Winners and losers from the Divisional Round of the 2019 NFL playoffs

The Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs got underway Saturday night with the AFC’s top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs in action against the Indianapolis Colts. A week off did nothing to slow the Chiefs’ offensive momentum.

Led by Patrick Mahomes, who did not find his first career playoff start nearly as intimidating as the pundits thought he would, the Chiefs jumped out to a 24-7 lead in the first half, and never looked back. The Colts hardly looked ready to play, nothing like the team that rode a 10-1 streak into the weekend. The Chiefs went on to win by a final score of 31-13.

The Cowboys and Rams met in LA for the late game on Saturday night to decide the first of the NFC Championship entrants. The Rams’ running game had no troubles against a usually stout Cowboys defense, and the home team rolled on for a 30-22 win.

On Sunday, the Patriots had no problems running around and through the Chargers, winning 41-28 to lock down their eighth consecutive appearance in the AFC Championship game.

The Saints turned aside the Eagles, sinking their hope of a Super Bowl repeat with a 20-14 win in New Orleans. The Saints will host the Rams there next weekend.

Winner: Michael Thomas

The postseason hasn’t been filled with inspiring performances from offensive skill players. But the Saints wide receiver changed that. He and Drew Brees single-handedly got the Saints offense rolling again after a slow start. His best catch of the day — and there were A LOT of them — was on the Saints’ go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. Just watch it.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1084599206159908864

He finished the game with 171 yards and a touchdown on 12 catches.

Loser: Nick Foles’ magic

You can’t impugn what the guy did prior to this game. The Eagles wouldn’t have been playing this weekend, or last, if Foles hadn’t stepped up as the team’s “closer” again this season with Carson Wentz hurt. But he turned into a pumpkin again, underthrowing his receivers and just unable to get the ball to his receivers when the Eagles needed it the most.

With free agency looming this spring, Foles may have cost himself some money with his performance this week, maybe not much, but enough to notice.

Winner: Time of possession

It feels like we haven’t had a good conversation about time of possession since the early days of the Chip Kelly experience in Philly. This time it was the Saints putting on the clock clinic.

It happened in the third quarter. Trailing 10-14, the Saints got the ball at their own 8-yard line. From there they put together a grinding 92-yard touchdown drive over 18 plays and 11:29 minutes, essentially monopolizing the entire third quarter.

Winner: The Patriots defense

Absent most of the season, the Patriots defense looked like one of the NFL’s most fearsome in the first half of the game. Philip Rivers never had a chance against a pass rush that was previously dormant.

Loser: Philip Rivers’ legacy

He’s got more yards, more touchdowns and fewer interceptions over the course of his career than either Eli Manning or Ben Roethlisberger, but unlike those other two first-round picks from the 2004 draft, he does not have a Super Bowl ring. Instead, he and J.P. Losman have something in common.

Winner: Patriots running backs

The Chargers defense put on a clinic for how to stop a creative running game in last week’s win against the Ravens. Apparently, Patriots OC Josh McDaniels was able to find some holes in their game plan.

Sony Michel rolled up nearly 100 yards and scored three touchdowns … in the first half. He’s the first rookie running back in franchise history to rush for more than 100 yards in a playoff game. He finished the day with 129 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries.

James White, who led the team in receptions during the regular season with 87, was Tom Brady’s favorite receiver on the day, catching 15 of 17 passes for 97 yards.

The Patriots chewed up the clock with their running backs, leaving little time for Rivers and Co. to put points on the board. It also helped keep the workload light for their defense, and teased out what their game plan might be next week against Kansas City.

Winner: C.J. Anderson

The Rams signed C.J. Anderson in mid-December, when Todd Gurley was dealing with a knee injury. Anderson had been released by both the Panthers and Raiders earlier in the season and was really just supposed to be a warm body while Gurley could heal up.

Instead, Anderson has bulldozed every defense he faced. In two games to end the season, he carried the ball 43 times for 299 yards and two touchdowns — that averaged out to 7 yards per carry. But that was against two of the worst teams in the NFL, the Cardinals and 49ers. Next up was the playoffs — and a Cowboys defense that ranked fifth in the league against the run during the regular season. Last week, they held the Seahawks’ top-ranked rushing offense to just 73 yards on the ground.

Anderson had more than that in the first half alone: 12 carries for 78 yards. Even with a healthy Gurley back in the lineup, Anderson was a force in the Rams’ first playoff win in 14 years. He used his, uh, rotund frame to help the Rams dominate the time of possession and scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.

Anderson was the leading rusher with 123 yards and two touchdowns. Plus, he did this:

All the Winners and Losers here

 

 

Eagles Beat 49ers and Move to 7-1

Written by Zach Berman at Philly.com

Carson Wentz watched the final five minutes of the Eagles’ 33-10 win over the San Francisco 49ers from the Lincoln Financial Field sideline with good health and a raincoat. Backup Nick Foles entered the lopsided game. Wentz likes when he can take the last snap in a victory formation, but it’s even better when he doesn’t need to take the field at all because the result is already determined.

It was supposed to happen this way against the winless 49ers. The Eagles entered the game as nearly two-touchdown favorites  — they covered, by the way  —  and they didn’t overlook a weak opponent. They are 7-1, their best start to a season since 2004, when they reached the Super Bowl. With the calendar turning to November and the season passing the halfway point, it’s becoming clearer each week that the Eagles are legitimate contenders.

“We’re halfway through the season, we’re right where we want to be,” veteran defensive end Brandon Graham said. “But things can go downhill real easily if you start [impressing] yourself. So we need to make sure … we don’t worry about 7-1 until we get done and they say, ‘Hey, we’re going to the playoffs.’ That’s when we can have a different mind-set. But right now, we haven’t done anything.”

The Eagles dominated a game in which the offense didn’t play especially well. That says much about the Eagles through eight weeks, and it might say even more about the 49ers. The Eagles defense excelled while limiting the 49ers to 238 yards with two turnovers, four sacks, and 12 quarterback hits.

In most of their wins this season, Wentz needed to star. But the Eagles didn’t require Wentz to be spectacular to win Sunday.

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Eagles Beat Redskins and Carson Wentz Is the Truth

Written by Tim McManus at ESPN.com

The exceptional is starting to feel commonplace when it comes to Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.

Just about every time he has played in what is turning out to be a breakout sophomore season, Wentz has made a dazzling play or two that leaves spectators asking: How did he do that?

Cut to the beginning of the third quarter against the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football, a divisional game that would either pull the Eagles closer to the NFC East pack or allow them to break away. Having just lost potential Hall of Fame left tackle Jason Peters to a knee injury, Wentz dropped back on a third-and-goal from the 10-yard line and was immediately swallowed by the pass rush. But he dodged the first wave, stepped into the second and somehow, with two Washington defenders tackling him, lofted a ball to the right corner of the end zone and into the arms of running back Corey Clement for a touchdown.

There were other plays to choose from — his Houdini escape early in the fourth quarter, on which he improbably emerged from a crowd of Washington defenders and broke loose for a 17-yard scramble, or his 64-yard touchdown bomb to Mack Hollins — but it was hard to top the TD to Clement.

After four scores Monday, Wentz leads the league with 17 touchdown passes against four interceptions. With Aaron Rodgers out because of a broken collarbone, Wentz is playing at a higher level than any other QB in the NFC. The proof is in the results: Behind Wentz, the Eagles have raced to a 6-1 record, the best in the league. They had an 88 percent chance to win the division entering the game, per FPI, and they took a big step by completing the sweep of Washington. The Eagles are now the only team in the NFC East with a winning record. They not only hold a 2 1/2-game lead over Washington but also hold the primary tiebreaker: head-to-head.

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Wentz Leads the Young QB Revolution


Written by Peter King at MMQB.com

Something’s happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear. But this Wentzmania (we’ll get to his details shortly) leads the way for a slew of kid quarterbacks that has defined the first month of the season. Six of them. None named Jared Goff.

How ridiculously well the young quarterbacks have done:

Age QB, Team Overall Pick (Year) W-L TD-Int
23 Carson Wentz, PHI 2 (2016) 3-0 5-0
24 Trevor Siemian, DEN 250 (2015) 3-0 5-3
23 Dak Prescott, DAL 135 (2016) 2-1 1-0
24 Jimmy Garoppolo, NE 62 (2014) 2-0 4-0
22 Jacoby Brissett, NE 91 (2016) 1-0 0-0
23 Cody Kessler, CLE 93 (2016) 0-1 0-0

Young Turk W-L record: 11-2. Young Turk TD-INT ratio: 15-3.

Is that really different? I’d say so. Last year, there were two young guns playing early, and Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston were a combined 2-4 after three weeks. This year, as we prepare to exit September, the four kids who’ve played enough to qualify for the league leaders—Garoppolo, Wentz, Siemian and Prescott—are 2, 7, 11 and 12, respectively, in the league in passer rating.

My theory on why we’re seeing such competent-to-outstanding play by these millennials was explained in three words by Wentz outside the Eagles’ fairly excited locker room Sunday evening. They’re the same three words he spoke to me at the combine last February when Wentz was on trial for his future, trying to make the jump from North Dakota State to the NFL.

“It’s just football,” he told me.

Wentz doesn’t make it too big. I mentioned in this column after Week 1 that there were some preternaturally young kids playing well at quarterback, and now it’s not just a novelty act. Siemian, Prescott and Garoppolo have the same ethos as Wentz. (I’m not too familiar with Kessler or Brissett, who are playing solely due to injury.) Siemian strafed the Bengals on the road on Sunday, Prescott looked like a six-year vet on Sunday night in beating Chicago, and Wentz—well, let Eagles coach Doug Pederson do the gee whiz part of this. “Who’d have thought a kid from North Dakota would be such a mature individual and would make the adjustment to the pro game as quickly as he has?” Pederson said.

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Eagles Cruise to Victory Behind Wentz


Written by Nancy Armour at USAToday.com

Carson Wentz is ruining it for rookies everywhere.

He’s supposed to be struggling, taking his lumps on the field and in the standings while he negotiates the NFL’s steep learning curve. Or, better yet, riding the bench, biding his time behind a veteran until coaches and the front office are satisfied he’s ready to take the reins for real.

Apparently no one told Wentz that.

Thrust into the starter’s role a little over two weeks ago after the trade of Sam Bradford, Wentz put on another impressive performance in Monday night’s 29-14 win over the Chicago Bears. Yes, his two starts have come against the NFL’s JV — with apologies to JVs everywhere — and there is a lot of football still to be played.

But the Philadelphia Eagles are 2-0, one of only three NFC teams that can say that. Anyone who claims they saw this coming when the No. 2 pick in the draft moved to the head of the class is lying.

“I’m feeling really good,” Wentz said. “I usually feel good even when bad plays happen. I’ve just got to keep plugging away. I feel confident.”

What has made Wentz’s debut so notable is that the Eagles are not winning in spite of him. Remember when Ben Roethlisberger took the Pittsburgh Steelers to the AFC Championship Game as a rookie? Sure, he had his moments, but it was the defense that carried that team.

That’s not the case here. Again, it’s early. But aside from not protecting himself better when he scrambles, Wentz is not making rookie mistakes.

He’s not making mistakes, period.

Wentz became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to begin a season 2-0 without committing a turnover, his accuracy and fluid throwing motion never giving opponents any openings. Wentz was “only” 21 of 34 Monday, but several of those incompletions were the fault of receivers with serious cases of the butterfingers.

Yes, Jordan Matthews, this means you.

A likely touchdown was turned into a field goal by Jacoby Glenn, who swatted a ball away from Philadelphia tight end Trey Burton on the goal line. And the Eagles had every right to howl about a no-call on Glenn for pass interference on a deep ball to Nelson Agholor.

Despite that, Wentz never got flustered. This was Monday Night Football, and there are many veteran quarterbacks who have faded under its bright lights. Yes, Jay Cutler, this means you.

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Wentz Looks Good on Debut


Written by Marc Sessler at NFL.com

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz started off his NFL career a winner as Philly (1-0) topped theBrowns by a 29-10 score at home. Wentz went from possibly being inactive to the Eagles’ starting quarterback after Sam Bradford was dealt to Minnesota. So far, so good.

1. Carson Wentz played just 38 snaps in the preseason, but the No. 2 overall pick looked at home in his NFL debut. The Eagles rookie quarterback opened the game completing four of his first five throws, leaning on his tight ends before unfurling a beautiful 19-yard, over-the-shoulder scoring strike to Jordan Matthews in the left corner of the end zone. While he sails the occasional throw, Wentz — 22 of 37 for 278 yards with two touchdowns — deserves a ton of credit for directing five scoring drives against aBrowns defense that tried everything to apply pressure. Wentz stood in the pocket and showed off his strong arm on a variety of lobs, including a key fourth-down conversion that saw the rookie complete a money throw to Zach Ertz before hooking up with Nelson Agholor for his second touchdown pass of the day. It wasn’t perfect, but what Wentz accomplished on Sunday should create a lively week for talk-radio hosts in Cleveland.

2. The Browns were invisible on offense until constructing a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown march midway through the second quarter to cut Philly’s lead to 10-7. Prior to that drive, the Eagles had seven first downs to zero for Cleveland. The tone of the game shifted when Robert Griffin III hit Terrelle Pryor on a 44-yard bomb that set up that first score, but the quarterback — 12 of 26 for 190 yards — later saw an off-target pass to Corey Coleman tipped and picked off. The rookie wideout made up for it with a 58-yard grab in the second half, but Cleveland’s offense feels like a deep-ball-or-bust operation. Griffin wasn’t helped by a nonexistent ground game or by second-year center Cam Erving, who floated a snap over RG3’s head and out of the end zone for a game-changing safety. The second half saw Griffin hammered by Philly’s defense, which piled up three sacks and forced the passer into a handful of rushed, erratic throws. The Browns are a long way away from fielding a sustainable attack.

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Carson Wentz Named Starter of Eagles


Written by Lorenzo Reyes at USA Today.com

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said Monday that rookie quarterback Carson Wentz will start the team’s season opener against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

“Everybody feels like this kid is ready to go,” Pederson said Monday in a press conference from the team’s facility. “We drafted him to take on the reins. It’s something now that we’re prepared to do. We’re looking forward to Cleveland and one day at a time with him. At the same time, we’ve got to be smart in how we handle it, but we fully expect him to perform like he’s capable of performing in what we have seen throughout (organized team activities) and training camp.”

Added Wentz: “I’m ready to go out there and play within myself and play within this system and lead these guys. The pressure from the outside and everything, it’s just the game of football.”

This is the first time Pederson and Wentz addressed the media since the team traded Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday for a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft and an additional selection in 2018.

All throughout training camp, Pederson and the Eagles had said Bradford would be the team’s starter and that Wentz would be the third-string passer, behind backup Chase Daniel. After the trade, Daniel will remain in that role.

But how exactly did Wentz go from third to first?

“Well, the trade happened,” Pederson said. “We were fortunate to get some draft picks back that we gave up in the trade for Carson and it was right for this football team. It’s something we believe in and this is why we drafted him.”

The Eagles traded with the Browns in April to get the rights for the No. 2 overall selection and the ability to draft Wentz. But it was costly. The Eagles gave up the No. 8 overall pick, as well as third- and fourth-round selections in 2016, a 2017 first-rounder, and a 2018 second-round pick.

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Eagles Have Hope With Wentz and Bradford


Written By Judy Battista at NFL.com

The heckler behind the goal post Sunday had a particular problem with Josh Huff.

“I hate you,” he screamed at the Philadelphia Eagles’ third-year receiver. “Get off the field. This isn’t Chip Kelly’s Oregon Ducks anymore.”

It’s not Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles anymore, either, and the first week of the team’s training camp under Doug Pederson has made that clear. Practices are slower, because of the frequent stops in the action so coaches can make corrections on the spot, which Pederson believes is the best way for players to learn. They involve many more plays and are longer — Saturday’s practice lasted three hours — to get players ready for three-hour games. So many vestiges of Kelly’s three-year era in Philadelphia have disappeared — from Kiko Alonso and DeMarco Murray to a sign leading to the locker room at Lincoln Financial Field that read “Habits Reflect the Mission” — that the overhaul reads as an indictment of Kelly and an attempt to wipe him from the franchise’s memory.

“It’s really, really different,” Pro Bowl DT Fletcher Cox said. “Everything is different except we’re not at Lehigh. It’s the same as from 2012.”

That, of course, is the last year that theEagles were coached by Andy Reid, Pederson’s mentor and the man whose fingerprints are on so much of how Pederson is shaping the Eagles. There is more similarity than just the practices, too. When Howie Roseman reassumed control of the roster after he survived a brutal power struggle with Kelly, he resumed an Eagles philosophy of signing their own players to new contracts before their old ones expire, among them Cox,Zach Ertz, Malcolm Jenkins and Brent Celek. That is what Roseman, who had been exiled to the other side of the building when Kelly had control, chooses to think of when he remembers this offseason. The sell-off of many of Kelly’s most high-profile acquisitions was to get value from them — draft picks — which helped accomplish other goals, most particularly moving up to draft quarterback Carson Wentz. From the outside, it looked as if the Eagles were settling all family business after Kelly was fired late last season and harkening back to a much sunnier time in Philadelphia. Roseman admits that talking team-building philosophy with Pederson is easier because they were both schooled by Reid. But Roseman insists that the Kelly era was not all bad.

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Carson Wentz Likely To Be Inactive This Season


Written by Zach Berman at Philly.com

If all goes as planned at quarterback for the Eagles this season, coach Doug Pederson will keep rookie Carson Wentz inactive on game days. Pederson plans to start Sam Bradford and dress Chase Daniel as his backup, and the restriction of 46 active players on game days would likely mean that Wentz will be one of the seven players inactive.

“Typically, the third quarterback is down,” Pederson said during a June interview. “It’s hard right now to look down the road, but if we had to play this week, Carson would be down. He’d be the third quarterback. He’d be deactivated. That’s probably the direction we’re heading, I would think is going that route. Obviously barring injury and, as you know, how this game is, but typically the third quarterback, whoever that is, is down on game day.”

Pederson will not need to worry about inactives until 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 11, so it’s all speculation at this point. But the topic offers insight into how the Eagles plan to bring Wentz along this season. When Pederson was asked in the spring if he’d allocate series in games for Wentz — as Andy Reid did for Donovan McNabb in 1999 — Pederson said he couldn’t see that happening with Daniel on the roster as the backup.

More than anything this spring, Pederson was emphatic about the order at quarterback. It remained a hot topic throughout the offseason program, and considering the investment the Eagles made in Wentz, it will likely continue as there’s more exposure to Wentz’s development and how Bradford performs.

But Pederson has never swayed from his desire to have Bradford as the starter, Daniel as the backup, and Wentz developing as the third-string quarterback. And unless injury or performance changes opinions in August, Wentz will not likely be eligible to enter the game in Week 1.

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Who Were the Best QB at the Combine?

Written by Eric Edholm at YahooSports.com
Quarterbacks took center stage at the NFL scouting combine on Saturday, as the annual overreaction to prospects throwing in shorts against “air” defenses got underway.

The 2016 draft could end up being a showdown between Cal’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, as both had very good days throwing the ball. Memphis’ Paxton Lynch, believed to be in the first-round picture as well, displayed a strong arm but was scattershot on some passes and likely didn’t boost his stock significantly.

If there’s a fourth first-round possibility, it could be Michigan State’s Connor Cook. Although he had a long first step on his drops from center during the combine throwing session, he showed good throwing ability on a variety of routes — even with some possible lingering aftereffects of a shoulder injury that plagued him down the stretch of the season.

After that, it was a bit of a mixed bag among the other quarterbacks.

First, on Goff: After spending the week facing a litany of questions about his small hands — and even getting a bit testy with the media over it at one point — he delivered a smooth, fluid, rhythmic throwing session with good footwork, quick release, nice touch and the kind of accuracy teams are seeking. It might not have hurt that Goff was throwing to, among others, familiar targets in Cal receivers Kenny Lawler and Trevor Davis, but Goff looked good throughout.

Wentz first turned in an impressive athletic performance by running a 4.77-second 40-yard dash (second among the 17 QBs to Louisiana Tech’s Jeff Driskel at 4.56) and broad jumping nine feet, 10 inches (second among quarterbacks who tested). It was all the more impressive considering his 6-5, 244-pound frame. He threw the football with zip and confidence, connecting on a few nice deep balls that hit his receivers in stride.

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