Ward Graduates to Prominence
LANDOVER, MD (973espn.com) - Usually it takes four years to get a degree. Try four weeks for Greg Ward, who graduated from the Philadelphia practice squad to becoming the Eagles' WR1 late in a must-win game at Fed Ex Field.
Down by a field goal with less than five minutes to play in what was essentially a must-win game the Eagles embarked on an 11-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a four-yard touchdown pass from Carson Wentz to Ward, a play which set up a Week 16 showdown against Dallas for what will likely be an NFC East crown to the winner.
While Ward finished it, his stamp was also all over the final drive, converting a third-and-five from the Philadelphia 30 with a 13-yard reception, as well as another 13-yarder with under two minutes to go which put Philadelphia in the red zone and a 10-yard gain that set the Eagles up inside the five.
From there it was hero time for a guy who spent the spring back in his native Texas playing for the San Antonio Commandeers of the now-defunct AAF.
"It's mine regardless," Ward said of his game-winning grab, which emanated from a bunch formation before Ward crossed the field. "That was my whole mindset. ... You also think about big catches like that. It is truly a blessing to be in that position and in that environment."
The final score of 37-27 was buoyed by a Nigel Bradham fumble return on the final play of the game but Ward's play was the real dagger to the heart of a 3-11 Washington team that fought hard all afternoon.
Ward was the only WR to even catch a pass in the game for the game, getting nine of the 11 targets thrown by Wentz to his outside targets.
"Sometimes it's the hot hand," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said of he and Wentz calling Ward's number so many times late in the game. "It's definitely Carson Wentz feeling more comfortable with Greg obviously and trusting him and making nice, accurate throws."
"I can only say good things about Greg," Wentz said. "Just keep coming up big late in the game like that. They went into man coverage multiple times and he just beat his guy. He was a part of the progression, just kept making plays. For him to go up and get that ball and play that big in the red zone like that to seal the deal was sweet."
In a game that was supposed to be virtually devoid of proven playmakers, the Eagles uncovered a new one named Ward.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen