As we celebrate Thanksgiving, ingesting cooked birds while reflecting on all that the Birds have given us in 2017, let’s take a stroll into the Philadelphia Eagles dining room.
Candles are lit. The room is festive. The air is crisp with the scent of victory — and maybe a little cinnamon apple. There’s Jim Schwartz, shades and all, conversing in the corner, his voice just loud enough to impede upon chitchat around the center table. There’s Doug Pederson, casually dressed with a turkey-themed visor atop his head, preparing for the gathering. The TV is humming in the background, the Dallas Cowboys game serving as an ice breaker as early guests absorb it like a favorite holiday comedy.
And here come the Eagles.
It’s dinner time.
The table is set, and out come the Thanksgiving favorites, each of them provided in potluck fashion by their appropriate Eagles guests ...
The turkey: Carson Wentz
Wentz not only offered to bring the turkey, but he probably shot the thing, too. Who better to provide the main course than the man responsible for feeding an entire offense?
The mashed potatoes: The offensive line
With lots of time on his hands, Jason Peters played a vital part in whipping these up.
The stuffing: Fletcher Cox
The big boy has done plenty of interior stuffing on the field, so he figured it’d be wrong of him not to contribute with this.
The biscuits: Beau Allen
The cookies: Jay Ajayi
Someone in the Eagles locker room told him he should bring the biscuits, but Ajayi arrived with these instead — and then proceeded to explain United Kingdom culinary lingo.
The green beans: Jalen Mills
No one was ever going to wrestle anything with the word “green” in it from him.
The corn: Tim Jernigan
At one point, he was adamant about helping Cox with the stuffing, seeing as though it fit his persona. The corn, however, ended up being the closest thing to resemble his gold grills, so he couldn’t resist.
The cranberry sauce: Donnie Jones
He just wanted to be that guy.
The pumpkin pie: Nick Foles
Just when you forget he’s on the roster, he shows up at the end of the game to close things out in delightful fashion.
On a serious note, we also want to take a moment to reflect on how the Eagles got to 9-1, the biggest reason Philly fans can be thankful for the Birds in 2017, and for that, we turn to our weekly game-by-game notebook:
Week One: Eagles 30, Redskins 17: Year Two of the Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson regime started with the Birds ending a five-game losing streak to the Redskins at FedEx Field, where Jim Schwartz’s front-four rotation led the way. Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan combined for four sacks and two forced fumbles, the second of which was returned 20 yards for a touchdown by Cox, sealing a two-score, fourth-quarter lead. After fellow cornerback Ronald Darby was carted off with an injury, Jalen Mills also aided an Eagles “D” that gave up just 64 rushing yards and three third-down conversions, intercepting Kirk Cousins on a red-zone pass when the ‘Skins trailed by two. With uneven protection and a non-existent running game, Wentz (26-39, 307 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INTs) was the victim of a Ryan Kerrigan pick six but channeled his inner Donovan McNabb on an opening-drive scramble and 58-yard TD heave to Nelson Agholor, then extended plays with tight end Zach Ertz (8 receptions, 93 yards) to set up three Caleb Sturgis field goals and a Gatorade bath for Pederson.
Week Two: Chiefs 27, Eagles 20: Late-game grit and a stout start for Jim Schwartz’s defense weren’t enough for Doug Pederson to best ex-Eagles coach Andy Reid at Arrowhead Stadium, where the Chiefs used a 53-yard touchdown run from rookie Kareem Hunt, back-to-back fourth-quarter scores and six sacks of an overburdened Carson Wentz to decide a close one. Big stands from a banged-up Eagles secondary offset a rare Darren Sproles fumble on a punt return inside Birds territory, holding Kansas City to a 6-3 halftime lead, but heavy pressure on the Eagles QB led to a tipped interception and more red-zone chances for Reid’s unit. Still, Wentz (25-46, 333 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) started efficiently (7-of-9), spread 19 first-down throws to Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Zach Ertz and scrambled his way to a team-high 55 rushing yards on another dismal day for the backfield. Down two scores with :14 left, his 9-yard TD pass to Nelson Agholor preceded a perfect onside kick from fill-in Jake Elliott, who made up for an earlier 30-yard field goal miss and set up a game-ending Hail Mary try.
Week Three: Eagles 27, Giants 24: They were without four injured starters on defense, gave up 366 passing yards to Eli Manning and lost a 14-0 lead after 21 unanswered Giants points, but Doug Pederson found — and stuck with — a rushing attack, not to mention a clutch kicker, as the Eagles sent New York to 0-3. LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement battered their way to a combined 160 yards on the ground, the former putting Philadelphia up 7-0 in the first. Clement tied the contest at 21 on a 15-yard fourth-quarter run after back-to-back-to-back TDs from the Giants — two acrobatic grabs by Odell Beckham Jr. and a 77-yarder by Sterling Shepard. But rookie kicker Jake Elliott, in his second game replacing an ailing Caleb Sturgis, was the real Eagles hero, booting a team-record 61-yard game-winning field goal as time expired. Carson Wentz (21-31, 176 yards, 1 TD) again found tight end Zach Ertz for a score, while the Eagles “D” had a goal-line stand and stout play from young cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Rasul Douglas, the latter of whom had a pick along with Patrick Robinson.
Week Four: Eagles 26, Chargers 24: With Eagles fans turning Los Angeles’ StubHub Center into an unofficial home game, Doug Pederson kept the pedal to the metal, pushing Philadelphia atop the NFC East with a run-first approach sans an injured Darren Sproles. LeGarrette Blount (16 carries, 136 yards) led the way with a 68-yard Marshawn Lynch-esque gallop on a fourth-quarter drive that prefaced a diving Wendell Smallwood (79 total yards) touchdown and helped the Eagles dominate time of possession. Corey Clement also got five third-down carries for an offense that didn’t turn the ball over and set up four field goals, including a 53-yarder, from Jake Elliott. The Chargers kept it close as Philip Rivers (347 yards) extended drives with Keenan Allen, found Tyrell Williams for a 75-yard score and pulled L.A. within two with 6:48 to go shortly after a 35-yard TD run by an untouched Austin Ekeler. But the Eagles defense set the tone with an opening-series takeaway, a Chris Long strip sack, and helped establish an early 7-0 lead on a throw from Carson Wentz (17-31, 242 yards, 1 TD) to Alshon Jeffery.
Week Five: Eagles 34, Cardinals 7: A career day for Carson Wentz (21-30, 304 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT) and a suffocating start for Jim Schwartz’s defense all but put the Cardinals away after one quarter, when the Eagles led 21-0 after consecutive Doug Pederson-scripted marches down the field. A 15-yard lob from Wentz to tight end Trey Burton started the scoring, and a 76-yard punt return from recently reacquired Kenjon Barner (133 total yards) preceded TD passes to Zach Ertz and Torrey Smith, the latter of whom went 59 yards. Arizona’s Carson Palmer found John Brown for a second-quarter TD, but otherwise, the contest was all Eagles — the D-line got in Palmer’s face, the Cards got just 31 rushing yards and Philly’s Patrick Robinson broke up pass after pass, also blocking a field goal try. Barner and LeGarrette Blount also found lanes vs. a typically feisty Arizona “D,” and receiver Nelson Agholor’s 72-yard third-quarter bomb, with a juke and backward fall into the end zone a la DeSean Jackson, was the icing on the cake. Safety Rodney McLeod forced a fumble to stop a potential last-minute Cards TD.
Week Six: Eagles 28, Panthers 23: On the road with three days of rest, the Eagles overcame 10 penalties -- to Carolina's one -- and a scrappy Panthers defense that capitalized on injured tackle Lane Johnson's absence to pressure Carson Wentz and force an opening-drive fumble. Quarterback Cam Newton kept Carolina close with a 16-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 10, plus a late throw to rookie Christian McCaffrey that kept his team within one score. But Philly also engulfed his ground support via linebackers Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham (25 combined tackles), and cornerbacks Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson and Rasul Douglas all intercepted him -- Douglas after Fletcher Cox pressure, Robinson off a juggled dump-off and Mills on a wayward deep ball that headlined back-to-back defensive stands with about three minutes left. Two of the turnovers came deep in Panthers territory, where Wentz (16-30, 222 yards, 3 TDs) found Ertz for two TDs and, later, slot receiver Nelson Agholor for a 24-yard catch-and-run. A two-point try and two Jake Elliott field goals at one point had the Eagles up 28-16.
Week Seven: Eagles 34, Redskins 24: If 2017 is the year of Carson Wentz’s magical leap forward, Monday night vs. Washington was when the rest of the country got the memo. Dogged by four Eagles penalties and a punt-like pick on the opening series, Wentz (17-25, 268 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT) quickly took command of the game, finding rookie Mack Hollins, tight end Zach Ertz and reserve back Corey Clement for three straight scores — Hollins on a 64-yard bomb and Clement on an improbable sideline touch pass that came with Redskins swarming an off-balance Wentz. While erasing a 10-3 deficit, the quarterback also gained a team-high 63 rushing yards, 17 of which came on an inexplicable escape from a scrum in the pocket. The Eagles defense, which lost an injured Jordan Hicks, gave up two Jordan Reed touchdowns as Washington pulled within 10. It also sacked QB Kirk Cousins four times, forcing an easy Corey Graham interception. Philly later lost left tackle Jason Peters to injury but sealed a Redskins sweep with a fourth-quarter Nelson Agholor TD and two Jake Elliott field goals.
Week Eight: Eagles 33, 49ers 10: It was an off day in the rain for Carson Wentz (18-32, 211 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT), who gave the 49ers an easy third-quarter pick and felt pressure behind a Jason Peters-less line, but the Eagles used two turnovers and four sacks from four different players (Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Chris Long, Mychal Kendricks) to beat up on the rookie pairing of coach Kyle Shanahan and quarterback C.J. Beathard. San Francisco kept Philadelphia to three points up to the two-minute warning in the first half, but a short TD throw from Wentz to tight end Zach Ertz came just 17 seconds before cornerback Jalen Mills picked off Beathard and weaved his way to a 37-yard score. A 51-yard Jake Elliott field goal put the Eagles up 20-0 early in the third, and a 53-yard connection between Wentz and receiver Alshon Jeffery on a jump-ball sideline pass countered the Niners’ only TD of the day, a shovel-pass catch-and-run by Matt Breida. A 12-yard fourth-quarter scoring run by LeGarrette Blount, tipped-pass INT by safety Rodney McLeod and late field-goal block by rookie Derek Barnett helped seal the win.
Week Nine: Eagles 51, Broncos 23: Even without an injured Zach Ertz, the Eagles out-schemed one of the NFL’s top-ranked defenses, racking up 419 yards and moving at will on another monster day for Carson Wentz (15-27, 199 yards, 4 TDs). Right tackle Lane Johnson kept Denver’s Von Miller at bay, and the Eagles owned the trenches to go up 31-9 by halftime. Leading the way behind the line, Jay Ajayi (77 yards) broke off a 49-yard TD run five days after arriving via trade, and No. 3 man Corey Clement went off for three scores — one on a screen pass and another on a perfect option pitch from Wentz. Wideout Alshon Jeffery (6 receptions, 84 yards, 2 TDs) also got behind the Broncos secondary with ease, and tight end Trey Burton corralled a 27-yard touch pass for Wentz’s third TD of the first half. Denver, meanwhile, mustered just two field goals and two garbage-time scores, including a strip-sack TD off Eagles backup Nick Foles, after going up 3-0 in the first. With picks from corner Patrick Robinson and safety Rodney McLeod, the Birds muzzled quarterback Brock Osweiler and held Denver to 35 rushing yards.
Week 11: Eagles 37, Cowboys 9: Desperate Dallas contained the Eagles early on, forcing four three-and-outs after a touchdown run by Philadelphia’s Kenjon Barner and leading 9-7 at halftime thanks to three field goals. But the Eagles ultimately overtook Jerry Jones’ house, scoring 30 unanswered points and rattling Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (18-31, 145 yards, 3 INTs). Reserve Corey Clement found paydirt on an 11-yard run behind a mauling line to start the second-half surge, and a 71-yard sprint by Jay Ajayi set up the next TD, an 11-yard strike from Carson Wentz (14-27, 168 yards, 2 TDs) to wideout Torrey Smith. Early in the fourth, Alshon Jeffery got his own TD catch on a diving fourth-down grab over the middle, and a 37-yard fumble return score by linebacker Nigel Bradham, after one of two sacks by rookie Derek Barnett, came three plays later. Rodney McLeod, Malcolm Jenkins and the newly healthy Ronald Darby all picked off Prescott, and the Eagles padded their lead with three two-point conversions after linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill replaced an injured Jake Elliott as emergency kicker.