Jared Goff

Chris Long plays defensive hero late in L.A.

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Chris Long plays defensive hero late in L.A.

LOS ANGELES — The Eagles were running out of time. Their quarterback was hobbled. Their defense was getting torn apart. Somebody had to make a play.

It was Chris Long's turn.

“I think we just realized we have to make a stop or two, if we’re any good," Long said.

With the Rams leading the Eagles by a point midway through the third quarter, Long — who spent the 2008 through 2015 seasons with the Rams — strip-sacked Jared Goff inside the Rams' 30-yard line.

The ball seemed to bounce forever before Rodney McLeod recovered and got the ball down to the 25-yard line, and 4½ minutes later, Jake Elliott gave the Eagles the lead for good with the second of his three field goals.

“They were doing a good job of play-action pass all game," Long said after the Eagles' 43-35 win over the Rams (see breakdown). "Boots, play action. Todd (Gurley) played a hell of a game and it made it easier for them to drop back, and I just had a good read on the sack and stayed at it. 

"Our coverage was good and I just put my hand on the ball."

Long, in his first year with the Eagles, now has four sacks and three forced fumbles rotating in at defensive end.

None of his plays were bigger than this one (see Roob's observations).

"I probably just held on to it a little bit too long," Goff said. "Stepped in the pocket there, and Chris Long came around and made a great play. Probably (need to) get rid of it a little earlier there."

The Eagles got gashed for much of the game Sunday, but that turnover was the biggest play of the game.

"I think at that point of the game, we knew the defense had to go out and win the game," Fletcher Cox said. "We knew that it was our time to get a turnover and put our offense in a position to score and just close the game out. 

"We always talk about it, we have to get turnovers. We got one and it was the biggest one of the game."

The last time the Eagles were trailing this late in a one-possession game and got a takeaway that led to a win?

It was in 2014 against the Colts, when Malcolm Jenkins picked off Andrew Luck with 5½ minutes left in Indianapolis with the Colts up 27-20. The Eagles wound up winning 30-27 on Cody Parkey's field goal as time expired.

“Chris came off the edge and made a great play for us," McLeod said.

"The ball was squirming around, a lot of guys trying to scoop it up, I just felt like if I slowed down the ball was going to come my way and it did, and I was able to capitalize on a big play for my team."

Thanks to Long and McLeod, the Eagles are now 11-2 with three games to go and NFC East champs for the first time since 2013.

"We felt like we had to do our part on defense and go out there and get a score or make something happen," Brandon Graham said. "Chris started it. Chris definitely started it and we just took over after that.”

Eagles-Rams: Roob's 10 observations

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Eagles-Rams: Roob's 10 observations

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES — The sight of Carson Wentz walking off the field late in the third quarter with a towel over his head and a trainer walking next to him was enough to make any Eagles fan's heart stop and send them into shock.

He's taken over our city with such class and grace, it's hard to even remember a time when he wasn't the Eagles' quarterback. It's tough to even imagine playing without him.

But that's the reality we're facing right now. This team has been incredibly resilient all year, and they came from behind to beat a 9-3 Rams team in their own building Sunday without Wentz. With this team? You just never know.

With the dramatic 43-35 win over the Rams at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum Sunday afternoon, the Eagles improved to 11-2 and clinched the NFC East (see breakdown).

So as we all await an update on Wentz, here are tonight's 10 Observations. 

1. Without immediately knowing the extent of Wentz's injury, it's tough to really speculate what this means for the Eagles. With Wentz, the Eagles are a legit Super Bowl contender. Without him? Nick Foles is certainly one of the better backups in the league and is capable of winning a couple games if Wentz is out for a few weeks or longer, especially considering the Eagles finish the regular season with the Giants at the Meadowlands and then the Raiders and Cowboys at home. But Wentz is what makes this team special, and his absence certainly changes everything. Without knowing any details, one alarming thing for me is how quickly Wentz was ruled out after he left the game. The Eagles have kept this thing rolling without Jason Peters, without Darren Sproles, without Jordan Hicks, and they deserve a tremendous amount of credit for that. But if Wentz is forced to miss any appreciable time … it's just hard to imagine this team accomplishing anything special without No. 11 behind center. Wentz has been so incredibly tough over these first 29 games of his career it's hard to even fathom him getting hurt. I think of him as some sort of superhero. Invincible. Watching him walk off the field reminded me of seeing Randall Cunningham carted off the field on opening day at Lambeau Field in 1991. Some things your brain just can't process.

2. Foles? He looked rusty, which you would expect. In his first extended playing time since Nov. 6 of last year with the Chiefs, he completed a few difficult passes, engineered two fourth-quarter field goal drives, made a huge 3rd-and-8 connection with Nelson Agholor just after the two-minute warning, and generally avoided the kind of mistakes that backup quarterbacks often make. Foles is a good quarterback. He'll never be what we saw in 2013. But if Wentz does miss significant time, there aren't a lot of backups I'd rather have.

3. I was eager to see how the Eagles' defense would stack up against one of the NFL's top offenses, and for much of the game, it wasn't pretty. The Rams piled up 28 points in the game's first 46 minutes — they also scored on special teams — and Todd Gurley, despite just 13 carries, really gashed the Eagles, running for 96 yards and two touchdowns along with three catches for 39 more yards. The Eagles' tackling was terrible for much of the game, they didn't force any turnovers for 3 1/2 quarters, Jared Goff was playing efficient and productive football and hitting some big plays. Then Chris Long and Rodney McLeod made the kind of play that great defenses make. Long stripped Goff and McLeod recovered, and that set up Jake Elliott's game-winning field goal. And on the Rams' next drive, which started with 3:45 on the clock, the Rams didn't gain a yard, and then the Eagles essentially ran out the clock. It wasn't always pretty, but the Eagles went into the L.A. Coliseum and beat one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL, and the defense's performance in the fourth quarter is one of the big reasons. When they had to stop the Rams, they did.

4. I really like the way LeGarrette Blount has handled this season, especially his unselfish, team-first approach after the Jay Ajayi acquisition. And Blount has really run the ball well. But I feel like we're at the point where Ajayi needs to be this team's lead running back. Doug Pederson clearly wants a rotation and doesn't want to upset the balance the Eagles have had so far. He feels like it makes the Eagles unpredictable and tougher to defend. But Ajayi just looks explosive right now, even without much work. He's only had 44 carries in the five games he's played, but among them are runs of 71, 46, 30 and 29 yards. He's averaging 7.0 yards per carry since getting here, which is nuts. He knows the offense. He knows the system. He's comfortable with this offensive line. Blount was 7 for 12 Sunday, Ajayi was 15 for 78. Ajayi has to be the guy from here on out.

5. The Rams committed three really stupid three personal fouls in the second half, the first two extending a touchdown drive. Those are penalties great teams don't commit. They're penalties the Eagles don't commit. It really kind of puts into focus how the Eagles really don't lose their cool in the face of adversity, which isn't always an easy thing to do.

6. Was nice to see a big contribution from Torrey Smith Sunday, with 6 for 100 — his first 100-yard game since 2015 and only his second since 2013. Smith has been a non-factor the last two months — just 7 for 98 in his last seven games before Sunday — but he's not the kind of guy to hang his head or demand the ball. He just kept working, and Sunday it paid off.

7. Alshon Jeffery continues to play better than his numbers. He finished 5 for 52 Sunday, but that third-quarter touchdown, where he scooped the ball off the ground just before it hit the field, was a thing of beauty and a huge play on fourth down. Jeffery doesn't have huge numbers, but he does have eight touchdowns, including six in the last six games.

8. How about some props for Trey Burton? This kid has to be the best third tight end in the history of the universe. And what a story. Undrafted out of Florida in 2014, made an immediate impact on special teams, only had three catches his first two seasons, gradually worked his way into the rotation and is now a legit target for Wentz. With Zach Ertz unable to play Sunday with lingering effects of a concussion, Burton caught four passes for 55 yards, the second-most yards of his four-year career, and had his first two-TD game. Burton had one TD in his first 50 games and has four in his last eight. The kid is big and fast, has the softest hands, rarely drops anything, and Wentz clearly loves throwing to him. Burton is due to become a free agent after the season, and the Eagles really need to find a way to keep him.

9. I know it didn’t mean anything in the big picture, but Brandon Graham deserves to get into the end zone. The way that guy plays and what he’s meant to this team over three head coaches and five defensive coordinators and six position coaches? His touchdown on the final play of the game, as the Rams fumbled trying to run some crazy length-of-the-field trick play, gave the Eagles a welcome exclamation point on a wild win. It was the first TD of Graham's eight-year career, and I know he's going to enjoy it.

10. Finally this. Whatever Wentz's injury turns out to be, allow me to put Wentz's recent run in perspective. He threw 27 touchdown passes in the Eagles' last nine games. Only six QBs in NFL history — Tom Brady, Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and George Blanda — have ever thrown more in any nine-game span. All are Hall of Famers. Whatever happens from here on out, this is a special kid and however much time he misses, he's going to win a ton of football games for this franchise over the next decade.

5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat Rams

5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat Rams

ANAHEIM, Calif. — After dropping last week's game in Seattle, this weekend's matchup against the Rams at the LA Coliseum is huge for the Eagles

And it won't be easy. 

The Eagles are tied for the NFC's best record at 10-2, but the Rams have put together a resurgent season with Jared Goff and new head coach Sean McVay. They are 9-3 heading into this one. 

It won't make the list, but the number of Eagles fans in the stadium is something to watch (see story). Earlier this week, McVay said his team might work on the silent count because of the possibility of plenty of Eagles fans in attendance. 

"Our fans have been outstanding when you really look at it," McVay said on a conference call with Philly reporters earlier this week. "We feel very fortunate to have a great crowd from the LA market. The Saints game, our most recent game at home, was a great turnout. It was a great atmosphere. 

"I think I was more kind of alluding to the fact that you guys travel so well and then hearing the way Philly fans traveled when they played the Chargers earlier on in the year. We definitely don't ever want to be caught off guard. But our fans have been outstanding and we're hopefully looking forward to a heavy LA crowd on Sunday."

Here are five matchups on the field to watch: 

Sammy Watkins vs. Ronald Darby 
Former teammates. Both speed guys. This one should be fun. You'll remember back in the summer when the Bills were making a ton of moves, Watkins and Darby were traded out of town on the same day. 

The two should know each other pretty well. They were teammates for two seasons in Buffalo and would have gone up against each other in practice daily. 

Watkins has had decent production with the Rams. He has 31 catches for 528 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games. Not tremendous, but he's still a threat, especially deep. 

Meanwhile, Darby has been back for three games since recovering from a dislocated ankle. He has played pretty well in that time. 

"He's a good player," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said of Darby. "He didn't play his best game this year (against Seattle). I think that play down the field, the pass interference was a big play, and he knows he can play that play better. But we're excited to have him back, and he's been a big contributor for us."

Todd Gurley vs. Eagles' run D
Gurley is arguably the best and most complete running back the Eagles will face all season. He's a huge part of the Rams' offense and can do it on the ground and as a receiver out of the backfield. 

"He's a big back, but he picks and chooses his holes," Schwartz said. "He can run downhill, but he also has some Le'Veon Bell in him when it comes to picking his way through. Second-leading rusher in the NFL, but he's been very productive in the passing game. I think that's something that went unnoticed from me until we really started diving into the film. He's averaging double-digits in average per reception. For a running back, that's pretty impressive. So it's not just the run game, it's the pass game also."

The Eagles have given up 100 yards on the ground in two of their last three games, but in the middle was a six-yard rushing performance from the Bears. Overall, the Eagles still have the best rushing defense in the NFL, giving up 68.1 yards per game. 

Stefen Wisniewski vs. Aaron Donald
Aaron Donald is a nightmare. He's one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL and has the ability to ruin every single play the Eagles run. 

Donald has been a Pro Bowler in the first three of his NFL seasons and has been an All-Pro in his last two seasons. He's that good. 

"He's a game-changer," Wentz said. "He can really mess up some things offensively if you're not aware of where he's at and kind of game plan a little bit for him. At the same time, we have a ton of confidence in the five guys up front. We have a ton of confidence they can get the job done. We'll limit what he can do and how he can affect the game, but he's a heck of a player and you just have to be aware at times."

Wisniewski is coming off a tough game against Seattle but has played pretty well since being inserted into the Eagles' starting lineup. This will be a big test for him. 

Jay Ajayi vs. Rams' run D
If there's one area where the Eagles might be able to exploit the Rams' defense, it's on the ground. 

The Rams have given up 122.8 rushing yards per game this season. The Eagles, as long as they don't get behind early, should try to establish the run against this team, even with the return of Alec Ogletree expected. 

Last week, for the first time since his arrival, Ajayi led the Eagles' running backs in snaps. If the Eagles want him to be a big-time contributor down the stretch, it's time to start featuring him a little more. They need to get him going. 

Jared Goff vs. Jim Schwartz 
There will be a bit of a chess match during Sunday's game. The Rams use an interesting offensive look, where they get to the line and Goff looks to the sideline to get the play. That means the Eagles might try to wait a little bit before they show the Rams what they're doing ... or they show and try to switch quickly. 

It's a bit of a cat-and-mouse game. 

As he normally does, Schwartz didn't want to get into the specifics of his game plan. Why tell the Rams how he plans on stopping them? 

"There are ways," he said, "that we can combat that kind of audible system."