Good morning, Eagles fans. The players will be back at the team facility preparing for the Super Bowl today. Four Eagles will hold news conferences Wednesday starting at 1:15 p.m.: Nick Foles, Fletcher Cox, Zach Ertz, and Malcolm Jenkins. The Eagles don’t begin practicing until Thursday.
Home on the road?
The Eagles hold opponents to 11 fewer points per game at home than on the road. They haven’t allowed more than 10 points in their last four games, all in Philadelphia. It’s clear the defense thrives at Lincoln Financial Field when the home crowd is in a frenzy. They won’t have the benefit of their home stadium for the Super Bowl, but it’s not a true road game because it’s at a neutral site. You never know for whom a neutral crowd will ultimately cheer, but the Eagles are hoping it doesn’t seem so neutral even if it’s 1,200 miles away.
“I think that the fans that are able to make it to Minneapolis, just like the fans that made it to Los Angeles and so many other places along the way for us, they will turn it into a home crowd for us,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “I think that’s the great thing. Our Eagles fans travel. It’s tough travel. The Super Bowl’s a tough ticket. But I think that we’re going to see a lot of green and we’re going to hear a lot of people singing our fight song, as opposed [to the Patriots’ fight song]. So I’m hoping that it’s not a neutral site.”
One thing that might help the crowd be more pro-Eagles: Patriots fans have had ample opportunities in recent years to go to the Super Bowl. This is their third Super Bowl in four years. Eagles fans have waited more than a decade, and they might make up for lost time.
Wentz and Foles
If you watched the celebration on Sunday, you saw Carson Wentz on the sideline embracing Nick Foles. Wentz has maintained a presence with the team during his injury. He’s been at the team facility, has worked with the quarterbacks, and was in the locker room after the win. It might be hard for an MVP candidate and the leader of the team to miss out on this ride, but to hear those with the Eagles explain it, Wentz’s support of Foles is a revealing character trait.
“One of the greatest things about a person that you can say is when you see him celebrating somebody else’s success,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “Even when you know it’s at the same position. I don’t care, human nature tells you that’s hard to do, and it’s been fun to see those two do that. It’s fun to see Carson have the maturity to truly celebrate Nick’s success and understanding how he’s helping this team, and also with the frustration knowing that he wants to be in there.”
Look for more on Wentz’s role with the team later this week.
Calm before the storm
One thing that stood out to me before the NFC championship game was how loose the Eagles seemed. There were videos of the team dancing in a Saturday meeting on social media. The dancing continued in warm-ups. In talking to players last week, there wasn’t an alarmist approach to the game. When I asked Doug Pederson about it, he said it was “probably one of the calmest I’ve seen our guys, most relaxed I’ve seen our guys all season.” It will be interesting to see whether that carries over into the next two weeks and what Pederson’s approach is leading up to the Super Bowl.
“I do want them to feel relaxed,” Pederson said. “If I’m tight and uptight, then they’re going to feel it, and they’re going to probably react the same way. So I want them to let their personalities show. Let them have fun. Enjoy the moment. This is why we coach and play is for these opportunities and these moments right here. Yeah, I felt like our guys were not only well-prepared but relaxed going into that game.”
If your friends haven’t subscribed to Early Birds, it’s free to sign up here to receive the newsletter in your inbox every weekday. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.
— Zach Berman
What you need to know about the Eagles
- One of the big revelations this season has been Doug Pederson’s play-calling, which has helped the Eagles reach the Super Bowl.
- What’s it like preparing for a Bill Belichick-coached team? The coordinators begin that daunting challenge, Les Bowen writes.
- Eagles season-ticket holder Mike Trout happens to be the best player in baseball. Mike Sielski writes about Trout’s fandom leading up to the Super Bowl.
- David Murphy writes a mea culpa to the Eagles.
- It’s Tom Brady in the Super Bowl again, and Bob Brookover writes how Brady and the Patriots make it look ordinary.
- Pederson and Carson Wentz both won Maxwell Club awards, Paul Domowitch reports.
- Phillies manager Gabe Kapler is inspired by the Eagles, according to Matt Breen.
- Sam Carchidi reports that the Eagles have fans on the Flyers.
- Bradley Cooper has not been shy about being an Eagles fan.
- If you missed Tuesday’s newsletter, it looked at why the team’s California trip was a “precursor” for the Super Bowl.
From the mailbag
What the Eagles did special, if anything, to stifle Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen? What do you think happened?
— Robert L., via email
Good question, because entering the game, I thought Griffen would be a tough matchup for Eagles tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Griffen, after all, is a Pro Bowler with 13 sacks this season and Doug Pederson labeled him a “game-wrecker.” The game was not wrecked. And Vaitai deserves a lot of credit. Griffen didn’t record a sack and was credited with two tackles and two quarterback hits. The Eagles gave Vaitai help on his side, using a tight end to chip. Nick Foles moved well in the pocket and there were plays when the Eagles used quick throws. But the coaches also trusted Vaitai one-on-one at times, and the results were positive. It was a statement game for Vaitai.
“I thought Big V played, gosh, extremely well, extremely well,” Pederson said. “We did help him from time to time, but there were also times he had to be on an island and block a tremendous defensive end who has had a heck of a year. Had a lot of confidence in V. These are obviously the things we’ve seen in him: his maturity, his growth as a left tackle, and he played extremely well.”
Who would have thought before the season Vaitai would be blocking Foles’ blindside in the NFC championship? It just shows the kind of year it’s been for the Eagles.