The way this Eagles season has gone, Doug Pederson’s words should not have come as a shock Monday, but somehow, they still did.
Brandon Brooks needs right shoulder surgery, Pederson said, and will miss the team’s playoff run, which starts Sunday at home against the Seattle Seahawks.
Pederson didn’t offer specifics on the injury. A medical source speculated that with Brooks already ruled out for the rest of the season and surgery booked, Brooks must have either suffered a fracture of his shoulder socket or a torn rotator cuff. Had he merely suffered a torn labrum, a postseason return probably wouldn’t have been ruled out.
The healing time should be six to eight months, the source said, for a 30-year-old, three-time Pro Bowl right guard who spent last offseason coming back from a torn Achilles, suffered in the playoff loss at New Orleans.
The rest of Pederson’s injury report was less cataclysmic – rookie running back Miles Sanders, who left Sunday’s 34-17 playoff-clinching win over the New York Giants before Brooks went down, should be able to play against the Seahawks. Corner Avonte Maddox, who later missed snaps, also is OK, though little-used defensive end Daeshon Hall suffered a torn ACL on the final play of the game.
Eagles medical personnel were trying to attend to Hall while photographers rushed the field and opponents shook hands, which is about as on-brand as it gets for the 2019 Eagles.
Unless something we don’t know about happened before the play on which Brooks tumbled back, then stayed down as the injury cart was summoned, the Eagles lost their most consistent offensive lineman – maybe the one player on the team who is the best in the NFL at his position – blocking for an extra point, of all things.
On replay, it seemed Brooks was rocked backward, his helmet dislodged, by a double-team led by Giants rookie defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence. Brooks put out his left arm to brace his fall, but after being helped onto the cart, he was elevating his right arm, the one Lawrence slammed into and fell on, at 6-foot-4, 342 pounds.
Brooks did not respond to a request for comment. Pederson said Brooks is “definitely a big loss,” and added: “He's an anchor of that offensive line. He's big and physical, and he's a professional. He comes to work every day ready to go.”
Second-year reserve Matt Pryor came in when Brooks went down, just before halftime, and Pryor looked OK, in only the second extensive action of his career. Pederson indicated that there might be a possibility the Eagles could get right tackle Lane Johnson back this week from the high ankle sprain he suffered in the Dec. 9 win over the Giants. That would free up Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who has been filling in for Johnson, to move inside.
“We have some options there, so we’ll see how the week plays out,” Pederson said.
It’s amazing how the Eagles seem to have turned playing backups and practice squad call-ups into a strength, rather than a weakness. Players talked after Sunday’s game about how watching unheralded teammates come through in the clutch has strengthened team bonds, and boosted confidence.
“Honestly, I think it’s great,” Pryor said after playing 35 snaps against the Giants. Pryor had totaled 44 snaps in his career before Sunday. “People getting pulled up from the practice squad, backups having to step in. I feel like they’ve performed because they’ve got that chip on their shoulder.”
As Fox analyst Chris Spielman noted on the broadcast, Pryor bulldozed a path for a 7-yard Boston Scott touchdown run, right up the gut. Pryor said he was well-prepared by offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland.
“We go over angles and double-teams and who you’re reading, the running back and all that,” Pryor said. “All the little details add up to the bigger picture, just like ‘Stout’ is telling us.”
Pederson was asked what he is proud of, as he rides into the postseason on a four-game win streak, fashioned with key starters falling left and right.
“Very proud of my coaching staff, obviously, preparing, and with the amount of adversity and injuries we've had on, really, both sides of the ball, being able to get guys ready and prepared to play is not easy. Offensively speaking, we've had a lot of new faces, a lot of young receivers and a lot of young running backs. So my hat is off to my staff there,” he said.
“And then a credit to the players … these young players coming in, making plays. They're hungry. They’re eager. They want to do what's right. They’re coachable. They're doing the right things. Our quarterback obviously has a lot of trust and faith in them. They spend a lot time during the week preparing and getting ready for games.
“I just think [of] where we are, putting ourselves in this position to play for the NFC East [Sunday], and I'm proud of the leadership of the football team, the veteran guys that really have kept this team together through all of it. And then to win the game [Sunday] and win the NFC East, put ourselves in the postseason -- quite a few things to be proud of with this football team.”
Carson Wentz, missing all three of his starting wide receivers and his go-to tight end, Zach Ertz, threw for 289 yards against the Giants. Of the six receivers who caught passes, only Sanders (three catches, minus-1 yard) and Dallas Goedert (four catches on 10 targets for 65 yards) began the season on the roster.
After Brooks went down, the Eagles were missing seven of 11 offensive starters from Week 1, and two defensive starters, not counting starting corner Jalen Mills, who was sidelined with a foot injury Week 1 and an ankle injury Week 17, and starting linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill, who missed Week 1 with a knee injury and now is on IR with a back injury.
“Guys just keep stepping up, especially mid-game,” Wentz said. “You don’t have time to worry about it or stress about it, it’s just plug and play. Let’s go. Guys kept making plays, and it was cool to see.”
The way Sunday’s game unfolded for Boston Scott, it was easy to forget that it began with him fumbling the opening kickoff and being downed at the Eagles’ 7.
On the Golden Tate touchdown, Rasul Douglas had the coverage, all he had to do was look for the ball, which went right past his arm. Fox’s broadcast showed Jim Schwartz animated on the sideline afterward, but he seemed to be upset with Josh Sweat, who took a pass rush angle that allowed Nate Solder to push him far past Daniel Jones, opening up a clear passing lane for the unpressured rookie quarterback.
The Eagles were very lucky that Jones underthrew Sterling Shepard on a long ball that hit Sidney Jones in the back. The Giants then went for it on fourth-and-4 and Cre’Von LeBlanc broke up a pass intended for Shepard.
The Eagles were 1-for-9 on third downs when Carson Wentz and Dallas Goedert combined on an amazing third-and-8 conversion pass to the sideline. They’d missed seven conversions in a row.
Wentz finished the regular season ninth in NFL passing yards, with 4,039, and tied for fifth in touchdown passes, with 27. Wentz is the only Eagles quarterback to throw a TD pass in every game of a season.
The Eagles were minus-3 in turnover ratio this season. Seattle was plus-12, helped by the plus-3 the Seahawks racked up in their 17-9 win over the Eagles on Nov. 24.
That Jordan Howard could lead the Eagles with six rushing touchdowns, despite not carrying the ball over the final seven games? Doug Pederson said Howard, who saw just one snap against the Giants in his return from a shoulder injury, will figure more heavily in the postseason, “as he gets more into game shape.”
Before Sunday, the Eagles’ defense had held an opponent on the road under 24 points only once all season, in the 31-13 win at Buffalo Oct. 27, also held in a cold, pelting rain. So, hope for Seattle weather Sunday against the Seahawks.
Deontay Burnett’s 41-yard reception from Carson Wentz Sunday came on the next play after a 39-yard Wentz completion to Burnett’s former practice squad compadre, Rob Davis. Davis’s leaping catch, the more spectacular of the two, was wiped out by a Halapoulivaati Vaitai hold.
Davis, dressing Sunday evening in the next stall from Burnett, wore a wry smile as reporters descended on Burnett to ask about his big play, in his Eagles debut.
“It was special,” Burnett said, after being targeted four times and catching two passes for 48 yards. He caught 10 passes for the Jets last season. Burnett, 22, said Wentz “has been a big-time factor in my development” since Burnett joined the Eagles’ practice squad Dec. 12.