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Birds focused on next game, not win streak
Brent Celek has just 25 catches this season but has become more of a team player, often focusing on run-blocking. (AP)
Pat Shurmur called it “truly unselfish.” When the Eagles' offensive coordinator addressed the media at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday, he made a point of mentioning Brent Celek and his play at the end of the game.
“The guys know that if we score, or if we got a first down, then we’d be able to kneel and end the game,” Shurmur said. “What Brent did was very unselfish. He could have scored there, which would have made it 20 points. But what he did was, he didn’t expose his defensive teammates to injury by having to go out there and play some more. That’s what you’re trying to do is win the game. So it was very unselfish.
“I guess if he was on your fantasy team, or if you were crunching the numbers on red-zone efficiency, because we did take a knee in the red zone, then that would bother you. I thought it was unselfish.”
With two minutes left in the game, the Eagles had a 4th-and-12 at Detroit’s 37-yard line. They were up 14 points at the time. Considering the awful weather, the Eagles went for it. Nick Foles found Celek for a 27-yard gain. Instead of walking the last 10 yards into the end zone, Celek slid (see story).
“I knew as soon as we called that play, if I caught it, I was getting a first down and sliding,” Celek said. “Listen, you do a kickoff, guys can get hurt. They go back on defense, guys can get hurt. It’s just not a smart move for the team.”
To hear Shurmur tell it, Celek has been making smart moves for the Eagles all season -- even though, as the offensive coordinator pointed out, the tight end’s production doesn’t always show up in the box score. Against the Lions, Celek had two catches on three targets for 29 yards.
This season, Celek has 25 catches on 40 targets for 348 yards and four touchdowns. Those aren’t big numbers, but Shurmur and Chip Kelly have regularly talked about how Celek has been leaned on for his run blocking ability this season.
“We as coaches see what he does as a player and a teammate behind the scenes,” Shurmur said. “We appreciate what he does on plays where he may not get production. He’s an outstanding blocker. He’s an unselfish player, as he displayed [Sunday]. He does all the things you want as a coach. He’s embraced all the changes that have happened and how we do things, preparing to practice and our training sessions. He’s bought into everything.”
Celek, who is in his seventh season with the Eagles, was primarily a pass-catching tight end early in his career. He caught 76 passes in 2009, 42 in 2010, 62 in 2011 and 57 a year ago. This year, as Shurmur and Kelly often point out, he’s been asked to do more run-blocking than perhaps he’s done in the past.
“I think he’s gotten better [as a blocker],” said Shurmur, who was part of the Eagles’ coaching staff during Celek’s first two seasons in the NFL. “He came in, just like a lot of young guys, you have to get used to the speed. You have to get used to playing the game at this level. He’s a willing, try-hard guy. He knows how to use his feet and set his hands. And then he tries to finish. Those are all key ingredients when you’re a good run blocker.”