Less than two full season’s into his Head Coaching tenure with the Eagles, Doug Pederson has made it to the NFC Championship game. Guiding the Eagles through every storm they faced, Pederson has certainly earned his stripes, proving every doubter wrong in the process. On Sunday, he faces his toughest task yet. The Eagles are one game away from their first Super Bowl in over ten years and with such a young team, emotions are bound to run high. The trick for Pederson, is to cancel them out.
“Nothing really has to change.” The Eagles Head Coach told reporters on Friday. “At the end of the day, it’s football. I’ve got to make sure that my head’s in the right spot. I’m blocking out the noise just like I’m telling the players to block it out. I’m focused on my job and helping this football team try to win a football game. I try not to get caught up in the magnitude of what this game really means. But at the same time, when you have time away and you can reflect not only on the season but where this team is and the things we’ve faced all year, it does kind of put it into perspective. I’m excited about that, obviously. Emotions are going to run high. This is a great time of the year. It’s a great opportunity for our players, for the organization, but at the end of the day, I’ve got to make sure that I’m level headed and focused on my job as well.”
It took the Birds a little while to set in last week in their win over Atlanta. A fumble by Jay Ajayi on the opening drive stung the offense, while sloppy mistakes across the board took some time to iron out before the Snowball really began to roll down the hill.
“I think about it for a little bit, and then it goes away.” Pederson said of the emotions he and his team will face in the opening quarter. “We coach and teach and do the things to kind of prepare us for these situations, and it’s who can control the emotion early in the football game. Both sides or both sets of players, the Vikings and the Eagles. The players are going to be jazzed up early in this football game and rightfully so. I’ll just continue talking to our guys. Even when putting plays and openers together, it goes back to the task at hand and putting our guys in position to be successful.
Keeping a calmness around the team will be even more pivotal considering the opposing situation. Minnesota comes into this game coming off of one of the most spectacular playoff wins of all time. Already dubbed the “Minneapolis Miracle”, the Vikings couldn’t believe what had happened. Players completely forgot about the extra point and quotes that weren’t sheer shock or disbelief were hard to come across for reporters.
To make life even harder, the Vikings now have the added pressure of what this win means. If they can emerge victorious in Philadelphia, Minnesota will be the first team ever to host a Super Bowl and play in the game. The prospect in itself is spine-tingling. Emotions will undoubtedly be high within the Vikings locker room, especially after the journey to Philadelphia.
The Eagles have the advantage here. A sold out Lincoln Financial Field plays host to this defensive chess match and if the Eagles can separate their emotions from the game, a hot start could lead to a fairytale ending for the Birds.
“I think the big thing was we were fortunate to play on Saturday, gave us a couple days to reflect on the win.” Nick Foles told reporters this week ahead of the biggest game of his life. “Obviously, look at the tape and improve from there and get your body right, a lot of recovery goes into it. But I think we’re able to turn the pages when you start preparing, start watching film on them, start getting the game plan in, start dissecting all the little details and get into the rhythm of the week. That’s where we are right now, your body, because we’ve done it so many times this year, you have a rhythm throughout the week that you go through to prepare for the game and now we’re in the midst of it.”
Of course, expecting anyone to revoke any sense of emotion from such a monumental and well earned opportunity would be crazy. But if the Eagles can calm their jitters before the Vikings, Philadelphia has every chance of taking those dog masks to the Super Bowl.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports