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  • Writer's pictureAl Thompson

EAGLES CHALLENGES AGAINST WASHINGTON INCLUDE STEERING CLEAR OF THE 'RAT POISON'

The Eagles will face the Football Team without their feature running back Miles Sanders who suffered a broken hand against the Giants.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts refers to talk about the playoffs as "rat poison." Photo by Al Thompson.

The Eagles are clearly in the driver's seat to clinch one of the two remaining spots in the NFC playoffs.


This Sunday, and this is unofficial right now, if the Birds defeat the Washington Football Team and Minnesota, Atlanta and New Orleans lose, the Eagles will likely clinch the seventh and final seed.


The Vikings (7-8) are at Green Bay (12-3). The Packers must win to get closer to clinching home field advantage and the only first round bye in the NFC.


The Saints (7-8) host Carolina (5-10). As bad as the Panthers have been over the last month pales in comparison to New Orleans' offense which has scored just 12 points over the last two games. The Saints have no quarterback...at all. And it's too late to trade for Nick Foles.


Also, Atlanta (7-8) is at a very hot Buffalo team that is looking to clinch the AFC East.


The Eagles defeated Atlanta and the Saints during the regular season, so they have the tiebreaker against those teams.


The No. 6 seed is still in play, but the Birds lost to the slumping San Francisco 49ers (8-7) early in the season. The 49ers may be without starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo who injured his right thumb in San Francisco's loss at Tennessee last week.


Looks good, right?


Not so fast. The Eagles offense mopped the floor with the Football Team's defense on December 21, rushing for 238 yards and producing an outrageous 534 total yard during the Birds 27-17 Tuesday night win at the Linc.


The yardage was horrible to give up for Washington, but at least the score was somewhat respectable.


Sunday night, the Dallas Cowboys (11-4) humiliated Washington with 508 yards offensively and a historic 56-14 beating.


Washington defensive linemen Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne got into a fight on the sidelines in the second quarter...haymakers were thrown. It was ugly.


This team is pissed off. Will Washington lay down or embrace the role of spoiler?


The Eagles will go into this battle minus the running back who set a career high in rushing against Washington. Miles Sanders carried the ball 18 times last week for 131 yards.


Against the Giants, Sanders was running well- seven carries for 45 yards – until he left the game with a broken hand right after halftime.


One positive: The Eagles will be in Washington, but it will feel like a home game as Eagles Nation will take over FedEx Field.


On Monday head coach Nick Sirianni went over the wounded list after the Eagles 34-10 win over not-so Big Blue.


“Yeah, I’ll go through them one at a time,” Sirianni said. “Nate Herbig had a knee sprain. He could have returned if we needed him to. (Running back) Jordan Howard, his MRI came back good and we're hopeful. I'm not going to put any timetables on anybody, but we're hopeful for Jordan.


“Miles did break his hand and, obviously, he'll be out this week and then we will re-evaluate after a week. We are hopeful we can get him back at some point this season, so he will not be going to IR.


K'Von Wallace had a hip pointer, he should be fine.”


The offensive line should be fine with the good news about Herbig.


But running back will be a challenge. Rookie Kenneth Gainwell will be pressed into service. If Howard gets on the field, there is no telling how effective he will be.


So, it may fall into the lap...or hands...of Boston Scott. Scott entered the Giants game in relief in the third quarter and scored a crucial three-yard touchdown to get the scoring started.


The third-year pro didn't flinch about being the feature back in a potential playoff-spot clinching game.


“I'm ready...I'll be ready.”


After the Giants game someone asked quarterback Jalen Hurts about how far the team has turned around the season since the loss in Las Vegas that saw the Eagles record drop to 2-5.


Hurts stopped the question before it was finished. He obviously was not going to entertain and conversation about playoffs.


“I’m not in the business of talking about anything other than being in the moment,” Hurts said, glaring at the questioner. “Everything that we do is just focusing on getting better every day and being 1-0 every day. And we know that as a football team, if we control the things that we can control, we should be alright.


“So, any external factors, any rat poison out there, everybody’s – I don’t really care for it. I’m not trying to hear it. We know as a football team, and I know in my heart, we have yet to play our best game. We have yet to put it all together and we’re striving for that. I know that it’ll come at the right time, but we’re striving for that.”



Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said staying in the moment was the key to turning the season around. Photo by Al Thompson.

Sirianni did sort of answer that question on Monday during his zoom press conference. He was asked why his team mirrors the Frank Reich teams at Indianapolis. Last year the Colts started poorly and rallied to earn a playoff spot.


"I know you guys have heard me say this a million times – how do you get a little bit better each day,” Sirianni said. “That is our intensity at practice. It is our detail in walk-through and our full speed to the snap in walk-through, and our detail in meetings, starting with the coaches and then to the players. And if you can be in this trajectory, or if you will, let your roots grow, your flower roots grow, right?


“But if you can be in that trajectory [motioning hand diagonally upwards] where you're doing this a little bit more each day and you can truly live by that and just know that I'm not thinking about – right, I'm not thinking when the outside world might be thinking about playoffs, I'm thinking about how I'm going to get better today to get better tomorrow, the next day, the next day, so we can go 1-0 this week.


“It's just staying in the moment and going a little bit at a time. When you're in this trajectory, I don't think every team thinks that way. I know it doesn't. I've been on different teams. And so, if you can get a little bit better and people level out at the end of the year, you're going to pass teams up.


“And so, I saw it work firsthand with Frank leading it that way, and, again, I always thought that was an unbelievable message regardless of the situation you're in. Whether you start 2-5, or when we were in Indy and we started 1-5. I believe Indy this year might have been 1-4. I can't remember exactly.


"You just stay the course and chip away at it. Just like you can't score if you're down 17 points or – you can't score a 17-point touchdown. Or in Frank's case, right, I got the best guy to ever learn from there, if you're down 30 – this 30 for 30 was just on – if you're down 31 to 3 in the second half of the AFC Divisional round against Houston Oilers, you can't score it all in one shot.


“So, it's just staying in the moment and going a little bit each time. I learned that a lot from Frank, and I know our guys believe in that and I know our coaches believe in that, and we just talk about it every day. What are we going to do to get a little bit better today to put us in a position to go 1-0 this week.”


If the Eagles can find a way to stay away from Hurts' rat poison and run the ball well without Sanders and possibly without Howard, they could be looking at a post season.


Who'd have ever thought it was possible?


Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii

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