When it comes to making big plays, Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive end Brandon Graham made a huge one in the team’s 15-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC divisional playoffs last weekend. Graham made a shoestring tackle on Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, who had a lot of daylight in front of him.
If Graham doesn’t make that spectacular play, the Eagles probably would be home and not preparing to host the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday at 6:40 p.m. (Fox 29).
With Freeman’s speed, there’s a very good chance he would have got out in the open field and glided into the end zone for a touchdown. The 6-foot-2, 265-pounder embraced the team’s underdog role and made one of the biggest plays in the Eagles’ postseason.
Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson was very impressed with Graham’s play.
“It was a tremendous play,” Pederson said. “He had a couple of tackles for losses and did a great job putting pressure [on]. He’s so quick off the ball and times the snap count up. And that play you’re referring to there in the fourth quarter was huge. It was kind of a cut-back run and he dove and made the tackle. That could have gone for a long way.”
“He’s a guy that we’ve counted on all season long, and again, he stepped up and had a nice game,” he added.
Graham has been terrific this season. He has 47 total tackles and a team- leading 9.5 sacks. He had two total tackles and one tackle for loss in the win over the Falcons.
It was a game that basically came down to a fourth-down play with quarterback Matt Ryan tossing an incomplete pass to wide receiver Julio Jones.
“We went out there,” Graham said. “We played together. We played resilient. Everybody in that moment we could have folded in that goal line [stand with] fourth down. We stuck together and made the plays to win the game.”
Graham, a Detroit native, played his scholastic football at Crockett Vocational Technical. After that, he played his college football for University of Michigan.
He was a second-team All-American and a first-team All-Big Ten Conference selection his senior year in 2009. He was then chosen by the Eagles as the 13th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. This is his eighth season with the Eagles.
The Vikings will be coming to Philly with plenty of momentum, after their exciting victory over the New Orleans Saints in the divisional playoffs last weekend.
Offensively, Minnesota is led by quarterback Case Keenum, who has thrown for 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns. Keenum has a good wide receiver tandem with Adam Thielen (91 receptions for 1,276 yards and 4 TDs) and Stefon Diggs (64 receptions for 849 yards and 8 TDs).
“You can’t take nobody lightly,” Graham said. “I think Case does a good job as far as moving in the pocket, being able to extend plays with his legs and you know just being able to trust himself going out there. You know, going out there, making plays because he’s got the receivers.”
Running back Latavius Murray leads Minnesota’s ground attack with 216 carries for 842 yards and 8 touchdowns.
“He’s got the running game that’s been helping him take a lot of pressure off of him. And like I say, Pat Shurmur (Vikings offensive coordinator) put him in a good position as far as his play calling and kind of playing to his strengths of what he’s good at,” Graham explained.
The Eagles defense will have another tough battle ahead of it. Once again, the team will be the underdog in this contest with the Vikings.
“To be the underdog, and play like we did and to be in the moment,” Graham said. “I’m just happy that we’re a step closer to where we want to be.”
If the Eagles can beat the Vikings, the next step is the Super Bowl. By the way, that game will be played in Minnesota.