In last night's 2-1 Union loss to Toronto FC, which we'll cover in greater detail later today, there was a fair amount of theatrical diving and writhing going on. It's part of the game, something newcomers to the sport will have to get used to seeing, but there was also quite a bit of real nasty contact. A few hard tackles resulted in yellow cards to both sides, and then of course there was Danny Califf's red card–drawing elbow. And there was this:Eighteen-year-old Amadou Sanyang took an elbow from a teammate who was trying to head a ball past Union keeper Chris Seitz, and went down in a heap. My friends and I, thinking he was hamming up contact to draw a penalty kick, immediately shouted for him to get up, expletive. Then the frame panned to the above shot... Yeah, that one might have been legit.
Pederson had to be surprised by what had just transpired. After all, this wasn't the Browns or the Bears. This was the Steelers, who entered the game with the second-best odds behind New England, per Bovada, of winning the Super Bowl (the Patriots were first).
And the Eagles didn't just beat them. They clobbered them.
But minutes later, when Pederson met the media for his postgame press conference, he tried his best to act like it was no big thing.
“I told the team way back in OTAs that it just takes a little bit of belief," Pederson said. "Belief in themselves. Trust the process. Believe in the coaches and the coaches believe in one another. That’s what they did tonight.
"Am I surprised? A little. But at the same time, I know that locker room, I know those guys and I know what they are building. By no means have we accomplished anything yet. The season is still extremely young. But what they did tonight just proves that they are coming together as a football team.”
Yeah, yeah. Sorry, Doug. It's OK to be surprised. Scratch that. Make that stunned. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. But now? Forget that.
At least for the next two weeks. The Eagles are on their bye week and don't play again until Oct. 9 at Detroit.
“It is still a young season, only three games. This was a good benchmark," Pederson said. "That’s a good football team, the Steelers are a great football team. They are going to be there at the end, they always are. Coach (Mike) Tomlin always has those guys ready to play.
"But for our guys, it is just a little glimpse of that belief that I have been saying since the spring and summer. If they just do their jobs, I just feel that good things can happen. We just protect each other in that dressing room in there and keep coming to work everyday.”
Pederson is the only head coach in team history to win each of his first three games. It's only the ninth time the Eagles have started 3-0.
And of course, a big reason they've done so is their prodigy quarterback Carson Wentz, who became only the second rookie in team history to record a 300-yard passing game (Nick Foles is the other).
More impressively, Wentz now has attempted 102 straight passes without an interception, the longest streak ever begin an NFL career (per ESPN). Dallas' Dak Prescott is at 99 after the Cowboys beat up the Bears.
But don't ask Pederson to admit he's amazed by Wentz or the fact he had the presence of mind to make plays like the riveting 73-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles (much more on that here).
“You know, you just put on his college film. Just watch him," Pederson said. "We exhausted his college tape and those were the plays that he made at North Dakota State. That play tonight was just a tremendous play by both he and Darren Sproles. Those are the types of things that we know he can do. He just keeps gaining confidence every single week.”
As does the defense, which kept one of the league's most potent offenses out of the end zone.
"They just weren’t going to be denied," Pederson said. "They just weren’t going to bow their necks. They weren’t going to let them in the endzone. It just came down to our will versus theirs and I was just so happy with the way the guys played. Just a great team effort.”
The Sixers have three starting-caliber centers — Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, who's now healthy — heading into this season.
"I think it's just silly," Noel told Pompey. "With the departure of [former general manager and president] Sam Hinkie, I would have figured that management would be able to set something done this summer.
"Don't get me wrong. We all get along great on the court and off the court. But at the end of the day, it's like having three starting quarterbacks. It doesn't make any sense.
"And it's just not going to work to anybody's advantage having that on the same team. That's how I'm looking at it. I'm not opposed to anything, but things need to be situated."
The Sixers flirted with having two big men on the court at the same time last season, with Noel and Okafor but with no real success.
He has a point, and the team knows it.
During the summer, reports swirled saying the Sixers were looking to trade either Noel or Okafor for backcourt help.
Noel, who's in the final year of his rookie contract, doesn't appear to believe the current situation will work.
"I think something needs to happen," he said.