Eagles

With game on the line, Corey Graham makes play for struggling Eagles D

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With game on the line, Corey Graham makes play for struggling Eagles D

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Eagles were one bad play away from a loss. One bad play away from blowing a huge opportunity. One bad play away from making their road a little harder. 

Corey Graham didn't let it happen. 

Late in the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium, the Eagles were clinging to the eventual final score of 34-29, but the Giants had a chance to go up. 

With just 48 seconds left on the clock, Eli Manning and the Giants had 4th-and-goal from the 11-yard line. One play to decide the game. Manning dropped back and targeted one of his favorite receivers, rookie tight end Evan Engram. 

For some strange reason, Graham didn't get credit for a pass defensed on the play, but he successfully defended the pass. And it fell incomplete as the Giants' last-ditch effort failed. 

"It was a situation, the game's on the line," Graham said. "They're going to go to one of their best guys at the time. I knew that there was a good chance they were going to go to my guy. I had to be outside leverage on that play. I just played with good position, with outside leverage and just make sure you're looking back for the ball so you don't get that penalty on you. You just gotta play the ball."

Graham, the 32-year-old safety who signed with the Eagles in August, said the defense was in zone coverage, but Engram was his responsibility 1-on-1. 

After the pass fell incomplete, several Giants were upset there wasn't a defensive pass interference penalty called. Receiver Sterling Shepard was so upset, he ripped his helmet off and began to argue with the official. His passion was rewarded with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. 

"Got it in the end zone and there was some contact being made," Eli Manning said. "I don't know, it's tough to know if it's interference, if it's the call or not. You kind of just put it up high and give him a chance to make the play and we didn't make it." 

Giants interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo said he wasn't given an explanation on why a flag wasn't thrown and wanted to watch the play again before giving his opinion. 

"I wasn't really too worried about it, because I'm looking back playing the ball," Graham said. "When it's all said and done, when you're looking back playing the ball, they ain't gonna call that. It ain't pass interference unless you're hitting the guy and you're not looking. But if you're looking at the ball, it's 50-50."

The Graham play was a good way for the Eagles to finish what was an otherwise bad defensive performance. The Eagles gave up 504 yards, the most in 30 games under Jim Schwartz (see story)

But on that fourth-quarter drive, when they looked like they were about to blow the game, they finally got a huge stop. 

"It's football. You live for those kinds of moments," Jalen Mills said. "Those crunch-time football plays. You live for those types of moments. So you just have to get locked in and play your type of football."

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."