Eagles

Eagles experience the best possible Sunday off in Week 6

Eagles experience the best possible Sunday off in Week 6

This was a very beneficial weekend for the Birds. 

While the Eagles' players and coaches enjoyed some well-earned rest, Week 6 was one of the stranger NFL cards we've seen in while and a lot of the wackiness aided the guys in midnight green.  

Let's start with the biggest news to come out of this weekend: Aaron Rodgers broke his right collarbone in the Packers' loss to the Vikings. It goes without saying that you never want to see anyone get injured, but this is especially the case with one of the all-time greats. The league is better with Rodgers playing, plain and simple. But from a practical standpoint, his loss affects the Eagles and their NFC conference chances greatly. With Rodgers' weekly magic acts now disappearing, Green Bay becomes just another team, at best.

Staying in the conference, the Redskins squeaked by a winless 49ers team at home. Granted, San Fran plays everyone tight. The Niners are the first team in NFL history to lose five straight games by three points or less. Washington barely escaped against a C.J. Beathard-led team. Kirk Cousins tried mightily to give the game away. Not the kind of performance you build off as you head to take on an Eagles that already beat you, on Monday night.

The defending NFC champs, the Falcons, lost a game at home Sunday to the Dolphins that they led 17-0 at the half. Atlanta is now 3-2 overall and 1-2 at home. Can you say Super Bowl hangover? 

The Buccaneers, another team thought by some to be a contender in the NFC, lost to the same Cardinals team the Eagles smoked in Week 5.

The Cowboys had a bye week, but the specter of Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension and how negatively that will impact them continues to loom. Dallas has as many losses through five games as it had all of last season. And not having Elliott to lean on to chew clock and keep the other team's offense off the field will expose their defense. 

The Birds own the best record in the NFC at 5-1, and now with Kansas City's loss to the Steelers, there are no longer any undefeated teams in the NFL. Granted, this is an "any given Sunday" type of league, as witnessed by underdogs' 10-2 record against the spread this weekend. 

You don't want to get too crazy just six games in, but it's hard to not feel optimistic about the way things are set up for the Eagles (see Super Bowl odds). They've been able to overcome injuries, mostly on the defensive side, and while teams like Green Bay and the Giants have suffered catastrophic casualties, the Eagles have not. In fact, they appear to be getting some serious firepower back, like Lane Johnson and Ronald Darby.

It's not false hope or viewing things through green-colored glasses to think the Eagles are one of the better teams in the league. They are. Do they need the requisite breaks like staying healthy to win a playoff game for the first time since 2008? Yes. But that applies to every team. The Birds are strong in the trenches on both sides. Their run defense makes opposing teams one-dimensional, and they have a budding star quarterback who gets better every week. 

It was indeed a nice Sunday off.

Torrey Smith totally redeems himself

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AP Images

Torrey Smith totally redeems himself

After an all-too-familiar drop, Torrey Smith assured Nick Foles he would redeem himself. What followed was one of the most memorable catches in Eagles history: a 41-yard flea flicker in an NFC Championship Game.

Smith struggled with dropped passes all season long and never really materialized as the consistent deep threat the Eagles hoped for. But the seventh-year veteran knew they had the Vikings' number and plead with Foles to keep taking shots down the field.

Finally, Smith reeled in the long touchdown that felt like the dagger in the Eagles' 38-7 victory.

"We were talking about it all week, and we knew we were going to hit on one," Smith said postgame. "Just don't do anything differently, and I knew he was going to come back at some point."

Despite the trickery at the line of scrimmage, there was a high degree of difficulty involved with the catch. With All-Pro Vikings safety Harrison Smith in hot pursuit, Smith cradled the pass over his right shoulder as it came plummeting back to earth, got two feet inbounds and maintained control of the football while being tackled to the ground.

No matter. Smith wasn't about to let that one fall incomplete.

"I thought it I was inbounds, but I knew it was pretty close," Smith said. "Probably should've dragged my foot, but the ball kind of disappears a little bit when you catch it at that angle, and I wanted to catch it first."

Smith failed to haul in a potential 50-yard gain on the Eagles' first possession. The ball was slightly underthrown by Foles, allowing Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes to get back into the play and break up the pass.

Still, the ball was in Smith's hands, and he took full responsibility, going so far as to approach Foles on the sideline after the Eagles' drive ended in a punt.

"I had it," Smith said. "I should've caught it.

"I just told him, 'Don't do anything different.' I don't want him to think that it's his fault. That's my fault. That's a play I can make. I knew it was going to be contested when I slowed up a little bit, but that's a play I can make and I should make."

The opportunity for redemption came in the third quarter. Already leading the Vikings 24-7, Eagles coach Doug Pederson decided to go straight for the jugular after halftime, capping off an eight-play, 75-yard drive with the flea flicker.

Smith sold the call brilliantly, running at half speed to fool Waynes into thinking the ball was going elsewhere, only to take off and leave the defensive back in his dust.

"I knew that I had to get far enough down the field that he thinks I'm releasing like a pass, but then get my eyes back like lazy receivers do sometimes," Smith said. "We all do it, where you're like kind of looking to see where the ball is going.

"He looked, and I took off."

With the cornerback out of the play, the safety help was a little too late to break up a perfectly delivered pass from Foles.

"I don't know if I've ever run a flea flicker," Foles said. "It was my first time so I just tried not to smile. Any time you're a quarterback and you can have a play like that, it's pretty exciting."

Smith has taken his share of criticism throughout the season, finishing sixth in the NFL out of 94 qualifying receivers in drop rate, according to Pro Football Focus. Prior to Sunday, he caught just two passes of 40 yards or more all season long.

Yet neither Foles nor Pederson lost confidence in Smith and were comfortable going to the veteran wideout when it was time to drive the final nail in the Vikings' coffin.

"Nick did a great job of stepping up and sliding right, and then what a finish," Pederson said. "What a catch by Torrey, and right in the front corner of the end zone."

Just how injured is Tom Brady's throwing hand?

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USA Today Images

Just how injured is Tom Brady's throwing hand?

Tom Brady's hand injury didn't end up costing the Patriots the AFC title game. But the Patriots quarterback wasn't always so sure that would be the case.

On WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show, Brady went into some detail as to what he was thinking when the injury occurred, how it happened, and how his bit of bad luck was followed by some good fortune. 

"We ran into each other, and my thumb just got bent back," Brady said. "It wasn't his helmet or anything. It just kind of got bent back, and that's why I thought it was a lot worse. The doctors checked it out and we did the things just to kind of check on everything. Fortunately there wasn't the damage that normally comes associated with that. I think we were very lucky."

Brady said once again, as he did Sunday night, that he hopes to have the stitches in his hand removed this week. Once that happens, Brady indicated that the hope was his hand would essentially be back to normal at that point.

"Because I was fortunate not to tear any ligaments or anything like that, there was no broken bones, that was obviously the best news I could ever hear based on what you thought it could be," he said. "It ended up being a lot of good luck after, I'd say, a pretty unlucky injury. It turned out to be a lot good luck it wasn't more serious than it was."