Malcolm Jenkins spent five seasons with the New Orleans Saints, who have played their share of big NFC South games, yet it wasn’t until this Sunday that Jenkins saw how much animosity a true rivalry can bring.
"That was as good a divisional game as I’ve been in," the Philadelphia Eagles’ safety told FOX Sports by phone after his team traded scores, shoves and punches with the Washington Redskins in a 37-34 victory for Chip Kelly’s undefeated crew. "It was physical, it was chippy and that’s how the game should be played."
This game was destined to be chippy before it even began, with DeSean Jackson intent on battling through a shoulder injury so he could face his former team. Jackson did his part with an 81-yard touchdown and a flap of the wings in the end zone to annoy the home crowd. He also got away with a swipe to Jenkins’ face that irritated the Eagles and their fans.
But the shot that didn’t go unnoticed was the blindside hit from Redskins defensive lineman Chris Baker on Eagles quarterback Nick Foles on what was initially believed to be an interception. Even though it appeared a few Eagles players saw the hit (Jeremy Maclin and Dennis Kelly were signaling for a penalty flag) left tackle Jason Peters was the only one to make a run at Baker.
Baker was ejected. He claimed he didn’t know which player he was lining up.
Peters was also ejected for defending his quarterback. After the game, he told reporters he shouldn’t have done what he did.
Nonsense, said Jenkins, who got in the mix along with linebacker Trent Cole despite the fact the defense was on the opposite sideline when the play began.
"You don’t want your quarterback to get hit or have something happen to him or one of your teammates get cheap-shotted and nobody have his back. You don’t want altercations and fights to break out, but at the end of the day, we work together and we have each other’s back," Jenkins said. "It would be hard to look somebody else in the face after a game if they didn’t have your back. I couldn’t be in the same locker room and tell Nick, ‘Hey, I’ve got your back,’ but not do it when it counts. It’s unfortunate the whole situation broke out like that, but I’m sure it was justified."
Jenkins wasn’t speaking in certainties because he had yet to see a replay of the hit. He’d heard descriptions of what Baker did – a move the NFL made clear is an illegal play when they introduced their rule changes in 2011 and stated a quarterback gets special protection on an interception – and when told once again what happened, he reiterated Peters was correct to go after Baker.
"A cheap shot is a cheap shot, however you call it," Jenkins said. "I’m sure if it got our guys fired up enough where they had to defend him, then it was probably pretty bad."
The hit was bad but the game was good. Great, even. It had the bad blood of old-fashioned NFC East football. It had terrific quarterback play from Foles (27 of 41 for 325 yards and three touchdowns) and Kirk Cousins (30 of 48 for 427 yards, three touchdowns and an interception). And despite the 71 points scored, it had a few very good defensive plays.
Jenkins might have had the best of the bunch when he made a diving play on a ball intended for tight end Niles Paul. That interception set up a field goal that wound up being the difference. Credit DeMeco Ryans for his tight coverage on Paul underneath that forced Cousins into the overthrow to Jenkins. And credit underrated cornerback Brandon Boykin for a fine play to break up a pass on the Redskins’ final drive.
"I don’t think they realize (how good Boykin is)," Jenkins said after noting Boykin’s six interceptions last year. "Because he’s not a starter, not our No. 1 corner, he sometimes gets lost, but all he does is make plays. He’s a freak of an athlete. He was the reason I had a pick last week. He’s made a bunch of plays for us."
This is a feisty Eagles team that’s had to come from behind in all three games so far. Cornerback Cary Williams told reporters the team is sluggish at the start because Kelly is working them too hard during the week, so expect that to be the latest mini-controversy Williams has stirred up.
But these issues tend to be resolved by wins. Right now, this gritty group of Eagles have as many as possible. And they also proved on Sunday they have one another’s backs.
MUCH NEEDED REST FOR ONE SEAHAWK
Kam Chancellor did not play his best game against the San Diego Chargers last week and struggled in coverage against tight end Antonio Gates. That’s because the Seattle Seahawks’ Pro Bowl safety was dealing with a painful ankle injury that was worse than his "probable" status on the injury report indicated.
A source told FOX Sports that Chancellor was so debilitated in San Diego the team was mulling a procedure to clean up bone spurs, with the plan being Chancellor would play in Sunday’s Super Bowl rematch against the Denver Broncos and then undergo surgery heading into the bye week. Under that scenario, Chancellor would rest six to eight weeks and be back for the Thanksgiving game against the rival San Francisco 49ers at the latest.
But a decent week of practice and Chancellor’s outstanding game against Denver (a forced fumble, an interception and another near-interception) has put any plans for medical procedures on hold.
"Man, it felt great today," Chancellor told FOX Sports by phone on his way out of CenturyLink Field. "Last week, it was bothering me. But this week, it felt amazing. We did some different stuff to fix it up, fix the shoes and stuff and it felt awesome."
Chancellor’s leaping interception of Peyton Manning’s pass for Wes Welker in the fourth quarter wasn’t quite the game-clincher it looked like it might be, as the Broncos came back to tie the game, but it prevented a possible go-ahead touchdown and preserved overtime. It was a big play in the game and for Chancellor’s confidence in his ankle.
Though he didn’t confirm the nature of the injury or the fact surgery was on the table, Chancellor made it clear the joint will get much needed rest this week.
"I’ve got to keep these dogs up in the air," he said of both feet. "But I’m not one to complain. Sometimes, as a man, you get your ass whupped, you get up and fight again."
RICE HITTING THE BRAKES ON GRIEVANCE?
When the NFL Players Association announced Ray Rice had filed a grievance against the NFL to fight his suspension, the union noted Rice had the right to a hearing within 10 days. However, a source told FOX Sports that Rice, his camp and the NFLPA will try to postpone the process until after Robert Mueller completes his investigation into whether the NFL knew more about the video than they’re letting on.
From Rice’s perspective, it makes sense for him to wait. Mueller is basically doing work on Rice’s behalf and has the full cooperation of the league. If he uncovers something damaging for the league, it’ll help Rice’s case tremendously. If Mueller doesn’t find anything, Rice’s camp will be working with no less information they have right now.
Even if Rice took the express route and won his case, it wouldn’t put him back on the field. No one is signing him right now (or ever), so he might as as well make the best legal play he can.
FIVE QUICK THOUGHTS
1. Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch was seemingly doing the "Discount Double Check" to celebrate a sack of Aaron Rodgers when he suffered what the team fears is a serious knee injury. Tulloch looked like former Arizona Cardinals kicker Bill Gramatica when he landed awkwardly at the end of his celebration. Gramatica tore his ACL; Tulloch may have met the same fate. Though Tulloch returned for a play and told reporters after the game there wasn’t much swelling, a source said the Lions are fearing he suffered damage to his ACL. He will undergo an MRI Monday that will tell the full story. At least Tulloch had the support of coach Jim Caldwell, who didn’t condemn Tulloch’s exuberance by saying there has to be "enthusiasm" in this game.
2. What most don’t know about last week’s cooperative decisions between the NFL and NFLPA to place both Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson on the commissioner’s exempt list was they were actually the result of direct communication between Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. Usually, decisions or disagreements on the status of players are handled by lawyers for the union and other executives in the league office. But Smith and Goodell recognized the importance of getting the situations involving Peterson and Hardy as correct as possible. Goodell wanted to get both guys off of the field to slow down the public criticism. Smith wanted to make sure both players got paid. It marked the second time in as many years the two worked together to resolve a controversial issue, with Richie Incognito’s suspension late last year being the other. The quick work by Goodell and Smith last week is a reason both sides are confident they’ll be able to come to an agreement on how to handle player discipline going forward.
3. The toughest split-second decision a player had to make on Sunday was one that faced Tennessee Titans cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who was covering Andy Dalton — Andy Dalton! — on a throwback play from Mohamed Sanu. Wreh-Wilson couldn’t figure out whether to play the ball or the man and wound up doing neither as Dalton — Dalton! — caught a touchdown. Perhaps Wreh-Wilson’s brain locked because he was calculating the answer to this equation: A hit against a defenseless receiver + a shot to the head area + the fact he’s a quarterback = an astronomical fine.
4. Speaking of the Titans, many wondered how they could let tight end Jared Cook walk without any compensation two offseasons ago. The answer is Cook has yet to justify the $7 million per season the St. Louis Rams are paying him and on Sunday he added a brief sideline blowup to his lack of production. Cook shoved quarterback Austin Davis as Davis tried to console Cook after a dropped touchdown that could’ve put the Rams ahead by eight points. (Credit defensive end William Hayes for quickly grabbing a hold of Cook’s jersey to calm him down.) Cook apologized after the game and, via a statement from his agent Christina Phillips, said, "My actions from today’s game were truly a mistake — unintentional and in the heat of the moment. There is never an excuse for unsportsmanlike conduct and I apologize to everyone." One can only hope he’s sincere.
5. The death of Rob Bironas is yet another reminder of how fragile life is. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and the Bradshaw family. By all accounts, he was a fine man. This from former Titans teammate Tim Shaw via Twitter was incredibly poignant, especially considering Shaw was recently diagnosed with ALS: "Shocked and saddened by the tragic death of my friend #RobBironas Overjoyed to witness him give his life to Christ @crosspoint_tv this year. … #RobBironas said to me, ‘why didn’t u bring me to this church sooner? I kno I kno, I wasn’t ready. But I’m ready now.’ Live life."
TEN EVEN QUICKER THOUGHTS
1. San Diego Chargers: Safety Eric Weddle told me last Sunday after the upset of the Seahawks that victory wouldn’t matter without some consistency in the form of a win over the Bills after a cross-country trip. Credit to San Diego for doing just that.
2. Cardinals rookies: Per Arizona VP of media relations Mark Dalton, the Cards’ getting all 23 points from rookies on Sunday made them the first team since the 1985 Miami Dolphins to get 23 or more points in a game exclusively from first-year players.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers: They were my preseason pick to win the AFC North. But as good as the Cincinnati Bengals have looked and as inconsistent as the Steelers have been, I’m not ready to bail on that prediction just yet.
4. Overtime rules: There wasn’t much griping over the fact the Broncos didn’t get to touch the ball in overtime. If you can do what Seattle did to open the extra period (13 plays, 80 yards), you deserve to win then and there.
5. Jim Harbaugh: Before we get too caught up in whether the players are tuning him out, let’s not forget the 49ers lost back-to-back games twice last season. Now, if they lose to the Eagles next week, it’ll be the first three-game losing streak under Harbaugh.
6. Blake Bortles: You didn’t really believe he’d sit all year, did you? Did you?
7. Kansas City Chiefs: That was an enormous victory in Miami because the next three games (vs. the Patriots, at the 49ers and at the Chargers after a bye) will all be tough ones.
8. New York Giants offense: Finally on track. And given a couple of miscues (a fumble at the Houston Texans’ 4-yard line and a botched field goal), they know it could have been even better.
9. Deshawn Shead: For all the time we’ve spent talking about players who have not treated women well, how about a nod to a guy who did? Smooth move, Mr. Shead. A lifetime of happiness to you and your future Mrs.
10. Dennis Pitta: Given this is his second dislocated hip and there might be a fracture, his career is in jeopardy. He should be very thankful he pocketed $11 million via a signing bonus and was guaranteed another $5 million in base salary.