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Lawlor: Next Man Up


The result was the same, as the Eagles dropped their fourth game in a row. Aside from that, this was nothing like the previous three weeks. The Eagles showed a lot of heart and toughness in Sunday's game. They were able to take a late lead, 22-21, despite being hit with a slew of costly injuries. Washington went down and scored a touchdown to go up 27-22. Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense got the ball back with a final shot. Wentz moved the team right down the field, but he was sacked and fumbled to close out the loss.

This was a strange game. The Eagles used three long snappers. Think about that for a second. The Eagles have had four snappers in the last 20 years, Morris Unutoa, Jeff Dellenbach, Mike Bartrum and Jon Dorenbos. Using three in one game is crazy. I've never heard of such a thing. Dorenbos broke his wrist on Sunday so backup Brent Celek took his spot. He got hurt and the Eagles had several players practicing on the sidelines. Tight end Trey Burton went in and snapped for a field goal that was successful. It wasn't a perfect snap to be sure, but Donnie Jones did a great job of corralling it and getting the ball down for Caleb Sturgis. That wasn't just any field goal. It was the one that gave the Eagles the lead in the fourth quarter.

As much as I hate seeing Dorenbos go down, I loved the way the Eagles responded. Burton wasn't afraid to go out there and snap the ball in a crucial situation. The coaches had confidence in him. We use the phrase "next man up" all the time in the game of football. Usually this is a guy taking over for a starter at a spot where he is the designated backup. There is no number three long snapper. I've been watching football since the 1970s and I've never seen a team put in that spot.

The Eagles finished the game with more than a couple of guys taking on unexpected roles. Wendell Smallwood got hurt so Nelson Agholor took over as the kickoff returner. Darren Sproles was knocked out of the game so that meant that Ryan Mathews was the only running back available. He was in there on base plays and also in passing situations. Right tackle Allen Barbre got hurt so Matt Tobin had to take over for him. Tobin was the team's fourth right tackle of the season. To put that in perspective, Jon Runyan played virtually every snap at right tackle from 2000-2008. The busiest man in Philadelphia on Sunday was trainer Chris Peduzzi.

Sometimes tough circumstances bring out the best in a team. The Eagles had some makeshift lineups on the field, but the players did everything they could to win the game. Tobin was beaten for the sack on the final play. We found out after the game that he hurt his knee on the play before that. He could have come out of the game, but there was no backup tackle after him. The Eagles would have moved Isaac Seumalo to tackle and put Josh Andrews in at right guard. Tobin tried to do the best he could on that final play, but it wasn't enough against a star pass rusher like Ryan Kerrigan.

Wentz might have played the best game of his young career. He was 32 for 46 for 314 yards. He threw one touchdown and one interception. Those stats should be even better. One of the best throws Wentz made in the game went to Jordan Matthews in the end zone. Wentz put great touch on the ball and got it right to his top receiver. The problem is that Matthews got one foot down, but could not pull off the toe-tap to make it a catch. A couple of plays later Wentz was picked off when he and Zach Ertz weren't on the same page.

Although Wentz wasn't able to finish the comeback, you have to be impressed that he marched the team 61 yards in 92 seconds without a starting wide receiver, his best pass-catching running back and with a rookie at right guard and a backup at right tackle. Wentz put his team in position to pull off the win. If Tobin doesn't hurt his knee, who knows what might have happened.

The Eagles played their worst offensive game of the year in the first meeting with Washington, gaining just 239 yards and scoring only six points offensively. On Sunday the offense put up 383 yards and scored 16 points. It was good to see that kind of progress in the first rematch of the season.

The defense was up and down. They were better on third downs than in recent weeks. Washington was only 2-7 on third down attempts. The front four got more pressure, coming up with a pair of sacks.

Leodis McKelvin had a roller coaster game. He was burned for an 80-yard touchdown that seemed to break the game open. McKelvin broke up three other passes and picked one off, running it back for a score to get the Eagles right back into the game.

Fletcher Cox had 1.5 sacks. He should have drawn a couple of holding calls, but the officials were "letting them play" as the saying goes. Cox was in on four tackles and was disruptive throughout the game. The Eagles need more of that kind of production from him.

The Eagles are now 5-8 and the playoffs are all but out of reach. Doug Pederson will try to win every game he can, with the hope that things break just right and the Eagles can pull off a miracle. Injuries to Smallwood, Dorenbos, and Tobin have added some youth to the roster. That will make a playoff push even more difficult.

Wentz and his teammates will keep battling. Playoffs or not, they just want to win a game. As the team showed on Sunday, there is no quit in this group and they will do whatever is needed of them to get out of this losing streak.

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of

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