Eagles

Eagles-Giants notes, quotes and tidbits: 4th-and-8, Shepard's TD-no TD

Eagles-Giants notes, quotes and tidbits: 4th-and-8, Shepard's TD-no TD

Going for it on 4th-and-1 or 4th-and-2 or even 4th-and-3 is one thing.

But 4th-and-8?

The Eagles led 7-0 with 2:36 left in the first half and were at the Giants' 43. Doug Pederson went for it, but Carson Wentz was sacked for a 6-yard loss. 

Fortunately for Pederson, that decision, along with some other things — e.g. a shaky game by Wentz and a costly fumble by his buddy Zach Ertz — will be overshadowed by Jake Elliott's 61-yard game-winning bomb.

But why did Pederson go for it? 

Analytics. 

"It was something that I discussed with the guy that's helping me upstairs with analytics," Pederson said after his team's 27-24 win (see studs, duds and more). "Where we were on the field, what we were doing offensively at the time. The defense was playing extremely well. [We] had an opportunity to keep ourselves on the field at the time, so I elected to go for it at that point. Obviously, we didn't get it. The defense held."

Barely. 

The Giants appeared to score a touchdown when Sterling Shepard joined Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant by making a catch that's a catch on the playground but not in the NFL (more on that below). Two plays later, the Giants went for it on 4th-and-goal from the 1, but the Eagles stuffed Orleans Darkwa. 

Then they returned to their locker room still up seven. No harm, no foul.

But analytics aside — and there is an involved study on the subject — Pederson did acknowledge that it's a "risky" play. And when it was suggested that his numbers guys might be telling him what he wants to hear because he likes to be aggressive, Pederson said he trusts his staff to give him all the relevant information so he can make the final call. 

"Our guys are right on point with it, all the way down to replays, challenges and things of that nature," Pederson said. "So they give me the information, and it's my job to pull the trigger."

The Eagles made their two other fourth-down conversions, albeit on QB sneaks that gained a yard. Wentz said he's "always down to go with the quarterback sneak" in those situations. As for the 4th-and-8, Wentz admitted the blame doesn't solely reside with Pederson. 

"They just had good coverage, and we were playing aggressive," he said. "Unfortunately, I just held onto the ball too long."

Shepard's TD catch-no-catch
It certainly looked like Shepard had made the 1-yard TD reception. He caught it and took a couple steps in the end zone before falling out of bounds and dropping it when he hit the ground. 

He ran around looking for congratulations as if he had scored, but he didn't complete the process of making the catch.

So no score.

"I’m trying to figure out what a touchdown catch is and what isn’t a touchdown catch right now," Giants coach Ben McAdoo said.

Said Eli Manning, "Everybody knows the rules, have to finish the play, finish the catch."

Seems like we've been hearing that for a while.

Pass interference?
That wasn't the only call that worked in the Eagles' favor. After the Giants took a 21-14 lead in the fourth quarter, cornerback Eli Apple was called for pass interference on a deep ball to Torrey Smith. 

The 36-yard gain set up Corey Clement's 15-yard game-tying touchdown run.

First, there didn't appear to be significant contact on the play, and second, the ball sailed out of bounds and could have been deemed uncatchable. 

"Me and the [official] had an intellectual conversation about how it was catchable and how I was kind of like the receiver on that play because I was in front of him," Apple said. "He thought it was pass interference, but those are the calls they make and you have to continue to play."

This was pass interference
Later in the fourth, Malcolm Jenkins clothes-lined Odell Beckham Jr. on a deep ball down the sideline. Beckham, who had a step on Jalen Mills, didn't think the play was dirty.

"He made a smart play," Beckham said. "I'm running down the field. I'm gonna make a play, so he stops that. It's football. He made a play to stop me from making a play. 

"Nothing dirty to me."

LeGarrette Blount advises Eagles to 'stay humble' after 5-1 start

LeGarrette Blount advises Eagles to 'stay humble' after 5-1 start

With a 5-1 record, the Eagles sit all alone atop the division and conference standings, and are tied for the best mark in the NFL. Their quarterback was recently given the best odds of winning the league’s Most Valuable Player award. So, yes, right now, a trip to the Super Bowl seems to be very much on the table for this squad.

But take it from LeGarrette Blount, somebody who’s won a couple of world championships — the Eagles can’t afford to get caught up in the hysteria right now.

“We could lose 10 in a row,” Blount said Tuesday. “We could go 6-10, so we don't want to jump the gun, jump to conclusions. We want to make sure we take it week by week, day by day, keep a level head and make sure we're going to be ready for whoever the next opponent is.”

Blount is one of only five Eagles players with a Super Bowl ring and the only member of the roster who owns multiple. The veteran running back won two of the last three years with the New England Patriots organization, which has been a perennial championship contender for the better part of the last two decades.

In other words, Blount knows better than anybody inside the Eagles’ locker room exactly what it takes to not only reach the big game and come away victorious but also how to sustain that success.

“You have to stay grounded,” Blount said. “You have to stay humble and make sure that all the guys that are in the building are on the same page. The coaches, the staff, everybody is on the same page, ignoring the noise, not worrying about what other teams are doing, what other teams' records are – just worrying about ourselves and locked into us.”

Easier said than done given the week the Eagles just had.

After going to Carolina and upending a tough Panthers squad on Thursday night, the Eagles watched as massive blows were being dealt to some of their stiffest competition over the weekend. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone on Sunday, potentially crippling one of the NFC’s elites for the remainder of the season. And Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is awaiting word on the status of a six-game suspension that could seriously hamper the division rival.

But the noise can also be Eagles fans and their exponentially rising expectations, or a media that’s quick to point out any tiny flaw and raise controversy.

Blount has experienced the latter firsthand. Two weeks into the 2017 campaign, he finished a game without a carry — an Eagles’ loss — and was averaging 3.0 yards per carry going back to the preseason. The constant questions coming from reporters about his role easily could have become a distraction.

In the four weeks since, Blount has 344 yards on 56 carries for a 6.1 average. He never allowed the noise to get to him, instead becoming a big reason behind the ongoing four-game winning streak.

“We know what we've been doing to get to this point,” Blount said. “We know what it takes, so we just have to buy in to continue to do that, and continue to do every that it takes to continue winning games.

“A big part of it is just making sure you ignore the noise, don't listen to the outsiders, everything that is in house stays in house, and that you make sure and know that everybody that you see on TV isn't in your corner. Sometimes that can discourage the younger guys. Every now and then you'll hear them say, 'Oh, did you hear them say this,' or, 'Did you hear them say that? Or, 'Did you see this,' or 'Did you see that?'

“The big part is making sure that everybody ignores that stuff.”

Blount has been through extraordinary highs and lows in his football career and learned to maintain an even keel. But Eagles leadership has also done a tremendous job insulating players from the kinds of rumblings that have a tendency to create discord and cause entire seasons to come off the rails.

For evidence, look no further than rumors that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was trying to undermine head coach Doug Pederson — and how quickly such talk dissipated.

“The veteran groups have a lot to do with it,” Blount said. “I also think the coaches have a lot to do with it — keeping the guys grounded, keeping the guys to where we have to continue to come here and work if we want to continue the success.

“Most of the young guys, all of them have bought into the program, and everybody's locked in and knows their role and what they want to do.”

While Blount wouldn’t go so far as to draw parallels between the ways the Eagles and the Patriots handle distractions, it’s clear he’s been able to quickly establish a bond with his new teammates and coaches since signing in May.

“Every team is different,” Blount said. “I can't compare this team to the New England teams, or any other team. We have a really close-knit team. We believe in each other. Everybody loves each other and we have each other’s backs.”

As far as Blount’s performance on the field is concerned, the best may be still to come. He’s finished with at least 12 carries in each of the last four games and looked explosive and elusive while doing it. And with extra rest between a Thursday night game in Carolina and this Monday’s contest at home against Washington, the bruising runner said he’s feeling refreshed.

Most of all, it sounds as though Blount is in a great frame of mind and feeling comfortable with all of his surroundings. And if you’re looking for a great read on the Eagles’ situation through six games, just listen to the guy who’s come to expect confetti and parades in February.

Judge grants Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott reprieve, cleared for 49ers in Week 7

usa-ezekiel-elliott.jpg
USA Today Images

Judge grants Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott reprieve, cleared for 49ers in Week 7

NEW YORK -- Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott was granted another legal reprieve Tuesday night in the running back's fight to avoid a six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations.

A New York federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the league's suspension, clearing Elliott to play Sunday at San Francisco.

U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty's ruling came five days after a federal appeals court overturned a Texas court's injunction that had kept Elliott on the field.

Crotty granted the request for the restraining order pending a hearing before the presiding judge, Katherine Polk Failla, who is on vacation.

The NFL was ordered to appear before Failla on or before Oct. 30 to argue why the suspension should not be blocked by a preliminary injunction -- the next step in the legal process -- until the court can rule on challenges the players' union brought against the suspension.

"We are confident our arguments will prevail in court when they are taken up again later this month," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

Elliott, last year's NFL rushing leader as a rookie, was barred from the team's facility Tuesday as players returned from their off week. The NFL placed him on the suspended list Friday, a day after the league's favorable ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The 22-year-old Elliott was suspended in August by Commissioner Roger Goodell after the league concluded following a yearlong investigation that he had several physical confrontations in the summer of 2016 with Tiffany Thompson, his girlfriend at the time.

Prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, decided not to pursue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State, citing conflicting evidence, but the NFL did its own investigation. Elliott denied the allegations under oath during his NFL appeal.

The suspension's announcement in August led to weeks of court filings, with NFLPA lawyers contending that league investigators withheld key evidence from Goodell and that the appeal hearing was unfair because arbitrator Harold Henderson refused to call Goodell and Thompson as witnesses.

In an opinion accompanying the ruling, Crotty agreed with the Texas judge who had backed the claims of Elliott's attorneys. Crotty wrote that Henderson's denial of testimony from Goodell and Thompson was significant because of credibility issues related to Thompson.

"In effect, (Elliott) was deprived of opportunities to explore pertinent and material evidence, which raises sufficiently serious questions," Crotty wrote.

Attorney Daniel Nash, arguing for the NFL, accused Elliott's legal team of seeking relief from courts in Texas to evade courts in New York and the effect of the April 2016 ruling that reinstated a four-game suspension of New England quarterback Tom Brady in the "Deflategate" scandal.

Nash warned Crotty that allowing the union to continue to delay the suspension would invite "every player who's suspended" to go to court for relief.

"They know under the Brady decision they have no chance of success. None," Nash said.

Attorney Jeffrey Kessler, representing the players' union, said the harm to a player's short career was serious when a suspension is served.

"He can never get that back," Kessler said, arguing that the irreparable harm -- among issues of law considered before a temporary restraining order is granted -- faced by a player is much greater than harm claimed by the league when a suspension is delayed. In his opinion, Crotty agreed.

Nash suggested during the hearing that the union was overstating its claims of irreparable harm.

"In their view, an NFL player missing six games is the end of the world," he said.

Brady managed to delay his suspension for a year through the union's court challenges. He served it to start last season, when the Patriots went 3-1 without him and later won the Super Bowl.

Elliott's case shifted to New York after the appeals court ordered the Texas court to dismiss Elliott's lawsuit, which Judge Amos Mazzant did earlier Tuesday.

A three-judge panel of the New Orleans court ruled 2-1 last week that Elliott's attorneys filed the Texas lawsuit prematurely because Henderson had yet to decide on the running back's NFL appeal.

Elliott's legal team indicated it intended to pursue rehearing before a larger panel of the appeals court while also filing for the restraining order in the Southern District of New York.

The NFL filed in the New York court after Elliott's NFL appeal was denied because the league considers it the proper venue as the home of its headquarters and the site of the hearings before Henderson. It's also where the NFL won the Brady case in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Eagles visit Dallas in Week 11 on Sunday night, Nov. 19. They host the Cowboys in Week 17 on New Year’s Eve.