Brandon Graham was about to jog back onto the field on Thursday when Eagles left tackle Jordan Mailata gave him some last-minute motivation.
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With 40 seconds left in the game, Mailata told Graham to think about his daughter when he reentered the field for the final defensive series of the primetime matchup against the Giants. The Eagles’ defense needed to make a stop against the Giants to win the game, and Graham was ready to make his daughter proud.
“He said, ‘Act like Emerson is watching,’ my baby girl,” Graham said about his conversation with Mailata. “‘Give her something to be proud of.’”
On second-and-12, with 29 seconds left in the game, Graham beat right tackle Cameron Fleming for a strip-sack on Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. Fellow defensive end Vinny Curry collected the ball and clinched the 22-21 win.
“It’s just something about the end of these games, with the rotation that we have, you feel stronger,” Graham said. “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. And he held the ball right there, went straight for the ball.”
The big play was Graham’s sixth sack of the season. He’s on pace for 13.5 sacks this year, despite only topping 9.5 sacks once in his previous 10 seasons.
Through seven games, Graham has 21 tackles (nine for loss), six sacks, 10 quarterback hits and a forced fumble. He’s been on fire, despite the team’s regular struggles on defense.
Graham credits the Eagles’ pass-rushing rotation and his new diet for his impressive pace this season.
“I think just really taking on my nutrition this year more serious than I ever have,” Graham said. “The body is feeling really good right now. I feel fast. Then with our rotation, that is helping a lot … because in that fourth quarter when you need a play, I feel like you know I felt in the first quarter.”
When Graham received a three-year contract extension from the Eagles in 2019, he said his goal was to make three consecutive Pro Bowls and produce 10 or more sacks in all three seasons.
He failed to accomplish either goal in the first season of his deal, but now he is on pace to complete both tasks in his 11th season.
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