Eagles

Eagles' offense worried? Lane Johnson contradicts himself

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Eagles' offense worried? Lane Johnson contradicts himself

Some are looking at the Eagles' shaky 19-10 win over the Raiders on Monday as a sign of trouble on the horizon with the playoffs fast approaching. Lane Johnson, on the other hand, might tell those people they should be grateful for what they were given on Christmas Day.

"If we win, we win," Johnson said from the Eagles' locker room postgame. "It's just at a point though where we're winning the game, nobody's satisfied anymore.

"We won the game. That's all that matters."

That may be, but could you imagine Johnson saying something similar when the Eagles were deep into their nine-game winning streak earlier this season?

Probably not, because it wasn't happening.

To be fair, Johnson wasn't trying to make the case the Eagles performed up to expectations against the Raiders. Quite the contrary. The Pro Bowl right tackle understands that the offensive performance probably wouldn't be enough to beat most teams in the postseason.

The Eagles mustered 216 yards of total offense and found the end zone only once while turning the ball over twice in the victory.

"We're not proud," Johnson said. "We didn't play well. We didn't execute well. Even though we won, we're still not happy with how we did. Moving forward in the playoffs, we have a lot of stuff to fix."

At the same time, Johnson didn't seem to think there's a whole lot of validity to questions of whether the Eagles are regressing.

"If we don't win in a certain fashion, there's going to be, 'Hey, we're not good enough,'" Johnson said. "I've been hearing it my whole career. It's so ridiculous.

"Moving forward, we have to drown out distractions and try to win one game at a time, because it's really hard."

The win on Monday moved the Eagles' record to 13-2 and clinched the top playoff seed in the NFC. It was also their third consecutive W.

It was also the third straight in which the Eagles played poorly in at least one phase and the third that required late-game heroics to secure the outcome. And not coincidentally, it was the third game the team finished without starting quarterback Carson Wentz.

There's good reason for the increasing concern outside the Eagles' locker room.

Johnson's comments also seem to indicate a shift in his own philosophy from earlier this season.

The fifth-year veteran compared the offense's performance versus the Raiders to how the unit fared in the Eagles' 33-10 win over the 49ers back in October. Yet, the difference in Johnson's sentiment less than two months later following a similar result is startling.

"I feel like a loss right now," Johnson said immediately after the 49ers game. "Just the way that we performed in the first half is not the way that we wanted to execute."

For the most part, Eagles players are continuing to say the right things — although some might be feeling additional pressure since Wentz went down.

Last week, Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby aimed a Twitter rant at his critics after a poor performance by the secondary in a win over the Giants. And safety Malcolm Jenkins, while attempting to rationalize Darby's outburst, may have inadvertently slipped in a little commentary about the atmosphere surrounding the franchise.

"We understand that we play in Philly, so we're looking for every reason to create a panic," Jenkins said Monday.

Can't think of any legitimate reason why the fans would panic about every mistake right now, big or small.

Johnson and his teammates are correct that the important thing is the Eagles ultimately defeated the Raiders. It would also be accurate to say many of the recent issues are correctable, and the squad could be firing on all cylinders come January.

But it feels like the mood has changed as the Eagles begin to realize their margin for error has been dramatically reduced. All of a sudden, a win that might've felt like a loss in October has become one everybody should be happy about in December.

So if nobody seems satisfied by a narrow victory over an opponent flying across the country to play on Christmas Day having just been eliminated from playoff contention, that's at least partly a result of the mindset Johnson and the Eagles instilled all season long — up until now.

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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USA Today Images

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."