Eagles

Eagles survive 'worst' start to a game Lane Johnson's ever seen

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Eagles survive 'worst' start to a game Lane Johnson's ever seen

The Eagles wound up beating the Redskins in convincing fashion on Monday night, but for the first 27 minutes, the mood at Lincoln Financial Field was tense.

"We started off horrible," Eagles tight end Zach Ertz said postgame. "Everything hit the fan at the beginning of the game, that first drive."

The opening possession felt like a bad omen. Already trailing Washington 3-0, the offense managed to draw four penalties before it could even run four plays. The Eagles had backed themselves into 2nd-and-31 from their own 4-yard line when quarterback Carson Wentz capped off the series with an interception.

The offense proceeded to look sluggish on its first four drives. Wentz completed 2 of 7 passes for 24 yards with two sacks and the pick, and the Eagles were down 10-3.

Then Wentz hit rookie wide receiver Mack Hollins with a 64-yard bomb, and suddenly, the Eagles were in business.

"Mack Hollins, the guy comes in off the bench, has a 60-yard touchdown pass," Ertz said. "The guy's going to be a really good football player."

The touchdown to Hollins with 3:19 remaining in the first half set off a chain reaction. The Eagles' defense forced a quick three-and-out, and Wentz was able to lead the offense back down the field on a six-play, 70-yard scoring drive.

Ertz reeled in the four-yard touchdown, and in a matter of three minutes, the entire complexion of the game was permanently changed.

"We had some momentum going, and they completed the big one down our right sideline there," said Redskins coach Jay Gruden. "That was a big play.

"You feel like you're going to go into halftime in good shape, but then they had the two scores and they're up by seven going into the half, so that was a big turnaround for them."

But the big turnaround actually started before the touchdown to Hollins — and it began on the other side of the ball.

At one point in the second quarter, it felt as though Washington was on the verge of taking a commanding lead. Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins made a pivotal stop on a 3rd-and-1 pass to Jordan Reed, tackling the tight end short of the sticks and getting the ball back to his offense.

Earlier in the game, rookie defensive end Derek Barnett shut down another Redskins drive around midfield with a sack on 3rd-and-8. Washington ended the first half with 195 yards of total offense but only 10 points.

The ability of the Eagles' defense to limit the damage afforded Wentz the opportunity to snap out of his funk.

"They started out pretty hot," Jenkins said of Washington's offense. "They came out swinging, but the game was 3-0.

"Our offense got going, started making some big plays and took care of the football. Defensively, we got some stops, the momentum kind of swayed to us, and we never gave it back. We answered every shot that they gave us."

The decision by Eagles coach Doug Pederson to go uptempo on the Hollins scoring drive proved to be a shrewd move as well. Up to that point, the entire offense had managed 35 total yards.

"It was just a way of finding that rhythm, which is something we've done the first couple months of the season," Pederson said.

"I think it's good to get the big guys rolling a little bit. Some of the quick throws, Carson — the ball is out of his hand, and we can run the hurry-up. We kind of were misfiring a little bit up to that point, and that got us on track."

The Eagles never looked back. They would find the end zone again to open the third quarter and go ahead 24-10, and the outcome was never in serious jeopardy after.

"It definitely gave us momentum," Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham said of the scoring outburst. "Momentum coming into halftime, and momentum coming out of halftime to go back out there and score again.

"We knew that the Redskins' offense had pretty much given us their best shot that first half. They were pulling out all kind of different plays that we haven't seen, scheme-wise. We just came back in at halftime and got ready. We knew they were going to try to run some of the same, similar stuff and we were ready for it."

It was just the latest example of the character of this Eagles squad. Nobody panicked. Nobody was worried. Players and coaches stepped up and worked together to snap out of the slumber.

That's the kind of resiliency the Eagles have shown all season, which is why even during those tense opening series, it never truly felt like the game was in danger of getting away from them.

"It was early in the game, so we were just going to stick to our guns and stick to the game plan and be patient with the run game, and we felt like things would click," Pederson said. "It's just again the trust and the guys knowing everything was going to be fine.

"They did it again tonight. Offensively, they'd come off the field and (say), 'We're okay, we got it. We'll just make a couple adjustments and go back out.'"

Given the way the game started — with four penalties in three plays — at the very least, the Eagles showed they don't believe in omens.

"It's probably the worst way to start a game that I've ever seen," Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson said. "It just seemed like flags were everywhere.

"We weathered the storm. It wasn't pretty, but that's what good teams do."

Doug Pederson's preseason comparison doesn't look so ridiculous now

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Doug Pederson's preseason comparison doesn't look so ridiculous now

When Doug Pederson said back in July that the 2017 Eagles "probably have more talent" than the Super Bowl Packers teams of the 1990s that Pederson played on, more than a few eyebrows were raised.

Millions of eyebrows maybe.
 
The Eagles? Who hadn't won a playoff game since 2008 and were coming off a 7-9 record in Pederson's first season?
 
More talented than a team that went to the playoffs virtually every year from the early 1990s through the mid-2000s behind Hall of Famers Brett Favre and Reggie White and reached back-to-back Super Bowls in 1996 and 1997, winning one?
 
"I look back on my time in Green Bay as a player when we were making those playoff runs, those Super Bowl runs there," Pederson said on July 17.
 
"And do we have as much talent on this team than we did then? We probably have more talent, right?"
 
Seriously, Doug?
 
Six months later, Pederson's comments — which seemed so ridiculous at the time — don't seem so ridiculous, do they?
 
Because here are those 2017 Eagles, sitting 13-3 with a playoff win over the Falcons in the books and a berth Sunday in the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings despite a rash of injuries to some of their best players.
 
The Eagles haven't lost a game with postseason implications since Carson Wentz was lost for the season, and they're one home win from reaching their third Super Bowl.
 
Pederson, who had two stints backing up Brett Favre with the Packers — from 1996 through 1998 and 2001 through 2004 — was reminded of his comments Friday before practice.
 
"I don't have a crystal ball, obviously, and it's hard to predict," he said. "You'd love to sit here and go, 'Yeah, in the summer, (I thought we were) going to be 13-3 and win the NFC East.' You'd love to be in that situation, or 16-0, or whatever it might be.
 
"I did have a feeling back then when I made that statement that we could be, we had the potential to be a good football team because of the way we've practiced and the talent that we brought to the roster and the progression of Carson in his second year.
 
"And then defensively, the front, the way they performed, and the back end, I saw a lot of the same similarities. So you just have that gut feeling when I made that statement."
 
Back in July, when Pederson made those comments comparing the Eagles to the Packers, he tempered them by saying talent isn't always enough. It takes much more for a team to have success.
 
"I (said) it takes great coaching, teaching, mentoring to also have our guys prepared each week to be in this position," Pederson said. "So all of that has kind of culminated. I think you look back on it and you go, 'Wow, maybe it was a true type of thing.'
 
"But we just keep doing our jobs, keep doing what we've been coached to do. Players play what they can do and what's in their control, and we're here today."

Only 1 Eagle questionable for Sunday

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Only 1 Eagle questionable for Sunday

Veteran linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) is the only Eagles player listed as questionable for this week's game. Everyone else on the 53-man roster is expected to be available. 

Ellerbe, 32, missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday and Friday. 

The Eagles' starting MIKE linebacker was also listed as questionable last week and was able to play, so expect him to be good to go. After all, this is the NFC Championship Game. There's no resting for anything else. 

In Minnesota, wide receiver Adam Thielen (lower back) and safety Andrew Sendejo (concussion) are both listed as questionable. 

Thielen, the Vikings' top receiver, missed Wednesday's practice and was limited on Thursday and Friday. Just like Ellerbe, there's no saving him for next week. 

Sendejo was limited on Wednesday and Thursday, was a full participant on Friday, but is still technically in the NFL's concussion protocol. He'll need to clear that before he's able to play, but Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said he's optimistic Sendejo will be able to play. 

Meanwhile, third defensive tackle, Shamar Stephen (knee/ankle), missed practice all week and has been ruled out. While Stephen isn't a starter, he played just under 40 percent of the Vikings' snaps this season, so missing him is still a loss.

After practicing indoors on Wednesday and Thursday, the Eagles loaded up on buses and spent their Friday practice outside at Lincoln Financial Field. Head coach Doug Pederson likes to get his guys outside for at least one day per week. 

The Eagles will have a walkthrough on Saturday before they'll be back at the Linc for Sunday's 6:40 p.m. kickoff in the NFC Championship Game.