Ea­gles try to keep roll go­ing

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Bob Grotz bgrotz@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @BobGrotz on Twit­ter

The Ea­gles re­turned from their bye week in the role of the hunted, not the hun­ters, all apolo­gies to Carson Wentz and his camoflage-and-cross­bow pose with that 8-point buck.

Wentz is wear­ing the NFL rookie-of-the-month for Septem­ber tar­get on his chest as he bids to be­come the only rookie quar­ter­back to win his first four games since the 1970 merger, the Ea­gles one win away as they take on the Detroit Lions in their way Sun­day at Ford Field (1 p.m., Chan­nel 29, WYSP 94.1-FM).

Ea­gles de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jim Schwartz would pre­fer the Lions for­get how the Buf­falo Bills play­ers he coached car­ried him off the field when he beat them here two years ago. Schwartz had been fired as head coach of the Lions the pre­vi­ous sea­son.

Ea­gles head coach Doug Ped­er­son, the model of calm, isn’t preach­ing the mer­its of the 4-0

start. In the past five NFL sea­sons, 14 of 16 (87.5 per­cent) teams that won their first four games reached the play­offs.

The Ea­gles are on a roll, or at least were on one, be­fore the sched­ule told them to take a break. That roll is due largely to the de­fense that’s given up just 27 points over three games, the fewest in the Ea­gles’ first three starts since the 1992 team al­lowed 27.

Wentz is the other ob­vi­ous rea­son for the suc­cess of the Ea­gles as he’s per­formed like a sea­soned vet­eran de­spite en­ter­ing the sea­son with just two quar­ters of live ac­tion in one pre­sea­son game.

Wentz has five touch­downs, no in­ter­cep­tions and a 103.8 passer rat­ing in a 3-0 start. If not for dropped passes, hed’ be com­plet­ing 71.5 per­cent of his throws.

Wentz heard it all and then some dur­ing the bye week, some call­ing him the fa­vorite for MVP.

“I’m very cau­tious about tak­ing too much praise,” Wentz said. “I re­al­ize it’s only three games and we’ve got a long way to go.”

The Lions (1-3) are in trou­ble. They’ve lost three straight games by a to­tal of 11 points in a league where many games are de­cided by 7 or fewer points.

The Lions are al­low­ing a league-worst quar­ter­back rat­ing of 120.2. Oh, and this is prob­a­bly not the best time for the Ea­gles to be re­minded how they were hum­bled, 45-14, by the Lions here last year.

“It was the worst feel­ing be­cause it was Thanks­giv­ing day,” de­fen­sive tackle Ben­nie Lo­gan said. “To get em­bar­rassed like that on na­tional TV while ev­ery­one was get­ting to­gether with their fam­ily en­joy­ing one an­other? And we pretty much were on TV stink­ing it up. It’s def­i­nitely a bad feel­ing. You def­i­nitely re­mem­ber those games like that.”

Lo­gan, un­for­tu­nately, is ques­tion­able for the game with a calf spasm. His work along­side Fletcher Cox, the NFC de­fen­sive player of the month for Septem­ber, has en­abled the Ea­gles to play Schwartz’s brand of phys­i­cal, down­hill foot­ball.

The Ea­gles have depth up front to get after Lions quar­ter­back Matthew Stafford, who Schwartz praised for con­vert­ing 50 per­cent of his thir­dand-long op­por­tu­ni­ties. Beau Allen and Destiny Vaeao are ready to roll in at tackle. Bran­don Gra­ham and Cox have 3 sacks apiece. The cur­rent Lions’ of­fen­sive line isn’t go­ing to put any­one on the Hall of Fame bal­lot.

Though Stafford re­mains ac­cu­rate, he doesn’t have Calvin “Me­ga­tron” John­son, who re­tired from foot­ball and is en­joy­ing his run on Danc­ing With The Stars.

Stafford has com­pleted 66.7 per­cent of his throws to a sta­ble of re­ceivers in­clud­ing Marvin Jones, An­quan Boldin and Golden Tate. That’s partly be­cause the ground game with Theo Rid­dick, more of a third-down type of back, has been un­able to carry the load.

Stafford, 28, is look­ing for­ward to see­ing Schwartz again

“I have a lot of re­spect for him,” Stafford said. “He was the one who brought me in here, gave me a chance, stuck with me through some in­juries early in my ca­reer. I have a lot of re­spect for him not only as a guy but as a coach, as well. I’ve played against him, at least with Buf­falo and he al­ways had a nice game plan. He’s a re­ally smart guy that gets his guys to play hard for him.

“I’m sure ay time you go back and play an­other op­po­nent that you used to coach for in some ca­pac­ity it prob­a­bly means a de­cent amount.”

The Lions have sev­eral in­juries on de­fense. Line­backer DeAn­dre Levy (quad, knee) and pass rusher Ezekiel An­sah (knee) are out and the sec­ondary is banged-up.

The Lions are pre­par­ing for an Ea­gles squad that’s dom­i­nated the op­po­si­tion as the game grinds on. The Birds have outscored op­po­nents, 43-3, in third quar­ters and 57-10 in sec­ond halves. The Ea­gles have been outscored in just two of 12 quar­ters this sea­son.

The con­test Sun­day marks a stretch in which the Ea­gles play four of their next five games on the road. Three of those away games are against NFC East op­po­si­tion.

“Most teams have a for­mula,” Ea­gles safety Mal­colm Jenk­ins said. “Win all your home games and go 50 per­cent on the road and you’re sit­ting real nice. This is an op­por­tu­nity to go on the road and get a win. It’s the only op­por­tu­nity we’ve got right now so it’s all we’re fo­cused on. It’s a tough place to play. Ob­vi­ously we learned our les­son last year about this place so we’ve got to make sure that we come pre­pared.”

Schwartz might not get that ride on the shoul­ders of his play­ers. Line­backer Nigel Brad­ham, who played for the Bills’ de­fense that hoisted Schwartz fol­low­ing the close win over the Lions in 2014, says the emo­tions of this re­turn to Mo­town aren’t as raw.

“I think it’s a dif­fer­ent at­mos­phere,” Brad­ham said. “It’s been a lit­tle time since he’s been there. This is what, the third sea­son since he left? I don’t think that that will hap­pen.”

Said an­other de­fen­sive player, “Maybe we’ll dump some wa­ter on him or some­thing. We’ll see.”

If the Ea­gles get to 4-0, which lately has been a magic num­ber, some­one de­serves to be car­ried off.

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