Eagles news and notes for 11/15
It felt like the Eagles were going to blow another close game.
After the offense failed to convert on second-and-goal from the 2-yard-line and third-and-goal from the 1-yard-line early in the fourth quarter, Philadelphia settled for another field goal. It was the Eagles’ second visit inside the 11-yard-line in the second half, and they only managed six points in those two trips. You knew Atlanta’s high-powered offense was going to make a big play at some point, and just a few snaps later, they did.
Facing second-and-11 from their own 24-yard-line, Taylor Gabriel ran a double-move. Leodis McKelvin bit hard on the fake, and Matt Ryan tossed the ball over the top of the defense.
“Sh-t, got greedy!” McKelvin said. “Sh-t opened up so wide, I was like, ‘He gonna sit this b-tch down as a curl, so I’m gonna jump this b-tch and make a play! Oh sh-t, wrong time!”
Gabriel ran 76 yards for the score and 15-13 lead, but then, down two with 13:15 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Eagles did something they haven’t done all season: They closed out a tight game. After losing all four of their first eight contests decided by 10 points or less, they scored 11 unanswered points and pulled out the 24-15 victory.
Carson Wentz led a 76-yard touchdown drive, Caleb Sturgis made a 48-yard field goal with less than two minutes left and McKelvin bounced back by nabbing a game-sealing interception with 1:27 left on the clock.
On a hamstring so sore that, even though coach Doug Pederson had selected him to be a team captain Sunday, McKelvin didn't bother to walk to midfield for the coin toss, he was running.
If you were McKelvin, you'd have felt like running, too, or trying to. Torched for two touchdown passes, he had been one of several goats in the Eagles' loss to the Giants last week. That hamstring strain - the one that had forced him to miss three games already this season - had obviously slowed him against the Giants, and really, there is one way to rehabilitate a hamstring injury: You rest. You sit and you let it heal and you don't practice, which McKelvin did last week, and you definitely don't plan on seeing significant action in a significant game against the NFL's No. 1-ranked offense and Julio Jones, who is a rather significant receiver.
But the Eagles are short at cornerback, and they got even shorter late in the second quarter Sunday, when Nolan Carroll suffered a concussion. Pederson said after the game that he had "full intention" of playing McKelvin, though McKelvin himself said that he was an "emergency player," as if he were a fire extinguisher behind glass. Whatever. Those labels became irrelevant once the Eagles knew that Carroll wouldn't return and McKelvin knew for certain that he was going into the game, even if he really ought to have been resting his hamstring.
And he was fine with that. He wanted to go into the game.
Jenkins shakes his head when I say the words President Trump out loud, a look falling across his face that could be summed up as: So That Really Happened. Earlier this year, he said he thought about 90 percent of his white teammates supported Trump, but he was still left stunned when the Republican beat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
He is no stranger to weighing in on racial and political issues that exist outside the bubble of this week’s game and that day’s practice. Jenkins raises his right arm in the air, fist tightly clenched, in silent protest when the national anthem is belted out before every game. He and other NFL players have been making similar gestures to call attention to systemic social injustice issues ever since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started sitting and kneeling during the anthem back in August in response to a spate of controversial police shootings of black men. NBA players and coaches have also spoken out forcefully on these topics, while the Sixers caused a stir last month when they canceled a pop singer’s planned performance of the national anthem because she wore a jersey with the words “We Matter” written across her chest — only to clumsily invite her back.
But the number of NFL players who are protesting has gradually fallen to a little more than a dozen on just five teams in a league where more than 68 percent of the players are black. Jenkins is the only Eagle who holds his fist in the air and discusses thorny issues, like the sometimes fraught relationship between law enforcement and minority communities. Cornerback Ron Brooks had consistently stood by Jenkins’s side, but he’s gone now, lost to a season-ending injury.
“I’m the lone soldier,” Jenkins says. He’s not exactly surprised it turned out this way; early on, he realized that “quite frankly, a lot guys don’t care about this topic, or aren’t passionate enough to go out and do the work.”
In the twilight of his career, many expected to see a steep decline in his play in 2016. That hasn’t happened. Instead, Peters has had somewhat of a resurgent year.
How much does he have left?
“I don’t know,” Peters said after the Eagles' Sunday’s 25-15 win over the Falcons. “I’m just chasing the dream that everyone is: to play this game and get to a Super Bowl. I’ve told Coach that I’m year to year, but I’m not leaving until I try to get that ring.”
Peters has made the last three Pro Bowls and eight of the last nine, missing the 2012 season with his Achilles injury.
Coming into 2016, the plan most assumed was this: Squeeze out one more year of Peters before moving on and sliding Lane Johnson to left tackle. Peters’ cap hit is $9.7 million this season before ballooning to $11.2 million in 2017. And Halapoulivaati Vaitai has played OK at right tackle in recent weeks during Johnson’s suspension.
That might still be the plan, but Peters is at least making the decision tougher.
“It’s technique,” Peters said. “I put emphasis on my technique and I work at it throughout the week. I work at my craft and obviously it has been paying off for me on Sundays. I’ve just been working my craft, doing my job, and trying to keep them off (Carson) Wentz because I know if I keep them off of him, Wentz is going to do a good job.”