Doug Pederson

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Doug Pederson talks Carson Wentz's end zone dive

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Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Doug Pederson talks Carson Wentz's end zone dive

Everyone in the city of Philadelphia held their breath in the second quarter Thursday when Carson Wentz scrambled near the goal line and tried diving into the end zone throwing shoulder first.

Hearts were in throats all across the Delaware Valley as Wentz took on Panthers safety Mike Adams, even though the 6-foot-5, 237-pound Wentz has the size advantage on the 5-foot-11, 205-pound Adams. That's a golden arm at stake.

He was stopped short and threw a touchdown pass on the next play to tie the game 10-10. More importantly, he wasn't injured.

"Well, at the time, I thought he was going to score, quite honestly," Pederson said. "You don't really want your starting quarterback to lead with your throwing shoulder, but I understand, too, the situation, and him trying to get in the end zone. There was a lane at the time, but in this league, everything closed fast. Could he have gone lower? Sure. But at the same time, I think he just saw the end zone and was trying to get in."

Pederson, when asked, said plays like that and when he stands in and delivers the ball with a blitz coming at him, resonate with teammates. They appreciate his toughness and will to win.

Lazy Sunday
As you watch football games from your living room this weekend, know the Eagles are probably doing the same thing.

After Thursday night's huge win over Carolina and with their next game not until next Monday night, the Eagles are in what's almost like a little bye week.

Doug Pederson gave his players and coaches the entire weekend off. While the injured players stuck around this weekend to get treatment, the others were free to go and do whatever they want.

Pederson said he wanted them to get away and "think about the first six weeks." Those are going to be some happy thoughts. The Eagles are 5-1 and look like the best team in the NFC.

The Eagles were going to start looking at film of Washington Friday night, but they weren't planning on taking a deep dive into the division opponent until after Sunday.

Players will start reporting back to the NovaCare Complex on Monday and the team will have a light 10/10/10 practice Tuesday. The real week of practice doesn't begin until Thursday, which will be like a normal Wednesday. With the Monday Night Football game, the Eagles just push everything back one day.

"We've got three really good, exciting games coming up before our official bye [week], all at home," Pederson said. "So it will be an exciting week. Looking forward to it."

Barnett gets his first sack
Sort of.

Derek Barnett was able to hold onto Cam Newton's leg for dear life in the fourth quarter before Justin Hamilton came and took Newton down. The seven-yard sack was split between the two players, neither of whom had an NFL sack coming into the game.

"Cam's a big dude," Barnett said. "He was trying to get out. And he almost did."

Barnett hasn't been producing the way fans probably hoped for his rookie season. The all-time sack leader at the University of Tennessee and the 14th overall pick has gotten close but didn't get one until Thursday.

Does he think this first half sack will open up the floodgates?

"I mean, I feel good rushing the last few weeks," Barnett said. "I just have to keep being critical of myself. My coaches and teammates have to be critical of me, too. It's just getting more reps and stuff and everything will slow down for me. But I feel confident rushing and stuff. I just have to become smarter and when I get at the top of my rushes, learn what to do and what not to do. I just have to keep grinding. The best thing about coming to work is that everybody is pushing each other. It's fun coming into work and getting better."

In the locker room after the win, plenty of his teammates were ribbing Barnett about his first sack. He couldn't help but smile when he heard some of it. Hopefully, for the Eagles, there will be plenty more sacks to come for him.

A numbers game
The Eagles are 5-1. That means they have a really good shot of making the playoffs, but nothing is a done deal.

Before this season, there have been 225 teams in NFL history to win five of their first six games. Of them, 173 have made the playoffs. That means there's a 76.9 percent success rate. Those are pretty good odds. But you'll remember, the 2014 Eagles started the season 5-1 and failed to make it into the playoffs.

Pederson now has to make sure his players don't think they've accomplished everything yet.

"It's tough. It's a fine line because the players are — they're going to read and they're going to listen to all the media outlets on TV and stuff and just hear how people are talking about them and saying how good and how great they are," he said. "But [we have] to keep it real, too. That comes from me. Yeah, we're winning these games, but there is a lot to fix, a lot to correct as well. It's never perfect. [The] bottom line [is] we do want to win the game, but at the same time, I've got to keep them focused and grounded on — even some of the situational stuff still.

"We've got to eliminate the big play on defense. We've got to get better in the red zone on offense, and just keep working in those areas. We weren't as good on third down last night, so we've got to keep working that area. So just keeping them focused and detailed on those specific areas."

Best quotes from after Thursday's game
"It was tough. Maybe Carolina had a little bit of help tonight, them being at home. But we were able to overcome it; that was the most important part." — Rodney McLeod

"He was like, 'Man, I don't know who you is, but you a beast. And I'm like, 'You don't know who I am? You must not know football. But you know me today.'" — Nigel Bradham on his interaction with a Panthers player

"S---, it felt good. It felt like he's back to his normal self. Dominating, doing what he do." — Tim Jernigan on getting Fletcher Cox back

Random media guide note: Halapoulivaati Vaitai says the strangest thing he likes to eat is octopus.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai rebounds after brutal start against Panthers

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Halapoulivaati Vaitai rebounds after brutal start against Panthers

It looked like "Big V" was heading for another big disaster. 

It was almost impossible to watch Julius Peppers go around Halapoulivaati Vaitai on the fifth play of Thursday night's game and not think back to his first start last year, when Washington's Ryan Kerrigan turned him into a turnstile. 

That's the way things looked when the 37-year-old Peppers went around Vaitai and got a strip sack on Carson Wentz to set up the Panthers' first drive in great position. 

"Yeah, it's unfortunate," head coach Doug Pederson said. "He took just a bad set line on the sack. He learned from it, obviously, the hard way. But, hey, listen, Peppers is a great player. But he settled in. He did some nice things after that. Trust his technique. Trust his fundamentals, and he did a nice job. It's great to see, again, a young player step in on a short week and play against a fine defensive end like he did. It just gives us a lot of confidence moving forward with him."

It was a bad start for "Big V," who was filling in for a concussed Lane Johnson, but it didn't turn into a complete disaster.

"After that first drive, I bounced back and I trusted my coach," Vaitai said after the Eagles' 28-23 win. "There's always room for improvement so I'm going to take the time off, reflect and then come back ready to work."

No, Vaitai wasn't great the rest of the game, but he wasn't awful either. He at least didn't ruin the Eagles' entire game plan. 

And while the Birds finished 2-8 without Lane Johnson last year, they're now 1-0 without him this season. 

Getting Vaitai ready to start in just a few days probably wasn't very easy. Johnson suffered a first-half concussion against the Cardinals and the short week didn't allow him enough time to clear the league's concussion protocol. 

Then, on Thursday night, the Panthers sent all kinds of blitzes and used a lot of D-line stunts that seemed to confuse the Eagles early. Eventually, the Birds were able to settle down and figure out where the blitzes were coming from. 

Thursday was the 2016 fifth-round pick's seventh career start. He had played this season as an extra tackle in run formations; that role was assumed by Isaac Seumalo against the Panthers. 

Johnson will have extra time to clear the NFL's concussion protocol because the next game is a Monday night tilt. So it seems likely Vaitai will be heading back to the bench. But maybe he'll have more confidence after taking a punch and getting back up. 

"Being the sixth man off the bench, it's unfortunate for Lane," Vaitai said, "but that is my job and so I have to step up and fulfill that." 

With top record and time off, Eagles' next focus is to not feel themselves

With top record and time off, Eagles' next focus is to not feel themselves

The whole country saw Thursday night what we've all suspected here in Philly the last few weeks.

The Eagles are for real.

About 15 million people nationwide watched the Eagles topple the Panthers 28-23 Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium in a battle of 4-1 teams.

National TV games have a way of altering the conversation about a player or a team, and the Eagles know that with a four-game winning streak, a 5-1 record and a signature prime-time win on the road over a playoff-caliber team, the perception of the Eagles is changing.

“Now you’re going to have bandwagon people who are going to jump on and say, ‘Yeah, you’re for real," safety Corey Graham said. "But it doesn’t really matter to us.

"As long as the guys in this room continue to fight and continue to do what we need to do, we’re all right with that. We’re going to get more respect, but that comes with more responsibility. We’ve got to go out there and make sure we’re ready to play every week."

The mood in the Eagles' locker room as they embarked on their mini-bye — four days off and 10 days without a game — was confidence and swagger but also a great deal of perspective and caution.

They know they're good. But they also know there's a long way to go, and a 5-1 record in mid-October won't mean anything if they don't keep winning.

You never really know, but this sure doesn't seem like a team that's going to let a little success get to its head.

“Coach (Doug) Pederson always tells us, block out distractions," safety Rodney McLeod said. "Can’t listen to what’s going outside in the world, just be focused on next game and what we have in this locker room and being committed to one another, and I think that’s what we’re going to do."

That said, it doesn't mean they're not going to enjoy the show they put on Thursday night for a national TV audience.

"Oh yeah," McLeod said. "Every primetime game, you want to go out there and represent not only yourself but your team. We’re here to put the league on notice, man, and I think this was a good game to do that. 

"It was versus a good team, on the road, short week, and we stepped up to the plate."

This is the 10th time in franchise history the Eagles have been 5-1 or better after six games. They were 6-0 in 1981 and 2004, and they've also been 5-1 in 1949, 1950, 1960, 1961, 1979, 1980 and 2014.

And all that is with four games on the road — the Eagles are already 3-1 away from the Linc after winning just one road game last year. The Eagles' next three games — against the Redskins, 49ers and Broncos — are all at home.

Only three of their 10 remaining opponents currently have a winning record: the 3-1 Broncos, 3-2 Seahawks and 3-2 Rams.

Doug Pederson, now 12-10 as an NFL head coach, said it's not easy to keep his team grounded and focused coming off such an emotional win and with four consecutive wins.

"It's tough," he said. "It's a fine line because the players are going to read and they're going to listen to all the media outlets on TV and stuff and just hear how people are talking about them and saying how good and how great they are. 

"But (we have) to keep it real, too. That comes from me. Yeah, we're winning these games, but there is a lot to fix, a lot to correct, as well. It's never perfect."

Chris Long and Malcolm Jenkins, two veterans with Super Bowl rings, both cautioned their teammates against buying into the hype.

They've both been to the top, but they also know how tenuous that grip on the upper echelon of the NFL is.

"I think a lot of us have anticipated us having success," Jenkins said. "The biggest thing is handling that success and being able to stay goal-oriented and being able to stay focused on the day and the task at hand and one week at a time and not listen to all the things people are projecting onto us.

"And the only way to get through that adversity is to be present in the moment. … That’s up to the leaders on the team to combat all of the praise and hoopla that will come with it. I’ve been on teams that have handled success well and teams that have handled success poorly, and I don’t intend to let that slip."

Long, who won a Super Bowl with the Patriots last year, also preached caution.

“We’ll see if we’re special," he said. "I don’t want to say we’re special yet. We’re six games in, we’ve got a long way to go. Special teams sustain this kind of performance as the weather gets colder and real football starts in November and December. We’ve got to set ourselves up for that."

This is a team that hasn't been in the playoffs since 2013, hasn't won a playoff game since 2008 and hasn't even had a winning season since 2014.

So 5-1 is heady stuff. 

"We don’t listen to the noise," Alshon Jeffery said. "We believe in each other. We’re the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s a new year. We’re just getting started."