Eagles might dodge another injured star

ASSOCIATED PRESS Adrian Peterson is in obvious pain after spraining right foot Sunday at Baltimore.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Adrian Peterson is in obvious pain after spraining right foot Sunday at Baltimore.
Posted: December 12, 2013

WHAT DO Seneca Wallace, Joique Bell and Toby Gerhart have in common?

They might play as big a role in the Eagles' earning a playoff berth as Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson.

One win could be the difference between January inclusion and January vacations. The Eagles lead the NFC East because they not only are among the healthier teams in the NFL, but also because they are among the luckier teams.

Aaron Rodgers was injured the week before the Birds flew to Green Bay, and won, over Wallace and Co. Dangerous runner Reggie Bush aggravated a calf injury before the Detroit game Sunday; in a snowstorm that neutralized receiver Calvin Johnson and the Lions' pass-happy attack, the Eagles won again.

While that was happening, reigning MVP Adrian Peterson left the Vikings' game in Baltimore with a sprained foot. His availability for the Eagles' visit Sunday is highly doubtful.

Maybe somebody up there likes these Eagles. Maybe their destiny is assured. It's almost as if fate is conspiring to smooth their path to the postseason.

Make no doubt: They feel it, too.

"Things have been lining up for us," veteran linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "When you have a good season, sometimes you need to catch these breaks."

It's not as if the Eagles would have had no chance in Green Bay. It's not that they couldn't have stopped Bush. It's not that Peterson makes the Vikings unbeatable, or even good.

"We still had to play the teams that showed up, and we played better," Trent Cole said. "Who knows? Maybe we played harder because those guys weren't there."

Maybe they'll play harder again in Minneapolis.

Maybe that's what happened when this has happened recently in Philadelphia's past.

Opponents' injuries helped the Flyers' run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2010. Two years later, injuries helped the Sixers' run to within one win of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Bruins' David Krejci and Marco Sturm might not be as irreplaceable as AP, Discount Double Check and the would-be Mr. Kim Kardashian. Derrick Rose's Bulls and Ray Allen's Celtics had better supporting casts than the Vikings, Packers and Lions.

Besides, the Philadelphia teams still had to play well.

The Sixers, with All-Star swingman Andre Iguodala and budding All-Star guard Jrue Holiday, still might have beaten the Bulls and taken the Celtics to seven games. The Flyers had their own injuries to overcome in 2010 en route to the finals.

As do the Eagles.

Michael Vick was lost essentially for six games. No. 1 receiver Jeremy Maclin was lost in training camp. Foles and Riley Cooper have ably replaced each.

But losing Vick does not equal losing Rodgers, the most valuable quarterback in the league, if not the best, since 2009. The Packers are 1-4-1 since Rodgers fractured his collarbone in the first quarter of the first loss in that six-game run, and they were winless through the first five games.

Losing Vick cannot equal the loss of Peterson, either. There is no player on the Vikings as good as either LeSean McCoy or DeSean Jackson, much less both. The same is true of Green Bay; and, thanks to 8 inches of midday snowfall, there was no significant option beyond Bush on Sunday.

While Peterson's likely exclusion Sunday might be the best present the Eagles could hope for, Bush's unavailability was an unexpected holiday gift. He nursed a calf injury all week but he was not ruled out until he attempted to warm up on the field.

Davis said the Eagles only slightly altered their plans when Bush was ruled out.

They will not alter their plans at all against the Vikings, Davis said. That's probably not just because Peterson has the scantest of chances to play; the Vikings are a mess at quarterback. Peterson is wearing a walking boot this week. He said he wants to play. He will be allowed to try to convince the Vikings' brass that he should.

Allowing him to play would be unconscionable.

The Vikings have three wins, which gives them no shot to make the playoffs. It does, however, give them a great shot to win the Teddy Bridgewater Quarterback Sweepstakes in the next draft.

Sunday's game could not be less meaningful for Minnesota. Peterson, 28, is in the third season of a 7-year, $100 million contract. There is no logical reason to risk his health (except he is 29 yards shy of hitting his $1 million performance bonus for 2013).

So, hello, Toby Gerhart . . . and that's a best-case scenario for the Vikings.

Gerhart strained his hamstring Sunday when he replaced Peterson.

That leaves Matt Asiata, a 26-year-old special-teamer with three carries in the NFL who spent his first year out of college out of football. Asiata's story is inspirational: he twice overcame catastrophic leg injuries in college at Utah, is the son of a Samoan émigré who, at 53, tragically died in October when the tour bus he drove collided with a utility truck.

A big showing Sunday would add a wonderful chapter to Asiata's story.

That's not how it went for Seneca Wallace, or Joique Bell.

Asked what deal he made for such good fortune, Davis smiled widely and replied, "Nobody."

You have to wonder.


Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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