Eagles

Gunn-on-One: Malcolm Jenkins pleasantly surprised with Avonte Maddox

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Gunn-on-One: Malcolm Jenkins pleasantly surprised with Avonte Maddox

Malcolm Jenkins is the jack-of-all-trades for an Eagles’ defense that is hurting on the back end. 

No. 27 is this week’s Gunn-on-One subject.

Gunn: Give me your assessment of this team after six games.

Jenkins: The real assessment is we’re 3-3. We’ve earned three wins and I think when you look at the three losses, most of them we felt like we gave those away. And so we’re coming off a big win on a short week in the division, but as we look out at the landscape in the NFC East, all of our goals are right in front of us. While it hadn’t started like we wanted to, it’s still very much alive, so we’re focusing on each week, making sure that we’re putting out the best performance we can to be successful, and nothing bigger than coming home against the Carolina Panthers. A team that has been to the playoffs. A really good running game, obviously a premiere quarterback, premiere tight end, premier receiver, premier running back, some great challenges, and a defense that can get after you with some linebackers that know how to make plays. So we’ve got a challenge and we’re excited about that opportunity to compete.

Gunn: You guys are nicked up on the back end. You have pieces moving all over the place. How much more responsibility falls on you to hold it together back there?

Jenkins: I think initially that’s kind of the reaction — that a lot of that falls on me, but it’s been a pleasant surprise for me to see Avonte Maddox step up the way he has. Not only is he playing a new position, but we’ve given him the responsibility to call the defense, set the defense, which takes a little bit off my plate. He’s really filling a role so that my role doesn’t change. We got other guys that we have to cross-train just because we’re so thin with depth as a contingency plan. One: it gives us better depth. Two: it gives us a little bit of an advantage as well. It’s my responsibility to make sure these guys are prepared.

To see the expanded version of my Gunn-on-One with Jenkins, go to the #MyTeams Philadelphia sports app, and also watch Eagles Pregame Live this Sunday between noon and 1 p.m.

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NFL playoffs: Rams, Patriots advance to Super Bowl after OT thrillers

NFL playoffs: Rams, Patriots advance to Super Bowl after OT thrillers

It's never been so clear: This year's Super Bowl matchup between the Patriots and Rams is a showdown between the NFL's past and its future.

Led by 24-year-old quarterback Jared Goff, the Rams and their 21st-century offense will take on 41-year-old Tom Brady and the Patriots, who are in search of a record-tying sixth Super Bowl title.

At 32, Sean McVay of the Rams (15-3) will be the youngest Super Bowl coach. He'll be going against 66-year-old Bill Belichick, who is taking the Patriots (13-5) to their third straight title game, fourth in the last five years and ninth since 2002.

That streak started against who else? The Rams.

Back then, though, they were in St. Louis. New England came in as a two-touchdown underdog and won 20-17.

The Rams open as a 1-point pick in this one, set for Feb. 3 in Atlanta.

Blown call, Zuerlein's 57-yard FG send Rams to Super Bowl

NEW ORLEANS — A big comeback. A blown call. And, finally, a booming kick that sent the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl.

After rallying from an early 13-0 deficit, the Rams stunned the New Orleans Saints with Greg Zuerlein's 57-yard field goal in overtime for a 26-23 victory in the NFC championship game Sunday — an outcome that might not have been possible without an egregious mistake by the officials in the closing minutes of regulation.

Los Angeles cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman committed a blatant interference penalty with a helmet-to-helmet hit on Tommylee Lewis well before the pass arrived inside the 5, forcing the Saints to settle for Wil Lutz's 31-yard field goal that made it 23-20 with 1:41 left in regulation.

"Came to the sideline, looked at the football gods and was like, `Thank you,'" Robey-Coleman said. "I got away with one tonight."

After the no-call, Jared Goff had enough time to lead the Rams down the field for Zuerlein's tying field goal, a 48-yarder with 15 seconds remaining (see full story).

Patriots make 3rd straight Super Bowl, top Chiefs in thriller

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The New England Patriots are headed to their third straight Super Bowl, once more thanks to Tom Brady's brilliance.

The five-time NFL champion guided the Patriots 75 yards after winning the overtime coin toss, and backup Rex Burkhead's 2-yard TD lifted New England past Kansas City 37-31 for the AFC championship Sunday night.

The drive against an exhausted defense was reminiscent of when the Patriots beat Atlanta in the only Super Bowl to go to OT two years ago.

New England (13-5) benefited from two critical replay reviews and made its ninth Super Bowl with Brady at quarterback and Bill Belichick as coach (see full story).

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Roob's 10 observations: The bottom line about Carson Wentz, running back situation, more

Roob's 10 observations: The bottom line about Carson Wentz, running back situation, more

The Eagles' season is over, but it's not the end of Roob's 10 random Eagles observations.

The plan at running back, Jason Peters' future, some surprising Tom Brady stats — it's all here!

1. How bad was Wentz this year? 
I keep hearing how bad Carson Wentz was this season, and while I agree he was inconsistent at times and generally too slow to get started, the bottom line is that even hampered by a knee that wasn’t 100 percent and a broken bone in his back, he still had a higher passer rating than Jared Goff, Andrew Luck, Brady, Dak Prescott and Aaron Rodgers. He played 11 games and was very good in nine of them, mediocre in one of them (Indianapolis) and terrible in one of them (New Orleans). Look for yourself at his season game by game. You’ll be surprised. There’s no doubt in my mind that with a full, healthy offseason, he’ll be a top-five QB in the NFL next year.

2. The plan at running back 
We’ve talked a lot the last week about the Eagles’ running back situation, and I wrote about it a few days ago. I feel strongly that the Eagles need to attack running back with one of their second-round picks, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t welcome a free agent as well. Honestly, I think the Eagles could use one of each. As far as I’m concerned, everybody currently on the roster with the exception of Corey Clement starts out fighting for a roster spot. They need to completely make over the position. Not one defensive coordinator in the NFL sat in a meeting this year and said, “Hey, we have to account for the Eagles’ running backs.” They need weapons.

3. Figuring out which free agents to keep 
It’s interesting when you look at the list of the Eagles’ 17 free agents that there’s not one they have to bring back. There are a few you’d like back, a few who may be back simply because they’re hurt and have nowhere else to go and a few who you wouldn’t mind back if the price is right. But there’s not one who the Eagles are desperate to keep. Even Brandon Graham, as much as most of us love him, is a 31-year-old defensive end who had 4½ sacks last year. What this does is give the Eagles a ton of leverage. They don’t have to overpay to keep anybody. They can set a price, and if that guy wants more, they can move on. It’s a real position of strength.

4. The curious case of Jordan Hicks
Hicks is one of the more intriguing of those 17 free agents. He’s only 27, and we’ve all seen what kind of player he can be when he’s healthy. He actually had his best game of the year against the Saints last Sunday. But he can’t stay on the field. If he had stayed healthy this year, he would have been a pretty sought-after linebacker in free agency. But nobody is giving him much of a bonus considering he’s now missed significant time in three of his four NFL seasons — 21 of a possible 64 games in his career. I sure wouldn’t get into a bidding war for a guy that misses a third of his team’s games. But if nobody else wants him and you can bring him back at minimum wage or close to it? I’d do it in a second because the ability is there.

5. With the 25th pick in the draft, the Eagles take ... 
I’ll be shocked if the Eagles don’t go defensive line in the first round.

6. One for the fire Jim Schwartz crowd
Take a look at the Eagles’ five playoff opponents the last two years and how many points they averaged during the regular season and how many they scored against the Eagles:

2017 Falcons — Averaged 22.1, scored 10
2017 Vikings — Averaged 23.9, scored 7
2017 Patriots — Averaged 28.6, scored 33
2018 Bears — Averaged 26.3, scored 15
2018 Saints — Averaged 31.5, scored 20

Four of the five scored at least 10 points fewer than their season average, and they averaged 9½ points fewer per game against Schwartz’s defense than during the regular season. The one team that increased was led by the greatest QB ever.

Jim Johnson is the greatest defensive coordinator in Eagles history, and his units allowed 16.7 points per game in the playoffs, which from 2000 through 2008 was 4.4 points per game below the NFL average of 21.1.

Schwartz’s defenses have allowed 17.0 points per game in the playoffs in an era in which the scoring average is 22.5, so that’s 5.5 points per game below the average.

7. Some surprising Brady stats 
Check out Brady’s history in road playoff games:

• He’s thrown just eight TDs with eight INTs and completed 57 percent of his passes in seven career road games.

• He’s lost his last three road playoff games and hasn’t won on the road in the postseason since 2006, when the Patriots beat the Chargers, 24-21, in San Diego.

• He’s lost his last three road AFC Championship Games and hasn’t won a conference title game on the road since 2004 in Pittsburgh.

• Mark Sanchez has more career road playoff wins than Brady. David Garrard has a higher road postseason passer rating. Donovan McNabb has more road playoff touchdowns.

• Brady’s career postseason passer rating is 93.1 in Foxboro, where he’s 20-3. At neutral sites, it’s 98.0 and he’s 5-3. On the road, it’s 75.9 and he’s 3-4.

8. Pondering Peters' future 
The more I think about it, the more convinced I am Peters will be back at left tackle next year. Peters, who turns 37 next week, did leave some games early this year, but he also played 973 snaps — 80 percent of all the Eagles’ offensive snaps this year. When he was out there, he was solid, and although it’s not ideal, I’ll take Peters 80 percent of the time over anybody else. The Eagles would save about $5.1 million in cap space by releasing him, but Peters’ 2019 salary — $7.75 million — is middle of the pack for left tackles and certainly not prohibitive. Halapoulivaati Vaitai isn’t the answer. Jordan Mailata is a year away. It’s easy to say the Eagles should move on from him. It’s a lot harder to explain how.

9. On Alshon Jeffery and the interception
I was thinking about the Saints playoff game and what the Eagles’ chances would have been if Jeffery had caught that pass. It would have probably given the Eagles a 3rd-and-5 at the Saints’ 22-yard line. The Eagles were 7 for 17 this year on 3rd-and-5, which is 41 percent, and they were also 1 for 2 on 4th-and-5. So they basically had two 50 percent chances to convert, which is a 75 percent shot.

Now, what if they had a 1st-and-10 on the opposing 20? That happened six times this year, and the Eagles scored three TDs and three field goals on those drives. Of course they wouldn’t have attempted a field goal this time, and they kicked the field goals on 4th-and-8, 4th-and-13 and 4th-and-15, so I’m going to say it’s a 50 percent proposition to score a touchdown with a 1st-and-10 on the opposing 20. Factor in that the Saints were 23rd in the NFL in red-zone defense and Foles’ career red-zone numbers — 41 TDs, 5 INTs — and my entirely non-scientific conclusion is that, if converting a 3rd-and-5 with two chances is a 75 percent chance and then getting seven points from 20 yards out is a 50 percent chance, the Eagles had about a 38 percent chance to win if Jeffery caught the ball.

It would have been fun to watch Nick Foles try, but the odds were against the Eagles even if he caught it.

10. Predictions 
I’m going with both home teams today. Chiefs 37, Patriots 33, and Saints 31, Rams 27.

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