Gritty win over Falcons highlights change in culture for Eagles

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Twelve months ago tomorrow, the fall of the Chip Kelly era begun. A loss to the Miami Dolphins followed by two blowout losses divided the locker room and acted as the catalyst in closing out a very strange chapter in Eagles history. But today, the Eagles are coming off of a huge win over the Atlanta Falcons..a win that highlighted just how different the culture is under Doug Pederson.

The win over Atlanta was a flat out Dog Fight. From the very beginning, the tone of the game was set as the Eagles continued to punch it up the gut and punish a complacent run Defense. But after every Offensive drive, the shadow of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones darkened Lincoln Financial Field.

Emotions were mixed. Could the Eagles Defense hold strong against the most explosive Offense in the league? Time and time again, Jim Schwartz and his unit held tough. It took three full quarters for the Falcons to find their way into the endzone..as the Defense was unrelenting in stagnating the run game and keeping Matty Ice, ice cold.

But it’s not just that the Eagles won the game..it’s how they won it. From yet another cornerback injury forcing seventh round pick Jalen Mills to try and shut down the most explosive receiver in the NFL, to some terrible officiating..the Eagles were constantly being pushed against the wall.

Tensions rose very early on and the frustrations were clear..on both sides of the ball. Must-catch passes were dropped by Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor and a flurry of inefficiencies, problems and setbacks looked to rip the soul out of the team.

Slowly but surely, the Falcons crept their way back into the game. Two fumbles from the Eagles Offense left the Falcons licking their lips at a chance to thrust themselves into the lead, but once again a fired up Defense sent them back with little to show for their efforts.

No matter what happened, the Eagles simply kept fighting. Through every decision that didn’t go their way, every drop that could impact confidence and missed field-goal that could swing the outcome, the Eagles just kept pushing.

The grit and determination on this team was no better resembled than the sickening no-call on the helmet-to-helmet hit on Jordan Matthews. Both Doug Pederson and Jordan Matthews were understandably furious as emotions poured out of the team and the fans. But just one play after having his facemask and helmet dented from an illegal hit, Jordan Matthews was back in the game and running a route over the middle.

That attitude was unified in this team. The Eagles had three different backup Offensive Linemen play against the Falcons and still only allowed 3 hits and 2 sacks on Carson Wentz. Ryan Mathews? He ran like a man possessed and fighting for his future, as he reached his first 100-yard rushing game since week 3 of 2015.

Seventh round pick Jalen Mills was relied upon heavily with depth such an issue at CB..and even more so once Nolan Carroll left the game with a concussion. The confidence, the physicality and the efficiency displayed against one of the league’s most dominant receivers was beyond impressive.

The hits were hard, the setbacks were plentiful and the emotion was raw. In previous season or arguably even weeks, this is a game in which the Eagles would not have been able to put the final nail in the Coffin and get the job done.

The birds gave it absolutely everything on Sunday..from start to finish. It’s arguably the hardest game of Football they’ve played so far and even in the face of adversity, with the odds stacked against them..they kept their heads down and finished off the Atlanta Falcons..and that’s all a result of the culture that Doug Pederson has instilled inside the locker room.

You can sense it on the sidelines, feel it during games and watch it during the numerous “Mic’d up” style videos..this is a team in every sense of the word, who win together and lose together. It’s a family..and no longer a group of individuals who are playing for a variety of different reasons.

The Eagles are unified. Through the tough times in the trenches to the success in the endzone, this is a team who will go to Hell and back for one another..and watching a team with less firepower, prestige and overall Offensive talent than the Atlanta Falcons simply punch them in the mouth over and over again until the whistle finally sounded, was perhaps the most spine-tingling aspect of the entire game.

Doug Pederson was brought in to establish an emotional connection with the players that previously lacked under Chip Kelly. Just nine games into his Head-Coaching career and countless controversies both on and off the field later, that connection is crystal clear.

 

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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