Keys to an Eagles' win over Vikings
Jason Peters made the Pro Bowl each year from 2007 to 2011. (USA Today Images)
Eagles-Chiefs, Week 3, middle of the second quarter. That’s when we all saw something we hadn’t seen around these parts in years.
Jason Peters flat-out getting beat.
It was a 3rd and 10 near midfield, Chiefs up 10-6. Michael Vick, lined up in the shotgun, dropped back, and before you knew it, Chiefs defensive end Tamba Hali had blasted past Peters as if he were Demetress Bell on the way to slamming Vick down for a sack.
The Eagles punted, the Chiefs went on to a 26-16 win, and Hali’s sack, looking back, was a pivotal play.
For Peters, who gives up sacks about once every millennium, it was eye-opening.
“It bothered me a lot because he really didn’t just beat me,” Peters said at his locker Wednesday. “Bad technique. My hand was kind of bothering me a little bit because I banged it up.
“After I looked at it, it was just bad technique. I think Mike took a five-step drop and I thought it was a shorter drop, three-step drop, and [Hali] kind of ran the edge and got me.
“But it’s made me better. Humbled me to work harder the next week and the week after that.”
And now, here we are going into Week 15, and once again, Peters is playing like an all-pro.
After missing last year with a career-threatening injury – he underwent two reconstructive surgeries after blowing out his Achilles in March and May 2012 – Peters is back to his all-pro self.
Nobody talks about the Achilles anymore. At 31 years old and in his 10th NFL season, the one-time undrafted tight end looks like the Jason Peters of old. And as he's regained his form, the Eagles’ offense has become virtually unstoppable.
“I felt like I played pretty good the first three weeks,” Peters said. “I gave up the one sack to Hali and a couple pressures the first four weeks. I think it took me a little while to get rolling. But after a couple weeks I settled down and got it going.
“I worked hard rehabbing and right before camp I told ya’all I felt good, I felt that I was the same guy, and I’ve been going out and playing like it. Just getting better every week and getting stronger.”
An offensive lineman has never won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award, but you can certainly make a case for Peters, who was one of just three NFL offensive linemen to make every Pro Bowl from 2007 through 2011 before his injury.
Peters’ ability to return to form after two Achilles surgeries is a big reason the Eagles are on pace to net the 16th-most yards of offense in NFL history.
The first-place Eagles are 8-5 with a five-game winning streak going into Minneapolis this weekend to face the 3-9-1 Vikings at the Metrodome.
“My hat’s off to [my] doc,” Peters said. “He did a great job with my surgery, man. My rehab went well. Like I told Stoutee (offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland), he asked me, ‘Does it ever bother you,’ and I told him, no, it felt like I never done it, you know?
“Never gets sore, none of that. I feel good every day I go out there. One thing I do is stretch it a lot, stretch it morning and night, keep it real loose.”
Peters credits Chip Kelly’s focus on nutrition, fitness and diet for helping him move beyond his Achilles injuries.
After playing in past years at 345 pounds, he’s 25 pounds lighter this year, playing now at about 320 pounds.
The weight loss was partly to be able to handle Kelly’s no-huddle offense and getting 80 or 90 snaps a game, but also to take stress off his Achilles.
"You know, the less weight, the less strain on the Achilles," Peters said. “I feel strong. I feel as strong as I ever felt.”
After a slightly uncharacteristic start, Peters has played his best football during the last month and a half, when the Eagles have gone 5-0, averaging 32 points and 429 yards per game, both third-best in the NFL.
Good enough for him to make his sixth Pro Bowl team? Maybe. But that’s not on Peters’ radar right now.
“If I make it, I make it, if I don’t, I don’t,” he said. “I’ll just work harder next year to make it. It ain’t no big deal to me. I’ve got a couple under my belt.
"I’d rather just get to the playoffs and go deep in the playoffs.”