Wake-Up Call: Kendricks’ Search For Consistency

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Mychal Kendricks was in the midst of a rough patch and in need of a boost back  in mid-September when his phone rang.

“I was getting a massage and I picked up…and it was my Pop Warner coach,” Kendricks  told Jim Rome last week in New York. “And he just told me, ‘Man, just go out there and own the field like I know you can. Get that pep in your step. When you take the field, know that you own it.’

“It was good for me, man. Every game I went into after that, I just told myself, ‘Take the field with confidence. Own this [thing].’ ” Read more »

Wake-Up Call: The Sherman Lesson

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Before scaring the hell out of Erin Andrews and setting social media ablaze with his unfiltered thoughts on Michael Crabtree, Richard Sherman made the play of the game. Despite the corner’s assertions, Crabtree is far from mediocre. Yet Sherman stayed stride-for-stride with the receiver down the right sideline, turned his body, leapt into the air and stretched out his left arm to deflect a would-be go-ahead touchdown pass from Colin Kaepernick. Malcolm Smith came up with the interception, securing the Seahawks’ spot in Super Bowl XLVIII.

“There are not many guys who can make a play on this ball,” said Troy Aikman as the Seattle crowd boomed in the background.

Chip Kelly frequently calls the NFL a player’s league, and that sequence with under 30 ticks remaining Sunday night demonstrated his point. The fate of two franchises came down to a one-on-one matchup. If Sherman doesn’t get his paw on that ball, the Niners are playing for the title in New Jersey in two weeks. But he did, so the Seahawks advance. Read more »

Twitter Mailbag: How Far Away Are They?

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Before we get started: DeSean Jackson was named to the Pro Bowl on Friday. He replaces Andre Johnson, who is not participating because of an unspecified injury, according to the league.

Jackson is the fifth Eagle selected to this year’s Pro Bowl, joining LeSean McCoy, Jason Peters, Nick Foles and Evan Mathis. Peters has opted not to play in the game.

Now onto the mailbag: Read more »

Why They Believe In Chip

NFL: NFC Wildcard Playoff-New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles

When asked why he was so confident that his program could work in the NFL, Chip Kelly offered a somewhat surprising response.

“I wasn’t confident,” he said. “I had a system and a plan that we were going to go in, but I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be until it was all finished. But I think we played sound fundamental football, and I think that’s what we preach on a daily basis to our players. I think it’s still a game of 11-on-11, and I think a lot of things we do schematically match up 11-on-11. It’s a fundamental game, and I think that’s what our coaches teach. I thought we brought in a bunch of really good teachers that could implement the plan that we had in place, and we felt this would be the best plan for us this year going forward.”

Going into next season, new faces will be added, but many of the core players from the 2013 squad will remain the same.

Keeping that in mind, I posed one simple question to the players earlier this week as they cleaned out their lockers:

What did Kelly do in Year One that makes you believe he can lead this franchise to greater heights going forward? Read more »

All-22: On the Kendricks-Graham Matchup

Last year against the Eagles, Jimmy Graham was targeted 11 times and ended with eight catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. Three of those catches came with Mychal Kendricks in coverage, including the one in which the 6-7, 265-pound athletic phenom found pay dirt.

With the Saints set up deep in Eagles territory late in the third quarter, Drew Brees found Graham in the flat. Kendricks moved in for the tackle. Read more »

Game Review: Eagles Defense Vs. Dallas

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Here’s a position-by-position review of the Eagles’ defensive performance against Dallas after having watched the coaches tape.

DEFENSIVE LINE

* This group limited DeMarco Murray to 51 yards on 17 carries (3.0 YPC). Cedric Thornton probably had the best game of any of the linemen. He combined with Bennie Logan to stop Murray after a 3-yard run in the first half. In the third, Thornton and Brandon Boykin dropped Murry for a 4-yard loss, putting Dallas in a tough third-down spot. Thornton finished with two tackles.

* Fletcher Cox was quiet – one tackle, no sacks, no hurries. Logan had three tackles. He pressured Kyle Orton and helped force him into a bad throw in the second.

* All three starting defensive linemen jumped early once, drawing flags. Read more »

Zone Read: Eagles-Cowboys, the Day After

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Normally we use this space for a thorough recap of the previous day’s game, and there will be some of that.

But it’s a playoff week for the first time in three years in Philadelphia, so let’s lead off with 10 things you should know about the next opponent: the Saints.

1. New Orleans took care of business Sunday, crushing the Bucs 42-17 to improve to 11-5 on the season – that’s 8-0 at home and 3-5 on the road. The Saints won four of their last five and were 2-3 overall against teams that are in the postseason. Going into Week 17, Football Outsiders had New Orleans as the No. 7 team overall – fifth on offense, 11th on defense and 24th on special teams. Read more »

Observations: Eagles 24, Cowboys 22

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Here’s what we saw during the Eagles’ 24-22 win over the Cowboys.

OFFENSE

* The Eagles’ offense was up-and-down in their 24-22 win against the Cowboys. Nick Foles went 17-for-26 for 263 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. But he did most of his damage in the first half (12-for-16 for 197 yards). In the second half, Foles was 5-for-10 for 66 yards and he fumbled once.

* The Eagles put together an 11-play, 60-yard drive in the fourth quarter, running the ball on nine plays. Bryce Brown got in the end zone from 6 yards out. LeSean McCoy came up big on the drive as well. Overall, McCoy ran it 27 times for 131 yards (4.9 YPC). Brown had two carries for 11 yards and a score.

* On the Eagles’ first drive, Foles found Chris Polk on a wheel route for 34 yards down the right sideline. He also rifled a 16-yard pass to Riley Cooper to set up a 47-yard Alex Henery field goal. Lane Johnson was called for holding on the drive, which set up third-and-long. Read more »

Five Thoughts On the Eagles

NFL: Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles

1. A popular sports-talk radio topic this week has been: If the Eagles stumble tonight, should Chip Kelly’s first season still be deemed a success? The answer is yes, but a loss will definitely re-shape some of the offseason conversation.

The Eagles (at a minimum) have shown a five-game improvement from last year. The offense has been one of the best in the league. The defense has exceeded expectations. The quarterback’s played out of his mind. The culture in the building is dramatically different. And Kelly seems to have found the right balance between being a players’ coach and a disciplinarian. For all of those reasons, Year 1 has been a success as Kelly has laid a solid foundation to build on going forward.

But the Eagles have a tremendous opportunity in front of them. They have won six of seven overall and are 7-point favorites against a Kyle Orton-led Cowboys squad. To act like they’re just playing with house money is disingenuous. The truth is they’re playing in a game where the stakes are high, and they are expected to win. If they lose, the devastation won’t reach Ghosts Of NFC Championships Past levels, but it will still be a major disappointment to the coaches, players and the fan base. Read more »

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