The Eagles have not been to the Super Bowl since 2005. Competing on the grandest stage of all presents a unique challenge for Philadelphia and while nothing will ever quite compare to the magnitude or atmosphere that the team will feel in Minnesota over the next week, it’s safe to say that this team is suitably prepared for such a test.
During the heart of the season, a year in which the team had to endure just about every kind of setback imaginable, a difficult west-coast trip presented itself. First came a showdown in Seattle. One of the toughest places to play in the NFL was defended by Pete Carroll and the Seahawks brilliantly. A grueling game left the Philadelphia unit tired and unable to contain MVP candidate Russell Wilson, with the offense exercising rub-routes and the like to really work the Eagles corners into mistakes.
One week later came that fateful day, a game that flipped the season on its head. The Eagles travelled to the City of Angels in order to face the Rams. If there is any place to get distracted, it’s L.A. But the Eagles were resilient. Nobody breached curfew, there was no trouble, no slip ups, no outlandish behavior. The only shock of the game was what happened to Carson Wentz. The Eagles QB tore his ACL in the second half, shattering the hearts of Eagles fans everywhere and silencing the City of Philadelphia.
Nick Foles led the Eagles to a fourth quarter comeback in order to depart L.A with a win in their column, but there would be no rest for the wicked. A trip to the Meadowlands to face the Giants would round off the road trip. The Eagles went 2-1 in arguably the most punishing road stretch of the last few seasons and ended the year 6-2 on the road. The Birds are no strangers to adverse conditions or battling attrition on the road and that may turn out to be their best friend.
“Grind the midnight oil again.” Doug Pederson said of his plans this week. “Listen, yeah, we’ve got a game to play, and it’s not a vacation next week. My message to the team is just that. We’re going to prepare this week as if we’re playing this weekend, obviously, and then we can sort of fine tune some things. But we’ve just got to stay on top of our game, keep the grind, and keep the intensity going right into next week.”
They now head into the Belly of the Beast, Minneapolis. Just one week after breaking the hearts of Vikings fans across the city, the Eagles soar in to play in Super Bowl 52. It’s safe to say that the environment will be hostile. Chris Maragos recently tweeted that he was unable to even book a dinner reservation for the Eagles without it being rejected. Minnesota Uber employees have reportedly stated that they intend to drive Eagles fans to the wrong location on the night of the big game and the list goes on and on. But this is nothing new for the Eagles.
A taxing trip to the other side of the country was a huge test for the Eagles…but one they passed with flying colors. Doug Pederson has been able to rally his troops and install a sense of discipline that was lacking in the era before. This alone could see the Eagles suitably prepared for not only the Super Bowl, but the journey to London next season.
“I do think you can learn from your past and I think these players have learned from that.” Doug Pederson told reporters earlier in the year. “Yeah, we did struggle a year ago and now they are having — when you start having success on the road, it sort of continues to go down that path and a lot of confidence when we travel. Guys handle their business extremely well from the time we leave to the time we finish the game. There’s been no distractions on the road, and I’m not saying that there has been, I’m just using that as an example. There’s no distractions. The guys take care of business. I do agree, the talent is better this season, obviously. And you do learn. You learn from your past and the guys have done a nice job.”
Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports