Eagles

With backs against wall, Eagles' D delivers in crunch time

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With backs against wall, Eagles' D delivers in crunch time

LOS ANGELES — As Carson Wentz was in the blue pop-up tent on the sideline and then as he walked slowly around the corner of the stadium and into the tunnel, the Eagles' defense was busy collapsing. 
 
While Nick Foles began to warm up on the sideline, the Rams went on a seven-play, 70-yard drive that took 3:22 and was capped by a one-yard score from Todd Gurley to take a lead. 
 
Game over, right? 
 
After all, the Eagles were without their MVP and their defense just couldn't seem to stop the Rams. 
 
Then the defense tightened up. 
 
And it helped the Eagles escape the LA Coliseum with a 43-25 win. 
 
"We found a way to get stops when we needed to," Rodney McLeod said. "We’re a resilient group and when our backs we’re against the wall, we had to show up, and that’s what we did tonight."
 
The big play was obviously the Chris Long strip sack. Until that play, it just felt like the Rams were going to keep driving down the field at will. They had already scored on their first two drives of the half and scored a third touchdown on a punt block and return. 
 
So at that point in the game, the strip sack from Long and the recovery from McLeod were enormous (see story)
 
That turnover was impressive, but so was the next Rams' possession. After the Eagles took a 37-35 lead on a Jake Elliott field goal, the Rams got the ball at their own 25-yard line. The Eagles forced a 3-and-out and the Rams didn't get the ball back until there was one second left. 
 
The last three times the Rams touched the ball, they had two fumbles and a 3-and-out. 
 
“We were giving them a lot," defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. "We were giving them too much. We knew at some point we had to stop them. We got to stuff the run on first down, and then they got to run their normal offense. I think guys just knew. We settled down and did what we had to do, but giving credit to that team, that’s a really good team."
 
Until the last few drives of the game, the Rams were gashing the Birds. Todd Gurley had 135 total yards, Cooper Kupp had 118 receiving yards, and Jared Goff while wasn't dazzling, he was very efficient. 
 
Gurley sure looked like the best back the Eagles have faced all season. He averaged 7.4 yards per carry and had two touchdowns on Sunday. 
 
"Top back, Pro Bowl back," Nigel Bradham said of Gurley. "Definitely going to go down as one of the greatest backs in this game. Definitely probably see him in a gold jacket." 
 
But Gurley had 117 of his 135 total yards through three quarters. The Eagles were able to limit him in the fourth. 
 
Really, that was a theme. The Eagles' defense stepped up in crunch time. The Rams had 10 offensive plays in the fourth quarter for a total of 12 net yards. That came after the Rams had 128 yards on 10 plays in the third. 
 
The Rams averaged 12.8 yards per play in the third quarter and 1.2 yards per play in the fourth. 
 
Several Eagles defensive players credited Jim Schwartz with finding ways to adjust and stop the Rams and Gurley. 
 
"We just locked in as a group," McLeod said. "We made adjustments. Jim made some good adjustments. That's what you do when you're a good coach. That's a good team over there, great offensive coordinator. It was a chess game. We kind of mixed some things up and things worked in our favor. We got off the field when it counted."

Remembering bounces that went Eagles' way in Super Bowl run

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NFL

Remembering bounces that went Eagles' way in Super Bowl run

Let’s start this by making sure we all understand that the Eagles absolutely earned their Super Bowl win last season. They were the best team in the NFL all year and they overcame injuries that would have killed most teams. 

But no team can win a championship without at least a few things going its way. That was true for the Eagles too. 

The topic of luck came up with Doug Pederson in a spring session with several reporters not too long ago. It happened when Pederson was asked about how he won a Super Bowl in Year 2, but Andy Reid couldn’t in 14 mostly successful years. Pederson pointed to a lot of key players that Reid brought to town who were integral during the Super Bowl run. … But also luck. 

“The ball’s got to bounce your way,” Pederson said. 

The Eagles earned their Super Bowl rings, but they did get a little bit of luck along the way too. That conversation with Pederson got us thinking. 

Here are six times the ball bounced their way — figuratively or literally — during the playoff run: 

This play came on 2nd-and-8 from their own 30-yard line with 22 seconds left in the second quarter of the divisional round game against the Falcons. The ball literally bounced to the Eagles on this one. 

Somehow Nick Foles’ errant pass should have fallen right into the arms of Keanu Neal, but for some reason, Neal jumped up and the ball hit him in the knee. It then bounced back about seven or eight yards and fell into the arms of Torrey Smith, who picked up a 20-yard gain. Three plays later, Jake Elliott drilled a 53-yard field goal to pull the Eagles within one point (10-9) heading into halftime. 

The Eagles still needed to pick up a first down before they ran out the clock after this play, but this was really the final play of the game. Jalen Mills got aggressive and he deserves credit, but it would have been nearly impossible to defend a perfect throw to Julio Jones in the end zone. This one falls incomplete and the Eagles moved on to the NFC Championship Game. 

“If that ball is you know, a foot lower, it might be a different story,” Pederson said. 

The NFC Championship Game wasn’t very close game between the Eagles and the Vikings, so I guess it was somewhat lucky the Eagles faced Minnesota instead of New Orleans. That doesn’t happen without this crazy play to end the other divisional game. Somehow Marcus Williams didn’t force Stefon Diggs out of bounds and Diggs went in for a game-winning 61-yard touchdown. 

Now, after seeing how the Eagles dismantled the Vikings and then beat the Patriots, they absolutely could have beaten the Saints in the NFC Championship Game, but it would have been much tougher. I always thought the Eagles didn’t want to see Drew Brees in the playoffs; thanks to this play, they didn’t have to. 

Early in the second quarter of the Super Bowl, the Eagles were gifted a bad long snap that led to a short missed field goal from Stephen Gostkowski, one of the best kickers in the NFL. Gostkowski had already made a 26-yard field goal earlier in the game. In his career, the veteran kicker has made 89.5 percent of his field goals in the playoffs. 

The 26-yard miss was just the fourth miss of Gostkowski’s playoff career (34 for 38) and it’s by far the shortest miss of his playoff career. In fact, it’s tied for the shortest miss of his career; he missed a 26-yarder back in 2008. It was just the fifth miss for Gostkowski from 20-29 yards in his entire career. 

Foles didn’t have this problem. Foles caught the ball in the "Philly Special," but Tom Brady couldn’t bring in this ball in the second quarter on third down. On fourth down, Mills broke up a pass intended for Rob Gronkowski down the sideline. 

If Brady catches this ball, not only do the Patriots have a first down, they get pretty far into Philly territory. Brady isn’t fast, but check out how much space he’d have. 

Oh well. He didn’t catch it. 

Brandon Graham waited until the end of the game, but he pulled off the most important play in Eagles history with just over two minutes left in Super Bowl LII. But it might not matter if the ball dropped on the point and bounces to a Patriot. New England would have had the ball back and it would have been third down, with two more chances to advance. 

Instead, the ball hit the ground with the flat side and hovered in the air before rookie Derek Barnett grabbed it.

Some could argue the final Hail Mary falling incomplete was lucky too, but that play would have been much luckier for the Patriots had it worked. 

We started with this and we’ll end with it. The Eagles earned their championship. None of this takes away from it. It’s just fun to remember how crazy some of these things that went down were. 

“I think there's a little bit of that [luck], you know?” Pederson said. “But again, it doesn't, it doesn't pull away from the fact that our guys worked extremely hard and put themselves in a position to win those games."

More on the Eagles

Eagle Eye: Eagles facing a unique situation with Darren Sproles

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Eagle Eye: Eagles facing a unique situation with Darren Sproles

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss Darren Sproles' upcoming retirement. Does it put the Eagles in an awkward position on game days? Why do players care so much about their ratings in Madden? Also, Barrett shares how he decided on his jersey numbers throughout his football career?

1:00 - Derrick is back! What did he do with his time off?
5:30 - Barrett spent time with his grandson ... who ate pancakes with ketchup.
10:00 - Darren Sproles says 2018 will be his final year.
15:00 - Why do players care so much about their Madden ratings?
19:30 - If you can script your career, how would you want to retire?
22:30 - How did Barrett decide on his jersey numbers?

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