Eagles

Broncos rally past Panthers for 1-point win in NFL season opener

Broncos rally past Panthers for 1-point win in NFL season opener

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DENVER -- Denver's dominant defense came up big against Cam Newton again and the Broncos escaped with a 21-20 victory over the Carolina Panthers Thursday night when Graham Gano missed a 50-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining.

Newton was sacked three times and clobbered all night long but appeared to have done just enough to get a measure of revenge for that bludgeoning seven months earlier in Super Bowl 50, when Von Miller stripped the ball and the Lombardi Trophy from his grasp.

Newton put the Panthers on the cusp of victory with a 16-yard pass to Kelvin Benjamin at the Denver 37 in the closing seconds, and another short pass to Ted Ginn Jr. put Gano well within his range.

"I was going to drill it, no doubt in my mind," said Gano, who was wide left. "But this happens. It's not going to define my season."

With the stadium rocking, Trevor Siemian trotted out to take a knee in victory formation after his successful first NFL start. Peyton Manning's successor finished 18 of 26 for 178 yards, one TD and two interceptions.

"We've got a heck of a team, a resilient team, I think you saw that tonight," said Siemian, who finished 18 of 26 for 178 yards with one TD, two interceptions and two sacks.

Newton, the NFL's reigning MVP, was 18 of 33 for 194 yards, with one TD and one interception.Just as he did over and over in the Super Bowl, Miller made a big play late, sweeping past right tackle Mike Remmers and sacking Newton.

That set up fourth-and-21 from the Carolina 29 at the 2-minute warning and Newton threw incomplete but got a reprieve: Cornerback Chris Harris Jr., whose interception led to Denver's go-ahead score minutes earlier, was called for illegal use of the hands, giving Carolina a first down.

Some of the hits on Newton pushed the rules.

Safety Darian Stewart's helmet-to-helmet hit in the final minute was negated because Newton, who was slow getting up, was called for intentional grounding on the play. Newton also took an inadvertent hit to the head from Miller on a sack by DeMarcus Ware. The QB went to the sideline and put a towel over his head as trainers checked him out.

The Panthers took a 17-7 led into the fourth quarter of the first Super Bowl rematch to start a season since 1970 but Siemian hit running back C.J. Anderson for a 25-yard touchdown on the next snap.

Newton's next pass was intercepted by Harris at the Carolina 23. Ten plays later, Anderson bulled his way in from the 1 to give Denver its first lead at 21-14 with 9:26 remaining.

After Gano's 36-yard field goal brought the Panthers to 21-20, Carolina forced a three-and-out and got the ball back at its 40 with 3:06 remaining.

Take a knee
Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, a college teammate of Colin Kaepernick, took to a knee during the playing of the national anthem. Kaepernick refused to stand for the anthem during San Francisco's preseason games, explaining it was to protest racial oppression and police brutality in the United States. It opened a wide debate and put the microscope on a pregame tradition that has, for decades, been routine.

Old times
Manning made his first appearance at Mile High as a retiree, walking through the tunnel with the Lombardi Trophy. Earlier, he attended NFL Kickoff festivities in his role as pitchman for DirecTV, which sent out a video interview in which he was asked about the Broncos QB situation. "It's the most overanalyzed subject in the city," Manning said. "I'm proud to say I have not added to that analysis." He did say he spoke with Siemian on the eve of the opener and told him he was in his corner.

Field flip
Punter Andy Lee, who surrendered a Super Bowl-record 61-yard punt return to Jordan Norwood, pinned the Broncos back with a franchise-record 76-yard punt in the third quarter. His next punt traveled 61 yards.

Fullback fun
Rookie Andy Janovich was brought in to bore holes for Anderson, but he surprised the Panthers with a 28-yard TD run after Denver's first two drives ended in turnovers.

Doug Pederson's preseason comparison doesn't look so ridiculous now

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USA Today Images

Doug Pederson's preseason comparison doesn't look so ridiculous now

When Doug Pederson said back in July that the 2017 Eagles "probably have more talent" than the Super Bowl Packers teams of the 1990s that Pederson played on, more than a few eyebrows were raised.

Millions of eyebrows maybe.
 
The Eagles? Who hadn't won a playoff game since 2008 and were coming off a 7-9 record in Pederson's first season?
 
More talented than a team that went to the playoffs virtually every year from the early 1990s through the mid-2000s behind Hall of Famers Brett Favre and Reggie White and reached back-to-back Super Bowls in 1996 and 1997, winning one?
 
"I look back on my time in Green Bay as a player when we were making those playoff runs, those Super Bowl runs there," Pederson said on July 17.
 
"And do we have as much talent on this team than we did then? We probably have more talent, right?"
 
Seriously, Doug?
 
Six months later, Pederson's comments — which seemed so ridiculous at the time — don't seem so ridiculous, do they?
 
Because here are those 2017 Eagles, sitting 13-3 with a playoff win over the Falcons in the books and a berth Sunday in the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings despite a rash of injuries to some of their best players.
 
The Eagles haven't lost a game with postseason implications since Carson Wentz was lost for the season, and they're one home win from reaching their third Super Bowl.
 
Pederson, who had two stints backing up Brett Favre with the Packers — from 1996 through 1998 and 2001 through 2004 — was reminded of his comments Friday before practice.
 
"I don't have a crystal ball, obviously, and it's hard to predict," he said. "You'd love to sit here and go, 'Yeah, in the summer, (I thought we were) going to be 13-3 and win the NFC East.' You'd love to be in that situation, or 16-0, or whatever it might be.
 
"I did have a feeling back then when I made that statement that we could be, we had the potential to be a good football team because of the way we've practiced and the talent that we brought to the roster and the progression of Carson in his second year.
 
"And then defensively, the front, the way they performed, and the back end, I saw a lot of the same similarities. So you just have that gut feeling when I made that statement."
 
Back in July, when Pederson made those comments comparing the Eagles to the Packers, he tempered them by saying talent isn't always enough. It takes much more for a team to have success.
 
"I (said) it takes great coaching, teaching, mentoring to also have our guys prepared each week to be in this position," Pederson said. "So all of that has kind of culminated. I think you look back on it and you go, 'Wow, maybe it was a true type of thing.'
 
"But we just keep doing our jobs, keep doing what we've been coached to do. Players play what they can do and what's in their control, and we're here today."

Only 1 Eagle questionable for Sunday

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Only 1 Eagle questionable for Sunday

Veteran linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) is the only Eagles player listed as questionable for this week's game. Everyone else on the 53-man roster is expected to be available. 

Ellerbe, 32, missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday and Friday. 

The Eagles' starting MIKE linebacker was also listed as questionable last week and was able to play, so expect him to be good to go. After all, this is the NFC Championship Game. There's no resting for anything else. 

In Minnesota, wide receiver Adam Thielen (lower back) and safety Andrew Sendejo (concussion) are both listed as questionable. 

Thielen, the Vikings' top receiver, missed Wednesday's practice and was limited on Thursday and Friday. Just like Ellerbe, there's no saving him for next week. 

Sendejo was limited on Wednesday and Thursday, was a full participant on Friday, but is still technically in the NFL's concussion protocol. He'll need to clear that before he's able to play, but Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said he's optimistic Sendejo will be able to play. 

Meanwhile, third defensive tackle, Shamar Stephen (knee/ankle), missed practice all week and has been ruled out. While Stephen isn't a starter, he played just under 40 percent of the Vikings' snaps this season, so missing him is still a loss.

After practicing indoors on Wednesday and Thursday, the Eagles loaded up on buses and spent their Friday practice outside at Lincoln Financial Field. Head coach Doug Pederson likes to get his guys outside for at least one day per week. 

The Eagles will have a walkthrough on Saturday before they'll be back at the Linc for Sunday's 6:40 p.m. kickoff in the NFC Championship Game.