Happy Sunday everyone. Hope you enjoyed waking up to snow this morning. It may be cold here in Philly, but it’ll be a pleasant temperature inside the Superdome down in New Orleans, where the Eagles have a chance to avenge an embarrassing loss to the Saints this afternoon as they make another surprising run for the Super Bowl.
Each week we go behind the scenes with one of our reporters or editors to discuss their work and the challenges they face along the way. We caught up with Eagles beat writer Jeff McLane as he traveled to New Orleans to cover the Birds' NFC divisional round showdown with the Saints. McLane delves into the ups and downs of following the defending Super Bowl champs and shares his key to victory.
How would you describe covering the Eagles of the last two seasons compared to seasons before? Super Bowl win aside, is there something vastly different about this bunch?
I was just thinking about how I hadn’t covered an Eagles playoff victory in my first eight seasons on the beat, but over the last two years they’ve now won at least four. There’s always a lot of work, particularly from the start of training camp to the final game, but the playoffs only add to the load, and you never know when the ride will end.
As for any differences about the team, I’d say there are far less primma donnas on the Eagles roster than there have been previously, which typically makes for a good locker room and more media-friendly players.
What’s the biggest challenge in covering a professional football team? What’s your favorite thing about the job?
Every job has its hassles, but there isn’t much for me to gripe about. I get to watch and write about football, after all. And there’s always someone to read because of the great local interest in the Eagles, win or lose. But there is intense competition for scoops, exclusives and even a nugget to add to a story. There is competition among more than a dozen local reporters assigned to cover the team daily, other print reporters and columnists, radio hosts and television broadcasters, and many national reporters who cover the NFL. There is even competition — however healthy — within our staff. The playoffs only amp up the race.
I enjoy uncovering a story that’s unknown, whether it’s something that reflects well on an individual, the team or a subject, or something outside forces have tried to suppress. Many assume that reporters are fans of the teams they cover. If you consider yourself a journalist first, then your only rooting interest should be for the best story. I cover the Eagles as if I were assigned to cover the White House. How could anyone trust what I wrote if I took sides?
Is there a moment from this past season that you would say best sums up the spirit of this team?
I’ve been around losing teams and this one smelled like a loser after the 48-7 loss in New Orleans. The schedule was favorable the rest of the way, so I never counted the Eagles out, but their situation was dire. Still, they kept winning, and even after falling in Dallas, I thought they would play hard throughout the remainder of the season, even if they fell short of the playoffs. So that would be my moment: battling the Cowboys and taking them into overtime even though so much had previously gone against them in that game.
Headed into today’s match-up with the Saints, what’s the most important factor that would lead to an Eagles win?
Pressuring Drew Brees. But the Eagles must accomplish a few goals if they are to get to one of the NFL’s most difficult quarterbacks to move off his spot. They must limit the Saints on the ground and force third and longs. They must tackle well on short passes. They must mix up their coverages to keep Brees off balance when he does drop to throw. They must throw in a few blitzes. And the secondary must give the four-man line more than 2.5 seconds to get to Brees before he throws.
Let them know, @bhalda. To be the champs, you got to beat the champs. 🦅
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