On November 18th, the Eagles suffered a humiliating loss to New Orleans. After months of chirping and sly comments, this was the game that was supposed to prove once and for all that Alvin Kamara was wrong. That the Eagles would’ve handled business against Drew Brees and co. in the playoffs. What we saw was a frustrated Carson Wentz playing out of character, a total defensive collapse and a game that bared a scarily close resemblance to that Detroit loss under Chip Kelly a few years ago.
It was the last thing the Eagles needed. After the overtime loss to Tennessee, the 4th quarter crumble against Carolina and even more importantly, a one possession loss to Dallas just one week before. A dagger into the heart of a team that had been fighting adversity all year long. Injuries, setbacks and questionable coaching calls saw the headline ‘Super Bowl hangover’ fly embarrassingly over a City that was doing all it could to find a reason to believe. But the reason was there all along.
If there’s one word that’s consistently associated with this team, it’s ‘resiliency’. The underdog miracle one year ago fed off of that very word. The fact that this team wouldn’t take a loss lightly, that they’d hold one another accountable. That leaders in the locker room would rise up and make a difference, just as leaders should. It didn’t matter what the odds were, it didn’t matter who the opponent was, the Eagles would never say die.
They got scarily close in 2018…but that same mantra lives on and is now burning brighter than ever.
The Eagles have NO starters in their secondary. The pass defense has been incredible over the last few weeks.
Their starting QB is out with an injury. Nick Foles just set an NFL record for most consecutive single-game completions.
They have a UDFA as their bell-cow running back, balancing what was a skewed offense. It’s more dangerous than ever.
They missed Jernigan for most of the year. Fletcher Cox set a career-high 10.5 sacks in 2018.
‘We’re not done….YET.’ Was the spine-chilling phrase said by Pederson in the locker-room last week. The Eagles kept fighting. In a year that would’ve destroyed the majority of other teams, Philly found a way to keep fighting and clawing with every last ounce of energy they had. And now, they’re arguably more dangerous than ever.
The offense is firing on all cylinders and Nick Foles has found at least six receivers in the first half of each of his last two games. There’s a certain level of confidence and swagger that this team is carrying, as if they’ve rediscovered that sense of self-belief…and that is such a strong sign of a sturdy coaching staff.
It’s easy to look at a star-studded roster and put success down to the talent. Conversely, it’s easy to make excuses when the sky comes crashing down. But it takes coaches to develop that talent, to nurture leadership and to instill a culture that every single player buys into. It takes coaches to pull the team out of a dark and dismal hole and give them that reason to go out and play their tails off instead of tucking it away and focusing on next year. And now, with the Eagles entering the playoffs for the second consecutive season, that culture is thriving.
“It means a lot” Eagles wide receiver Matthews said of being able to open up to his Head Coach in an exclusive interview in August of last year. “I think it puts more of a responsibility on players than people actually think. When you have a coach who gives guys the ability to be open, it definitely helps 1) with the camaraderie and the team aspect because we’re on the same mission. It’s not like they’re trying to do their thing and we’re trying to do ours, we’re the same unit. 2) the accountability level for players goes up.
“You’re not gonna go to coach and say “look, they’re playing Man every 3rd & 7 so you have to go with me with this route” because if you say that, you gotta go and make a play afterwards. So there’s that accountability aspect that’s added into it. If you’re a grown man and you say “throw me the ball”, you’ve gotta go and get it. There has to be a right time to say it, but I de nitely appreciate that. When you have a coach who trusts his players, that’s huge in building a winning culture.’
“One of my favorite things about Doug is one of his biggest mottos, “let your personality show”. Former Eagles TE Trey Burton told me last year. “You don’t hear coaches say that very often. They don’t want crazy things to happen. Doug used to say that all the time and everytime he would say that, to me personally it gave me peace. It would calm me down and let me be who I am, instead of being like a robot and trying to impress a coach who likes a tighter ship.”
What sets Doug Pederson apart isn’t his play-calling or his confidence to go for it on fourth down in the Super Bowl. It’s his culture. That ’emotional intelligence’ that was once mocked by media, is now the heart and soul of this team…because the team believe whole heartedly that he is the man who can and will lead them all the way into the night. Pederson may not be a ‘ra-ra’ leader, but he possesses a coaching style that players relate too and view as fresh. A chance to be themselves, to let their personalities shine and to be bigger than just a name on their jersey.
The party isn’t over yet, it’s just getting started…and the Eagles are coming to crash it.
Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports