Eagles

Roob's Random Points, Part 1: Wentz's historic start, incredible run defense, Philadelphia A's

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AP Images

Roob's Random Points, Part 1: Wentz's historic start, incredible run defense, Philadelphia A's

A little Mack Hollins, a little Robbie Robertson, a little Philadelphia Athletics, a little Donnie Jones and a little crosswalk etiquette.

Put it together and you're on your way to Part 1 of this week's 25 Random Points!

Here are the first 12½ random points ... 12½ more coming soon!

1. Carson Wentz isn't just having one of the best seasons of any quarterback this year. He's having one of the best seasons a quarterback has ever had. He's on pace for 39 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The only QBs who've ever had 39 TDs and single-digit interceptions in a season are Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. This is historic stuff!

2. Crazy that there's a former Eagles running back who went to Pitt who's having a terrific year for an AFC East team, but it isn't LeSean McCoy. Shady is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry for the Bills, but Dion Lewis — who replaced Shady at Pitt and was drafted by the Eagles in the fifth round in 2011 — is averaging 5.3 yards per carry for the Patriots.  

3. Most of the run defense numbers the Eagles are putting up are insane, but the one that amazes me the most is that opposing teams have run the ball only 123 times all year against the Eagles. That's 17.6 attempts per game, and that's the second-lowest figure ever against any NFL team through seven games! The only lower figure was against the 1991 Saints (119 carries through seven games). The Eagles have been so dominating against the run, opposing teams aren't even trying to run the football! And Kareem Hunt remains the only opposing running back to reach even 40 yards against the Eagles this year. That's crazy! 

4. I'm going to say it right now: Eagles-Rams at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum on Dec. 10 will be for No. 1 seed in the NFC. And I ain't picking against the Eagles!

5. Interesting that the Eagles are playing the Redskins and 49ers back-to-back. When that happened in 1989, it produced two of the greatest fourth-quarter finishes in NFL history. In the first game, the Eagles trailed the Redskins, 30-14, at halftime at RFK Stadium, then outscored the Redskins, 28-7, in the second half to win, 42-37. A week later at the Vet, the Eagles led the 49ers, 21-10, early in the fourth quarter before Joe Montana threw four touchdown passes in the final 13½ minutes to give the Niners a 38-28 win. Two of the most historic comebacks the Eagles were ever involved in, and they happened seven days apart! 

6. Speaking of those two games, the Eagles are the only team in NFL history to be involved in consecutive games in which the home team led by eight or more points going into the fourth quarter, then allowed 21 or more fourth-quarter points and lost. In fact, after being involved in two such games in eight days, they've been in only two more in the last 28 years — a 40-26 win over the 49ers at Candlestick in 2008 after trailing, 26-17, after the third quarter, and the 38-31 win over the Giants at MetLife Stadium in 2010 after trailing, 24-10, going into the fourth quarter — the DeSean punt return game!

7. I feel like it's only a matter of time before Mack Hollins is getting more targets than Torrey Smith.

8. One of my favorite stats ever was courtesy of baseball stats guru Jayson Stark: Before Wednesday night, there had been 17 extra-inning home runs in the 115-year history of the World Series. Then there were five in 42 minutes.

9. I find it absurd that the Athletics have won more championships than any major professional sports team in Philadelphia history.

10. If you are crossing the street or walking across a parking lot or crossing anywhere I’m driving, I will always stop and let you go by. Every single time. But you better show some hustle! Even if it's just a courtesy jog, you gotta give me something!

11. I find this fascinating: Three of the Band's most beloved songs are The Weight, I Shall Be Released and It Makes no Difference, and each was sung by a different band member — and none were sung by Robbie Robertson! Richard Manuel sang I Shall Be Released, Rick Danko sang It Makes no Difference, and Levon Helm sang The Weight (except the fourth verse, sung by Danko). A truly unique band.

12. Donnie Jones is so underrated.

12½. It blows my mind that four of the seven QBs in NFL history with four touchdown passes and 60 rushing yards in a game were Eagles, yet none of them were Donovan McNabb! On Monday night, Wentz joined Michael Vick, Randall Cunningham and Bobby Hoying in that elite group, along with Rodgers, Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III. Bobby Hoying? Really???

For dominant Lane Johnson, 'bar set for many years to come'

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USA Today Images

For dominant Lane Johnson, 'bar set for many years to come'

A year ago, he was coming off a 10-game suspension, playing for a losing team, unsure about his future, unsure about his career.

Today, Lane Johnson is on top of the world.

He's a first-time Pro Bowler, a first-team All-Pro, he just played in his first career postseason victory, his team has won 13 of its last 14 games that the starters played in and is now one home win from the Super Bowl.

He's still one positive test away from a two-year ban, but in his fifth NFL season, Johnson has finally backed up all his talk about being one of the NFL's best offensive linemen.

He proved he can be a dominating force without the help of banned substances, and he proved he can be out there for a full season as an anchor of one of the NFL's best offensive lines.

"I had a long offseason to ponder it, to think about it," Johnson said. "I knew physically what I could do on the football field, it was just a matter of being responsible, not making any bonehead mistakes and being part of the team.

"I've envisioned this for a long time, so it feels good to see it come to life."

Johnson is the Eagles' first right tackle named first-team All-Pro since Hall of Famer Bob Brown in 1968.

After a four-game suspension in 2014 and the 10-game suspension last year, Johnson was flat-out dominating this year.

With no help from any substances.

"Anything would be better than where I was last year," he said. "I always had confidence in what I could do. The coaches have seen what I could do, the other guys could see what I could do. It was just a matter of getting on the field and showing what I could do.

"Now the bar is set for many years to come. The world's there for the taking."

The Eagles face the Vikings Sunday evening in the NFC Championship Game at the Linc, and Johnson said that as happy as he is for himself, he feels for veteran teammates Jason Peters and Darren Sproles, two all-time great Eagles who suffered season-ending injuries.

"It's not about me, I'm just happy for all the veteran guys," he said. "J.P., he's heartbroken he can't be out there playing. Sproles, those guys. I like winning for the other guys, the veterans. (Brent) Celek's been here 11 years, this will be his second NFC Championship Game.

"It's really about those guys. We've got a lot of confidence right now. We're guaranteed one game left. I'm happy where we're at. Everybody's excited. Let's get back to work Monday and keep this going."

Eagles' underrated blocking machine vs. Falcons

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Eagles' underrated blocking machine vs. Falcons

Toward the end of the regular season, the Eagles' offensive line just didn't seem to be hitting its stride. 

That all changed on Saturday against the Falcons. 

The Eagles' O-line dominated in the trenches and helped guide the Birds to a 15-10 win to advance to the NFC Championship Game. What was the line missing down the stretch? Stefen Wisniewski. 

The starting left guard missed a couple games with an ankle sprain but returned for the regular-season finale. Then, he just happened to have his best game as an Eagle in the divisional round game. It also happened to be the very first playoff game of his career. 

The 27-year-old Wisniewski had played in 107 regular-season games without getting to the postseason — more than any other player on the active roster. When he got his first shot, he certainly made it count. 

Because Wisniewski didn't just do his job against the Falcons. He was dominant and made things happen all afternoon. 

Here's a closer look at some of his impressive plays against Atlanta: 

This first play came on the Eagles' second drive of the game. It's 2nd-and-3 and Jay Ajayi is about to break off an 11-yard gain right behind the hole Wiz opens up. Wisniewski is about to get to the second level after the snap and find linebacker Deion Jones, who is a dynamic player but is also just 222 pounds. 

At the mesh point, Trey Burton has come across to take care of the defensive lineman while Wiz is getting out in front on Jones. He doesn't just block him, he's about to push him back. 

Ajayi finishes the run strong, picking up 11 yards. He rode on the back of Wisniewski the whole way. 

Here's a different angle on the block to get an idea of how far Wisniewski drove Jones back. 

 

•••

These next three plays happened on consecutive downs. They were the last two plays of the first quarter and the first play of the second. Wiz got in a zone. 

On this one, Wiz is about to take on big Ahtyba Rubin, who weighs 310 pounds. 


On this zone read play, Ajayi sweeps left, so the entire defensive line shifts that way. Rubin goes with the play, but you can see where Wisniewski opens the hole. He makes it pretty easy on Ajayi. 

•••

The very next play is a screen, which has been a big part of the Eagles' offense when it gets clicking. 

"The screen game has been something we've worked on the last couple of weeks," head coach Doug Pederson said, "and it had to get better as the season wore on for us." 

On this play, Nelson Agholor is at the bottom of the screen. He's about to come in motion to create some space at the bottom of the screen. That's where Wisniewski is going to get out in front to clear a path for Ajayi. 

Ajayi is working through the line and is about to settle in his spot to catch the pass from Nick Foles. Meanwhile, Wisniewski gets to the second level to find a hat to block. 

Then, Wiz just bullies Jones again. He really used that size and strength edge to his advantage and didn't let the quicker Jones get around him. 

This was an important play because it showed just how big of a key the screen game could be. A little later, you'll get to see Wiz's most impressive play. It came on a screen later in the game. 

This is the first play of the second quarter. After Ajayi picked up nearly 50 yards in the first quarter, he's on the sideline getting a breather so LeGarrette Blount is on the field. He's gonna run right behind Wiz. 

Just after the snap, Wiz lends some help to Jason Kelce, who is blocking big 346-pound tackle Dontari Poe. He then turns his attention to Jones, who has become his whipping boy at this point in the game. 

At this point, Wisniewski has picked up his second block on the play and you can see where Blount is going to find the room to sneak ahead for an 8-yard gain. 

••• 

This next play comes about a minute later in the second quarter. The Eagles were running all over the Falcons but Foles was having trouble getting into a rhythm. Pederson is going to find a way to get the ball into one of his playmaker's hands anyway. Agholor will take the ball on an end-around and Wisniewski is going to make it happen.

Lane Johnson swings around to get out in front of Agholor to provide a lead block, but it's Wisniewski who opens the hole. 

The Eagles gained 21 yards on this play to get them down to the 3-yard line. This led to their only touchdown of the game. 

We went in chronological order, which allowed us to save the best for last. Wiz was incredible on this 32-yard screen pass in the fourth quarter. He actually blocks three guys on one play and forces one away from a tackle. 

Pederson caught the Falcons off guard by running a screen pass to the same side on two consecutive plays. He knew they wouldn't be expecting it. But it was still gutsy to run it on a key 3rd-and-7. 

Just after the snap, Wisniewski gets enough of a block on Adrian Clayborn to give Foles plenty of time to deliver the ball. It's Wiz's job to let Clayborn through, but if he doesn't get a piece of him, the talented pass-rusher might have been able to blow up the play before it ever got a chance to develop. 


After getting the block at the line of scrimmage, Wiz gets out in front and takes care of the two defenders that get in his way. It's hard to see it with the photos, so take a look at his incredible play here: 

Pretty impressive, huh? This 32-yard screen pass got the Eagles across midfield, and they eventually got close enough for Jake Elliott to kick a 21-yard field goal to put them up 15-10. It was a huge score because then the Falcons needed a touchdown instead of a field goal. 

"I'll tell you, it was just set up perfectly for us and well-executed to have Wiz downfield and block one," Pederson said, "but take out two, obviously helps the play."

It took Wisniewski a while to prove himself this season. Even though he signed an extension this offseason, the Eagles seemed hesitant to give him the starting left guard spot. Isaac Seumalo was the starter going into the season and Chance Warmack was given the first shot to replace him when he struggled. 

Eventually, though, Wisniewski got the nod and has been playing at a really high level all season. The Eagles have three Pro Bowl or All-Pro linemen, but without Wisniewski, this line just didn't seem to work. With him, they were dominant on Saturday.