When the opening snap in the season opener took place, the Eagles were a team of intrigue. The leap that Carson Wentz would take was what had the world on the edge of their seat. The revamped offense was what turned the heads of many, while the secondary left many hesitant to hand over the keys to the Birds just yet. Eight weeks later, the Eagles are 8-1. Eight weeks later, the Eagles have overcome every obstacle in their way. Eight weeks later, the Eagles are on their way to the promised land.
It doesn’t seem to matter how many injuries pile up, or what defense they face, or what question marks loom over the Linc…the Eagles just keep rolling. That sentiment was mirrored for the eighth consecutive week on Sunday, when the Eagles played host to the Denver Broncos. A team that came into the matchup boasting the number one ranked defense in the entire league. A team that had previously held the Chiefs to just 79 rushing yards.
Moments before the game, it was announced that the Eagles would be without star tight end, Zach Ertz. All of a sudden there was a weight. An Elephant in the room. Was this going to be the week where the Eagles are brought back to Earth? Were people right to be so hesitant? Nobody could have scripted what happened next.
For the eighth consecutive game, the Eagles amassed 100+ rushing yards. In the absence of Zach Ertz, Trey Burton and Brent Celek combined for 80-yards and a touchdown. The offense put up 51 points against the league’s most feared defense and Carson Wentz threaded four touchdowns without turning the ball over once. The culture is embedded so deep into this team, it’s almost become the norm.
“That is a good defense and that’s a good rushing defense and they are that way for a reason.” Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson told reporters after the game. “I just think that when you hear that all week — everybody’s got a lot of pride. They want to do their jobs and do them right. It’s a good test for our offensive line and they really stepped up to the occasion, and gosh, they rose up and did a nice job today.”
The culture that has been built inside this Eagles locker room has been praised on a weekly basis. The unselfishness of the locker room, the humbled approach, and the competition within each position group has been a driving force behind the early success of the team…but it was tested today more than ever at the running back position.
The Eagles traded for Jay Ajayi during the week and just days after arriving in Philadelphia, the former Miami Dolphin took the field as an Eagle and led the team in rushing, racking up 87-yards and a touchdown. What was even more impressive, was that undrafted rookie Corey Clement had three touchdowns alone. The shape of the backfield has changed entirely, decimating the Broncos defense with 197 yards of rushing…but the mentality is the same.
“It says a lot.” Said LeGarrette Blount after the game. “We prepare hard and grind every single day. There is not a day where we don’t go out there and put it all on the line. That includes practice, in the meeting rooms, and in the walk-throughs. Everything is preparation for the game, and that includes guys looking through the playbooks and all of the things that can help you out when you are in the game. We have guys that study film from the first day of the week all the way to right before the game.”
“Once Jay [Ajayi] got into the room, we noticed that he is definitely a competitor.” Said the star of the show, Corey Clement. “A great contribution to a group means a lot. I am pretty sure everyone on the outside thought it was going to create some turmoil in our room, but at the same time, we are having fun. When Ajayi is in the game, we are rooting for him. When he is not on the field, he is rooting for us. It just shows the type of player he is and we want to carry that throughout the whole season.”
Every week there is a different chip on the shoulder. A player lost to injury. The hype around an opposing unit. The challenges of playing on a short week. But each and every game, Doug Pederson rallies his players to new heights. Defying expectations has become a part of everyday life for the Philadelphia Eagles…but when you’re at the dizzying heights of 8-1 and boast the NFL’s best record, it’s easy to lose your way. Something Pederson has worked hard to ensure the team avoids.
“We just have to take it week-by-week.” Linebacker Nigel Bradham told reporters. “That’s the main thing for us, just focusing each week. We don’t have to look ahead, we just have to focus one week at a time and prepare for each team. That’s what’s been keeping us so focused, just taking it one game at a time. We’re going to have that mentality for the rest of the season until we get to where we want to go. We have a lot of character on this team with great leaders. We have a lot of humble guys that rely on our leaders to keep us grounded. We’re going to remain humble and continue to work to get better each week.”
Grounded, humble, and hungry…this is an Eagles team performing at a historic level. Philadelphia started 8-1 for just the fifth time in franchise history, with their last 8-1 record being in 2004. This is also the first time since that season where the Eagles have had a seven-game winning streak. The Line is well and truly electric when the Eagles are in town. So much so that the Birds have found their own “12th man”…with the fans lifting the team to an 11-2 record at home since Pederson took over.
Defying expectations is something associated with this team each and every week. The expectations of themselves is something they meet every week, moving the chains to get better each and every game. That’s culture…and this is special team that may, just may be ready to take the biggest leap of all and defy even the grandest of expectations come January. That’s a long way off into the distance…but right now, there is nothing that can stop this team except themselves.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports