Ever wonder what the Philadelphia Eagles have in common with the bird that inspired their name?
A lot more than maybe even the team knows.
The Philadelphia Eagles were on a 10-2 roll when Carson Wentz tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a game against the Los Angeles Rams. He was out for the rest of the season and many thought the team’s Super Bowl dreams were over.
During their first postseason game against Atlanta, the team was listed as underdogs despite their No. 1 seed. This prompted offensive lineman Lane Johnson and defensive lineman Chris Long to don dog masks, setting off a fan frenzy.
That being said, on Wednesday, someone reportedly placed a multimillion-dollar bet on the Eagles to win it all.
While the Eagles players have adopted their new-found underdog status as motivation, they can also take a cue from the winged eagles, who have one of the most amazing comeback stories on the planet.
In 1988, when the football Eagles clinched the NFC East division championship, there were only three sets of nesting bald eagles in the state of Pennsylvania. The majestic bird, whose number were estimated to be 100,000 in the late 1700s, fell victim to trapping, hunting, habitat destruction, poisoning from eating contaminated prey, and reproductive problems attributed to DDT, a now-banned insecticide that was responsible for eggshell thinning.
The bird was facing extinction when in 1978 it was listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
With the help of the Canadian government, which supplied bald eagle chicks, the Pennsylvania Game Commission reintroduced the baby raptors to the northeastern part of the state. Now, after a DDT ban and aggressive conservation efforts, there are more than 250 pairs of nests in the commonwealth. In June 2007, the eagle was removed from the Endangered Species list.
Bald eagles are known for stealing. They will even harass river or sea otters to get grub. But one of the most spectacular aerial displays in nature is when two or more eagles go after a fresh-caught fish.
Cornerback Patrick Robinson’s game-changing interception and 50-yard touchdown run in the NFC Championship game against the Vikings ignited the team, which was down by 7, for their 38-7 win. He also leads the team with four interceptions.
Fly, Eagles, Fly!
When it comes to speed, the bald eagle has been known to reach 75 mph in a dive. But, they usually tend to fly solo at speeds of about 31 mph.
Fleet-footed Eagle Ronald Darby, a former high school track star, is probably the fastest starter with a NFL combine time of 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash, followed by Nelson Agholor, who clocked 4.42 seconds. But rookie Shelton Gibson, whom NFL.com describes as “Flat. Out. Fast,” has a time of 4.2 seconds. (In bird speed, that would equate to roughly 19.5 mph.)
It’s No Sweat
Bald eagles don’t sweat. To cool their bodies, they perch in the shade, pant, and hold their wings away from their bodies.
And this season, the Eagles players weren’t sweating their big games. Prior to the NFC Championship game, there were videos on social media of the team dancing. Coach Doug Pederson said it was “probably one of the calmest I’ve seen our guys, most relaxed I’ve seen our guys all season.”
What’s for dinner?
Salmon, herring, shad, and catfish can dominate the bald eagle’s diet. But they also dine on carrion.
The diet of the Philadelphia Eagles players is markedly different. They have Michael Minnis, the organization’s performance nutrition coordinator, to help with their individual dietary goals. And while the rookies have professed they crave Chipotle and M&Ms, a variety of smoothies have been seen in post-practice locker rooms, PennLive reported.
The Eagles season has been marked with an unselfish team-first approach to winning.
Bald eagles share some of that philosophy. They mate for life, build nests together, and both feed and protect their young. But, it is not unheard of for some older, larger eagles to dominate or even kill a sibling to eliminate competition for food.
Best places to watch both birds in action
For the E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!
- Inquirer restaurant critic Craig LaBan has some fine recommendations for where to eat during the game.
For the best bald eagle watching in and around Southeastern Pennsylvania visit:
- John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Tinicum
- Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Kleinfeltersville
- Lower Susquehanna River
- Conowingo Dam in Darlington, Md.
- The Cumberland County 17th annual Winter Eagle Festival on Saturday.