Without Dannell Ellerbe, Eagles went small on defense

Without Dannell Ellerbe, Eagles went small on defense

Here's the most important thing you need to know about Eagles' snap counts from Sunday night: Nate Sudfeld got three snaps. 

He carried the ball three times for negative-four yards. Victory formation. 

The Eagles are heading to Super Bowl LII. And this is the play time recipe that got them there: 

On defense, the Eagles were without starting MIKE linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, so Najee Goode started but played just six snaps. 

Without Ellerbe the Eagles elected to go with a smaller lineup. Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod didn't leave the field, playing 67 defensive snaps. Patrick Robinson played 56 and Corey Graham played 35. Getting a big lead in this game played into the Eagles' hand. They probably wanted to get to a smaller lineup. 

Fletcher Cox played 53 of 67 snaps (79 percent). He played 90 percent in the last game, but the Eagles' huge lead in this one certainly allowed for more rotation. 

Rookie Derek Barnett actually played 33 snaps, two more than Chris Long. But both players came up with huge plays in the 38-7 win. 

On offense, the entire offensive line played all 65 snaps, while Nick Foles played 62. He was pulled early and got a huge ovation from fans who watched him slice and dice the NFL's best defense all evening. 

Jay Ajayi led the way in snaps for running backs with 30 and finished with 99 all-purpose yards. Corey Clement got 21 snaps, while LeGarrette Blount had just 11. But Blount made the most of his snaps; he had that big 11-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to give the Eagles the lead. 

Here are full snap counts from the NFC Championship Game win: 

Offense
Lane Johnson - 65 snaps (100 percent)
Halapoulivaati Vaitai - 65 (100)
Brandon Brooks - 65 (100)
Stefen Wisniewski - 65 (100)
Jason Kelce - 65 (100)
Nick Foles - 62 (95)
Alshon Jeffery - 59 (91)
Zach Ertz - 53 (82)
Nelson Agholor - 46 (71)
Torrey Smith - 41 (63)
Jay Ajayi - 30 (46) 
Brent Celek - 28 (43)
Corey Clement - 21 (32)
Mack Hollins - 15 (23)
Trey Burton - 13 (20)
LeGarrette Blount - 11 (17)
Isaac Seumalo - 8 (12)
Nate Sudfeld - 3 (5)

Defense
Rodney McLeod - 67 snaps (100 percent)
Malcolm Jenkins - 67 (100)
Nigel Bradham - 67 (100)
Jalen Mills - 67 (100)
Ronald Darby - 66 (99)
Patrick Robinson - 56 (84)
Brandon Graham - 53 (79)
Fletcher Cox - 53 (79)
Mychal Kendricks - 37 (55)
Vinny Curry - 36 (54)
Corey Graham - 35 (52)
Derek Barnett - 33 (49)
Chris Long - 31 (46)
Tim Jernigan - 27 (40)
Beau Allen - 24 (36)
Destiny Vaeao - 11 (16)
Najee Goode - 6 (9)
Nate Gerry - 1 (1) 

Jeff Lurie tickled that Eagles are Super Bowl underdogs

Jeff Lurie tickled that Eagles are Super Bowl underdogs

Jeff Lurie just watched his team pull off an incredible 38-7 smackdown over the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game. 

He stood on stage and was handed the George Halas Trophy and got to celebrate with coaches and players. 

There was just one more bit of good news to come. 

"Are we underdogs again?" Lurie asked. "Great! Great. Great. Somehow I'm not surprised. I think it's great. I always try to root for underdogs, so I think if we can — it comes with an understanding that this is a very proud group of players and coaches and you tell them no one thinks you're going to win, you're not good enough. 

"With all the hard work and success they've had, the best record in the NFL and all of that, and you tell them that. It doesn't register."

Yes, the Eagles are underdogs in Super Bowl LII against the Patriots. They're either 5½- or 6-point underdogs against Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Pats. 

And it's really not hard to figure out why. 

The Eagles have overcome so many injuries all season. That's really what has made this run so improbable and special. Lurie said the adversity the Eagles have faced this season is "unprecedented." 

The last time Lurie spoke publicly, in early September, he was hesitant to say whether or not he thought the Eagles were a playoff team. He said it was "foolhardy" to make predictions. 

So has this season surprised him? 

"It surprised me because of all the injuries," Lurie said. "I thought going into this season we were going to be a very good football team. How good, that's hard to judge. 

"If you told me before September, 'No you're not going to have Jason Peters, you're not going to have Darren Sproles, you're not going to have Jordan Hicks, you're eventually not going to have Carson Wentz, you're going to lose your best special teams player in (Chris) Maragos — oh, by the way, your field goal kicker, you're not going to have him either' — it's a lot of body blows at that point. If you had said that, I would have told you, 'No, I don't think we'll make the playoffs.' Right? So the resiliency amongst this group is phenomenal."  

Lurie admitted it was tough when Wentz went down in Los Angeles in early December but said they brought in Nick Foles and paid him a lot of money for a reason. Lurie said he isn't surprised by how well Foles played on Sunday. 

The Super Bowl in two weeks will be a rematch of the last time the Eagles went to the game; they lost in 2005 to the Patriots. Lurie said the rematch doesn't add any extra motivation. 

So what does he think the Eagles' chances are? 

"We go into every game expecting to win," he said. "This team, we haven't lost many games and we have a very, very focused group of players and coaches. They are focused on each practice, each play at practice, each film session, and that's how you have to be. That's how you have to be to have a maximum performance and I expect they will do all — this is a team that works hard."

Doug Pederson's 'tricks up his sleeve' keep coming

Doug Pederson's 'tricks up his sleeve' keep coming

A few hours before the Eagles played the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game Sunday night, the Jaguars doled out a free lesson about being timid in the playoffs.

The Jaguars were clinging to a 14-10 lead when they got the ball back with 55 seconds left in the second quarter, with two timeouts, on their own 25. Head coach Doug Marrone had Blake Bortles take a knee twice, happy to head into the locker room with a slight lead.

You know what eventually happened. The Patriots hung around and came back to win (see story). They'll see the Eagles in the Super Bowl (see Roob's observations).

Watching that scenario unfold, plenty of Eagles fans were probably thinking if the Eagles were in a similar situation, "Doug Pederson would never stay safe like that," and they'd be right. Because the Eagles were faced with a situation like that … and Pederson didn't play it safe.

In the first half of their 38-7 romping over the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game (see breakdown), the Eagles got the ball back with 29 seconds in the first half, when they already had a 21-7 lead. So they marched down the field to kick a 38-yard field goal.

The aggressive Pederson never let his foot off the gas (see report card).

"I just told myself before the game I was going to maintain the aggressiveness in this ballgame," Pederson said. "Listen, it was, a: you win, you keep playing. You lose, you're going home. I didn't want to go home and regret any decision."

Perhaps no play exemplified Pederson's aggressive nature more than the flea flicker early in the third quarter that yielded a 41-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith and put the Eagles up 31-7.

The Eagles had their foot on the Vikings' throats and Pederson gave the signal to step down.

"We love it," said Nick Foles, who admitted he couldn't remember ever running a flea flicker before. "I think he just has such a great feel for the game. He played quarterback and he's coached for a long time. He can feel it."

The flea flicker was a play the Eagles just started practicing and they ran it just a few times during practice this week. Pederson said they used it against the Vikings because they saw opportunities to exploit them down the field. Pederson was dead on.

Rookie Corey Clement was the running back who took the handoff and then pitched the ball back to Foles. After the game, he thanked his position coach Duce Staley for allowing him, a rookie, to be in that situation.

What was Clement thinking when the play got called in?

"S---, I'll do it," Clement said. "You just don't flinch."

After Clement tossed the ball back to Foles, the quarterback unleashed a deep pass to Smith down the sideline. Smith redeemed himself after an earlier drop and hauled it in.

"I didn't know they were going to call it," Smith said. "Coach P has some tricks up his sleeve."

Pederson has had tricks up his sleeve all season. While he hasn't necessarily run gadget plays like the one he pulled out Sunday night, he has been somewhat of a mad scientist when it comes to play-calling. Last week, offensive coordinator Frank Reich described Pederson's play-calling style as "unorthodox."

A week after putting together a gem of a game against the Falcons, Pederson seemingly coached circles around Mike Zimmer and put together a game plan that helped Foles lead his team to the Super Bowl (see story).

One thing is for sure: Pederson is aggressive. And it seems like his entire team feeds off of it.

"I think they do. I hope they do," Pederson said. "Because I've got a lot of trust in them and I think they've got a lot of trust in me that I'm going to make the right decision. It ultimately comes down to the players on the field. But I do believe they feel that. As long as I'm doing it and the decision is right by them and I'm not putting them in a bad situation, then, yeah, I think they feed off of it and start believing in that."