Sea of Eagles fans create Linc-like atmosphere at StubHub Center

Sea of Eagles fans create Linc-like atmosphere at StubHub Center

CARSON, Calif. — Instead of windmills, there were palm trees. Instead of crab fries, there was sushi. And instead of 60,000-plus, there were just 25,374 fans in attendance. 

But if you closed your eyes, it still felt like the Linc. 

"It was incredible," Brandon Brooks said. "Hats off to the fans. It felt like a home game."

For the most part, Eagles fans always seem to travel well, especially to the West Coast. But Sunday at the StubHub Center was different. It really did feel like a home game. 

As Eagles fans created a sea of midnight green where powder blue should have been, the Eagles gave them plenty to cheer about in a 26-24 win Sunday afternoon in aptly named Carson, California (see breakdown).  

"I'm kind of starting to not be stunned by our fans," Carson Wentz said. "It is unbelievable. They travel so well. They're at every game. It's so enjoyable. They make it so fun, but it's starting to be the norm almost, so to speak. Hats off to them, they bring it every game no matter where we're at, so I'm really thankful for those guys."

Running back Wendell Smallwood said he was on the field before the game and heard loud booing coming from the stands. He thought it was because Wentz was coming out of the tunnel. He was wrong. The Chargers were the ones getting booed in their own makeshift stadium. 

At times, the fans in powder blue let their presence be felt. Toward the end of the game, when the Bolts were making the game mighty interesting, they waved their rally towels and spun them over their heads. It's just that Sunday more rally towels were probably used by Eagles fans to wipe the sweat from their foreheads under the Southern California sun. 

Like Smallwood, several other players said it was during early warmups when they began to realize Sunday's game wasn't going to be a normal road game. Fans in Eagles jerseys new and old lined the parking lots and the tunnel onto the field. 

Every time an Eagles player ran to or from the tunnel, the crowd went nuts. 

And it didn't stop when the game started. When Chris Long picked up his strip sack, the place exploded. When LeGarrette Blount rumbled for a 68-yard gain, it erupted again. 

But perhaps the best sign that Sunday was like a home game was in the first half, when on two separate occasions, "Cowboys suck!" chants broke out in the stands. 

"It was like we were at the Linc all over again," Jason Peters said. "The crowd got us going early and we got on top of them and we just finished it at the end."

"Eagles fans," Alshon Jeffery said. "Fly Eagles Fly. We can't wait to get back to Philly this week. Anytime, we're on the road, we appreciate the support."

After the win, there was one pretty obvious question: Have you ever seen something like this? 

"I can't recall a time," head coach Doug Pederson said, "but it was great to see Eagle nation out there, the fans to come support the guys. It's a long trip for us obviously. Great to see the fans out there. They were huge today, and it was a fun atmosphere."

This was the first of three games the Eagles have on the West Coast this season, a far from favorable schedule. But when they flew out of Philly on Saturday morning, the six-hour trip took them to a place that felt pretty comfortable. 

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was the one who seemed to struggle with the crowd noise. 

“It’s certainly not ideal," Rivers said. "That’s where I was trying not to go with your question. I don’t think, in a lot of ways, it compares to other teams having three straight home games."

The Eagles won just one road game all last season. Through a quarter of the 2017 season, they already have two. Sure, Sunday didn't feel like a road game but it still counts. 

And the sushi wasn't bad. 

Roob Knows Podcast: Biggest offseason need for the Eagles

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Roob Knows Podcast: Biggest offseason need for the Eagles

On the latest edition of Roob Knows, Reuben Frank and Ray Didinger give their final thoughts on the loss in New Orleans.

The guys react to the coaching changes the organization made on Thursday. 

Also, an early look at what promises to be a busy offseason.

1:00 - Roob and Ray still think Nick Foles was going to lead the Eagles to a win.
6:00 - Game changed on a single play.
13:30 - Eagles make some coaching changes on Thursday.
20:30 - Eagles must address the running back position.
30:45 - Neither Roob nor Ray can see the Eagles pursuing Kareem Hunt.
32:30 - Previewing Championship Sunday.

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Where will Eagles turn to fill desperate need at running back?

Where will Eagles turn to fill desperate need at running back?

The Eagles haven’t drafted a running back in the first three rounds since LeSean McCoy a decade ago.

This year it caught up to them.

The Eagles managed to hide their issues at running back for much of the regular season, getting by with a rotating committee that included Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams and Darren Sproles after Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement were lost for the season.

In the playoffs, the absence of an authoritative running attack was glaring.

With 42 rushing yards against the Bears and 49 against the Saints, the Eagles became only the fourth team in NFL history to rush for fewer than 50 yards in back-to-back playoff games (the same year).

Smallwood, Clement and Sproles have all had their moments, but they don’t project as a lead back, and we don’t even know if Sproles wants to keep playing. Ajayi is a free agent and coming off an ACL. Josh Adams went from averaging 14 1/2 carries the last six weeks of the season to getting one snap in the playoffs. Donnel Pumphrey is back after being released by the Lions but hardly looks like a prospect.

So you can make a pretty compelling case that running back is the Eagles’ biggest need this offseason.

The question is where do they get one.

The Eagles have two second-round picks, and this is a draft that should have terrific running back value in the second round.

With the Senior Bowl and Combine still to come, guys like the two Alabama backs — Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris — plus Iowa State’s David Montgomery, Kentucky’s Benny Snell, Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill and Georgia’s Elijah Holyfield are all intriguing prospects, and several of them will be on the board when the Eagles pick at No. 53 and 57.

The Eagles haven’t drafted a running back in the first round since Keith Byars in 1986 and that’s unlikely to change. But the second and third rounds— where they found Duce Staley, LeSean McCoy and Brian Westbrook — make sense, and the way Howie Roseman likes to wheel and deal, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Eagles find their way back into the third round.

If the Eagles decide to go the free agent route, there’s Le’Veon Bell, who is as talented as anybody and a great fit in this offense because of his tremendous receiving and blocking ability. But it’s hard to imagine the Eagles finding cap space to sign him, and his exhaustive workload with the Steelers — more than 1,500 touches before his 26th birthday — could be a red flag.

Tevin Coleman of the Falcons and Mark Ingram of the Saints are less-expensive options who are both effective runners and solid receivers.

Coleman is younger and has less wear and tear. Ingram has more of a proven body of work and for a 29-year-old two-time Pro Bowl back doesn’t have a ton of touches (14.6 per game over his eight-year career).

There’s also Ajayi, who is still only 25 and has been productive when healthy, but he’s coming off ACL surgery as free agency approaches, and the long-term state of his knees is a concern.

The Eagles have been unsettled at running back since Chip Kelly jettisoned McCoy. They’ve had a different leading rusher five straight years — McCoy in 2014, DeMarco Murray in 2015, Ryan Mathews in 2016, LeGarrette Blount in 2017 and Adams in 2018.

Roseman doesn’t say much, but he did come as close as he ever will to acknowledging that the Eagles have to be better at running back.

“We have to look at that, among other positions, and figure out where we are going forward,” he said. “We want to strengthen the roster, make sure we're improving the roster, we're not standing pat.”

The Eagles were able to make things work last year with Blount, Ajayi and Clement, but they need an elite receiving back to give Carson Wentz a consistent dump-off option, provide consistent production on the ground and help take the offense to the next level.

Someone they can count on when they face a top defense in the playoffs.

I like Ingram, but I prefer the idea of going running back in the second round and building around a prospect like Snell or Hill.

The Eagles have to get younger, faster and more consistent at running back, and they will definitely get that chance in April.

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