HomeSportsEagles win NFC East, but lose Brandon Brooks for playoffs

Eagles win NFC East, but lose Brandon Brooks for playoffs

Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham rejoices after the Birds defeated the New York Giants and clinched the NFC East. Photo by Mike Corsey.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Eagles’ regular-season journey ended on Sunday with a 34-17 victory over the New York Giants. The win, the Birds’ fourth in a row, clinched the NFC East title and the No. 4 seed in the upcoming playoffs.

The Eagles (9-7) will host the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday (4:40 p.m., NBC) at Lincoln Financial Field.

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The Eagles locker room was festive after the game. Players were dancing, music was playing. Even coach Doug Pederson was caught up in the moment.

“You should have been in there,” Pederson said at his postgame news conference. “It was excitement, it was guys dancing, the music was going, guys are excited, and it’s a great feeling. We set out back in July, this was obviously one of our many goals this season, and obviously we can check this box. But what I love about this football team is how we have stuck together the entire season. Through all the ups and downs, through all the injuries, we’ve battled, we put ourselves in this position to win the NFC East, we’ve done that. But again, what I see from our players is they’re already talking about next week and coming to work this week and preparing for next week, and it just tells me that the guys are in the right frame of mind.”

There was a price for this win. The Eagles were winning games over the last month using backups, practice squad players and a few signed off the street. If you thought the injury situation couldn’t get any worse, the Eagles lost rookie running back sensation Miles Sanders, cornerback Avonte Maddox, defensive end Daeshon Hall and All-Pro offensive guard Brandon Brooks during the game to various injuries.

Hall (ACL) and Brooks (separated shoulder) are lost for the season.

The Eagles were already playing without Pro Bowlers Zach Ertz at tight end and tackle Lane Johnson, plus a slew of other starters, including wide receivers DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery.

Pederson was asked after the game if he thinks about how he is able to advance and survive with so many injured players.

“I mean, in the back of my mind, it did cross my mind, like, ‘Man, when can we catch a break with some of these injuries?’ ” Pederson said. “But it’s just, Boston (Scott) stepped up, Vinny (Curry) stepped up, Derek (Barnett) stepped up, you can just go right down the list with the guys. I guess, for me, that’s what I’m most proud about, is how these guys respond.”

Scott, signed off the practice squad earlier this year, responded with 54 yards rushing on 19 carries and three touchdowns, plus four catches for 84 yards out of the backfield.

Carson Wentz continued to lead the offense, was 23-of-40 for 289 yards, a touchdown pass, no interceptions or fumbles. He was not sacked.

The Eagles defense put pressure on rookie quarterback Daniel Jones for most of the game, but Giants standout running back Saquon Barkley ripped off a 68-yard touchdown run, tying the score 17-17 with 2:05 left in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, the Birds sacked Jones three times (four for the game), intercepted him once and forced him to fumble, recovered by Fletcher Cox at the Giants’ 2-yard line, setting up Scott’s second touchdown.

The Eagles scored 17 consecutive points in the fourth quarter to finish the job.

“You see how you have to keep fighting,” defensive end Brandon Graham said in the locker room after the game. “We talked about it as a defense, getting turnovers, that’s what got us going.”

Graham, who finished the game with three solo tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry, said finishing the season with four consecutive wins and winning the NFC East ranked high on his list of personal achievements. But he made it clear the Eagles are not done yet.

“To finish the season like this is satisfying,” Graham said. “But like coach said, we ain’t done yet. We’ve got to put in this work. Whether we play Saturday or Sunday, we’ve got to make these days count.”

Matt Pryor came in for Brooks and was productive. The second-year offensive lineman out of TCU has played in 12 games during his brief career, no starts. Pryor admitted it took a few plays to settle down.

“Yeah, I think getting those three plays before the half kind of settled me in,” the 6-foot-7, 332-pounder said. “When I went out there (after the half), I already knew what I had to do.”

Scott talked about the Eagles offensive line and its depth. The Birds started the game without Johnson at right tackle. Halapoulivaati Vaitai has started in his place for the last two games.

“They’re one of the best lines in the league, in my opinion,” Scott said at his locker after the game. “Their athleticism, their physicality, they just do an incredible job. And again, you see instances of next man up. Brooks goes down, Pryor comes in and we’re still able to be productive in the running game. That’s what it’s all about. I can’t say enough about those guys, coach Stout (O-line coach Jeff Stoutland) and how he coaches those guys up and prepares us, protection plan and the run game, it’s incredible to really see them do what they do on a daily basis. I’m really excited to run behind them.”

There was at least one player in the Giants locker room after the game who admired, at least to a certain degree, what the Eagles had accomplished.

Right guard Kevin Zeitler was a major piece in the Giants-Cleveland Browns trade of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

The eight-year veteran out of Wisconsin was asked if the Giants could emulate some of the traits the Eagles showed this year with regard to finding ways to win, regardless of the challenges that they were confronted with.

“One-hundred percent,” Zeitler said at his locker after the game. “You always got to find a way to find a way to win. Even when things aren’t going your way or find a way to turn a game around, just like that. Obviously, they were able to do it right now. We need to be able to do it down the road.”

Right now, the only road the Eagles want to find is the one that takes them to Miami. ••

Al Thompson
Al Thompson
Writer, radio host and Sports Director WRDV Radio - Hatboro. Publisher, Editor Footballstories Magazine
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