Good morning, Eagles fans. As Doug Pederson said, the Eagles are “going to the stinkin’ Super Bowl.” Their storybook season continued with a 38-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game Sunday. They will play the New England Patriots on Feb. 4, and we’ll have all the coverage during these next two weeks in the Inquirer and Daily News, and on philly.com.
This is a Monday edition of the Early Birds newsletter. It’s free for anyone to sign up here to receive 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
Thoughts on Nick Foles, Doug Pederson, Howie Roseman, and more
- Nick Foles played one of the best games of his career on the biggest stage of his life. Just think about that for a moment. I’ve written in this space about how Foles is a high-variance quarterback, capable of the outstanding and the putrid. What you saw Sunday night was outstanding. He finished 26 for 33 for 352 yards and three touchdowns. I was in Oakland for the seven-touchdown game. I’ve seen him top 400 yards three times. But considering the way Foles played, the opponent he played against, and the stage he played on, I don’t know if I’ve seen him play a better game. It’s hard to think this was the same quarterback who played against the Raiders on Christmas night. Players have bad games, but Foles’ spectrum is much wider. Maybe the cold affected him in December — good thing for the Eagles the Super Bowl is in a climate-controlled dome. Maybe he just needed the practice time — Foles barely had a training camp and preseason, and the Eagles had light practices late in the year. Whatever it is, when Foles plays like he did Sunday, you can’t count the Eagles out.
- The Eagles’ defense is on an incredible run right now. This was the fourth consecutive game in which they allowed only one touchdown. They haven’t allowed more than 10 points in any of those games. They were far better than the best defense in the NFL on Sunday. The way they pressured the quarterback, the way they forced turnovers, and their physical nature set them apart. And they rebounded from a first-drive score. Throughout the year, they seemed to get better as games progressed. They’ll be challenged in two weeks by the NFL’s top offense and perhaps the best quarterback of all time. They also won’t be at home, where they’re considerably better than on the road. But when you look at the Super Bowls the Patriots lost, it was because the opposing defensive line won the line of scrimmage. If the Eagles can win the line of scrimmage against the Patriots, they’ll have a chance.
- Doug Pederson has earned a lot of credit this season, and it still might not be enough. He’s proving to be a fantastic coach. He’s a terrific play-caller, which has been evident throughout the season and especially the past two weeks. He’s so impressive with the way he puts players in positions to succeed – starting with the quarterback, but extending throughout the roster. It’s one thing to know what plays to call when. It’s another to know how to maximize a player’s skill set. And then his leadership ability resonates with the team. I’ve thought as a former player, he’s in tune with how players think and knows what buttons to push. But owner Jeffrey Lurie hit it on the head Sunday: Pederson is genuine, and the players respond to that.“There’s a lot of great coaches,” Lurie said. “They all have their different styles, but the one common ground amongst them all is absolute consistency and genuineness. And Doug Pederson is just himself. And at times, that’s very humble, and at times, it’s just very real. At times, that’s very bright. At times, it’s tough. But he does it in a true genuine way and I think players really respond to that in today’s world.”
- Howie Roseman won executive of the year last week, and Sunday’s game revealed why. All five touchdowns were scored by new additions to the team this season, and Foles, the star of the game, was also an addition. The Eagles hit on their big-ticket free agent (Alshon Jeffery), but it was the under-the-radar moves that are most impressive. He signed Chris Long and Patrick Robinson on the same day in March. The Eagles’ first touchdown came because of Long’s rush and Robinson’s interception. Roseman has received his share of criticism in Philadelphia, some of it deserved and some of it undeserved. Roster management and roster building are fluid, so the conversation could be different next year. But the Eagles have a Super Bowl roster this season, and Roseman is the reason.
- Finally, the Philadelphia fans deserve a lot of credit. The Eagles finished this season 9-1 at home. The only loss came when the starters sat for most of Week 17. Lincoln Financial Field offers a true home-field advantage. Ultimately, it’s up to players and coaches to win or lose – the fans don’t do that. But this is a tough environment for opponents, and Sunday was the latest example.“I don’t think they sat down the whole game,” Pederson said. I’m curious to see what the crowd will be like in Minneapolis. The Patriots fans are used to this – it’s their third Super Bowl in four years. For Eagles fans, this hasn’t happened in 13 years. The Eagles fans might be more tempted to treat it like a rare occasion.
What you need to know about the Eagles
- At the end of a magical night, Doug Pederson told his players: “We’re going to the Super Bowl! We’re going to the stinkin’ Super Bowl!”
- Howie Roseman‘s fingerprints were all over the win, Jeff McLane writes.
- Nick Foles and the offense excelled against the NFL’s No. 1 defense, Les Bowen writes.
- The key for the Eagles was third down, Paul Domowitch writes.
- Bob Ford calls it “The Season of the Improbable.” It continued Sunday.
- Mike Sielski describes Sunday as “the biggest, loudest sports party that Philadelphia had thrown in nearly a decade.”
- Marcus Hayes says that Reggie White would be proud of fellow Volunteer Derek Barnett.
- Foles was everything the Eagles needed him to be, David Murphy writes.
- Patrick Robinson‘s interception changed the game, Frank Fitzpatrick writes.
- Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz had big nights, Mike Jensen writes.
- Ed Barkowitz gives you a timeline of the day.
- Marc Narducci finds out what the Vikings thought of Sunday’s game.
- Who’s up and who’s down? McLane tells you. Domo offers his grades.
- The Eagles are underdogs again.
- Ertz’s wife, Julie, speaks to Jonathan Tannenwald about finding out the Eagles won.
- What was the city like after the win?
- Looking for tickets? Rob Tornoe has details.
3 Questions With | Eagles coach Doug Pederson
Zach Berman: That was the No. 1 defense and top third-down defense. How were you able to do what you did offensively?
Doug Pederson: It’s just execution. Trusting the players, putting them in great situations. We talked all week about staying ahead on first and second down. We gave ourselves a chance on third down. We stayed in those third-and-manageable situations. Nick [Foles] did a great job, eyes down the field. Protection was good. Guys made plays. Bottom line, guys made plays. That’s the only way you can get the job done is to be able to throw and catch and do the things in the run game that we did, and hats off to the offensive staff, obviously, Frank Reich and the game planning and the guys for executing.
Zach Berman: You said all the right things during the past few weeks, but after Carson Wentz’s injury, what made you think the team could get to this point?
Doug Pederson: Just believe in the guys. Have faith in the guys. I mean, our season wasn’t over. We still were in the driver’s seat. We had to win one or two games at the end of the year to at least have home field [through the NFC playoffs] and at least have a home bye that first round. I just felt confident in the players and the coaches that we were still a good football team. I talked to the team all the time. It’s not about one guy. One guy can make a difference for you, but it takes a whole team to make it happen. That’s what our guys have done.
Zach Berman: In the locker room after the on-field celebration, what was the message to the team?
Doug Pederson: We’re going to the Super Bowl. We’re going to the stinkin’ Super Bowl. And that’s all we need to know. I was just so proud of them for the season so far. We still have some unfinished business, obviously. But we’re going to pack our bags and head to Minneapolis.
From the mailbag
What happens at the QB position next year if Foles wins the Superbowl?
— Justin Nilsson (@JustinNilsson) January 22, 2018
This is Carson Wentz‘s team. That won’t change. Nick Foles can have the finest Super Bowl performance in NFL history. When Wentz is healthy, he’s the Eagles’ quarterback.
But an interesting question is what happens to Foles. The Eagles value Foles and the backup quarterback spot, and it’s too early to know when Wentz will be healthy next season. The Eagles need to be comfortable with their No. 2 quarterback. However, if Foles has a good Super Bowl, I’d expect teams to be interested in having him start next season. The Eagles are already down draft capital. They could shop Foles for a pick. He didn’t draw starting-QB interest last offseason, but good games in high-pressure settings can change a player’s reputation.
Do the Eagles have enough in the coffers to re-sign Bradham, Robinson, and Long?
— Erik L. Richardson (@Vz1on1mage) January 22, 2018
Nigel Bradham needs to be the priority. He’s so important to the defense and such a good fit. He likes it in Philadelphia and the Eagles like him, so that will be a question of price.
As for Patrick Robinson and Chris Long, it’s hard to say. The Eagles will have a lot of depth at cornerback next season with Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas. But who plays the slot? Robinson has been so good there. It would make sense to trust the four young cornerbacks, but the slot will be a big question. All four are on rookie contracts, so the Eagles don’t have much money tied into the position.
In Long’s case, it would make sense to explore bringing him back if he’s interested in playing another season. The Eagles have Steven Means as a depth defensive end, but not much else waiting to take Long’s spot. He has been a key contributor. How much can the Eagles pay for a fourth defensive end, though?
In 2004-05, we beat the Vikings then Falcons at home, losing to the Patriots in the Super Bowl..
In 2017-18, we beat the Falcons then the Vikings, playing the Patriots in the Super Bowl..
>> Do we continue the trend of reversals & WIN our first Super Bowl??
— Brandon D Banks. (@ReggaeBass4me) January 22, 2018
That’s an interesting coincidence. It’s funny how it worked out. I’m sure we’ll hear a lot about the 2005 Super Bowl during the next two weeks.
I’ll obviously dig into the game during the next two weeks and have a better answer about my prediction as the game nears. The Patriots have the best quarterback-coach combination in NFL history and a lot of talent on offense. But as I wrote earlier, the line of scrimmage is the equalizer. The Eagles have the better offensive and defensive lines, which will give them a chance against New England.
What do all of you think?