Philly tough:

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE - Mar­tin Frank

Doug Ped­er­son’s gutsy team has proved re­silient amid in­juries as it en­ters its ul­ti­mate test in New Or­leans.

PHILADEL­PHIA – Car­son Wentz is still heal­ing from the stress frac­ture in his back, and the Ea­gles have won all four games since Nick Foles took over, in­clud­ing the scin­til­lat­ing 16-15 vic­tory over the Chicago Bears in the NFC wild-card play­offs on Jan. 6.

Philadel­phia will face the top-seeded Saints in New Or­leans Jan. 13, re­turn­ing to the scene of a 48-7 loss on Nov. 18 that left the Ea­gles at 4-6.

Their play­off chances back then were as likely as the Bears’ Cody Parkey’s last-sec­ond field goal at­tempt hit­ting the goal posts twice, then bounc­ing out, with five sec­onds left af­ter be­ing deflected.

So head coach Doug Ped­er­son was asked why not put Wentz on in­jured re­serve if he’s not go­ing to be ac­tive on game days in the play­offs?

“Lis­ten, we keep win­ning, we keep putting our­selves in a po­si­tion to be suc­cess­ful,” Ped­er­son said. “You never know what next week might hold. So we just keep that (as an op­tion). We’ve done it a lot this year.”

Ped­er­son men­tioned do­ing it with run­ning back Dar­ren Spro­les, who missed 10 games with a ham­string in­jury yet never went on IR; and cor­ner­back Sid­ney Jones, who has missed eight of the last 11 games with the same in­jury and he’s not on IR.

Foles, mean­while, has played his way through a rib in­jury the last three games. He stayed in for the en­tire game against the Bears and com­pleted 25 of 40 passes for 266 yards with two touch­downs and two in­ter­cep­tions.

Foles wasn’t leav­ing the game, and the Ea­gles demon­strated through­out that they weren’t go­ing down with­out a fight.

That was ev­i­dent with wide re­ceiver Golden Tate, who caught the game-win­ning touch­down pass on a fourt­hand-goal from the Bears’ 2-yard line with 56 sec­onds re­main­ing.

In the sec­ond quar­ter, Tate some­how made a 28-yard catch over the mid­dle on a 3rd-and-6 from the 50 and im­me­di­ately got drilled in the ribs. Tate held onto the ball, sig­naled for the first down with one hand while the other clutched his ribs.

“Once I re­al­ized I wasn’t cough­ing up blood, I figured I’d be OK,” Tate said.

In a way, that play set the tone for Tate’s win­ning catch. On that play, Foles, with ten­der ribs, sprinted out to his right and drilled the ball into Tate, who was in the front cor­ner of the end zone.

“It’s definitely spe­cial to be able to do some­thing, con­trib­ute, at that time,” Tate said. “I’m just happy that the coaches and the rest of the or­ga­ni­za­tion had the confidence to put the team’s fu­ture on my shoul­ders.”

The Ea­gles have been wait­ing for this from Tate ever since they ac­quired him on Oct. 30, send­ing a third-round pick to the Detroit Lions.

It wasn’t easy for Tate. He had to fit into a re­ceiver group as a slot re­ceiver with Nel­son Agholor, who rarely comes off the field. In the mean­time, Al­shon Jeffery needed the ball. So did tight end Zach Ertz. And rookie tight end Dal­las Goed­ert emerged to­ward the lat­ter half of the sea­son.

“He’s ex­actly the per­son we knew we were get­ting,” Ped­er­son said about Tate. “This guy, ob­vi­ously, was a starter (with the Lions) and then kind of came in and be­came a role player. Kind of a lit­tle bit took a seat, a step back, and had to kind of get com­fort­able with the offense … Each week, he just shows that he can han­dle more and more and more.”

But there were other ex­am­ples as well.

De­fen­sive tackle Treyvon Hester got his finger­tips on Cody Parkey’s game-win­ning field goal at­tempt with five sec­onds left. Hester pos­si­bly affected the ball, which hit the left up­right, then the cross­bar be­fore bounc­ing back onto the field, just enough to pre­vent the Ea­gles from start­ing their offsea­son.

Hester was signed off the prac­tice squad in Oc­to­ber. And as Ped­er­son put it, Hester “had a big hand in the game last night.” He wasn’t kid­ding. Ped­er­son also men­tioned other play­ers who were ei­ther on the prac­tice squad or were re­leased by other teams who have made con­tri­bu­tions, such as cor­ner­back Cre’Von LeBlanc and safety Tre Sul­li­van.

And the offen­sive line showed tough­ness, too, prevent­ing Bears pass rusher Khalil Mack from get­ting too close to Foles. Mack was of­ten lined up against left tackle Ja­son Peters. Peters has played through sev­eral nag­ging in­juries this sea­son and will turn 37 on Jan. 22.

Yet Mack didn’t have a sack, though he did hit Foles twice.

“He’s an all-pro left tackle in my mind,” Ped­er­son said about Peters. “He con­tin­ues to play at a high level. Is it per­fect all the time? No. There are go­ing to be times when he gets beat. But he’s steady. He’s re­li­able.”

And he’s tough, just like his team­mates. That’s why the Ea­gles are still play­ing.


Ea­gles quar­ter­back Nick Foles stayed in for the en­tire game against the Bears and com­pleted 25 of 40 passes for 266 yards with two touch­downs and two in­ter­cep­tions.

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