NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles

PHILADELPHIA -- Chris Polk didn’t set any land-speed records. All he did was score a touchdown.

But then, Polk has a knack for reaching the end zone. The Philadelphia Eagles running back has touched the ball 19 times (11 rushes, four receptions, three kick returns) in his three NFL seasons. He has scored five touchdowns.

Polk’s most recent score came Sunday afternoon. After Washington drove downfield and scored on its first possession of the game, Polk took the ensuing kickoff just inside the end zone. He took off up the middle of the field.

“It was just that wide open,” Polk said after the game. “They really blocked their hearts out for me. We had a perfect call for that.”

Polk, who missed the entire preseason with a torn hamstring, never quite got up to his full speed. Well, not for long.

“For about 10 yards,” Polk said. “Then I was in cruise control. I’m not really known for my speed. I tell people all the time, 'Yeah, you can catch me. It’s what are you going to do when you get there?'”

Despite the injury, Polk made the final roster because of the impression he made on coach Chip Kelly last season. He carried the ball just 11 times for 98 yards, but Polk convinced Kelly of his potential.

“We were just happy to get Chris back,” Kelly said. “I think we were excited about him. He had a great offseason for us in OTAs and in minicamp. He was a guy we were excited about, and then he went down. I don't know if it was the second or third day of camp and then he was out. He wasn't even active for the first game."

Polk said he’s “still not 100 percent, not where I want to be.” When he gets there, Kelly still sees a future for him beyond returning kicks.

“Obviously, the way we were running the ball [Sunday] wasn't a situation where we were thinking, 'Hey, let's get another running back in there,' because we didn't get many touches from Darren [Sproles], either,” Kelly said. “So, it was just one of those days. But obviously when Chris has had a chance to get the ball in his hands, he’s been productive for us.”

Washington stopped McCoy, not Eagles

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
PHILADELPHIA -- If LeSean McCoy was on Chip Kelly’s fantasy team, the coach might be a little bit more concerned about McCoy’s rushing numbers. The NFL’s leading rusher last season, McCoy has 175 yards through three games.

That’s good for 16th in the league. On the other hand, the Philadelphia Eagles are 3-0 and second in the NFL with an average of 33.7 points per game. So Kelly isn’t exactly in a panic.

“I think it's different how they're playing us this year,” Kelly said Monday. “We've seen different looks in terms of the three games we've played this year compared to last year. I think LeSean's doing everything possible. Again, if that's how you're going to do it, and we're going to end up with 30 whatever points a game and continue to be productive on the offensive side of the ball, it's ultimately that."

McCoy gained just 1.2 yards per carry (22 yards on 19 rushes) Sunday against Washington. One reason for that was the spate of injuries along the Eagles’ offensive line. They lost center Jason Kelce to a sports hernia, while left tackle Jason Peters was ejected for striking Washington nose tackle Chris Baker.

“When we got down there at the end, the only starting lineman we had left was Todd Herremans, who was actually playing another position,” Kelly said. “Todd ended up out at tackle at the end of the game. You talk about always getting the same guys on the same page and continuity and all those other things, and there are a lot of different people thrown in there. But give Washington credit. They did a really nice job up front.”

But in loading up the box to neutralize McCoy, Washington also created opportunities in the passing game. Quarterback Nick Foles, who leads the NFL in passing yards, completed 27 of 41 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns.

“They stayed in base front even though we were usually trying to get nickel personnel in there and 11 (one back, one tight end), they stayed in base front,” Kelly said. “A lot of people play us more nickel, they decided to play us in base. So if you're going to play us in base, it's difficult to cover the pass. So it's picking what they want to do.”

The important thing for the Eagles is being able to respond to what defenses do. So far, that’s happened. The Eagles are 3-0, even if that doesn’t help those with McCoy on their fantasy teams.

Rookie Jordan Matthews makes his mark

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Eagles rookie Jordan Matthews wowed observers during practices all summer. The rookie wide receiver from Vanderbilt caught everything thrown his way throughout OTAs and training camp.

Last Monday night, in Indianapolis, Matthews dropped a couple of passes. Two weeks into his NFL career, Matthews had three catches for a total of 54 yards.

On Sunday afternoon, in his first game against an NFC opponent, Matthews caught eight passes for 59 yards, including a pair of touchdowns.

It was a big game for the second-round pick, made bigger by the presence on the Washington Redskins sideline of DeSean Jackson. The former Eagles Pro Bowler caught an 81-yard touchdown pass, setting up a scenario where the Eagles' current wideouts looked shabby by comparison.

Instead, Matthews and Jeremy Maclin caught three touchdown passes in the Eagles' 37-34 victory.

"Other things aside," Matthews said, "the main thing is that we were able to come out and get a win. They are close [games], so I know that Coach [Chip] Kelly is losing some hair. So we have to put some more points on the board. At the same time, we are doing great. The main goal is to go 1-0 each week."

Matthews' touchdowns both came in the red zone. On both, he lined up in the slot and got open behind the defender.

"Jordan's second touchdown catch was in a tight window," quarterback Nick Foles said. "So he really did a good job of focusing on the ball. I was proud of those guys."

Asked the key to his success, Matthews' reply was immediate.

"Nick Foles," he said. "Absolutely, Nick Foles in the red zone. He put the ball in a perfect place for me to make a play. I got a couple of good matchups against the middle linebackers, so he knew to put the ball high for me to get. I couldn't ask for better throws from him."

Matthews became the eighth Eagles rookie to catch two touchdown passes in one game. His eight catches were the most by an Eagles rookie since tight end Keith Jackson caught eight in 1988.

"That's like a trivia question," Matthews said. "I don't know. I'm just glad we got the win."

Eagles' offensive line loses 2 more

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
PHILADELPHIA -- In the fourth quarter, with the game tied and the Philadelphia Eagles trying to regain the lead, quarterback Nick Foles' offensive line was barely recognizable.

Left tackle Jason Peters was ejected for his part in a fight that erupted early in the drive. He was replaced by Andrew Gardner. Wade Smith, who was signed by the Eagles two weeks ago, was playing left guard. Smith was the fifth man to play that spot in the Eagles’ three games.

David Molk was at center in place of the injured Jason Kelce. Dennis Kelly, who started the game at left guard, was over at right guard. And Todd Herremans, the only one of the original five starting linemen, had moved from right guard to right tackle.

"We work on the worse-case scenario," Herremans said. "That was the worst-case scenario."

It helped, Herremans said, to be playing against Washington, a familiar division rival.

"The benefit you get playing a division rival is you’ve seen those guys before," Herremans said. "You kind of know what kind of players they are, what their favorite moves are. They’re a good defense. They played us very hard all game long."

The line had a tough time in the run game. LeSean McCoy, who rushed for more than 180 yards in his first game against Washington last season, managed 22 yards on 19 carries. That’s a 1.1-yard average.

But the line managed to keep Foles clean. Foles took some hits after throwing the ball, but he was not sacked despite throwing 41 passes. Foles completed 27 of those for 325 yards and three touchdowns.

For the second time in three games, the Eagles were down to their last offensive lineman.

"We went with the seven who were healthy," coach Chip Kelly. "Then to lose two more, that’s what you have to do. You have to be able to battle in this league. That’s what this deal is all about. Maybe the first game you’re going to be at full strength. After that, it’s can you endure? To score as many points as we did with that group, I think it’s a credit."

Peters will be back at left tackle next week. Center Jason Kelce, who injured his abdomen, could be out. Right tackle Lane Johnson has one more game left on his four-game suspension. So the Eagles could have three new starting linemen for next Sunday’s game in San Francisco.
videoPHILADELPHIA -- Nick Foles just kept getting up. No matter how many times he got thrown to the ground or how many of his offensive linemen left the game, Foles stayed in the game and kept firing.

Foles threw seven touchdown passes in a game last year, tying an NFL record. He beat the Cowboys, in Texas, on the final night of the regular season to clinch a division title. But for all that, Sunday’s 37-34 victory over the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field was Foles’ finest hour as Eagles quarterback.

“Credit to Nick,” wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said. “He is a fighter, he is a battler, he kept getting up.”

“He’s a tough sucker,” head coach Chip Kelly said. “He got hit a lot today. He just stood in there.”

Foles stood in there, but he also made every throw necessary to win the game. His two second-quarter touchdown passes to rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews were right on target. In the fourth quarter, he found Maclin for a 27-yard touchdown that gave the Eagles the lead for good. After Washington’s Chris Baker threw his 325 pounds into Foles from Foles' blind side, sparking a brouhaha that delayed the game for several minutes, all Foles did was lead the game-winning drive.

“I think it could have gone either way,” Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin said. “What I think we did was we just didn’t let it affect us. We just kind of kept doing what we do, just keep playing and playing."

That started with Foles.

“My teammates are fighting for me, so I’m not going to stay down,” Foles said. “I’m going to get up for those guys. That’s my mindset. It’s not a pride thing where I have to be a tough guy. I know those guys are depending on me, so I’m going to get up and keep fighting for them.”

Foles won the starting job last season after veteran Michael Vick injured his hamstring. It was Foles’ job throughout the offseason and training camp this year. He didn’t look as sharp in the Eagles’ first two games, but he helped deliver two comeback wins.

In this game, Foles helped answer some of the questions raised in a profile of him that was published in Philadelphia magazine. Writer Buzz Bissinger, a Pulitzer Prize winner and author of "Friday Night Lights," wrote that Foles didn’t have the alpha male personality required to be a championship NFL quarterback.

But Foles had to show those qualities in this bare-knuckle NFC East battle, and he did. He completed 28 of 42 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns. His passer rating was 113.7.

Foles grabbed his shoulder after being hit in the second quarter. Backup Mark Sanchez had his helmet on and appeared poised to come in. But Foles stayed in. After getting “obliterated” (Foles’ word) by Baker, Foles was attended to by trainers. But he remained in the game.

Foles completed four of his next six passes, the last a rainbow that landed in Maclin’s arms in the end zone.

The Eagles are 3-0, with three comeback victories on their ledger. They are in first place in the NFC East. And they have a quarterback who just took another step forward in his journey.

“It’s a family,” Foles said. “That’s what it is. We stick together and there’s a great camaraderie. In the locker room during games like that, we lean on each other instead of blaming each other. That’s what football should be about.”
PHILADELPHIA -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Philadelphia Eagles' 37-34 victory against the Washington Redskins:

Foles hangs in: Quarterback Nick Foles told his teammates they had to make Washington “pay” for the hit thrown on Foles by Chris Baker. “He’s a tough sucker,” coach Chip Kelly said, praising the way Foles “just stood in there.” Foles called the hit “a dirty play. He got me pretty good.”

Peters “reacted”: Left tackle Jason Peters was ejected for going after Baker. “He was cheap shotted,” Peters said. “I mean, he cheap shotted [Foles], and he’s not even trying to make a play. So I just reacted. I shouldn't have did what I did, but I was just trying to protect my quarterback.”

Weird science: Eagles cornerback Cary Williams raised questions about the team’s sports science-based approach to practices, specifically the tempo and the number of reps. “Something has to change in order for us to be more productive,” Williams said. “I’m just going to be honest with you. It’s hard to go out there and fight for 60 minutes when you’re fighting through the week to make it through one practice.”
PHILADELPHIA – Chip Kelly has received a lot of credit for the innovations he has brought to football, on both the college and professional levels. Maybe because of that, Kelly doesn’t hesitate to deflect credit when he believes it isn’t well-founded.

Example: The Indianapolis Colts came out and leaned on their running game last Monday night. That led to speculation that the Colts wanted to control the ball and keep Kelly’s offense off the field. Forcing a successful team to change its personality would be a feather in a coach’s cap, but Kelly didn’t see it that way.

“I don't know if that's what their intentions were,” Kelly said. “I think sometimes maybe some people read too much into that. Maybe they saw something in us defensively that felt like they wanted to exploit the run game, I don't know. That's a question for other teams when they play us. But I haven't seen people just sit there and look at the play clock and wait 'til five seconds to go to milk the clock or anything.”

Indeed, although they did run the ball quite a bit behind an unbalanced offensive line, the Colts were getting to the line of scrimmage quickly and snapping the ball with dispatch.

“Actually,” Kelly said, “if you watch the Colts game, the Colts ran hurry-up. I think people are reading too much into that with them running the football. I didn't get the impression from watching the game and being on the sideline that they were trying to work the clock in any manner to keep us off the field. Maybe they thought in their game plan they could run the ball on us. I’ll give them credit: In the first half they did a really good job of it and we had to make some adjustments to shut that down. I thought they were doing some really good things there.

“If you really watch that game, they didn't look like they were trying to work the clock – they actually played hurry-up against us. I didn't see that aspect of it. I didn't see it that way. I just think they saw something in the run game they thought they could exploit.”

The Colts held the ball for 18 minutes, 17 seconds in the first half. The Eagles had the ball for just 11:43 while falling behind 17-6. The Colts gained 101 of their 169 rushing yards in the first half.

In the second half, the Colts held the ball for 17:58 while the Eagles had it for 12:02. But the Eagles outscored the Colts 24-10 in the second half. That’s probably the area in which Kelly really deserves credit.
PHILADELPHIA – The NFL is a passing-oriented league. That doesn’t change the fact that playing defense starts with stopping the run.

The Philadelphia Eagles' No. 1-ranked offense begins with LeSean McCoy and the ground game. And the Eagles' defense is similarly oriented, putting run defense first on its list of priorities.

“If you can’t stop the run, you can’t stop the pass,” Eagles linebacker Emmanuel Acho said. “So first and foremost, I want the run stopped. That’s one thing I pride myself in.”

The Eagles allowed 169 rushing yards to the Indianapolis Colts Monday night. That was more than the Eagles defense allowed on the ground in all but two regular-season games last season. They won both of those games, against Oakland and Washington, the Eagles’ opponent this week.

“They showed us some looks we didn’t see,” Eagles inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans said of the Colts. “It helps us. It makes our defense a lot better, because now we understand how we have to play against that scheme if we ever see it.”

The Eagles also allowed 185 rushing yards in their playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Washington likes to utilize running back Alfred Morris in stretch plays, which, as the name implies, “stretches” defenders out in order to create gaps for Morris to cut back. Once he is running in the opposite direction from most of the defenders, he’s very difficult to catch.

“Everybody has to be really sound,” Ryans said. “[If] defenses try to do too much, he gashes them on the cutback. They don’t do enough, he can just press it front side and keep going. You have to be very sound. Guys just have to come off blocks and make a play. We know they’re running the stretch; they know they’re running the stretch. It’s not a secret.”

The Eagles will likely be without inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who injured his calf against the Colts. Acho and Casey Matthews are expected to fill in. That will present a challenge, as Washington will likely going to test the backup by trying to run right at him.

“The guy has to step in and pick up where Mychal left off,” Ryans said. “Whoever goes in, Acho or Casey, they have to step in and hold it down for Mychal.”
PHILADELPHIA -- It might be cynical to see Marcus Smith's move to inside linebacker and think, Oh, good, now that’s three positions he won’t play in Sunday’s game against Washington.

The Philadelphia Eagles' first-round draft choice from Louisville has practiced at the two outside linebacker positions all through organized team activities and training camp. With injuries to inside linebackers Mychal Kendricks and Najee Goode, the coaches had Smith taking reps on the inside this week.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Smith
AP Photo/Matt RourkePhiladelphia's first-round pick Marcus Smith might find playing time as an inside linebacker.
"It's a numbers thing," coach Chip Kelly said. "I don't know where it will play out, but when you only have four inside linebackers in your 53 and one of them is hurt, we have to bring someone over. So we brought Marcus over from outside linebacker and see how he fits and what he can do. Obviously, you've got to be prepared if you lose a guy or two at inside linebacker."

Smith dressed but did not play in the Eagles’ opener against Jacksonville. On Monday night, he was inactive for the Eagles’ game in Indianapolis.

"It was kind of hard on me," Smith said. "I [have] never really not played in a game before. I definitely wanted to be out there with my teammates. Also, at the same time, you have to be on the sideline and cheer on your teammates. They had a great victory."

Around the NFL, a handful of first-round picks haven’t played a game yet. But one of them, Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants, is injured. The other two are quarterbacks Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater.

The Eagles took Smith because they believed he could develop into a good edge pass-rusher. And maybe he will. But the Eagles have gotten exactly one sack from their outside linebackers in two games. That was by Trent Cole.

Meanwhile, safety Deone Bucannon, taken one pck after Smith, has 10 tackles in two games. Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, selected a pick later, has eight catches for 138 yards for Carolina.

There is a long way to go to judge any of their careers. But it’s hard to get a read on Smith when he hasn’t played. It’s also tough for Smith to get better from the sideline.

"It's always a challenge to grow when you're not getting game reps," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "It's harder to do that. But in practice, that's part of the NFL. That's the hard part of taking somebody's job that already has one. You have to be great in practice, and you have to show that you really are making progress. Then you're fighting for game-day reps. When you get game-day reps, you have to make the most of them."

The move inside could get Smith some playing time, at least. He said he felt pretty comfortable there after just a couple days of practice.

"I’ve been through it before, changing positions," Smith said. "It’s really nothing new to me. I’ll do anything for the team. I look at it as an opportunity. They want to throw me in there, want me to cover bigger tight ends and cover backs. I look at it as an opportunity to get on the field."

To Eagles DBs, Jackson has two speeds

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
PHILADELPHIA – In theory, having practiced against DeSean Jackson should help the Eagles’ secondary deal with him when they have to cover Jackson in a game Sunday.

“We know him well,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “He’s got great speed, with great ability to catch the ball and adjust. We know he’ll be amped up to play us, like all guys are when they go back and play their old teams. One of the good things is, our defensive backs have covered him every day. I think it helps a little bit when you go against him in practice every day and you have a feel for him, as opposed to playing a talent like DeSean that you haven’t gone up against.”

That’s in theory. In practice, it’s not quite as simple as that.

“Game speed is totally different from practice tempo,” Eagles cornerback Cary Williams said. “Practice means nothing, man. Nothing. I expect him to be at his best. I’ll be at my best. He’s a gamer. I’ve seen him in practice and I’ve seen him in games. It’s two different speeds. So practice means nothing to me.”

The Eagles corners play on one side – Williams on the right, Bradley Fletcher on the left – so both will have to cover Jackson, assuming his shoulder injury permits him to play. So will slot cornerback Brandon Boykin.

Boykin agreed that Jackson plays faster than he practices.

“Then he’s coming back to Philly,” Boykin said, “so it’s going to be times two.”

The Eagles know Jackson is an emotional player. They expect his emotions to be running high Sunday.

“No question they are,” Williams said. “We’re well aware of it.”

A few years ago, when Williams was with the Baltimore Ravens, he and Jackson got into a scuffle during a game against the Eagles.

“I’m going to play my game,” Williams said. “I’m going to try not to penalize my team. I’m not going to go out there and do anything stupid.”
PHILADELPHIA -- For a team that leads the NFL in offensive yards and points scored, the Philadelphia Eagles certainly have a lot of players dissatisfied with their performances after two games.

Quarterback Nick Foles and running back LeSean McCoy expressed that dissatisfaction after Monday night’s 30-27 win in Indianapolis. Meanwhile, starting wide receivers Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin have not put up particularly big numbers yet.

For Chip Kelly, it’s all about the overall production, which has led to the Eagles’ 2-0 record.

“We're not trying to win rushing titles,” Kelly said, alluding to McCoy’s leading the NFL in rushing last season. “We're trying to win football games. I think he's always a very, very harsh critic of himself, which is an admirable quality. I think that's one thing that pushes him. That's why he trains so hard in the offseason. Our standard is trying to win every football game each week, and that's it.”

It’s all related. McCoy has gotten intense attention from Jacksonville and Indianapolis. Those teams seldom see him, so they were committed to bottling up the Eagles’ running game. But doing that leaves other areas vulnerable for the Eagles to exploit.

“Sometimes things are geared to take him away,” Kelly said. “If they're geared to take him away, then other guys have to make plays. We have enough weapons around LeSean where you have to pick your poison, so to speak, in terms of who you have to defend. People are honed in on him and rightfully so. Now it opens the field up for some of the other guys. So some of our big plays have all occurred on play-action passes. There’s a reason for that. If you're going to gang up on the run game, we need to have guys open in play-action pass.”

With defenses keying on McCoy, Darren Sproles has 15 carries for 97 yards and 11 catches for 166 yards. With secondaries trying to limit Foles' ability to go downfield to Maclin and Cooper, tight end Zach Ertz has seven catches for 163 yards.

“I just think there are a lot of matchup things when you have Zach,” Kelly said. “So if you do choose to play man (coverage), you have to man everybody. You can't just man the two outside receivers. So if you do, I think our inside receivers, himself and the running backs coming out of the backfield, become matchup problems, too. So the quarterback in man situations is always trying to find his best matchup.”

As guys like Sproles, Ertz and Jordan Matthews have success, defenses will have to adjust and focus on them more. That should free up McCoy, Maclin and Brent Celek a bit more. Kelly doesn’t care where the production comes from, just that it comes.

More first-half scoring at top of Eagles' list

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16

Rallying from double-digit deficits at halftime in consecutive games is sure impressive.

The Philadelphia Eagles would rather not have to keep coming from behind.

One week after erasing a 17-0 deficit at halftime to defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars 34-17, the Eagles trailed 17-6 at Indianapolis on "Monday Night Football." They wound up winning 30-27 when rookie kicker Cody Parkey booted a 36-yard field goal as time expired.

In two games, the Eagles have fallen behind 34-6 at halftime.

In the second half, the result is quite different -- 58-10 in favor of the Eagles.

"We can't do it every game but it's good to know that we don't ever quit and we know how to finish," left tackle Jason Peters told "We're not going to quit. We're going to go four quarters, until the clock says zero. We're gonna keep playing and the outcome will be the outcome."

Coach Chip Kelly wasn't surprised with the second consecutive comeback. He'd rather see his team take the lead and hold on to it.

"The one thing about this team is I think they are really grounded," Kelly told reporters. "It just means we are 2-0. I think it also means we have to execute better on both sides of the ball in the first half. You're not going to make a living continuing to be 17 down in this league. We have a division opponent coming into our place next Sunday, so hopefully we got it out of our system. But we need to do a better job in the first half of executing."

Coming back and actually winning consecutive games to open the season has given the team an extra boost of confidence. As the NFC East rival Washington Redskins come to town this week, the Eagles are going to be ready. If they fall behind again, don't expect them to get rattled.

"The great thing about winning is, you don't play well or things don't go right, to have that attitude to fight, to win, that's what it's all about," running back LeSean McCoy told "That's what we're doing every game, fighting, fighting, clawing to win. We're not having blowouts. That's waiting to happen, hopefully next week. But if we gotta win like this, we gotta win like this."

Foles, McCoy know they can be better

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
INDIANAPOLIS -- Nick Foles had just won a game against Andrew Luck, the guy selected 87 spots ahead of him in the 2012 NFL draft. Foles' Eagles are off to a 2-0 start following a 30-27 win on "Monday Night Football" and have won nine of their past 10 regular-season games.

And yet, Foles and running back LeSean McCoy left the field at Lucas Oil Stadium feeling that they hadn't really played their best game.

"We didn't execute in the red zone," Foles said. "I need to do a better job of that. Especially on the road, you have to capitalize and get touchdowns in the red zone. … We need to play better football in the first half offensively. I missed some throws that could have really helped us out."

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
AP Photo/Michael ConroyLeSean McCoy finished with 79 yards on 20 carries.
McCoy lost 4 yards on his first two carries. He finished the game with 79 yards on 20 carries. Those are respectable totals, but nothing like McCoy was doing as he led the NFL in rushing last season.

"I need to get my thing together," McCoy said. "I feel like I'm not playing to my level where I should be playing. Like tonight, I had an average, above-average game. I didn't have too many touches. Just enough to be effective."

McCoy and Foles certainly played key roles in the Eagles' second-half comeback. On a third-and-15 in the third quarter, coach Chip Kelly called for a running play. McCoy broke it for a 21-yard gain and a first down. Three plays later, Darren Sproles ran for a 19-yard touchdown.

Foles made some big throws in the fourth quarter, although they didn't all travel far. He flipped a screen to Sproles that traveled about 4 yards in the air. Sproles took it 51 yards to the Indianapolis 6-yard line. From there, Foles found Jeremy Maclin for the game-tying touchdown.

And after the Eagles' defense forced the Colts to punt, Foles found tight end Zach Ertz open for a 24-yard gain. That got the Eagles into Indianapolis territory. Another short throw to Sproles, which turned into a 19-yard gain, got the Eagles close enough for kicker Cody Parkey to make the winning field goal.

"When the offense came together knowing that we had that drive," Foles said, "it's a great offense to play for because guys just look at each other and say, 'Hey, let's go do this.' That's what I love about them. Everybody had that determined look in their eye and everybody was relaxed. Let's play the football we know how to."

The comeback wins felt great, but the Eagles can make things a lot easier on themselves by playing well in the first half, too.

INDIANAPOLIS -- LeSean McCoy has an ego. Most great athletes do. McCoy can’t resist taking little jabs at other great NFL running backs, because he believes he’s as good as any of them.

The flip side is that McCoy has appreciation for other elite players. And there’s no getting around it: For two games now, McCoy has been the second-best running back on the Philadelphia Eagles. The NFL’s 2013 rushing champion has been in awe of his new teammate, Darren Sproles.

On Monday night, Sproles took a short toss from Nick Foles 57 yards to set up the Eagles’ game-tying, fourth-quarter touchdown. In the third quarter, Sproles ran 19 yards for a touchdown, bouncing off several defenders, to keep the Eagles in the game. Last week against Jacksonville, Sproles’ 49-yard touchdown run lit the fuse on the Eagles’ 34-point, second-half surge.

“Without Sproles,” McCoy said, “we’d be in some trouble. We really would. That’s why we’re a team. When guys are struggling, he’s picking everybody up.”

Sproles was the primary offensive weapon in the Eagles’ last-second, 30-27 win over the Indianapolis Colts. His 152 receiving yards and 203 all-purpose yards helped erase another slow start and some inconsistent play from McCoy and quarterback Nick Foles.

His impact even had Eagles coach Chip Kelly backpedaling. Since the Eagles acquired Sproles in a trade with the New Orleans Saints, Kelly has stressed that he sees Sproles as a very good running back. Sure, he can catch the ball and lined up all over the field for the New Orleans Saints, but he’s a good back. Period.

After Monday night’s win, Kelly had a little fun at his own expense.

“First and foremost, Darren’s a receiver,” Kelly said. “I’ve said that since Day 1, since we’ve had Darren. He’s just a special player. How many ways can we find to get him the football? He is just a dynamic football player. He can run it, he can catch it. He’s a complete running back.”

Sproles smiled slightly when asked about all this.

“I’m all-purpose,” Sproles said, summing it up.

He’s a soft-spoken guy, but that’s OK. His teammates couldn’t stop talking about him.

“He’s a very explosive player,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “We’re very happy to have him.”

Safety Malcolm Jenkins played with Sproles in New Orleans, so this is all familiar to him. Jenkins, who signed a free-agent deal with the Eagles, intercepted an Andrew Luck pass to set up Sproles’ 57-yard screen pass.

“You get him in space, in one-on-one matchups, no matter who you put on him, there’s going to be a mismatch,” Jenkins said. “The biggest attribute he has, he goes downhill. He gets on the second-level defenders very, very fast. He’s hard to get in the open field. He breaks tackles against people that are twice his size. He does some stuff, we don’t quite understand how he does it.”

Thanks to Sproles and a couple of big defensive plays, the Eagles were able to win a second game without getting off to a particularly good start. That begs the question of just how good this team could be if it played its A-game from the start.

After the Eagles tied it at 27-27, the stage seemed set for Luck to conduct one of his fourth-quarter drives to win it. Instead, the Eagles forced a three-and-out, then drove downfield and kicked the winning field goal as time expired.

"Some people were saying, 'This is just like Period 22 [practice] for us,'" Jenkins said. "We practice at such a pace that when we get into these fourth quarters, guys are fresh. Guys are still full speed. This is what we train for. When we got into those situations, I don’t think the moment was too big for anybody."

It certainly wasn’t too big for Sproles.

Eagles quite impressed with Sproles

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
INDIANAPOLIS -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Eagles’ 30-27 victory over the Colts:

Sproles redefined: Ever since acquiring Darren Sproles in a trade early in the offseason, Eagles coach Chip Kelly has been adamant that Sproles is a running back first. After Sproles caught seven passes for 152 yards against the Colts, here was Kelly: “First and foremost, Darren’s a receiver. I’ve said that since Day 1.” The coach’s tongue was firmly in cheek for that one. “He’s a complete running back,” Kelly said. It's hard to argue that.

Shady interpretation: The Eagles are 2-0, but were outscored in the first halves of their games by a combined score of 34-6. Running back LeSean McCoy knows the team is living dangerously. “Every game is not going to be great,” McCoy said. “We’re not going to do everything right. Championship teams have to fight to win. Every game shouldn’t be like that. We’ll have some blowouts. That’s waiting to happen. Maybe next week.” That should go over well in Washington.

Collision sport: Center Jason Kelce was running as fast as he could, lead blocking on a screen pass play. Sproles caught Kelce and ran into him from behind. “I knew he was right there,” Kelce said. “His hand was on my back. I knew I had to get going.” Kelce did just fine, as Sproles made it all the way to the Colts’ 6-yard line.