Eagles

Instant Replay: Packers 24, Eagles 9

Instant Replay: Packers 24, Eagles 9

BOX SCORE

GREEN BAY, Wis. — First-round draft choice Derek Barnett logged two sacks, and fourth-round pick Mack Hollins reeled in a touchdown as the Eagles kicked off their preseason schedule in Green Bay with strong showings from their newcomers, but the Packers prevailed for the 24-9 victory.

Carson Wentz completed all four of his passes for 56 yards and the touchdown to Hollins, a 38-yard catch-and-run that gave the Eagles a 6-0 lead. The two-point conversion attempt bounced off Nelson Agholor’s hands, and the Packers scored the next 17 points of the contest.

Second-year return man Trevor Davis returned a punt 68 yards for a score for the Packers, and No. 2 quarterback Brett Hundley found Jeff Janis for 20-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter.

Bryce Treggs caught seven passes for 91 yards, all from No. 2 quarterback Matt McGloin.

Rookies shine
Hollins said earlier this week he had never even attended an NFL game before, but he found comfort early when he caught a ball over the middle from Wentz, shook three tacklers and tiptoed down the sideline for a 38-yard score midway through the first quarter.

Hollins shook off Packers’ defenders Kevin King, Quinten Rollins and Clay Matthews on the play – two former second-round picks and a first-rounder. Matthews and Rollins have been regular starters, and King was the Packers’ top choice in the 2017 draft.

Barnett broke Reggie White’s sack record at the University Tennessee and began his pro career fittingly wearing an Eagles jersey and playing at Lambeau Field. He recorded a sack in the second quarter that helped force a Packers’ field goal after Green Bay started a drive deep in Eagles territory and was credited with another later in the quarter that cost the Packers 12 yards.

Barnett also hurried quarterback Joe Callahan on a screen pass that went for no gain in the third quarter. He generated strong pressure all night.

Undrafted running back Corey Clement accounted for 40 yards on a drive that chewed up close to seven minutes in the third quarter, but he couldn’t corral a short pass on third and goal from the 7, and the drive ended in a Caleb Sturgis field goal.

Quarterback report
Wentz played one series plus one play, good enough for a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3.

Treggs appeared to have a good rapport with backup McGloin, catching five passes for 75 yards in the first half. With Marcus Johnson out of the game as he nursed a hamstring injury, Treggs made the most of his opportunity in the spotlight. The second-year player out of Cal caught just three passes for 80 yards last year in the regular season.

McGloin made a touchdown-saving tackle in the second quarter, but only after overthrowing a pass right to Packers linebacker Joe Thomas, who returned it 30 yards to the Eagles 17. It was one of three first-half turnovers for the Eagles offense.

McGloin finished 28 of 42 passing for 205 yards, with one interception.

Special teams issues
The Eagles own a reputation as boasting one of the NFL’s best special teams units, but it was a shaky night on that front. Not only did the Eagles permit a punt return for touchdown, but return man Donnel Pumphrey also muffed a punt deep in Green Bay territory, which he recovered. Before the half was over, Joe Walker committed a holding penalty that negated a strong return by Pumphrey.

Green Bay second-year return man Trevor Davis went untouched to the end zone at the 11:50 mark of the second quarter for that 68-yard punt return.

Sturgis attempted a 46-yard field goal to end the first half that clanged off the right goal post. Sturgis later cashed in a 25-yarder.

The wounded
Ron Brooks, who was the first man down the field on the punt that resulted in a Green Bay touchdown, limped off with a left hamstring injury and returned to the locker room. He did not return.

Tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai was helped off the field early in the third quarter with a left knee injury.

Running back Pumphrey wasn’t injured, but he took some big hits in the first half, when he posted four rushes for five yards and five catches for 12 yards.

Alshon Jeffery is past his recent shoulder injury but did not suit up, nor did guard Brandon Brooks (ankle), receiver Marcus Johnson (hamstring) or running back Wendell Smallwood (hamstring).

Scary moment
Undrafted rookie safety Tre Sullivan administered a vicious hit on Packers receiver Malachi Dupre, necessitating a lengthy delay and bringing the stretcher onto the field early in the fourth quarter. Dupre, a seventh-round draft pick out of LSU, gave a thumbs up the crowd as he was wheeled off the field. Dupre was taken to the hospital after the game, and initial reports indicated movement in all his extremities.

Sullivan forced a fumble on the play, marking the second takeaway for the Eagles in the game.

Linebacker Mychal Kendricks was responsible for the Eagles’ other takeaway, picking off Packers quarterback Hundley and returning the ball six yards to the Packers 36. The play came one snap after Eagles tight end Billy Brown fumbled the ball away and review upheld the miscue.

Loose ends
Two tight ends were charged with fumbles in the first half.

Trey Burton showed some moves on a 10-yard completion in the second quarter but surrendered the football when LaDarius Gunter stripped it away and scooped it up for the Packers.

Brown caught a pass during a 2-minute drill in the final moments of the first half, but Green Bay’s Blake Martinez knocked it loose, and defensive tackle Christian Ringo scooped it up. The play was reviewed and upheld, though Brown’s left forearm looked very close to down.

By just being himself, Doug Pederson has had masterful year

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AP Images

By just being himself, Doug Pederson has had masterful year

Bill Belichick didn’t win a playoff game until his fourth year as an NFL head coach and didn’t reach a conference title game until his seventh year.

Don Shula didn’t win a playoff game until his sixth year as a head coach.

It took Dick Vermeil four years to win a playoff game, Dan Reeves six years, Tom Landry eight.

Heck, Pete Carroll didn’t reach a conference title game until his third head coaching stop, and Marv Levy didn’t even get to the playoffs until his eighth year as a head coach.

Just a little context.

Pederson has been magnificent this year, and out of everybody we talk about who’s played a role in the Eagles' success — from Carson Wentz to Nick Foles, Howie Roseman to Joe Douglas, Fletcher Cox to Malcolm Jenkins, Jim Schwartz to John DiFillippo, Jason Kelce to Alshon Jeffery — Pederson is the common thread that’s tied all of it together.

We saw last year that Pederson had a rare ability to keep a team together when faced with adversity. Whether it was the whole Sam Bradford situation before the season, Lane Johnson’s suspension, a couple arrests, two players publicly speaking out about mental health, or just keeping the thing on the rails after three straight late-season ugly losses, Pederson won over his players by confronting each issue openly and professionally and treating his players like grown men.

By the time the team training camp ended this past summer, Pederson had earned the respect of the veterans by preaching discipline without being over the top about it and by constantly keeping the lines of communication open with his players. 

Here’s a young, inexperienced coach who had a long but undistinguished playing career and no real track record or resume as a head coach trying to convince a locker room of Super Bowl winners and all-pros that he knows what he’s doing.

But he did that. Just by being himself. Tough, smart, open, honest.

And once you get guys like Malcolm Jenkins, Jason Peters, LeGarrette Blount and Alshon Jeffery to buy in, the younger guys just fall in line. 

And that might be the biggest challenge any head coach faces. Getting guys to believe in his message. To believe in him.

But Pederson has tremendous instincts when dealing with people, a real natural, honest way of getting his point across, and it enabled him to seamlessly win over the locker room. 

Once that happened, this team was built to withstand whatever challenge it faced. To withstand whatever roadblocks stood in its way.

And as it turned out, there were plenty of them. 

We don't have to run down the littany of season-ending injuries the Eagles faced, but what this team has accomplished without its MVP quarterback, its Hall of Fame left tackle, its best linebacker, its all-pro returner and its top special teamer is nothing less than astonishing.

Nick Foles is their quarterback and they're in the NFC Championship Game.

Think about the last month.

They came from behind in Los Angeles to beat the Rams after Wentz got hurt. They beat the Giants on the road. They beat the Raiders to clinch No. 1 seed. They "upset" the Falcons in a conference semifinal playoff game. 

For this football team to be one home win away from the Super Bowl after all it has been through speaks volumes about Pederson. He's guided this franchise through adversity that would have crushed some locker rooms, and he's done it in his second year as a head coach above the high school level.

Pederson found a way to get 53 guys to believe in themselves even when very few other people did. And they returned the favor by consistently playing smart, physical, disciplined football for him no matter who the opponent, no matter what the score, no matter how long that Injured Reserve list grew.

This has been a masterful year for Pederson, and anybody who can't see that just isn't looking very hard.

Why lack of touches for Jay Ajayi after 1st quarter?

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USA Today Images

Why lack of touches for Jay Ajayi after 1st quarter?

Jay Ajayi wasn't hurt Saturday night. So why did he barely play after a huge first quarter?

Ajayi dominated the first quarter of the Eagles' 15-10 playoff win over the Falcons at the Linc with seven carries for 49 yards. But after a one-yard carry a minute into the second quarter, he didn't touch the ball again until the third quarter.

After his hot start, he didn't even get on the field on the Eagles' last two drives of the first half.

LeGarrette Blount actually had more carries than Ajayi after the first quarter, but netted only 19 yards on nine attempts, although he did score the Eagles' only touchdown from a yard out in the second quarter.

Ajayi never got into a rhythm after his long layoff. He had eight carries for five yards after the first quarter and finished with 15 carries for 54 yards along with four catches for 44 yards, including a 32-yard catch and run that was the Eagles' longest offensive play of the game.

Head coach Doug Pederson said Monday he just wanted to get Blount some work. He also said he likes to go hurry-up after long plays and was unable to sub Ajayi while the offense was going with tempo. But there weren't any plays longer than 15 yards while Ajayi sat.

Pederson said the decision on which back to use rests with him and not running backs coach Duce Staley.

“I ultimately control the personnel," he said. "Duce doesn’t sub them. I’m the one calling the plays, so I call for those guys in particular situations, and a couple times when we broke off a long run or a pass particularly — it’s a good time to go a little tempo. So whoever the back is at the time on the field, I just kept him in there.

"And [Blount] was heating up a little bit and we wanted to get him going as well and it’s just the way it went."

Ajayi had 35 of the 86 net yards on the Eagles' only touchdown drive of the game.

After that second-quarter TD drive, the Eagles ran 15 times for 17 yards, not including three Nick Foles kneel-downs.  

Pederson said all the backs know all the plays, but he just prefers different backs depending on what the Eagles are doing offensively. 

Of the Eagles’ 67 offensive plays, Ajayi played 29, Blount 20, Corey Clement 16 and Kenjon Barner one (see Snap Counts).

"The way it is set up is by design, by scheme design, a particular back might be good at a certain run scheme so we put that back in for that particular play," he said.