McMullen: ‘Next Man Up’ Finally Fails the Eagles
(973espn.com) - The most impressive part of the Eagles Super Bowl LII win was getting it accomplished without a host of key contributors.
Philadelphia won the big one without its quarterbacks on both offense and defense -- Carson Wentz and Jordan Hicks -- as well as a Pro Bowl left tackle in Jason Peters, one of the top return men of all time in Darren Sproles, and special-teams stalwart Chris Maragos.
People also tend to forget the Eagles even lost their kicker, veteran Caleb Sturgis, before finding Jake Elliott on Cincinnati's practice squad.
Early this season things have been even tougher according to a team source because many of the injuries have been compartmentalized to one position (receiver) instead of spread out all over the entire roster.
"Nobody's going to feel sorry for us with the injuries, there's no excuses," coach Doug Pederson said after Sunday's 26-23 overtime loss to Tennessee. "We can't feel sorry for ourselves."
The irony is just as Alshon Jeffery returned from offseason shoulder surgery to bolster that ailing receiving corps with perhaps his best game as an Eagle, others forced onto the field due to Rodney McLeod's likely season-ending knee injury in Week 3 failed in key spots during the extra frame.
It was business as usual in regulation time as DeAndre Carter, who was promoted from the practice squad on Saturday because Philadelphia needed a punt returner with Sproles and Corey Clement dinged-up, put the Eagles in position for a come-from-behind win with a brilliant 40-yard return.
Ultimately, the offense couldn't punch it in with a short field though and settled for a Jake Elliott field goal and the extra time.
Another Elliott boot put the Eagles on top by a FG and gave its defense a clearly defined goal, stop the Titans and the game would be over.
Instead, Jim Schwartz's unit allowed Tennessee to convert three fourth-down attempts before Marcus Mariota found the rangy Corey Davis over much-shorter rookie Avonte Maddox in coverage for a walk-off win.
"You have to hate this feeling more than you enjoy winning," Pederson said.
It was the moving parts due to McLeod's injury that doomed Philadelphia with Graham allowing Taywan Taylor to sneak behind him on a fourth-and-15 conversion and then Maddox, slipping a bit on Davis' break and allowing the former first-round pick all the advantage he needed.
For once, the next man up didn't come through for Philadelphia.
With Minnesota next, however, Pederson expects that to be the outlier and not the trend.
"A lot of it falls on my shoulders, preparing this football team during the week mentally, physically," Pederson said. "... One thing that this team has (is) resiliency and just the ownership of doing their jobs, doing simple [things] better, and just focus on their task and their job."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen