Ped­er­son: Play­off spot is still within reach

Ped­er­son feels play­off spot still within reach

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

“You just find out who is go­ing to put forth the ef­fort, who’s go­ing to sort of man-up as they say, and take pride in their pro­fes­sion. And that’s coaches and play­ers.” – Ea­gles’ coach Doug Ped­er­son

PHILADELPHIA >> It didn’t take Doug Ped­er­son long to de­liver the good news Tues­day.

Ea­gles lead­ing re­ceiver Jor­dan Matthews sus­tained a right an­kle sprain, not a frac­ture in the 27-13 loss to the Green Bay Pack­ers Mon­day. Matthews might not prac­tice much, but could be ready to play Sun­day at Cincin­nati.

“X-rays and ev­ery­thing were neg­a­tive,” Ped­er­son said. “He’s go­ing to be fine. He’ll be good for the game.”

That was as pain­less as the day-af­ter news con­fer­ence went. In the mid­dle of it Ped­er­son spoke of avert­ing a tank­ing sit­u­a­tion in the last five games of the sea­son.

The Ea­gles cer­tainly fit the pro­file of a team in dis­tress, hav­ing been shelled in back-to-back games. With a 5-6 record, they’re fad­ing fast.

“You just find out who is go­ing to put forth the ef­fort, who’s go­ing to sort of man-up as they say, and take pride in their pro­fes­sion,” Ped­er­son said. “And that’s

coaches and play­ers. Lis­ten, that’s not a threat. Teams in our sit­u­a­tion right now, even though you’re still maybe on the edge of get­ting to where you want to be at the end of the sea­son, you could kind of go the other way.

“And not to put any added pres­sure on any­body but at the same time I don’t want peo­ple to just start tank­ing the last half of the sea­son.”

To his credit, Ped­er­son took on ev­ery topic Tues­day. Even the in­juries, typ­i­cally the eas­i­est part of his day, had a dif­fer­ent tone, par­tic­u­larly on the of­fen­sive side of the ball, which sets new stan­dards for in­ef­fec­tive­ness weekly.

Run­ning back Ryan Mathews (MCL sprain) is day-to-day although, in all se­ri­ous­ness, the Ea­gles haven’t uti­lized his best skill, which is run­ning with the foot­ball. The Birds have lost their early sea­son com­mit­ment to the run game for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons.

The in­jury-rid­dled of­fen­sive line is a part of it. The Ea­gles miss rookie right tackle Hal Vaitai, week-to-week with a sprained MCL. Left guard Allen Bar­bre moved from left guard to fill his po­si­tion Mon­day.

The Ea­gles also were with­out right guard Bran­don Brooks Mon­day night, who was hos­pi­tal­ized ear­lier in the day af­ter se­vere vom­it­ing. He was re­placed by rookie Isaac Seu­malo.

“Ev­ery­thing checked out fine with him so we’ll get him back, get him work­ing this week,” Ped­er­son said.

Add those is­sues to the ex­panded use of un­drafted rookie wide re­ceivers Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner, who aren’t built to block; throw in such bone­head mis­takes as re­ceiver Do­rial GreenBeck­ham’s penalty wip­ing out a 41-yard play and you get an of­fense that couldn’t keep pace with Aaron Rodgers. In­stead the Birds were forced to throw the ball en­tirely too much and man­aged just three points in the sec­ond half. Post­ing a sin­gle field goal against a Pack­ers de­fense giv­ing away points like trick-or-treat candy is a du­bi­ous achieve­ment for Doug Ped­er­son greets Mike McCarthy ol­low­ing Mon­day’s game against the Green Bay Pack­ers on Mon­day. the Ea­gles’ of­fense.

The Ea­gles sim­ply aren’t good enough to play catchup ball. Fewer pos­ses­sions mean fewer op­por­tu­ni­ties to run. Fewer op­por­tu­ni­ties to run mean the de­fense spends more snaps on the field. Added snaps wear on the de­fense. Try rush­ing Rodgers when he has the lead.

“You can al­ways look back on a Mon­day or Tues­day and say we should have done this or we should have done that,” Ped­er­son said. “If you can (run) against good of­fenses you can con­trol the clock. The thing that gets you is you’ve got to make sure your ex­e­cu­tion is pretty much flaw­less at the time so you can stay on the field. You can’t have penal­ties, of­fen­sively. You can’t have neg­a­tive run­ning plays. You can’t have sacks.”

The Ea­gles aren’t there. It’s fright­en­ing in a sense, although the in­juries Ped­er­son won’t use as an ex­cuse clearly are a fac­tor.

Ped­er­son played de­fense much of his presser, start­ing with his de­ci­sion on wide re­ceiver Nel­son Agholor, who was benched Mon­day. He’ll be mon­i­tored again this week be­fore the de­ter­mi­na­tion to activate him.

Ped­er­son be­came edgy when asked about de­fen­sive tackle Fletcher Cox, who had just one tackle on the night, as well as a rough­ing-the-passer penalty that ex­tended the piv­otal Pack­ers touch­down drive when it ap­peared the Birds’ de­fense was go­ing to get off the field and force the Pack­ers to punt. Cox is get­ting lots of scrutiny af­ter sign­ing his record $103 mil­lion con­tract ex­ten­sion be­fore the sea­son.

“What is the prob­lem with Fletcher Cox?” Ped­er­son said rhetor­i­cally. “Well, I think he draws a lot of at­ten­tion. He draws a lot of dou­ble-teams. He gets a lot of hands on him. He still is very, at times, is very dis­rup­tive and can be a force in­side. Men­tally he’s good. Phys­i­cally he’s good. It’s just a mat­ter of the sheer de­ter­mi­na­tion and the want­ing to get the job done.

“He’s still a very ca­pa­ble de­fen­sive line­man for us. We do ex­pect, and I do ex­pect, a lot from guys like Fletcher. And he does as well.”

The penalty, on the other hand, is a big con­cern. It’s the third time this sea­son Cox has hit the quar­ter­back late or in the rough­ing-the-passer zone to keep a scor­ing drive alive. Cox got Rodgers around the hel­met.

“This game hap­pens so fast that it’s hard sometimes when you’re in the heat of the mo­ment,” Ped­er­son said. “All I can do is grab him and say, ‘look, you’ve got to be care­ful. We’ve got to make sure we’re low­er­ing our tar­get.’ Fletcher’s a big man. He’s a tall man. He’s got an arm reach. He’s ag­gres­sive. Yeah, we’ve got to be care­ful and we’ve got to be smart about how we hit quar­ter­backs. But at the same time I want our de­fen­sive line to hit quar­ter­backs.”

The bot­tom line is the Ea­gles are the ninth seed in the NFC play­off stand­ings. The good news is eight teams make the play­offs. The bad news is the Ea­gles have lost five of their last seven games.

“Well, I think the most im­por­tant thing is we’re very pride­ful in our jobs and what we do,” Ped­er­son said. “It’s my job to make sure that doesn’t hap­pen and we con­tinue to com­mu­ni­cate and talk with the play­ers. You find out of a lot about your foot­ball team in the next month. You con­tinue to go to work ev­ery day. You don’t back off. You just keep work­ing. You stay the course. We have a process, we started it back in OTAs. We’re go­ing to stick with that process.”

Talk­ing about stay­ing the course, and ac­tu­ally stay­ing the course, are two dif­fer­ent things.

Ped­er­son faces the chal­lenge of com­mu­ni­cat­ing that to his play­ers.

MICHAEL PEREZ — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Jor­dan Matthews, left, pulls in a pass against Green Bay Pack­ers’ Da­mar­i­ous Ran­dall on Mon­day.

MICHAEL PEREZ — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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