Finding a single word to describe a football team and its Super Bowl-winning season normally is very difficult.
But not with this team. Not with the 2017 Eagles.
Color them resilient.
They say the best team doesn’t necessarily win the Super Bowl. They say the healthiest one does.
If you are a good team and you can get to January with a little bit of momentum in your pocket and most of your key players still able to walk without a crutch, then you have a chance.
The Eagles somehow made it to January with 13-3 momentum despite several season-ending injuries to key players that should have made what happened Sunday night in Minneapolis next to impossible.
“It’s crazy,’’ left guard Stefen Wisniewski said Wednesday, about 60 hours after the Eagles’ 41-33 win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. “We really have no business being Super Bowl champs considering how many injuries we had.
“Most teams, if they had that many injuries, would’ve folded up and lost and just said, ‘Ah, well, we had too many injuries.’
“But this team was extremely resilient. It’s a credit to a lot of people. It’s a credit to [football operations VP] Howie [Roseman] and his people for putting together such a deep team.
“And it’s a credit to all the guys that were on the bench and waiting that they were ready to go when their time came. I mean [Nick] Foles and V [left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai] and all those guys. If those guys aren’t working like they’re trained to be a starter when their time comes, they wouldn’t have been ready. But they all were. They all stepped up and filled in great. It’s a credit to those guys.’’
The Eagles lost cornerback Ronald Darby (ankle) and kicker Caleb Sturgis (hip) in Week 1. They lost their most versatile running back and top punt returner, Darren Sproles (ACL and forearm), in Week 3.
They lost their top special-teams ace, Chris Maragos (MCL), in Week 6. They lost their starting middle linebacker and defensive play-caller, Jordan Hicks (Achilles), in Week 7. They lost their nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle, Jason Peters (ACL), in the same game.
Then, in Week 14, seemingly, the death blow. Quarterback Carson Wentz, the heart and soul of their offense, tore his ACL and was lost for the season.
Wentz’s injury would’ve been the perfect opportunity for the Eagles to feel sorry for themselves and wave the white flag. But their team leaders never allowed that to happen.
In the visitors’ locker room at the Los Angeles Coliseum, right after Wentz got hurt against the Rams, safety Malcolm Jenkins addressed the team and said that surrender wasn’t an option.
“Guys kind of had a feeling what [the injury] was,’’ Wentz said. “Malcolm addressed it great. It was, hey, next man up. That’s been the mentality we’ve had all season long. No one flinched. No one blinked.’’
Every replacement head coach Doug Pederson put out there did his job, whether it was rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas filling in for Darby for two months, or Jake Elliott stepping in for Sturgis and kicking a franchise-record 61-yard field goal with no time left against the Giants in Week 3 or a 46-yarder late in the game Sunday night to turn up the heat on Tom Brady and the Patriots, or Vaitai holding his own in place of future Hall of Famer Peters, or linebackers Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks stepping up their game in Hicks’ absence, or, of course, the simply amazing postseason performance of Super Bowl MVP Foles.
Starting with that cool-under-pressure, third-and-8 completion to Nelson Agholor late in the game against the Rams after Wentz went down, to his MVP performance Sunday night, he made fools of all of us who thought the Eagles’ Super Bowl hopes flat-lined when Wentz got hurt.
Foles completed 28 of 43 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns and caught the never-to-be-forgotten “Philly Special’’ for a fourth TD against the Patriots.
Foles finished with a 115.7 passer rating in the postseason, including a 158.1 rating on third down. He completed 11 of 14 third-down passes for 169 yards and two TDs on third down against the Patriots.
“We just have really good depth,’’ defensive end Chris Long said. “We were built the right way. The talent was distributed evenly throughout all of the position groups. And we’ve got great coaches, starting with Doug, who were positive and resilient.’’
Anyone who has been in their situation knows how tough it was for injured players such as Hicks, Peters and Wentz not to be able to be out there with their teammates during this incredible run.
But all of them stayed involved with the team even if they couldn’t contribute on the field. Peters mentored Vaitai and offered valuable advice to the rest of the offensive line. Hicks was a regular in linebacker meetings.
Wentz was there for Foles. Maragos became an extension of special-teams coordinator Dave Fipp. Sproles was texting his punt-return replacement, Kenjon Barner, with a scouting report as he was being wheeled into surgery. I mean, who does that? Sproles, that’s who.
“We had a resilient team, man,’’ Hicks said. “We had everything against us. But the guys in the locker room stuck together and ultimately believed. And that’s what it’s all about.
“As long as you have a tight-knit group that doesn’t let outside distractions leak inside, man, special things can happen. And they did.’’
They certainly did.
“We just believed in each other,’’ safety Rodney McLeod said. “No matter what the circumstance was, or who was under center or whatever, in between those white lines we believed in them. And they believed in themselves.
“That’s what’s most important. You’ve got to believe in yourself first. After that, it just builds confidence. That’s what you saw all year from guys like Rasul Douglas, from Jaylen Watkins, from Nick, from V. The list goes on.
“Everybody just played their role and did it well.’’
That, in a nutshell, is what resilience is all about.
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