Eagles

In surprise twist, Chance Warmack key in Eagles' win

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USA Today Images

In surprise twist, Chance Warmack key in Eagles' win

Most everybody expected the Eagles to beat the Giants on Sunday, but there was a surprise twist: They couldn't have done it without Chance Warmack.

Filling in at left guard for the injured Stefen Wisniewski, Warmack appeared to struggle early in the contest. The fifth-year veteran failed to reach some of his landmarks in the running game and lost his footing on a number of occasions. Pretty much the same issues that had prevented Warmack from winning the job or holding it down in the first place.

Only this time, Warmack seemed to get more comfortable as the game wore on, creating running lanes and holding his own in protection — and the Eagles' offensive line became a cohesive unit in the process.

"That's football," Warmack said following the Eagles' 34-29 win over the Giants at New York. "You get a feel, and sometimes it comes faster than others. After you get a feel for it, that's called reading the game.

"I felt like a little kid out there. It was good to play football and not think about anything, just go."

Signed as a free agent in March, and his contract subsequently extended in September, Warmack already had multiple opportunities to earn more playing time. Prior to Sunday, none of the chances had gone particularly well.

Warmack started Week 3 at left guard after Isaac Seumalo played himself out of the job, but he didn't perform at a high level and quickly found himself in a rotation with Wisniewski. The experiment ended after three weeks. Then with the injury to Wisniewski against the Rams, Warmack got another shot, only to wind up being benched for the second half for Seumalo.

The Eagles' reclamation project appeared to have hit a wall, but Warmack never gave up.

"Are you going to watch film and get better, or are you gonna to put your head down," Warmack said. "I don't care how bad I get beat, I'm gonna keep coming. That's my motto. Keep coming, keep fighting, keep playing. That's the game."

It may have helped Warmack was able to start and finish the entire game. It was the 26-year-old's eighth appearance of the season and his second start, but the first in which he played every snap (or even half).

Warmack refused to blame his previous poor play, though, on the quick hooks.

"I can't use that as an excuse," Warmack said. "Whatever happened in the game, I have to take that head-on, learn from that and get better. Whatever the situation is, accept that and keep moving."

The Eagles ran the football 27 times against the Giants for 108 yards — a solid 4.0 average. Nick Foles was sacked only once and hit a total of seven times, as the O-line was generally able to provide a clean pocket and keep the quarterback upright.

Obviously, all five guys up front deserve credit for the success of the offense. However, unlike the rest of the unit, Warmack didn't have nearly a full season's worth of games to prepare for the Giants.

"Great job," Eagles center Jason Kelce said. "(The Giants) have a big front, so this is a good game for him. He's a big guy, and it's going to be hard to overpower a guy like that.

"I was really happy for him. They give you a lot of different looks at times and they can make it challenging, and he listened, he was locked in and he did his job."

Foles called Warmack's performance, and the ability of the Eagles to overcome injuries all season, a "story."

"I've worked with him on scout team. I've seen him work every single day," Warmack said. "Going in there in this environment, (he) did an awesome job."

Everyone knew Warmack, the 10th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, has this in him, if not more. That's why the Eagles went out and signed him despite his four disappointing seasons with the Titans, reuniting him with offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, his tutor at Alabama.

Sunday was a sign that Warmack is continuing to improve, and he'll be ready when his number is called again. If and when that time comes, this most recent outing could serve as a foundation of sorts moving forward.

"That's what it's all about," Warmack said. "Once you feel comfortable with what you're doing, just build off of that."

QB clash in NFC title game is what makes sports great

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QB clash in NFC title game is what makes sports great

Life is just too darn predictable. Death, taxes, partisan politics, some form of Law and Order running on cable, Liam Neeson rescuing someone.

That predictability often seeps into the sporting world as well. Alabama playing for a national title, the Cleveland Browns playing for no title and the Patriots owning the NFL. We’ve been there, done that, too many times.

That’s why the Nick Foles-Case Keenum South Philly showdown for the right to play in the Super Bowl is an awesome, unexpected gift bestowed upon us by the sports gods.

Think about the premise of someone suggesting to you prior to the season that Foles and Keenum would be playing for an NFC title. You wouldn’t even have gotten to the point of laughing them off. You would have dismissed that person and probably sought an intervention for them before it even got to that point. But that’s what makes this matchup so unique. Take last year’s final four quarterbacks for example. Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady. Three Hall of Fame locks. With the exception of Ryan, all have won a ring and all are perennial Pro Bowlers. The blue bloods of the league. Predictable.

This year’s box of QB chocolates is what makes sports great. Foles and Keenum were overlooked, written off, one-time starters who washed out at their previous stops. Foles even contemplated retirement. Yet here they are, one guaranteed to be playing in their sport's ultimate game. If you throw Blake Bortles into the mix in the AFC, three of the four quarterbacks left standing would have been completely unthinkable prior to the season.

It’s also what makes this Eagles season and this run that much sweeter. Even if they had stayed healthy all season, few of us saw them playing for the right to take home the Lombardi Trophy. Let alone with Foles, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Jake Elliott and the fill-in crew. Foles' and Keenum’s success could also go a long way in dispelling the myth that if your starting quarterback goes down, your season is over. Granted, the Eagles, Vikings and Jaguars all have phenomenal defenses, which helps quite a bit. 

Both quarterbacks have their work cut out for them considering the ferociousness of those defenses they will be facing. But taking into account what both have been through to get to this point, I don’t think either will be daunted. One thing we also know for sure, the game and the quarterback matchup will be anything but predictable.

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.