The celebration lasted only a short time, just long enough for the Philadelphia Eagles, with a Roster of Misfit Toys, to try on their NFC East-champion T-shirts and caps and clear out of MetLife Stadium last Sunday after dismantling the New York Giants 34-17. A veteran team, the Eagles overcame one landmine after another during the regular season and now have their sights pointed at the postseason and the Seattle Seahawks, who visit Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday (4:40 p.m. kickoff).
“We have more football to play. That’s the exciting part,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Winning the division was a goal we set last spring. That’s obviously the first goal. Now that we’ve done that, we have greater things to accomplish.”
How they do that with a roster that continues to take a licking but is clearly ticking remains to be seen. The Eagles have promoted to their active roster 13 players throughout the course of the season who spent time in 2019 on the practice squad – their own or the practice squad from another team. In Sunday’s win, the Eagles had 10 of those players suited up and playing – more than a fifth of the game-day roster.
“Nobody is going to feel sorry for us, so we just go out there and play,” defensive end Brandon Graham said. “This is a team with a lot of heart. You can’t take that away from us. We’re going to continue to fight and play hard and we’ll see where that takes us.”
Where the Eagles are right now is staring at a second meeting with Seattle this season. The Seahawks won at Lincoln Financial Field on Nov. 24, 17-9, an ugly game in which neither offense did much damage. Seattle scored one of its two touchdowns on a perfectly executed flea-flicker pass from quarterback Russell Wilson and the other on a 58-yard run. The Eagles, meanwhile, turned the football over five times – two Carson Wentz interceptions included – and put up a paltry nine points.
How can the Eagles, even with a roster that’s more likely to resemble a preseason game than a postseason do-or-die moment at many key positions, pull off the win?
It all begins with Wentz, who has been brilliant in the team’s four-game winning streak, throwing seven touchdown passes and zero interceptions (he hasn’t thrown a pick in 173 passes). His receiving corps consists of Greg Ward, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Robert Davis and Deontay Burnett, along with tight ends Zach Ertz (if he’s healthy), Dallas Goedert and Joshua Perkins. The Eagles are putting out fringe-level NFL players for a playoff game, but that’s just the way it is with so many injuries throughout the roster.
Wentz makes his first playoff appearance – he was injured in the Super Bowl run during the 2017 season, remember – and the experience is going to be invaluable for him. He has carried the offense down the stretch, and he’ll have to do it again against a fast Seattle defense that had his number in November.
Wentz has a second chance to beat Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, and No. 11 is a different quarterback this time around. He has all the confidence in the world, he’s been resourceful and he has made everyone around him better.
It’s playoff time in Philadelphia – The New Normal, remember – and it’s all about Carson Wentz. A season that looked lost only a few weeks ago suddenly has life thanks to the job Wentz has done rallying a beat-up offense still scoring big points and moving the football up and down the field. ••