Resiliency. ‘Next man up.’ Backs against the wall. Doubted by the national media. The Eagles have seen and heard it all before. It was the same gritty underdog mentality that propelled them into the national eye to begin with. The incredible plays, the wonderful quarterback, the dominant defense. Heads were turned and records were burned. But now the team that were on the edge of a dream Super Bowl run will be looking for a miracle.
We don’t need to spell out the narrative. The high-flying Falcons against an Eagles team that’s battered, bruised and seemingly without hope at quarterback. Two tough games to end the season have left some serious questions looming over the City of Brotherly Love…but the story doesn’t end here.
“Listen, these guys are football players.” Doug Pederson said earlier in the week. “I think sometimes the outside, whether it be the media, the fans, can make it bigger than it really is. When you boil it down, it’s football at the end of the day. It’s football at the end of the day. Just go do your job. Do what you’ve been coached to do all week long and give it your best effort on Saturday. If it’s good enough, great. If it’s not, then we focus on next season.”
A sense of reserved balance from the Eagles Head Coach was the theme for much of his press conference, but what followed after was a very different attitude. It was revealed that throughout the NovaCare Complex were reminders that the Eagles are underdogs. Little posters that would fall on the eyes of every single player with the intent of lighting that underdog fire inside them once again.
“I think we have to keep our eye on the fact that it’s the next game to play. Rules aren’t going to change.” Jim Schwartz told reporters several days ago. “The only thing that changes is it’s single-elimination, but it’s still going to be a 60-minute game. Still going to be 10 yards for a first down. I mean, we can get Gene Hackman to come in and measure and make sure it’s 10 feet. There’s a reason that that scene in Hoosiers runs so true to people because the point was, hey, this is the same as the other games that we’ve played. You can’t play out of character. You can’t try to do too much both as a play caller and as a player. You have to trust what got you there.
The Eagles were the best of the best in the regular season and this is their first playoff appearance since Nick Foles and Chip Kelly guided the team into the postseason back in 2013…but even though all the odds are stacked against them, the Eagles have the talent and the culture to win.
If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be 13-3 at home since 2016, with a soaring differential of +192, the best records in the NFL.
If they didn’t, their stern defense would not have allowed just 231 points to be scored against them at the Linc this year, the fewest in the NFL.
If they didn’t, the Eagles would not have 30 takeaways and have allowed an opposing passer rating of just 74.4 at home this season.
This Eagles team is built for success. It’s built for those tough, tough matches where the stakes are at their highest and the odds are stacked against them. This is what Doug Pederson’s culture has been about. Empowering the players and unifying a locker room to fight under the same banner. It’s a culture that embodies the underdog in every Philadelphian and resonates with those who longed for the hard hitting attitude of B-Dawk to grace Lincoln Financial Field once more. This is the team Eagles fans have pined after for years…and now it has a shot to win it all.
The odds may be stacked against them heavily. But when haven’t they been? When haven’t the Eagles had something to tarnish their hard work? When has there been a time where this team was praised in the right ways instead of being ripped down at the earliest possible moment? This is what the Philadelphia Eagles stand for…and what the oddsmakers, the statisticians, the writers don’t account for, is emotion. Raw human emotion.
53 men sit in that locker room facing one of the biggest moments of their life. This goes beyond what happened five or six weeks ago. Playoff football is a different beast entirely. If the Eagles can walk into Lincoln Financial Field and come out with a dominant win on their backs, confidence will be through the roof. This isn’t a test of efficiency or percentages or stats. It’s a test of heart and it’s a test of will. Something Pederson has instilled since the moment he walked in the building.
Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports