Alshon Jeffery said Wednesday that he wasn't frustrated, when he went without a catch Monday night against the Raiders, the first time that has happened to the Eagles' top wideout since his days as a rookie in Chicago, Dec. 16, 2012.
Jeffery brushed off interviewers Monday night, but Wednesday he said: "Of course I want to get the ball. But all that matters is the win."
One of the things that has to happen for the Eagles to live up to their No. 1 NFC playoff seeding is for Nick Foles to click with Jeffery. Neither Jeffery nor Foles got much work in the preseason, because of injuries, so they obviously didn't work much together. Then Foles spent the first 13 weeks of the season running the scout team, throwing to receivers who definitely weren't Jeffery.
Carson Wentz and Jeffery also seemed affected by a lack of familiarity early on. They had just started to really build their partnership, to the tune of 18 catches for 306 yards and five touchdowns in a five-game span, when Wentz suffered a torn left ACL, just before throwing what turned out to be his final touchdown pass of 2017, to Jeffery, on Dec. 10 at the Rams.
Jeffery, targeted only twice Monday, shrugged off questions Wednesday about developing chemistry with Foles, saying that it's "not that difficult." He said he wasn't being asked such questions after Foles' previous start, the four-touchdown-pass day at the Giants. Jeffery caught four of those passes, for 49 yards and a TD – but he was targeted 10 times.
"I think it's going pretty well. It's just that [Raiders] game," Jeffery said. He blamed a "couple funky coverages," though it sure seemed Oakland corner Sean Smith was following Jeffery around the formation. Eagles coach Doug Pederson credited Smith when he was asked Tuesday about Jeffery's struggle.
Offensive coordinator Frank Reich blamed a lack of overall offensive continuity for the missed connections.
"I think it really comes back to being better on third down," Reich said Wednesday. "Not that we can't find other ways to get him the ball on first and second down. I own that. We own that. Let's get Alshon the football. And I think as drives go, when you're making first downs and moving the ball down the field, when we're at our best, that's what we do. We possess the ball. We lead the NFL in time of possession for two straight years, and because we know how to make first downs, we know how to stay on the field. When that doesn't happen, you just get out of sync. The ball doesn't get distributed in the same way. For us, it comes down to being good on third down, being good in the red zone, just to get more opportunities to spread the ball around."
To play or not to play
It still isn't clear how much Eagles starters will play in the meaningless regular season-finale on New Year's Eve. As Doug Pederson has noted, this isn't the final preseason game against the Jets, you only have 53 players, so some starters will have to play. For example, the Eagles carry eight offensive linemen, and left guard Stefen Wisniewski has missed the last two games with a high ankle sprain. They aren't going to toss Wiz out there against the Cowboys. So really, resting starters comes down to giving Isaac Seumalo some snaps at guard or center and letting Will Beatty make his Eagles debut at one of the tackle spots.
You'll probably see Wendell Smallwood run the ball for the first time since Nov. 5, and Kamu Grugier-Hill will get to do some actual linebacking instead of just playing special teams, but it's not like you won't recognize anyone out there in green.
"Me personally, I want to play," running back LeGarrette Blount said. Blount was one of a handful of Eagles who mentioned that no Eagles team has ever won as many as 14 regular-season games — clearly, this point was addressed in meetings, as a way to lend meaning to the game.
"We have the chance to do something here that hasn't been done," Blount said. "I know all the guys want to do it, I know all the guys want to be a part of something that special. It's the coach's call."
Center Jason Kelce called Monday's 19-10 victory over Oakland "probably the worst offensive performance of the season," and said that for the starters, "it would be unfortunate to go into the postseason with that being your last game."
That winning feeling
Frank Reich was asked his message to Nick Foles after looking over the film of Monday night's game. Reich said it was important for everyone to take ownership of a poor performance.
"I've been on sidelines when things aren't going well, and you think, 'Oh, geez, here we go again.' But the positive thing about the culture that has been created, the confidence and the swagger that our players have and that our coaches have, is as bad as things were offensively in that game, there was always a sense we were going to find a way to win," Reich said. "I didn't care if the defense had to win it for us or if we had to get a return … I don't know, there's something about this team right now that we just feel like we're going to win, and it's not always pretty."
Reich said that after Ronald Darby's interception with 54 seconds remaining, "I walked over to Nick, and I said, 'This is it. This is how it works. Just be clutch right here,' and he was," setting up Jake Elliott's game-winning field goal.