Eagles

Eagles' unselfishness reaches new heights with Ertz

usa-zach-ertz-eagles.jpg
USA Today Images

Eagles' unselfishness reaches new heights with Ertz

The Eagles took their unselfish nature to new levels on Sunday when teammates insisted on force-feeding Zach Ertz the football in garbage time so he could break 100 yards.

The score was 31-3 with under seven minutes to play in the fourth quarter, and several Eagles starters were already out of the game. Not Ertz. He was busy hauling in a five-yard pass from backup quarterback Nick Foles on 3rd-and-3 against a hapless Bears squad with no hope of coming back — all because it put him over the century mark.

Why was it significant to get Ertz to 100 yards? After all, he'd already reached that mark five times in his career, including a career-best 152 receiving yards last January against the Giants.

This time, it was all because Ertz became the first Eagles player to reach 100 yards receiving in 2017.

"When I was at 9-for-98, they were telling me, 'Hey you just need one more catch, just get one more catch,'" Ertz said postgame. "So we said on third down, I was going to go in there if it was a pass.

"I knew I was getting the ball. I knew it. There was no way I wasn't getting that ball, that last one. It's fun. I mean, I think it shows how close these guys are, how much we truly care about one another. Everyone is happy for the other man's success. I think that's a testament to this team."

Afterward, Eagles coach Doug Pederson tried to pour a little cold water on the idea the goal of the play was to push Ertz into triple-digits, while also admitting he was aware they were closing in on the feat.

Surely, he knew what would happen when Ertz went back into the game for that third-down call.

"We kind of knew a little bit in the second half he was getting close, but we were still just trying to finish the game," Pederson said. "It just so happened that he was able to catch that last pass from Nick and get the 100 yards."

Ertz had a team-high 10 receptions (on 12 targets) for 103 yards and a touchdown. Yet, while the numbers were seemingly important to his teammates, Ertz's concern was on a victory that improved the Eagles' record to 10-1.

"All we're focused on is winning the football game," Ertz said. "You can tell how much each and every person cares about one another when I finally had 100 and everyone else was so happy for me."

Maybe players grew tired of being asked about the absence of a 100-yard receiving performance in the midst of a nine-game winning streak. As they maintained all along, that it took until Week 12 has been a reflection of the amount of talent in this offense.

It's also a reflection of their heart, because Alshon Jeffery or even Nelson Agholor, with the season he's having, could demand the ball much more.

Instead, everybody keeps on waiting for their turn for the good of the collective.

"It just shows you how unselfish this team is, the fact that it's not all about one guy," Pederson said. "It's everybody. Everybody's making plays on offense.

"The fact that we're spreading the ball around and everybody's involved and we're still being efficient on offense is a tribute to the way these guys work and practice each week."

According to Ertz, their motivation is not difficult to understand.

"All of us have had the individual success, but none of us have really had the team success that we're all striving for," Ertz said. "Everyone is putting their egos aside and just focusing on winning."

The Eagles had 420 yards of total offense against the Bears — 176 on the ground, 244 through the air. That was with perhaps taking their foot off the gas pedal in the second half after jumping out to a 24-0 lead before heading into the locker room.

It's tough to say what's scarier — that Ertz believes this wasn't quite a "complete" offensive performance for the Eagles, or that they did this while half the locker room was feeling under the weather.

"The full team has kind of been under the weather getting back from Dallas early," Ertz said. Obviously, it's tough this time of year.

"Not everyone was healthy, I can tell you that much."

Whatever their ailments, nothing was going to dampen the Eagles' enjoyment of Ertz's chase for 100 yards and another W.

Stefen Wisniewski heads Eagles' inactives vs Giants

usa-stefen-wisniewski-eagles.jpg
USA Today Images

Stefen Wisniewski heads Eagles' inactives vs Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Eagles will be without their starting left guard Sunday afternoon against the Giants. 

Stefen Wisniewski (ankle) is officially inactive. Either Chance Warmack or Isaac Seumalo will play in his place. 

Wisniewski came into the weekend listed as questionable after he injured his ankle during the first half of last Sunday's game in Los Angeles. After Wisniewski came out against the Rams, he was replaced by  Warmack and then Seumalo. Both struggled against L.A. and Aaron Donald. 

Since joining the Eagles as a free agent, Wisniewski had played in all 29 games with the team. He earned the starting left guard job earlier this season. 

Joining Wisniewski among the Eagles' inactive players are Rasul Douglas, Wendell Smallwood, Marcus Johnson, Steven Means, Elijah Qualls and Dannell Ellerbe.  

Nick Foles will obviously get the start at quarterback and Nate Sudfeld will be the backup. This is the first time Sudfeld will be active for an NFL game. 

With Wiz out, offensive tackle Will Beatty is active for the first time as an Eagle. Douglas, the third-round rookie who played well when given a chance this season, is inactive for the first time since the season opener. 

Bryan Braman, who was brought back this week, is active and should immediately play a role on special teams. 

For the Giants, safety Landon Collins, who came into the weekend listed as doubtful, is active. 

Eagles-Giants thoughts: Intrigue surrounds Nick Foles' 1st start

Eagles-Giants thoughts: Intrigue surrounds Nick Foles' 1st start

Eagles-Giants
1 p.m. on FOX
Eagles -8

A game that until recently looked like a speedbump on the Eagles’ path to the playoffs has all of a sudden become a matchup of intrigue and mystery.

NFC East rivalry or not, the 11-2 Eagles were expected to dispatch the 2-11 Giants with relative ease, and still very well may. However, the season’s second meeting between the two teams has taken on a decidedly different feel now that it will feature Nick Foles under center for the Birds.

It’s become appointment viewing for an Eagles fan base collectively holding its breath, hoping to catch a glimpse into whether Foles possesses the ability to lead the team deep into the postseason.

Foles has made 36 career NFL starts – seven more than the quarterback he replaces, Carson Wentz – and has appeared in 46 games total, most of that with the Eagles. Nonetheless, the sixth-year veteran is viewed as something of an unknown entity. Foles was productive for several seasons, even historically prolific, but also lost a pair of starting jobs, nearly playing himself out of the league along the way.

Now in his second stint with the Eagles, the question is which version of Foles are the Eagles getting this time around, and can they still reach the Super Bowl with a new signal caller? We will begin to get some answers Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.

In a position to succeed
Regardless of whether Foles is up to the challenge, it wouldn’t hurt the Eagles’ chances if they were able to finish what they started and earn the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. That could actually happen as early as Sunday.

A win over the Giants and a Vikings loss to the Bengals would be enough to clinch a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Even if the Vikings don’t lose this week, the Eagles can secure the top seed in the conference with any two wins over the Giants, Raiders or Cowboys over the final three games. Of the three remaining opponents, only the Cowboys are currently above .500 at 7-6.

In other words, Foles shouldn’t have to do much heavy lifting until the postseason, while the Eagles can make his job a little easier in January if they take care of business down the stretch.

With a little help from his friends
Foles has been under the microscope all week, and the backup quarterback has been examined from just about every angle. There’s nothing much more to say about the Eagles from the offense’s standpoint, at least until we’ve seen it action.

The group that’s flying under the radar in the aftermath of the injury to Wentz is the defense. Even the unit’s role in last week’s 43-35 win over the Rams has been overlooked to a degree, despite coming up huge in the fourth quarter.

After allowing the Rams to go up and down the field for the better part of the contest, the Eagles made two pivotal stops after Wentz’s exit. A Chris Long strip sack set up the game-winning field goal and that was followed by a quick three-and-out that allowed Foles and the offense to milk nearly the entire final two minutes of regulation.

That was against the No. 2 scoring offense in the NFL, and though the Eagles did surrender 35 points, the defense stepped up when it mattered.

Wentz might be out, but the Eagles’ defense still ranks first against the run, 13th against the pass, fourth in total yards, fifth in scoring and is tied for third in takeaways entering the week. This isn’t all on Foles and the offense. They are more than capable of limiting or completely shutting down an opponent.

Coming up short?
The one area of the offense that might be worth keeping an eye out moving forward is on third downs. The Eagles are third in the NFL with a 45.3 percent conversion rate, and Wentz just seemed to have a knack for making something happen even during third-and-long situations, often keeping the play alive or simply making a clutch throw.

Foles did find Nelson Agholor for a huge third-down conversion against the Rams, but Wentz has been uncanny in those situations. Foles is far less likely to extend a play with his feet, and he’s far more willing to make a safe throw to a checkdown receiver and live with a punt.

Perhaps more than anything else this season, that ability to keep drives alive was what made Wentz so dangerous and so difficult to defend. When it seemed the Eagles’ backs were against the wall, he’d throw a strike, or run around and find somebody or pick up the first down himself.

No matter what happens, the offense won’t be the same without Wentz. The guy is special. But on third down in particular, there was a feeling no distance was too far, and a conversion was inevitable – and on occasion, it would break the will of opposing defenses.

The Eagles better get used to the idea of running on first and second down to create manageable thirds, punting when it’s not there and playing defense. Foles will do fine, but he’s not quite an unstoppable force, unlike Wentz.