Good morning, Eagles fans. The Eagles aren’t practicing on Tuesday, but they’ll have a work day as they being preparing for the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game. The players will speak with reporters at 1:05 p.m. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will have a 1:30 p.m. news conference, and offensive coordinator Frank Reich will follow him at 1:45 p.m.
- When looking at the Vikings, their defense is the first thing to jump out. They had the NFL’s top-ranked defense this season, holding opponents to 275.9 yards per game during the regular season, 15.8 points per game, and 25.2 percent on third downs. “This group is playing with a lot of confidence, playing with a lot of speed,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “Not a lot of mistakes. It’s a scheme that just — they just basically say, ‘Hey, line up and try to come after us, try to beat us.’ That’s what you see on tape, and it’s a daunting task for us this week.” The Eagles, who also had a top-10 defense, played six of the other eight defenses in the top 10 this year: Denver, Arizona, Carolina, Dallas, Atlanta, and Chicago. They were 6-1 in those games with the only loss coming in the Week 17 game against the Cowboys, when the Eagles didn’t play their starters for much of the game. They topped 30 points in four of those games.
- Fletcher Cox might have been the best player on the field in the Eagles’ win on Saturday, and he’s going to need to have another big game against the Vikings this week. Cox’s statistics were impressive (one sack, two quarterback hits, two tackles for a loss), but his effect on the game is best understood when watching it over again. “He was a man on a mission and just took a lot of it upon himself and got the rest of the D-line going a little bit,” Pederson said. “But [he was] very disruptive around the quarterback, hitting Matt [Ryan] a little bit, a couple tackles for losses in there. And just this time of year, man, it’s just guys understand that it’s win and keep going or you don’t, and your season is over. He’s a guy that we lean on a lot defensively from a leadership role, and he stood out nice.” Look for more on Cox later this week.
- Pederson addressed why Jay Ajayi was absent for much of the second quarter. He said that he ultimately has control on what personnel is in the game, and he calls plays for running backs in particular situations. During the second quarter, he said the Eagles tried using tempo and getting LeGarrette Blount involved, which was the reason why Ajayi was not on the field. “It’s just the way it went,” Pederson said. (However, when looking at the play-by-play, the Eagles didn’t run no-huddle during that time, and they were using Corey Clement in pass-catching situations.) It would seem that the biggest reason was they had only one possession between the scoring drive when Ajayi played and the two-minute drive at the end of the half because of the fumbled punt. So the explanation from Saturday of the scarcity of plays makes more sense.
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— Zach Berman
What you need to know about the Eagles
- Doug Pederson pushed the right buttons the last two weeks. Now, he has to do it again.
- It’s good to be lucky … and good, writes Bob Ford.
- Pederson sees similarities between the Eagles and Vikings, Les Bowen writes in a story about Nick Foles’ game.
- What was the day after in Minnesota like? Bob Brookover is there.
- The Eagles are ready for fans in dog masks, Rob Tornoe reports.
- What’s the forecast for Sunday? Anthony Wood has it.
- If you missed Monday’s newsletter, it’s Foles vs. Case Keenum.
From the mailbag
How much of Viking's success is Shurmur? Thoughts on him coming back to town.
— Robert Marley Jr (@PhightenPhil) January 15, 2018
You need to give credit to offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, especially considering the Vikings lost Sam Bradford and Dalvin Cook. They were No. 11 in the NFL in offense this season, which is hard to do without your starting quarterback and running back. Case Keenum has stepped in and played at a high level, and they’re still getting production from the running game. Shurmur’s done a good job putting in that scheme and adjusting to the personnel. But the success is about the players more than anything else — they have formidable talent, including one of the best wide receiver combinations in the NFL (Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs), a good tight end (Kyle Rudolph), and an improved offensive line.
By the way, it sounds like the Eagles are going to see more of Shurmur in the coming years, because he’ll reportedly be the next Giants coach. Shurmur was in contention for the Eagles job last year.