“We ain’t sneaking in, we’re kicking the mother#$@%in’ door down. We’re in this party. Nobody wanted us, but guess what, they got to deal with us now, man.”
Malcolm Jenkins’ postgame locker-room breakdown on Sunday says it all – sanitized as it is for this publication. The Eagles, even at 9-7, didn’t sneak into the NFL postseason. They barged in with late-season wins over playoff teams (LA Rams and Houston) and Sunday’s dismantling of hapless Washington.
Down the stretch, as Jenkins said, they showed that “we are who we thought we were” – a resilient, talented team. A tough group of veterans led by prideful Pro Bowlers who refused to roll when the season looked lost around Thanksgiving. All directed by a coach savvy enough not to panic and smart enough to adapt.
They’ve strutted around in ski masks in recent weeks with the message being that they planned to rob other teams of a playoff spot. Now they might also pull out last season’s German shepherd masks because, from this point, they’ll be an underdog every Sunday. Just like last year.
The quarterback? Nick Foles get to wear a superhero mask.
The Bears enter the week as a six-point favorite, and I can’t argue they’re not a better team on paper. But we’ve been here before. We’ve seen the magic of Nicky Six.
A week ago, Foles threw for most passing yards (471) in the 86-year history of the Eagles. Sunday, he tied an NFL mark with straight 25 completions. Under all the pressure in the world, Foles was perfect in back-to-back games.
He heads back to the postseason as a legend. I’m not sure if he is a dragon slayer or the unslayable dragon in this saga, but his teammates (and fans) all buy in. I expect Foles’ injured chest to be healed by God’s magical touch, and for him to throw six touchdowns at Soldier Field.
“Nick is in an amazing zone,” Coach Doug Pederson said Monday. “And so are the guys around him.”
The Eagles and their coaches have adjusted from injuries that marred them through the season. The kids in the secondary grew up. Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Chris Long, and Michael Bennett highlight a defensive line that has been sterling in December.
There’s also a running game now. Alshon Jeffery has a terrific connection with Foles. Nelson Agholor has been rediscovered. Oh, and Zach Ertz had the best season of any tight end in football.
Yes, Vegas odds list the Eagles as a longshot to repeat as Super Bowl champs, but don’t you believe it. They are the team that no one wants to face.
The guys in green are peaking at the right time – 5-1 in their last six, marred only by a horribly refereed OT loss in Dallas. They’re relatively healthy and extremely confident. And they’re basically the same group that had you dancing down Broad Street last February.
Of course, last season’s 13-3 record gave them home-field advantage through the playoffs. Now, as the sixth seed, they must win three straight on the road. A challenge, for sure, but achievable.
Since 1970, 10 wild-card teams made it to the Super Bowl. Three times, a fifth- or sixth-seed won three straight road games and then the Super Bowl. The Packers did it in 2010, beating the Eagles, 21-16, in their playoff opener. The Giants did it in 2007, improbably knocking off the undefeated Patriots. And the Steelers did it in 2005.
So why not the good guys?
This would be a hell of a story. If they can pull it off, it would be even more amazing than last year.