Eagles

Why Eagles match up so well vs. mobile Russell Wilson

Why Eagles match up so well vs. mobile Russell Wilson

The Eagles' defense faces one of the most challenging offensive weapons in the NFL on Sunday — Russell Wilson has his hand in more than 80 percent of the Seahawks' offensive output. Whether it's leading the team in rushing with 401 yards, rushing for three TDs or throwing for 23, Wilson is more than a dual-threat QB. 

What makes Wilson so challenging to defend is his ability to evade pass rushes and look down the field. Wide receivers in this offense adjust to come back and make themselves available better than any WR unit in the NFL. Scramble drill has almost become a regular play-call with Wilson's offense.
 
Now, how do you defend Wilson's scramble drill?
 
The Eagles are best-suited to play against a mobile quarterback. Let me explain why. It is very seldom that teams in the NFL have two stud defensive tackles who can collapse the pocket. The Eagles have the ideal situation with Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan. Both linemen are explosive and very good pass rushers. They are one-gap players — their only responsibility is to occupy one gap. Both of these players go about this explosively and  aggressively. 

Defensive coordinator Jim Schartz encourages the D-line to get up the field and reestablish a new line of scrimmage, to push the opposition's offensive line back, which presses the pocket. With this push up the middle of the interior of the O-line, it presses the gap in which QBs have to react and step into throws.
 
The Eagles also have very good rush ends in Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry and Chris Long. The defensive ends apply constant pressure on most QBs by running the arc. 

Running the arc is when the DEs get up the field on the outside and turn the corner toward the QB. Against mobile QBs like Dak Prescott, Cam Newton and Wilson, the DE has to approach the rush differently. Instead of running the arc, they must rush to the same level of the QB in the pocket and press toward the QB. This will box the QB in the pocket and allow the Eagles' interior rushers (D-line) to pressure the QB to the DEs. 

This will also keep Wilson at a disadvantage if he stays in the pocket because he is shorter than most QBs and may find it hard to see over his blockers. Keeping Wilson in the pocket and forcing him to be a pocket passer won't be the easiest task, but the Eagles are well-equipped to do it.

Vikings' win means Eagles must wait for homefield advantage

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Vikings' win means Eagles must wait for homefield advantage

MINNEAPOLIS -- Eric Kendricks had an interception return for a touchdown, Case Keenum passed for 236 yards and two scores, and the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North title with a 34-7 victory over the depleted and disinterested Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon combined for 37 touches and 242 yards from scrimmage for the Vikings (11-3), who were given quite the reprieve on the schedule a week after their eight-game winning streak ended at Carolina in the last of three consecutive road trips. They were never challenged by a Bengals team missing more than half of its starting defense to injuries and met with a morning report by ESPN that head coach Marvin Lewis will not return next season.

The game went so smoothly that Teddy Bridgewater even made his grand entrance, his first live action in 16 months since a massive knee injury. Bridgewater's first pass was intercepted, a high throw that bounced off McKinnon's hands and into the arms of strong safety Shawn Williams deep in Vikings territory. That set up a short touchdown run by Giovani Bernard to keep the Bengals from being shut out for a second time this year.

Terence Newman also picked off former teammate Andy Dalton, who went just 11 for 22 for 113 yards and three first downs before the Bengals (5-9) turned to backup quarterback A.J. McCarron midway through the fourth quarter after the interception by Williams (see full recap).

Brady, Patriots do it again to Steelers
PITTSBURGH -- Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski did it to the Pittsburgh Steelers again.

One questionable decision by Ben Roethlisberger helped.

Brady fed Gronkowski repeatedly to set up Dion Lewis' go-ahead 8-yard touchdown with 56 seconds remaining and Roethlisberger was intercepted in the end zone with 5 seconds left as the New England Patriots rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24 on Sunday.

The Patriots (11-3) gained the inside track for homefield advantage in the AFC playoffs by ending Pittsburgh's eight-game winning streak. Brady threw for 298 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Gronkowski, fresh off a one-game suspension, finished with nine receptions for 168 yards, including four on the game-winning drive.

It briefly looked like it wouldn't be enough.

The Steelers (11-3), who played most of the game without injured wide receiver Antonio Brown, appeared to take the lead when Roethlisberger connected with tight end Jesse James for a 10-yard touchdown with 28 seconds to left. The play was overturned on review, with official Tony Corrente saying the ball did not "survive" the completion of the catch (see full recap).

Rams rout Seattle for control of division
SEATTLE -- Todd Gurley rushed for 152 yards and scored four total touchdowns in just 2 quarters, and the Los Angeles Rams moved to the cusp of their first division title since 2003 with a 42-7 thumping of the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

The matchup to determine first place in the NFC West was completely one-sided.

Los Angeles (10-4) was dominant, embarrassing Seattle into the worst loss during Pete Carroll's eight seasons in charge.

Taking advantage of field position, the Rams scored on six of seven first-half drives, including a 21-point scoring blitz in the second quarter capped by a 57-yard TD run by Gurley on third-and-20 with less than a minute remaining in the first half to take a 34-0 lead at the break.

Gurley had 144 yards rushing in the first half, twice scoring from the 1. He added a 14-yard TD reception midway through the third quarter for a 40-0 Rams lead and spent the rest of his day watching. The 152 yards rushing were the second-best of his career.

The Rams don't have the division wrapped up, but have a two-game lead with two weeks to play. A win against either Tennessee or San Francisco is enough for their first division title in 14 years (see full recap).

Saints beat Jets for 10th win
NEW ORLEANS -- Mark Ingram ran for two touchdowns and gained 151 yards from scrimmage, including a late 50-yard TD run, and the New Orleans Saints overcame three turnovers to defeat the struggling New York Jets, 31-19 on Sunday.

Michael Thomas became the second NFL player with at least 90 receptions in his first two seasons. He caught nine passes for 93 yards, including a pivotal fourth-quarter touchdown on a short slant for New Orleans (10-4), which retained its tenuous hold on first place in the NFC South heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.

Alvin Kamara turned a short catch into a 10-yard TD in his return from a concussion that knocked him out of the Saints' loss at Atlanta a week earlier.

Bryce Petty made his first start at quarterback this season for the Jets (5-9), who were eliminated from playoff contentions. Petty completed 19 of 39 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted twice -- once on a tipped pass and once on a long, inconsequential throw as the game ended.

His 2-yard touchdown pass to former Louisiana-Lafayette running back Elijah McGuire cut New Orleans' lead to 24-19 with 1:51 left. But the Jets' onside kick failed and Ingram broke loose for his long score while the Saints were really just trying to run down the clock (see full recap).

With game on the line, Corey Graham makes play for struggling Eagles D

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With game on the line, Corey Graham makes play for struggling Eagles D

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Eagles were one bad play away from a loss. One bad play away from blowing a huge opportunity. One bad play away from making their road a little harder. 

Corey Graham didn't let it happen. 

Late in the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium, the Eagles were clinging to the eventual final score of 34-29, but the Giants had a chance to go up. 

With just 48 seconds left on the clock, Eli Manning and the Giants had 4th-and-goal from the 11-yard line. One play to decide the game. Manning dropped back and targeted one of his favorite receivers, rookie tight end Evan Engram. 

For some strange reason, Graham didn't get credit for pass defensed on the play, but he successfully defended the pass. And it fell incomplete as the Giants' last-ditch effort failed. 

"It was a situation, the game's on the line," Graham said. "They're going to go to one of their best guys at the time. I knew that there was a good chance they were going to go to my guy. I had to be outside leverage on that play. I just played with good position, with outside leverage and just make sure you're looking back for the ball so you don't get that penalty on you. You just gotta play the ball."

Graham, the 32-year-old safety who signed with the Eagles in August, said the defense was in zone coverage, but Engram was his responsibility 1-on-1. 

After the pass fell incomplete, several Giants were upset there wasn't a defensive pass interference penalty called. Receiver Sterling Shepard was so upset, he ripped his helmet off and began to argue with the official. His passion was rewarded with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. 

"Got it in the end zone and there was some contact being made," Eli Manning. "I don't know, it's tough to know if it's interference, if it's the call or not. You kind of just put it up high and give him a chance to make the play and we didn't make it." 

Giants interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo said he wasn't given an explanation on why a flag wasn't thrown and wanted to watch the play again before giving his opinion. 

"I wasn't really too worried about it, because I'm looking back playing the ball," Graham said. "When it's all said and done, when you're looking back playing the ball, they ain't gonna call that. It ain't pass interference unless you're hitting the guy and you're not looking. But if you're looking at the ball, it's 50-50."

The Graham play was a good way for the Eagles to finish what was an otherwise bad defensive performance. The Eagles gave up 504 yards, the most in 30 games under Jim Schwartz (see story)

But on that fourth-quarter drive, when they looked like they were about to blow the game, they finally got a huge stop. 

"It's football. You live for those kinds of moments," Jalen Mills said. "Those crunch-time football plays. You live for those types of moments. So you just have to get locked in and play your type of football."