time (see 10 random Wallace stats).

And if you’re worried that Wallace will be 32 by the start of the season, it’s a valid fear. But in 2017 with the Ravens, he still had the burners working. Wallace had three catches of 50-plus yards; the Eagles as a team had seven. 

Here’s a look at Wallace’s speed with Baltimore last year. We’ll look at all three 50-yard catches: 

There really isn’t much to this. This is the first play of the game from the Ravens-Raiders game in Oakland on Oct. 8. This is the first play from scrimmage; Doug Pederson isn’t the only coach who likes to take his shots. 

Just after the snap, Wallace uses a little stutter step. All he needs is for the corner to hesitate for a split second or get off balance and then he has him where he wants him. Now it’s off to the races. 

After 12 yards, Wallace has more than a step on the DB and Joe Flacco is letting it rip. The safety notices this, but he’s going to be too late getting over. This one goes for a gain of 52 yards down the sideline. 

-- -- --  

This next play actually happens later in the Raiders game. Wallace is circled. He’s not going to do anything fancy on this; just gonna turn on the burners. 

At this point, the Raiders’ DB picks up Wallace after he bursts off the line. But the corner gets turned sideways and Wallace goes right past him. The defender thought he had help, but the safety gets caught looking upfield, ready to drive on a short play. Not much help. 

By the time the safety realizes he needs to help, he's caught flat-footed and looking upfield. Wallace burns both defensive backs on this play for a 54-yarder. 

If Flacco hits Wallace in stride, this is an easy touchdown. But the ball is a tad underthrown and Wallace has to wait for it. 

This next play came in early December against the Lions. It’s a little different from the other two because Wallace is lined up in the slot. The Eagles probably won’t ask him to go in the slot a ton because that’s Nelson Agholor’s spot, but Pederson isn’t averse to moving his receivers around. So if Wallace ever finds himself in the slot, we know what he can do. 


The Ravens use a play action, which freezes the linebacker nearest Wallace. The safety doesn't seem to bite, but it doesn’t matter. Wallace simply splits the center of the field, which leaves the deep safety as the only man to beat. He doesn’t have much trouble. 

This play doesn’t finish in the end zone, but it is a 66-yard gain that gets the Ravens down to the 1-yard line. They punch it in on the next play. 

Wallace might have been 31 last year, but he still had his speed. He averaged 14.4 yards per catch and still was a threat to catch the deep ball. This signing works if he can still do that in 2018.