Week 13 a well-timed wake-up call for Eagles

Week 13 a well-timed wake-up call for Eagles

When you win nine games in a row in the NFL, there’s bound to be a sense of invincibility. Not from the coaches mind you, but from the players and especially the fan base, there becomes an expectation each week.

The Eagles' last loss was Sept. 17. That’s a long time ago. The pre-Gabe Kapler era Phillies lost at home that day to Oakland. The Flyers were still 18 days away from their season opener. The Sixers would begin their training camp nine days later.  And many high-profile Hollywood and media types, now disgraced, were still employed.

It’s remarkable really that in such a week-to-week league that any team, let alone one that lost nine of its last 13 a season ago, could put together such an impressive streak. So naturally, when said team loses in a game in which it was favored, there’s going to be an overreaction. The Eagles were not going 15-1.

Seattle is arguably the toughest place in the NFL to play. The Seahawks entered the game 7-4, on the outside looking in for a wild-card berth. They had already lost two home games. Despite major injuries to their secondary, this was going to be a tough game. This was a desperate, perennial playoff team at home that had to have this game. Factor in the Eagles now admitting they did not practice in the ensuing weeks the way they should have to be prepared for such a game and this is far from a panic-time loss.

Yes, the way the game played out was painful. But I view this as a wake-up call at the perfect time. Let it be Week 13 rather than a first-round playoff game. You can commit a ton of penalties against the Bears and win. Do it against a team like the Seahawks and it’s tough to overcome. You may get lucky and recover your own fumble in the end zone against the same hapless team but most times, especially in the red zone, it’s a killer. If Carson Wentz scores on that run to start the second half, it is a completely different game.

As much as fans hate to hear this, there are times you tip your hat and give props to the other guy. Russell Wilson was brilliant. He outplayed Wentz, plain and simple. The Eagles' secondary had its problems and things that must be cleaned up for the Rams, but when the opposing quarterback buys an extra four seconds on multiple plays, no defensive backs will be able to hold up.

Wentz did not play well in the first half. He showed you in the second half the combination of heart and skill that makes him an MVP candidate.

Doug Pederson has pushed every right button since the loss to the Chiefs. He’s been aggressive all season. That’s his team’s identity. His approach was tentative, perhaps because he knew his team wasn’t ready. Perhaps not. Jim Schwartz has been masterful all year dialing up the right defensive calls. He guessed wrong on several occasions. Whoever you want to blame, it didn’t work. It happens. Plays are missed and in-game mistakes are made. Learn from it and don’t let it happen again.

The Eagles ripped off nine straight wins after their last loss. But the 9-3 Rams this week will be a much sterner test than the dumpster-fire Giants in Week 3. My confidence in this team was not swayed by the loss to the Seahawks. Despite all the self-sabotage, the officiating, etc., the Eagles were within a touchdown in the fourth quarter, playing their C-game.

With the scorching hot Vikings having an identical 10-2 record and several other teams on the Birds’ tail in the NFC, this is a huge game this week. But it goes beyond standings. We’ll find a lot out about this team’s makeup this week in SoCal. 

Based on what we’ve seen for a large majority of the season, the Seattle game will be the anomaly. Everything’s going to be alright.

Colin Kaepernick? RG3? Again ... not happening, Pederson says

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Colin Kaepernick? RG3? Again ... not happening, Pederson says

If you're playing that whole Colin Kaepernick vs. RG3 game, don't bother.

The Eagles aren't bringing in a veteran quarterback.

Nick Foles is the starter. Nate Sudfeld is No. 2. And that's that.

Judging by Twitter and callers to sports talk radio, there are a ton of fans out there who believe the Eagles should sign a veteran off the street, like Kaepernick or Robert Griffin III or even Michael Vick, to back up Foles.

With Carson Wentz out for the year, Foles and Nate Sudfeld are the only quarterbacks on the Eagles' roster.

Kaepernick quarterbacked the 49ers to a Super Bowl in 2012 and very nearly to another one in 2013 and started 11 games for the 49ers last year (going 1-10). 

RG3 is only 27 and was the Browns' opening-day starter last year — against the Eagles.

Vick hasn't played since 2015 with the Steelers, but he always seemed kind of ageless, right?

What if Foles gets hurt? What if he gets hurt in the NFC Championship Game?

Sudfeld has never thrown a regular-season pass. He spent training camp with the Redskins and was on the Eagles' practice squad at the beginning of last month. 

Would the Eagles honestly rather go into the Super Bowl with Nate Sudfeld at quarterback than Colin Kaepernick?

It's a valid question, and on Monday, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson answered it with a resounding yes.

"Probably the biggest reason is the time invested," he said. "If you bring in a guy off the street this late in the season, you're talking about spending time with that player trying to get him just caught up to speed on our offense. 

"We've already spent the time with a guy with Nate. We've developed him and worked with him. So that's probably the biggest reason right there."

Guys like Kaepernick, RG3 and many of the other veterans whose names have been bandied about not only haven't played this year, they also weren't in training camps and haven't participated in any sort of practice in a year.

The Eagles believe it would be impossible to bring in a quarterback now, get him into football shape after being out of the league all year, and teach him the offense in a matter of weeks.

Sudfeld has been with the Eagles since they signed him to the practice squad on Sept. 4, so that's three months of meetings, film study and practice in Pederson's offense alongside Foles and Wentz.

And for the Eagles, play recognition is much more important than name recognition.

To rest or not rest is Doug Pederson's question

To rest or not rest is Doug Pederson's question

It's a pretty good problem to have, but it's still a problem that needs sorting. 

By the time the Eagles play the Raiders on Christmas night next Monday, they might have already wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the NFC and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. 

Then what? 

Do they rest some starters? Do they play everyone and try to win? What's the plan for the next two weeks? 

"I've begun thinking (about it), but my focus is winning the game on Monday night," head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday. "Because that, to me, is the most important thing. Once we get to next week, we'll figure out next week. But my mindset this week is all about the Oakland Raiders, Monday Night Football."

To put it in baseball terms, over the last two weeks of the season, the Eagles' magic number to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is one. So either a win from the Eagles or a loss from the Vikings would ensure that the Birds have the top spot. 

That means if the Vikings lose to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at Lambeau Saturday night, the Eagles will have clinched and will have a couple days to make a decision before playing on Monday. (Whether Rodgers faces Minnesota may depend on tonight's Falcons-Bucs game. If Atlanta wins, Green Bay is eliminated from the playoffs.)

Even if the Vikings win, the Eagles could beat the Raiders and still clinch the top spot this weekend, which would set up a situation where that last game of the season is meaningless. 

"You just make the best decisions for your football team," Pederson said. "If that means resting a guy, you rest a guy or two or three. But you also have to maintain the edge with these players, and you've got to maintain that confidence and that dominating swagger and you've got to keep that alive.

"You just can't go — it's not a preseason game, you know what I'm saying, where you can rest in Week 4 and rest all your guys. You can't do that because you're still limited to the roster limits on game day. Guys are still going to have to play, but at the same time, I'm going to be smart about the decisions we make moving forward and getting guys who need it rest, if possible."

While rest is obviously helpful at this time of year, the Eagles could be in a spot where they have three straight weeks — two nothing games and a bye — without a meaningful game. Good for rest, potentially bad for momentum heading into the postseason. 

The quarterback position, specifically, is a bit of a quandary. Had Carson Wentz not torn his ACL, it would be a fairly easy decision — rest him. But Nick Foles hasn't played a lot this year and could probably use the work, especially with his relatively unfamiliar receivers. The problem with that is, if he gets hurt, the team is down to Nate Sudfeld. Pederson also said that he'd ideally like to get Sudfeld some work. 

The Eagles haven't been in this position in quite some time. You'd have to go all the way back to the 2004 Super Bowl season to find a similar situation. Like what could happen with a Minnesota loss on Saturday, the 2004 Eagles had home-field clinched with two games to go. Donovan McNabb and the Eagles' starters played just one series in Week 16 and then most key players were rested in Week 17 before the bye in the wild-card round. 

Because of the rest, the Eagles lost their last two games heading into the playoffs, but it didn't matter. In the divisional round, they went up 14-0 early in the second quarter and took down the Vikings 27-14, their first step in the playoffs toward the Super Bowl. 

On Monday, Pederson didn't want to answer too many specific questions about hypothetical situations, but he and his coaches will probably have some sort of plan in place if the Vikings lose. That plan could either be to play like normal or begin the coasting process into the playoffs. 

"Like I've said pretty much these last few weeks, we control our destiny right now," Pederson said. "So that's the focus for me."