Eagles

Rob's Rants: Endless Ezekiel Elliott saga, crybaby James Harden

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Rob's Rants: Endless Ezekiel Elliott saga, crybaby James Harden

Let's see, the Eagles hold the best record in the NFL at 7-1 and Howie Roseman is not standing pat in his search to upgrade the talent on the roster.

The Sixers just avenged a bad home loss last week to the Rockets, and Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid appear to be the one-two punch this town's been in search of for ages.

So there's much to be happy about on this Halloween in Philadelphia. But not every trick or treater's bag in the sporting world is filled with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Hershey's Kisses. There's plenty of Raisinets and Almond Joys being handed out. With that, time for another edition of Rob's Rants.

In or out?
I am so sick of this of this "is he or isn't he" saga when it comes to Ezekiel Elliott's suspension. We lived this once with Tom Brady and that was enough. The difference this time through this lens is Elliott's status much more directly affects the Eagles and the conference they play in.

It seems every five minutes, he's suspended or unsuspended (see latest update). Short of holding a law degree, how can anyone keep up with this? I get he has a legal right to appeal but fans of the sport don't want to hear about preliminary injunctions or emergency appeals. It's a turn-off. They want to know if he's playing or not. The Eagles travel to Dallas out of the bye (Nov. 19) then host the Cowboys on Dec. 31 to close out the season. No one, not the Cowboys, the Eagles or Roger Goodell knows if he'll play in both, miss one, play this week vs. the Chiefs, or what. The entire situation is a joke. Until he's on the inactive list Sunday, I'll assume Elliott's playing the rest of the season.

No-show
How do you come off beating the NHL's highest-scoring team on the road in Toronto on Saturday, one that entered the game with a 7-3 record, only to lose to a previously winless Arizona team two days later? At home, no less. Inexcusable. The Flyers sleepwalked through the first two-plus periods and had to put on a mad charge just to tie it up in regulation, only to lose in overtime. The Coyotes ranked last in goals against and penalty kill and 25th in goals per game. The Flyers had three shots in the first period. None by a forward. This is not the Penguins we're talking about here.

Cry me a river
The NBA has its share of cry babies. Players who think they should get every call. Dwyane Wade comes to mind, as does DeMarcus Cousins. But they are all playing for second place when it comes to the waterworks — James Harden is the MVP when it comes to whining and complaining.

TV does not do his moaning justice. You need to see him in person, initiate contact every time and get most of the calls by the way. But when he doesn't, he cries like a hungry baby with a dirty diaper. It's relentless. Watching him up-close and personal last week against the Sixers was to watch petulance personified. He's a great player and I truly appreciate his "old man" game but his act is tired. It's no wonder he's not a good defender, he rarely gets back on defense because he's complaining to the ref on the other end.

Happy anniversary
We close this one out on a non-rant. It was nine years ago today on a beautiful, warm, perfect day in Philadelphia when the Phillies held their championship parade. The day was a culmination of an incredible season and chance for this city to celebrate a title in a major sport for the first time in 25 years. The coolest part for me was seeing generations of families rejoicing along the parade route and at the park. Seeing older people who didn't think they'd witness another championship. And little kids who thought this would be a rite of passage every year. Here's hoping the city can get another one soon.

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."