Hang on Tight, It's Gonna Be a Wild Ride: Eagles Make Things Interesting Yet Again in Win Over Giants

Hang on Tight, It's Gonna Be a Wild Ride: Eagles Make Things Interesting Yet Again in Win Over Giants

You wanted convincing? You got it. The Eagles didn't beat their opponent by one point on Sunday night, as they did both the Browns and Ravens in Weeks 1 and 2. No, no, no -- they beat the Giants by two!

All kidding aside, there was progress in more aspects of the Birds' 19-17 victory over rival New York than a subtle difference on the scoreboard. They ran the ball. They protected the quarterback. Most important, they did not commit a single turnover. After they averaged four per game through the first three weeks this season, some of you may have doubled back to read the previous sentence twice.

Yet for their many steps in the right direction, the Eagles still had to take a few backwards. They were forced to settle for field goals in three out of four red zone trips. They needed to come from behind after their defense surrendered a six-point lead in the fourth quarter. Even after it appeared as though they had it sewn up when Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes missed the potential game-winning field goal, it turned out he would get to attempt it again thanks to Philadelphia's favorite son, Andy Reid.

Reid called a timeout as the ball was snapped on Tynes' 54-yard field goal try with 15 seconds remaining, fans celebrating as they watched it sail left. Tynes got another shot at it, and while the direction was true, this time he took something off of the boot.

Luckily the pigskin dropped harmlessly in the end zone to seal the W, or we would have never heard the end of that one. Despite questions about the time-honored tactic of icing the kicker, Reid's game plan surely pleased the masses otherwise. If nothing else, it put a smile on the faces of LeSean McCoy fantasy owners.

With a 7-3 lead heading out of the locker room, Reid leaned heavily on Shady. Eight of nine plays on the opening possession of the second half were runs, handing the ball to McCoy seven straight times at one point. That particular drive ended with three points when they were unable to punch it in from the goal line, but the emphasis on the ground attack down the stretch allowed the Eagles to bleed the clock, which obviously came into play in the end.

17 of McCoy's 23 carries came in the second half, as the All-Pro back gained 123 yards all told, averaging 5.3 per attempt. He added three receptions for 17 yards through the air.

Pounding the rock didn't lead to a boon on the scoreboard, but it did take some of the pressure off of Michael Vick and the offensive line. After giving the ball away nine times on his own through three games, Vick played within himself against the Giants, keeping his mistakes to a minimum -- zero turnovers, and only two sacks, one of which was a give-up to make the Giants use a timeout. If nobody was open, Vick either scrambled for whatever the defense was willing to concede, or simply threw the ball away.

It helped that the patchwork offensive line finally seemed to gel in front of the quarterback. Early on, they opened few holes for McCoy, and it seemed like it was going to be another long night of Vick scooping himself off the turf play after play. McCoy obviously got his, plus the protection was vastly improved as the game went along. For the first time in 2012, Vick spent a surprising amount of time on his feet.

Vick finished with a workmanlike line, completing 19 of 30 passes for 241 yards and a TD, along with six runs for 49. He connected on a 19-yard touchdown strike to DeSean Jackson, who was his top receiver with six catches for 99 ticks.

The Eagles' offense were not the only ones who got off to a slow start. Every drive for the first 28 minutes ended in a punt until Vick to DJacc broke the stalemate. Somehow, that was what it took for Eli Manning to get going. The Giants scored on three of their next four possessions, and would have done so on every one of them were it not for a Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie interception in the end zone, his third of the season.

After DRC's pick opened the fourth quarter, the Birds settled for another field goal, pushing the tally to 16-10. Manning responded with a five-play, 83-yard march, abusing the secondary for gains of 31 and 41 yards before capping it off with a six-yard toss to little-used tight end Bear Pascoe, uncovered. Watching safeties Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen bite up on play-action on those big gainers was deflating, while DeMeco Ryans appeared to be on the hook for the touchdown. Ryans had his fingerprints on Manning's 14-yard TD to Victor Cruz in the third as well, hesitating on his zone responsibility.

But after everything was all said and done, Juan Castillo's unit held strong when it mattered most -- even if the officials tried real hard to keep the game alive. Ticky-tack pass interference penalties against DRC on 4th and 1 and Nnamdi Asomugha on 3rd and 10 extended the drive. Miraculously, the Eagles got a call back when Ramses Barden dragged Asomugha down for an offensive PI, which set up the longer field goal try for the win.

While some might continue to make a big deal out of the fact that the Eagles once again came out ahead by the slimmest of margins, this was another huge win, one in which they likely would've given away a year ago, as has been said about the others as well. Taking out the Giants is always a huge win -- the reigning world champions, mind you -- and it moves Philly's record to 3-1 for the year.

It's also become safe to say we might be witnessing a trend here with this Eagles team. They must be talented to overcome four and five turnovers in previous victories, then to limit a Super Bowl MVP quarterback to 17 points. If the month of September is any indication though, they are still quite flawed, and little will come easy for the Eagles this season. Better buckle your seat belts on and take any prescribed heart medication. If the Birds are on, you can bet the final is coming down to the wire.

Notes

• The drive to set up Alex Henery's decisive 26-yard field goal was 12-plays, 75 yards. Vick only put the ball in the air three times on that possession. By the way, Henery hit all four of his tries, including a long of 48.

• Vick appeared to have been hobbled on his give-up sack when Osi Umenyiora slid across his legs, but the quarterback brushed it off as nothing too serious during his post-game presser.

• The Giants could never establish their running game, gaining just 57 yards on the ground on 19 attempts for a 3.0 average. Perhaps in correlation, they converted only two of 10 third downs.

• Eli shook off a shaky start to hit on 24 of 42 attempts for 309 yards and two scores in large part because the pass rush vanished, finishing with zero sacks. The Birds' front four made it hard on the younger Manning at the start, but the blocking eventually settled down and gave the QB time to operate.

• The Eagles kick coverage unit was absolutely torched by rookie running back David Wilson, whose six returns averaged 36.2 yards.

• Philadelphia won time of possession 33:21 to 26:39.

Eagles' QB-rich support system for Carson Wentz paying dividends

Eagles' QB-rich support system for Carson Wentz paying dividends

In the wake of the Sam Bradford trade, the Eagles' announcement a week before the opener that Carson Wentz would start Week 1 was met with some skepticism and overwhelmingly tempered expectations.

But it looks like the kid can play.

And the Eagles aren’t just looking smart for drafting and playing Wentz. They’re also looking pretty smart for filling their coaching staff and quarterback room with decades of quarterback experience.

“It's a tight room,” head coach Doug Pederson said.

It’s also a knowledgeable one.

Pederson is a former NFL quarterback and NFL quarterbacks coach. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich is a former NFL quarterback and NFL quarterbacks coach. Quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo is a former college quarterback and NFL quarterbacks coach. And backup Chase Daniel has been in the league since 2009 and in Pederson’s offense since 2013.

If Wentz has a question, he has plenty of guys to ask. And it seems like this support system, which at one time looked like overkill, might be one of the keys that has allowed the rookie to take the NFL by storm.

“There’s no doubt. There’s no doubt,” the veteran backup Daniel said. “Obviously, he’s a very bright young mind, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the coaching in the quarterback room has played a good part into his maturation and his bringing along so fast. There’s no doubt about it.”

Through three games, Wentz has completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 769 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions. He's the first rookie in NFL history to put up those numbers in the first three games of a career. Oh yeah, and the Eagles are 3-0.

It’s hard to believe that about a month ago, Wentz was gearing up for a redshirt year as the third quarterback behind Sam Bradford and Daniel. Now, he isn’t just the future franchise quarterback. He is the franchise quarterback.

And Wentz gives his quarterback-heavy coaching staff plenty of credit.

“It’s huge having them,” Wentz said. “I could never say enough how much they understand the game. They get it. They know what it’s like. As a former quarterback, they know what I’m going through and how I’m seeing things, so it’s been huge.”

The Eagles were clearly smitten with Wentz from the time they saw him in Alabama for the Senior Bowl. Eventually, de facto GM Howie Roseman was able to maneuver to the No. 2 pick to draft Wentz.

But Wentz went No. 2 and not No. 1, so it’s almost impossible to not peek over at Los Angeles and see how first overall pick Jared Goff is doing. So far, he isn’t doing much of anything. It doesn’t mean that eventually Goff won’t be a good quarterback, but through three games, he’s been inactive once and hasn’t yet played. The Rams are sticking with Case Keenum for now.

NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling compared the support system for Goff with the Rams and Wentz's with the Eagles. We’ll take a deeper look into what he started:

Rams
• Head coach Jeff Fisher: Defensive coach

• OC Rob Boras: Never a QB coach; coached tight ends in NFL from 2004-15

• QB Coach Chris Weinke: Former NFL QB for seven seasons; was highly-thought of QB draft guru with IMG academy for four years

• Vet QB Case Keenum: In league since 2012; best QB he's played with is Matt Schaub

Eagles
• Head coach Doug Pederson: 12 years as NFL QB; QB coach in Philly; OC in KC

• OC Frank Reich: 14 years as NFL QB; QB coach in Indy with Peyton Manning in 2009-10; QB coach and OC in San Diego

• QB Coach: John DeFilippo: College QB; QBs coach at Fordham, Columbia; QBs coach with Raiders, Jets, OC with Browns

• Vet QB Chase Daniel: In league since 2009; learned under Drew Brees; has been in Pederson's offense since 2013

It’s very possible if Wentz becomes a great quarterback that other teams copy the Eagles’ quarterback-heavy approach.

But it’s not just about getting a bunch of smart people and a talented rookie in the same room. Everything else has to work. The rookie has to be a diligent learner and all of the teachers have to check their egos and work together.

“I let John (DeFilippo), I let the quarterback coach run the meeting,” Pederson said. “If I interject, I interject. The way it works is I send my message through Frank (Reich), Frank through the position coaches. At the same time, if I want to interject something, I will interject. Just making sure there's one voice in the meeting room and they are not hearing three different answers from three different people, the message is the same.”

Practice squad quarterback Aaron Murray, who joined the team a couple weeks ago, thinks the quarterback room has “definitely” helped Wentz achieve his early success. While he is just a practice-squader, go ahead and add Murray — who was in the offense for two years in Kansas City — to the list of quarterback minds happy to help Wentz.

Murray, a fifth-rounder out of Georgia in 2014, has been impressed with Wentz’s ability to pick up protections and schemes at a young age. He compared him to Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith in that regard. While Murray, along with everyone else, is happy to give Wentz tips, he tries to not overload him.

“You still want him to just go out there and play,” he said.

Murray is the newcomer to the room, but he’s been impressed with the dynamic so far. He’s not the only one. It looks like this quarterback experiment might just work.

“It’s awesome. It’s great,” Daniel said. “Everyone has a say in there and everyone in the room, it’s pretty crazy, everyone in the room, really except Carson, has been around it, has been in it and played. Obviously, he’s played, but been around for a while. He’s just a sponge, he’s just taking it all in.

“Maybe some stuff he doesn’t need to take in. Maybe some stuff he wants to do his own way, which is great. You want your own personality out there. But yeah, he’s been great. It’s been great for us too as players. We have almost a 2-to-1 coach-to-player ratio. It’s been great. Everyone has little tidbits here and there and we roll.”

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Pete Mackanin unloads on Phillies' bullpen after latest collapse

Pete Mackanin unloads on Phillies' bullpen after latest collapse

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies’ bullpen continued its ugly, late-season collapse on Tuesday night. It was tagged for six runs in a 7-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves. The Braves rallied for the tying and go-ahead runs in the bottom of the eighth inning (see Instant Replay).
 
The loss came two days after the bullpen gave up 14 earned runs in four innings in a 17-0 loss to the New York Mets on Sunday and it left manager Pete Mackanin more than a little bit frustrated.
 
“The bullpen has just not been doing the job,” Mackanin said.
 
Jerad Eickhoff gave up just one run (on a solo homer by Freddie Freeman) over four walk-free innings to open the game. He was up 6-1 after four innings when the rains came and stopped the game for an hour and 53 minutes.
 
With Eickhoff bounced by the weather, Mackanin had to go to his bullpen. He used four relievers — Severino Gonzalez, Luis Garcia, Joely Rodriguez and David Hernandez — and all gave up runs.
 
Phillies relievers have pitched 77 1/3 innings this month and allowed 69 earned runs for an ERA of 8.03. So that’s one more thing Matt Klentak has to fix this winter, along with the offense that Mackanin wants to see addressed (see story).
 
Ultimately, Hernandez took the loss when he gave up three hits and a run in the bottom of the eighth. The other run in the inning was charged to Rodriguez.
 
As unbelievable as it may sound with rosters being expanded in September, the Phillies played this game shorthanded.
 
They did not have reliever Edubray Ramos. He had a sore elbow, Mackanin said.
 
They did not have outfielder Peter Bourjos, who had gone home to be with his wife for the birth of their child.
 
They also did not have outfielder Tyler Goeddel, who is out with a concussion.
 
Not having Bourjos or Goeddel forced Mackanin to use Darin Ruf in left field after Roman Quinn went out with an oblique injury in the sixth inning. Ruf failed to make a catch on a long fly ball by Tyler Flowers to the gap in left-center. The non-play extended the eighth inning and fueled the Braves’ comeback.
 
“It should have been caught,” Mackanin said. “If Quinn's out there, he catches it. He wasn't out there.”
 
Hernandez was the only free agent that the Phillies signed to a major-league contract this winter. The Phillies signed him with an eye toward using him as the closer. But Hernandez struggled much of the season and slipped into the middle innings while Ramos, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez rose to high-leverage roles.
 
Gomez lost the closer’s job last week and Mackanin was saving Neris to close out this game. That meant Hernandez had to pitch the eighth. He couldn’t protect the lead. He gave up the game-tying hit to Mallex Smith and the go-ahead hit to Emilio Bonafacio.
 
“Neris was going to close for us,” Mackanin said. “I thought about using him with two outs in the eighth. But, at some point, somebody else has to do a (bleeping) job. Somebody else has to (bleeping) step up. In two games now, every reliever I brought in has given up a (bleeping) run. That's unheard of.”
 
The bullpen’s unraveling threw cold (rain) water on Eickhoff’s solid start and Ryan Howard’s big night. Howard belted his 24th homer, a grand slam in the first inning, to highlight a 14-hit attack and help the Phils jump to a 6-0 lead.
 
“Eickhoff looked like he was having one of his best games and then the rain came. So that was our first disappointment,” Mackanin said. "Other than that, Howie swung the bat great. Hit that grand slam. We got 14 hits, but we stranded 12 runners. We have to keep adding on.”
 
Quinn had three of the Phillies’ 14 hits then added to his collection of injuries with the oblique strain that bounced him from the game in the sixth. He hurt himself taking a swing.
 
Oblique injuries generally keep a player sidelined for at least three weeks, so Quinn’s season is likely over. He missed six weeks with a similar injury at Double A Reading this summer. The 23-year-old outfielder came up from the minors on Sept. 11 and has been auditioning for a spot on next season’s opening day roster.
 
“It looks like it,” Mackanin said when asked if Quinn was done for what remains of the season.
 
Injuries have been a consistent hurdle for Quinn ever since he was selected in the second round of the 2011 draft. He has missed significant time with a ruptured Achilles tendon, a wrist injury that required surgery, a torn quad muscle and an oblique strain. Now he has another one.
 
“It’s the same one I hurt before,” Quinn said. “It’s frustrating.”
 
Right now, just about everything is frustrating with this team. Good thing there are only five games left.

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