Jordan Mailata to Brandon Graham: "Act Like Emerson is Watching"

Ed Kracz

PHILADELPHIA – Brandon Graham kept rushing but kept coming up empty against New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones on Thursday night. Even worse, Graham bit hard on a run fake that allowed Jones to run untouched around the right side of the line for an 80-yard gain.

None of what had happened before mattered, though, because the Eagles now had a one-point lead with 40 seconds left in the game.

It was time for Graham and the defense to make sure Jones wouldn’t navigate the field and put the Giants in field goal range for kicker Graham Gano.

Graham, like he always seems to when the clock is nearing all zeroes, upped his game to an even higher gear, sacking Jones with less than 30 seconds to go and forcing a fumble that was recovered by teammate Vinny Curry.

That was all she wrote, a 22-21 Eagles win tucked neatly away.

Turns out, Graham was inspired somewhat on the play that sealed the Eagles' second victory of the season during a sideline chat with offensive tackle Jordan Mailata.

“He had said something to me that sparked me,” said Graham. “He said, ‘Act like Emerson is watching.’ My baby girl. She would be excited for me. ‘And give her something to be proud of.’ So it was just cool that I made that play but he said that to me before I went out there.”

Mailata struggled for the first time since being installed as the starter at left tackle on Oct. 3, but his words made up for some of those struggles.

What also helps is the defensive line rotation of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, a rotation that was shortened a bit without Malik Jackson playing due to a quad injury and Hassan Ridgeway suffering a biceps injury in-game.

Still, Graham took the field for the final series with legs that weren’t heavy with fatigue.

“It’s just something about the end of these games with the rotation that we have, you feel stronger, you just can’t wait because you know you are in a pass situation and all you have to do is make a couple moves, get to the quarterback, hoping that he holds the ball,” he said. “And he held the ball right there, went straight for the ball.”

Graham gave a shoutout to former Eagles safety and Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins for always preaching not to just go for the sack but find the ball, too.

“Because B-Dawk definitely went for the ball,” said Graham. “Thinking about you. And instead of going just for the sack, went for the ball and we changed the whole game and the end of the game with that.”

Graham went for the ball in Super Bowl LII, stripping it away from New England quarterback Tom Brady in the final minutes to help the Eagles surprise the Patriots that February day in 2018.

He was younger back then.

Now 32 and in his 11th year, Graham is on track to record his first double-digit sack season. He’s come close before, getting 9.5 in 2017 and 8.5 last year.

He entered the NFL’s weekend slate of games with the fourth-most sacks in the league and added one more to his total, giving him six with nine games to play.

“I think just really taking on my nutrition this year more serious than I ever have,” said Graham. “Feeling good. Body is feeling really good right now. I feel fast. Then with our rotation, that is helping a lot. I don’t feel like I am taking on a lot of beating from these games because you know, got chipped a lot of times (Thursday) and that could wear on your body a little bit but it’s cool when you have a good rotation of guys that you can count on.

“Because in that fourth quarter when you need a play, I feel like you know I felt in the first quarter. So, I felt hungry and ready to go make a play. And I’m thankful that they, in the backend, took away his reads and I was able to get there.”

So are the Eagles, who are now 2-4-1, in first place in the NFC East, and have 10 days off until they host the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 1 in another primetime game.

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