Eagles

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Doug Pederson talks Carson Wentz's end zone dive

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Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Doug Pederson talks Carson Wentz's end zone dive

Everyone in the city of Philadelphia held their breath in the second quarter Thursday when Carson Wentz scrambled near the goal line and tried diving into the end zone throwing shoulder first.

Hearts were in throats all across the Delaware Valley as Wentz took on Panthers safety Mike Adams, even though the 6-foot-5, 237-pound Wentz has the size advantage on the 5-foot-11, 205-pound Adams. That's a golden arm at stake.

He was stopped short and threw a touchdown pass on the next play to tie the game 10-10. More importantly, he wasn't injured.

"Well, at the time, I thought he was going to score, quite honestly," Pederson said. "You don't really want your starting quarterback to lead with your throwing shoulder, but I understand, too, the situation, and him trying to get in the end zone. There was a lane at the time, but in this league, everything closed fast. Could he have gone lower? Sure. But at the same time, I think he just saw the end zone and was trying to get in."

Pederson, when asked, said plays like that and when he stands in and delivers the ball with a blitz coming at him, resonate with teammates. They appreciate his toughness and will to win.

Lazy Sunday
As you watch football games from your living room this weekend, know the Eagles are probably doing the same thing.

After Thursday night's huge win over Carolina and with their next game not until next Monday night, the Eagles are in what's almost like a little bye week.

Doug Pederson gave his players and coaches the entire weekend off. While the injured players stuck around this weekend to get treatment, the others were free to go and do whatever they want.

Pederson said he wanted them to get away and "think about the first six weeks." Those are going to be some happy thoughts. The Eagles are 5-1 and look like the best team in the NFC.

The Eagles were going to start looking at film of Washington Friday night, but they weren't planning on taking a deep dive into the division opponent until after Sunday.

Players will start reporting back to the NovaCare Complex on Monday and the team will have a light 10/10/10 practice Tuesday. The real week of practice doesn't begin until Thursday, which will be like a normal Wednesday. With the Monday Night Football game, the Eagles just push everything back one day.

"We've got three really good, exciting games coming up before our official bye [week], all at home," Pederson said. "So it will be an exciting week. Looking forward to it."

Barnett gets his first sack
Sort of.

Derek Barnett was able to hold onto Cam Newton's leg for dear life in the fourth quarter before Justin Hamilton came and took Newton down. The seven-yard sack was split between the two players, neither of whom had an NFL sack coming into the game.

"Cam's a big dude," Barnett said. "He was trying to get out. And he almost did."

Barnett hasn't been producing the way fans probably hoped for his rookie season. The all-time sack leader at the University of Tennessee and the 14th overall pick has gotten close but didn't get one until Thursday.

Does he think this first half sack will open up the floodgates?

"I mean, I feel good rushing the last few weeks," Barnett said. "I just have to keep being critical of myself. My coaches and teammates have to be critical of me, too. It's just getting more reps and stuff and everything will slow down for me. But I feel confident rushing and stuff. I just have to become smarter and when I get at the top of my rushes, learn what to do and what not to do. I just have to keep grinding. The best thing about coming to work is that everybody is pushing each other. It's fun coming into work and getting better."

In the locker room after the win, plenty of his teammates were ribbing Barnett about his first sack. He couldn't help but smile when he heard some of it. Hopefully, for the Eagles, there will be plenty more sacks to come for him.

A numbers game
The Eagles are 5-1. That means they have a really good shot of making the playoffs, but nothing is a done deal.

Before this season, there have been 225 teams in NFL history to win five of their first six games. Of them, 173 have made the playoffs. That means there's a 76.9 percent success rate. Those are pretty good odds. But you'll remember, the 2014 Eagles started the season 5-1 and failed to make it into the playoffs.

Pederson now has to make sure his players don't think they've accomplished everything yet.

"It's tough. It's a fine line because the players are — they're going to read and they're going to listen to all the media outlets on TV and stuff and just hear how people are talking about them and saying how good and how great they are," he said. "But [we have] to keep it real, too. That comes from me. Yeah, we're winning these games, but there is a lot to fix, a lot to correct as well. It's never perfect. [The] bottom line [is] we do want to win the game, but at the same time, I've got to keep them focused and grounded on — even some of the situational stuff still.

"We've got to eliminate the big play on defense. We've got to get better in the red zone on offense, and just keep working in those areas. We weren't as good on third down last night, so we've got to keep working that area. So just keeping them focused and detailed on those specific areas."

Best quotes from after Thursday's game
"It was tough. Maybe Carolina had a little bit of help tonight, them being at home. But we were able to overcome it; that was the most important part." — Rodney McLeod

"He was like, 'Man, I don't know who you is, but you a beast. And I'm like, 'You don't know who I am? You must not know football. But you know me today.'" — Nigel Bradham on his interaction with a Panthers player

"S---, it felt good. It felt like he's back to his normal self. Dominating, doing what he do." — Tim Jernigan on getting Fletcher Cox back

Random media guide note: Halapoulivaati Vaitai says the strangest thing he likes to eat is octopus.

Lane Johnson using underdog status to raise money for Philly schools

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Lane Johnson using underdog status to raise money for Philly schools

How do you turn being a home underdog into a good thing? Use it as motivation to win a football game.

How do you turn being a home underdog into a great thing? Raise money for Philadelphia schools and win football games. That’s what Lane Johnson is doing.

After the nation doubted the Eagles against the Falcons, Johnson and Chris Long donned dog masks after divisional round win, embracing the role of underdogs. Now, Johnson has his own T-shirt and is raising money. A lot of it, too.

Shirts can be purchased at lj65.shop for just $18 and Johnson tweeted that more than 3,000 have already been sold.

Hopefully, the home dogs continue to eat this weekend against the Vikings.

Game-winning stand just another play for Eagles' defense

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Game-winning stand just another play for Eagles' defense

There were no special instructions. No extraordinary measures taken. Not much was said. Not much needed to be said.

The game was on the line. The season was on the line. For the Eagles' defense, it was just another play. The stakes were just incredibly high.

It was 4th-and-goal for the Falcons at the Eagles' 2-yard-line in the final seconds Saturday.

Give up a touchdown, and the season's over. Stop the Falcons and you're one game closer to the Super Bowl.

"Our guys, we don't do a whole lot," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "Our guys know what to do, and they have downloaded that software enough that it's a little bit automatic for them.

"We also didn't change. We don't surprise the players. What we practiced in our red-zone period is what we played."

The Falcons had already driven from their own 24-yard-line down to the 2-yard-line.

Their quarterback, Matt Ryan, has the fourth-highest passer rating in NFL postseason history, behind Jeff Hostetler and Hall of Famers Kurt Warner and Bart Starr.

That's what the Eagles' defense was up against.

"At that point, you sort of have to trust the players and the players have to trust the scheme," Schwartz said. "I think you saw a combination of both of those. We didn't feel the need to blitz. Played coverage, played good technique."

The clock showed 1:05.

Ryan’s two favorite receivers, Julio Jones and Mohamad Sanu, both lined up on the right side of the formation, Jones outside with Jalen Mills on him and Sanu in the slot with Malcolm Jenkins covering him in a battle of North Jersey natives.

Ryan took the shotgun snap from center Alex Mack at the 7-yard-line and immediately rolled to his right, retreating to the 10 as he neared the sideline.

Nigel Bradham, lined up as the left linebacker, trampled blocking tight end Levine Tollolo, who had his hands full with Brandon Graham, and ran around guard Wes Schweitzer, giving him an angle on Ryan. 

Meanwhile, Vinny Curry, after getting cut blocked to the ground by Falcons running back Tevin Coleman, quickly bounced back up and began pursuing from Ryan’s left. 

Ryan pumped once toward Sanu, who was covered by Jenkins. He quickly looked left but saw only Curry closing in. Thanks to the pressure, he had to quickly backpedal back to the 14-yard-line and finally was forced to unload that lob toward Jones at the right sideline in the end zone.

At that point, it was up to Mills, who had Jones blanketed, and the rest is history.

The ball went through Jones’ hands, his feet came down out of bounds anyway, and after an agonizing moment looking for flags, the play was over.

"A lot gets made of what Jalen did, rightfully so," Schwartz said. "You're talking about a Pro Bowl, All-Pro receiver, 1-on-1. But Malcolm playing the seven route to Sanu and Rodney (McLeod’s) ability to help him leverage that, that was because he's looking for Julio Jones first.

"Julio slips, he's looking for Sanu, nowhere to go and now he has to re-rack that thing and by then, Nigel is closing down on him and everything else.

"If Malcolm doesn't get that route that he covered, if he doesn't get that covered, nobody's talking about Jalen Mills right now."

Mills was physical with Jones but not physical enough to draw a flag. Schwartz said Mills has made huge strides this year with his technique, and on the biggest play of his life, his technique was perfect.

"It's one thing to have confidence, but that's just not the sole requirement for the position," Schwartz said.

"There's a lot of technique that goes along with playing, and I think if you look at that last play, he did a great job of staying square. Meaning his shoulders were perpendicular to the line of scrimmage.

"What the receiver there is trying to do is get you turned so he can come back for the ball. He could never get Jalen turned."

Mills is 23 years old, a second-year pro, a former seventh-round pick, a first-year starter.

To think that he made one of the most historic plays in Eagles postseason history is remarkable.

"I think every player makes a big jump from year one to year two, as far as knowledge of scheme and knowledge of opponents and things like that," Schwartz said.

"(Defensive backs coach Cory) Undlin and Jalen have worked really hard. He's haunted the hallways quite a bit, even on off days this year, just trying to improve his technique. It hasn't been by chance that his technique has gotten better. It's a lot of hard work that's gone into it from a coaching standpoint and from a player's standpoint."

The bottom line is that this defense has played tremendous football all year.

And with the season on the line, everybody simply went out and did their job. Nothing more, nothing less.

"I just think a part of our success is our guys just understand what's asked of them in the schemes," Schwartz said.

"They communicate well. We don't make a lot of mistakes, mental mistakes, and I think that makes it hard to drive the ball on us.

"When you get into those situations where is it's closed quarters and you don't have to defend deep balls, our guys have a good understanding of what opponents are going to do. I was proud of them on that play."