Eagles

Pederson thinks Eagles fans will have 'huge influence'

Pederson thinks Eagles fans will have 'huge influence'

There's life after Carson Wentz. 

As hard as it has been for the Eagles to move on after their starting quarterback and unquestioned leader tore his ACL under the rosy sky just before dusk about a month ago, they have. They have moved on. 

When asked about his team getting over the shock of losing Wentz, head coach Doug Pederson admitted that he hated to say it, but "the game keeps going." 

"Listen, the train's still kind of moving," Pederson explained this week. "Even though we're sick to our stomachs that these guys are not with us out there on the field, the train is still moving, and the sooner we get over that and get on to the next order of business, the better we're going to become. 

"But that's a process. That doesn't happen overnight, you know what I'm saying? It takes a little time."

When the Eagles lost Wentz, it was a punch straight to the gut. The entire organization felt it. Throughout the next week of practice, no matter how uplifting Pederson tried to be, there were understandably despondent faces slumping through the halls of the NovaCare Complex. There were some gloomy times.  

Wentz has been in the building over the last few weeks and that has undoubtedly helped with morale. He's there in the early morning for QB meetings but is gone by the afternoon when the team begins installing its offense. At that point, it's Nick Foles' team. While Foles shows deference to Wentz as much as he can, it's on him to lead the team into the playoffs as the starting quarterback. 

"We still have to go to work the next day," Pederson said. "Nick [Foles] has to get himself ready to play. I've got to coach the next day. I've got to coach the next quarterback. I've got to coach the coach. Football is not going to stop. The games are not going to stop. We have to get ready for the next week."

Loud and proud
The Eagles haven't won a playoff game at home since the wild-card round of the 2006 season. That was the year before Brent Celek, the longest tenured athlete in the city, arrived in Philadelphia. It's been a long time. 

So you can bet, even with the Eagles' coming in as an unusual top-seeded underdog, that the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field is going to be rocking on Saturday afternoon. The Eagles are banking on it. 

"We want teams to come into our stadium and to feel our fans and to feel the excitement and to feel the noise and to feel everything about Philadelphia," Pederson said. "I've been a visiting player coming into this stadium in a playoff-type atmosphere and it's tough to play because our fans are loud from the opening kickoff to the last whistle of the game.

"So this is what obviously we expect Saturday afternoon, our fans will be a huge influence on the game. You've seen it time and time again whether it be communication, delay-of-games, timeouts being taken, and it's a credit to our fans. So we're excited, number one, to be playing at home in front of those folks."

For those going to the game, the Wells Fargo M, N and P lots will open at 9:30 a.m., K lot opens at 11, and the Citizens Bank Park lots open at 1 p.m. The HeadHouse Plaza opens at 1:30 p.m., while club/suites and the inner gates open at 2:30 p.m. before the 4:35 p.m. kickoff. Have fun!

Playoff connection
It's safe to say Alshon Jeffery is over talking about his game against the Raiders on Christmas Day. Zero catches on two targets. It was arguably the worst statistical game of his six-year NFL career. 

That game has come up a lot over the last couple weeks as folks question whether or not Foles and Jeffery have enough chemistry to work well together in the playoffs. After all, it seemed to take a while for Wentz and Jeffery to get on the same page earlier in the season. 

Whenever the Raiders game comes up, Jeffery is quick to point out the Giants game before it. In that one, he caught four passes for 49 yards and a touchdown from Foles. 

"I can't compare them," Jeffery said of his budding relationship with Foles compared to his rapport with Wentz. "They're two different quarterbacks. But me and Nick had a great game against the Giants. Oakland didn't go as well, but that's part of the game. Sometimes, you'll have a good one, some days it doesn't go your way."

Saturday's game will be the first playoff game of his career. Jeffery is excited about it but said he's also remarkably relaxed. While most would probably be anxious during this long layoff, the laid-back Jeffery is just waiting patiently. 

During the last couple of weeks, Pederson had some of the Eagles with Super Bowl rings get up to talk to the group and offer advice. Jeffery said he appreciated their stories and was happy to hear them, but he doesn't need help getting motivated. 

"Just me, I'm fired up enough," he said. "You didn't have to talk to me about it." 

Quote of the Week I: "We've earned the right to sit and watch games for a week." — Chris Long 

Quote of the Week II: "We have an opportunity to win and put ourselves deep into the playoffs. We win one game, we’re in the NFC Championship at home. I don’t care who we got at quarterback, who we’ve got on offense. We’ll take those odds." — Malcolm Jenkins 

Quote of the Week III: "Basically we're getting ready for war out there. Three-game season, leave it all out on the line. That's our focus." — Jay Ajayi 

Random media guide note: Jason Kelce's three items needed on a deserted island: duct tape, lighter, fishing pole

The pick-six that 'everyone down Broad Street heard'

The pick-six that 'everyone down Broad Street heard'

Patrick Robinson was talking a little trash with some Eagles teammates before the NFC Championship, so when he came up with an interception, he sort of had to back it up.

“Two hours before the game, I was like, 'When I get a pick, I'm not going out of bounds,'" Robinson said. "When I got it, I was running down the sideline, and I was like, 'No, I definitely can't go out of bounds,' so I just cut it back upfield.”

The end result was a 50-yard return for a touchdown — a play that served to energize the Eagles, the home crowd and an entire fan base during the 38-7 win over the Vikings (see Roob's observations).

“I don't think it just pumped up the offense," Nick Foles said. "I think it pumped up the whole City of Philadelphia. I think everyone down Broad Street heard that.”

Not only did Robinson's pick-six tie the score at seven in the first quarter, it shifted the momentum in the Eagles' favor permanently.

There was an uneasy feeling over Lincoln Financial Field after the Vikings marched straight down the field on a nine-play touchdown drive. A penalty on the ensuing Eagles punt improved Minnesota's field position, while a conversion on third-and-long moved the offense close to midfield. Nothing was going right.

"We had to make a play because they drove right down and scored," Chris Long said. "If we didn't have believe in ourselves and a little toughness, you might've thought, 'Oh, man, it's gonna be a long night.' I know some people probably thought that watching on TV or whatever, but we know what we're capable of as a defense.

“On us, on defense, we had to go out and make a big play and create a turnover.”

Long did exactly that. The 32-year-old pass rusher beat the protection and reached Vikings quarterback Case Keenum mid-throw. The result was a pass that came up woefully short of its intended target — what Robinson described as "an easy pick."

Far less simple was the return. Robinson began by running down the sideline with a convoy of Eagles defenders. Then, with precious little room to maneuver and a promise not to run out of bounds, he cut all the way across to the opposite side of the field, outracing the remaining Vikings players to the pylon.

It was a runback worthy of a certain Eagles All-Pro punt returner.

“Pat, man, he was unbelievable out there," Long said. "He was like Darren Sproles with the ball.”

Robinson was happy to play the part, at one point directing fellow cornerback Ronald Darby to throw a key block that ultimately allowed him to get into the end zone.

“A lot of times you get a pick, there's always one guy that slips through the pack and gets a guy who has the ball," Robinson said. "But this time, all our guys were running hard and trying to make blocks for me.”

For a team that's leaned on home-field advantage all season long, winning nine games in their own building, you better believe that play came at a critical juncture in the contest.

"It got the crowd into it," Malcolm Jenkins said. "Defensively, that first drive, we were kind of uncharacteristic in the run game, missing tackles, just kind of leaky and unsettled. Once we got that, we evened the score back up, it was, 'OK, that was our restart.'

“The crowd is into it. Our offense got going. Defense started getting stops. That was a huge play in the game.”

Doug Pederson's 'tricks up his sleeve' keep coming

Doug Pederson's 'tricks up his sleeve' keep coming

A few hours before the Eagles played the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game Sunday night, the Jaguars doled out a free lesson about being timid in the playoffs.

The Jaguars were clinging to a 14-10 lead when they got the ball back with 55 seconds left in the second quarter, with two timeouts, on their own 25. Head coach Doug Marrone had Blake Bortles take a knee twice, happy to head into the locker room with a slight lead.

You know what eventually happened. The Patriots hung around and came back to win (see story). They'll see the Eagles in the Super Bowl (see Roob's observations).

Watching that scenario unfold, plenty of Eagles fans were probably thinking if the Eagles were in a similar situation, "Doug Pederson would never stay safe like that," and they'd be right. Because the Eagles were faced with a situation like that … and Pederson didn't play it safe.

In the first half of their 38-7 romping over the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game (see breakdown), the Eagles got the ball back with 29 seconds in the first half, when they already had a 21-7 lead. So they marched down the field to kick a 38-yard field goal.

The aggressive Pederson never let his foot off the gas (see report card).

"I just told myself before the game I was going to maintain the aggressiveness in this ballgame," Pederson said. "Listen, it was, a: you win, you keep playing. You lose, you're going home. I didn't want to go home and regret any decision."

Perhaps no play exemplified Pederson's aggressive nature more than the flea flicker early in the third quarter that yielded a 41-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith and put the Eagles up 31-7.

The Eagles had their foot on the Vikings' throats and Pederson gave the signal to step down.

"We love it," said Nick Foles, who admitted he couldn't remember ever running a flea flicker before. "I think he just has such a great feel for the game. He played quarterback and he's coached for a long time. He can feel it."

The flea flicker was a play the Eagles just started practicing and they ran it just a few times during practice this week. Pederson said they used it against the Vikings because they saw opportunities to exploit them down the field. Pederson was dead on.

Rookie Corey Clement was the running back who took the handoff and then pitched the ball back to Foles. After the game, he thanked his position coach Duce Staley for allowing him, a rookie, to be in that situation.

What was Clement thinking when the play got called in?

"S---, I'll do it," Clement said. "You just don't flinch."

After Clement tossed the ball back to Foles, the quarterback unleashed a deep pass to Smith down the sideline. Smith redeemed himself after an earlier drop and hauled it in.

"I didn't know they were going to call it," Smith said. "Coach P has some tricks up his sleeve."

Pederson has had tricks up his sleeve all season. While he hasn't necessarily run gadget plays like the one he pulled out Sunday night, he has been somewhat of a mad scientist when it comes to play-calling. Last week, offensive coordinator Frank Reich described Pederson's play-calling style as "unorthodox."

A week after putting together a gem of a game against the Falcons, Pederson seemingly coached circles around Mike Zimmer and put together a game plan that helped Foles lead his team to the Super Bowl (see story).

One thing is for sure: Pederson is aggressive. And it seems like his entire team feeds off of it.

"I think they do. I hope they do," Pederson said. "Because I've got a lot of trust in them and I think they've got a lot of trust in me that I'm going to make the right decision. It ultimately comes down to the players on the field. But I do believe they feel that. As long as I'm doing it and the decision is right by them and I'm not putting them in a bad situation, then, yeah, I think they feed off of it and start believing in that."