CHICAGO -- Fifteen NFL seasons. One hundred ninety-two regular season games. Three previous playoff games. And Jason Peters had never walked off the field in the postseason as a winner, in uniform, with the grass stains and the sweat, until he did so Sunday at Soldier Field.
“It was calm” on the game-winning touchdown drive, Peters said. “I just knew we had to keep 52 [Khalil Mack] and 94 [Leonard Floyd] and all the rest of their guys off Nick [Foles]. I gave up two pressures at the beginning of the drive, it was play action and [Mack] went up under me. But I held him out of there, for the most part.”
Indeed, for all the buildup Mack got, he finished the day with no sacks, and two hits on Foles, though he did make five solo tackles. Mostly Mack was matched against Peters, the nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle.
“It felt just like last year,” Peters said, when asked what it was like to finally win a playoff game. He missed the Super Bowl run with a knee injury. “I felt like I was out there with the guys last year. I feel about the same.”
Peters is playing with a biceps tendon tear and has labored with quadriceps problems this season, as he prepares to turn 37 on Jan 22. But he said he felt good this week.
“It’s been a grind. Coming off my knee injury, starting the season, I was probably like 75, 70 percent. I just fought through it, probably for about eight weeks," Peters said. "Week by week, I started getting stronger. … I’m moving a whole lot better. I’m ready for the Saints.”
Despite the Eagles’ victory, they struggled on the ground against the NFL’s top-ranked run defense. They finished with 23 carries for 42 yards – 1.8 yards per carry. Darren Sproles was the lead running back with 13 carries for 21 yards.
Sproles knows the Eagles must improve next week against New Orleans.
“We got to get better in the run game,” Sproles said. “I feel like we had some opportunities. We had to get some big plays out of it. We didn’t. We were like one guy away and stuff like that. But we’ll get back to work this week. Because we got to get better in the run game.”
What had been a running back committee with Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams is now mostly a two-man backfield of Sproles and Smallwood. Adams was the Eagles’ best source of offense in the first game against New Orleans, but he carried the ball once against the Bears for 2 yards. Smallwood finished with eight carries for 20 yards.
» GRADING THE EAGLES: Run defense earns ‘A-minus’ in playoff win
Isaac Seumalo returned to starting left guard after a three-week absence because of a pectoral injury. The Eagles won all three games with Stefen Wisniewski in the lineup – Wisniewski was the Eagles’ starter during their Super Bowl run last season – but the Eagles wanted Seumalo’s superior size and athleticism on the offensive line.
Avonte Maddox started at cornerback despite an oblique injury suffered Thursday in practice. He was questionable for the game; all four Eagles who were questionable played.
The Eagles' inactives were linebacker D.J. Alexander (hamstring), defensive tackle Bruce Hector, cornerback Sidney Jones (hamstring), wide receiver Mike Wallace (foot), offensive lineman Matt Pryor, offensive lineman Chance Warmack, and quarterback Carson Wentz (back).
Trey Burton, author of the Philly Special touchdown pass to Nick Foles in the Super Bowl, signed with the Bears as a free agent and finally became a fuel-time starter at tight end. But Burton missed Sunday’s game with a groin injury that worsened over the weekend, Bears coach Matt Nagy said.
“It crushed him. It absolutely crushed him” to miss the game, Nagy said. “How ironic, just crazy ironic that it’s against Philadelphia. ... He had a great week of practice all week, and then all of a sudden, this.”