'Us-against-the-world mentality' oozing from Eagles

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'Us-against-the-world mentality' oozing from Eagles

The wins keep piling up. And the doubters keep piling on.
Lose your star quarterback, your MVP candidate, and that's bound to happen. Certainly the Eagles' Super Bowl chances took a significant hit when Carson Wentz walked off the field in Los Angeles with a torn ACL.
Still … the Eagles have the best record in the NFL. They locked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs Monday night at the Linc, where they're 13-2 over the last two years — the best home record in the league since opening day 2016.
Win a home game and they're in the NFC Championship Game. Win two and they're in the Super Bowl.
"For us to even have success, we have to have that us-against-the-world mentality," Malcolm Jenkins said. "And I think it's so important for us to lock up that home-field advantage because now all of the teams that they want to talk about being frontrunners and favorites to win have to come through us.
"And if you ask anybody in this locker room, 'Do we think that we can win a game against anybody in the Linc on any given Sunday,' I think that answer would be yes, especially with the NFC Championship Game or the Super Bowl being on the line.
"Winning a home game … I’d take those odds."
Things haven't come easily for the Eagles lately. After winning nine straight games by an average of 17 points, they've lost to the Seahawks and scuffled to beat the Rams, Giants and Raiders, all in games that were in the balance in the final minutes.
But they've won them.
Overall, they've won nine straight home games, the longest active home winning streak in the NFL and fourth-longest home winning streak in franchise history.
"We're going to be facing good teams (in the playoffs), but I like to think we're a good team ourselves," Corey Graham said.
"I think people underestimate what we're able to accomplish. We've got 13 wins for a reason. Everybody's thinking just because we play somebody good that we're going to be down and out, that we can't win, but you don't win 13 games by mistake. We're a good team too and they're going to have to come here and play."
It's easy to get so focused on the Eagles' issues that you lose sight of the big picture.
And the Eagles have found ways to win three straight games, all with Nick Foles either starting or entering the game with the Eagles trailing.

No playoff-bound team has a longer winning streak. Only the 49ers have a longer winning streak leaguewide, winning four straight to go from 1-10 to 5-10.
Winning ugly is still winning.
"We need to be playing the best football at the end of the year," Zach Ertz said. "Any team in the NFL this time of the year wants to be peaking. I think we have a lot of good players on this team, and we have guys with a lot of pride that are going to figure this thing out.
"We have three weeks until we play a playoff game, so there’s time to improve and time to get better. That is all we are focused on.
“We have to play a complete game. I wouldn’t say we have to do anything crazy. Last week, the offense played great and the defense didn’t play great. This week, the offense played horribly and the defense played great. We just have to put it all together. It’s not panic mode by any means.”
After a meaningless game this weekend against the Cowboys at the Linc, the Eagles will sit out wild-card weekend before opening the playoffs the weekend of Jan. 13-14 at the Linc.
"We've played great at the Linc so far and not to have to travel anywhere and you're talking about winning one home game and we're in the NFC Championship Game," Jenkins said.
"That's all we're guaranteed right now, but if we were able to advance farther than that, everything has to come through the Linc, and that's a good place to be. We think our fan base can bring a little bit of an advantage, so we're excited to be home."

By just being himself, Doug Pederson has had masterful year

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By just being himself, Doug Pederson has had masterful year

Bill Belichick didn’t win a playoff game until his fourth year as an NFL head coach and didn’t reach a conference title game until his seventh year.

Don Shula didn’t win a playoff game until his sixth year as a head coach.

It took Dick Vermeil four years to win a playoff game, Dan Reeves six years, Tom Landry eight.

Heck, Pete Carroll didn’t reach a conference title game until his third head coaching stop, and Marv Levy didn’t even get to the playoffs until his eighth year as a head coach.

Just a little context.

Pederson has been magnificent this year, and out of everybody we talk about who’s played a role in the Eagles' success — from Carson Wentz to Nick Foles, Howie Roseman to Joe Douglas, Fletcher Cox to Malcolm Jenkins, Jim Schwartz to John DiFillippo, Jason Kelce to Alshon Jeffery — Pederson is the common thread that’s tied all of it together.

We saw last year that Pederson had a rare ability to keep a team together when faced with adversity. Whether it was the whole Sam Bradford situation before the season, Lane Johnson’s suspension, a couple arrests, two players publicly speaking out about mental health, or just keeping the thing on the rails after three straight late-season ugly losses, Pederson won over his players by confronting each issue openly and professionally and treating his players like grown men.

By the time the team training camp ended this past summer, Pederson had earned the respect of the veterans by preaching discipline without being over the top about it and by constantly keeping the lines of communication open with his players. 

Here’s a young, inexperienced coach who had a long but undistinguished playing career and no real track record or resume as a head coach trying to convince a locker room of Super Bowl winners and all-pros that he knows what he’s doing.

But he did that. Just by being himself. Tough, smart, open, honest.

And once you get guys like Malcolm Jenkins, Jason Peters, LeGarrette Blount and Alshon Jeffery to buy in, the younger guys just fall in line. 

And that might be the biggest challenge any head coach faces. Getting guys to believe in his message. To believe in him.

But Pederson has tremendous instincts when dealing with people, a real natural, honest way of getting his point across, and it enabled him to seamlessly win over the locker room. 

Once that happened, this team was built to withstand whatever challenge it faced. To withstand whatever roadblocks stood in its way.

And as it turned out, there were plenty of them. 

We don't have to run down the littany of season-ending injuries the Eagles faced, but what this team has accomplished without its MVP quarterback, its Hall of Fame left tackle, its best linebacker, its all-pro returner and its top special teamer is nothing less than astonishing.

Nick Foles is their quarterback and they're in the NFC Championship Game.

Think about the last month.

They came from behind in Los Angeles to beat the Rams after Wentz got hurt. They beat the Giants on the road. They beat the Raiders to clinch No. 1 seed. They "upset" the Falcons in a conference semifinal playoff game. 

For this football team to be one home win away from the Super Bowl after all it has been through speaks volumes about Pederson. He's guided this franchise through adversity that would have crushed some locker rooms, and he's done it in his second year as a head coach above the high school level.

Pederson found a way to get 53 guys to believe in themselves even when very few other people did. And they returned the favor by consistently playing smart, physical, disciplined football for him no matter who the opponent, no matter what the score, no matter how long that Injured Reserve list grew.

This has been a masterful year for Pederson, and anybody who can't see that just isn't looking very hard.

Why lack of touches for Jay Ajayi after 1st quarter?

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Why lack of touches for Jay Ajayi after 1st quarter?

Jay Ajayi wasn't hurt Saturday night. So why did he barely play after a huge first quarter?

Ajayi dominated the first quarter of the Eagles' 15-10 playoff win over the Falcons at the Linc with seven carries for 49 yards. But after a one-yard carry a minute into the second quarter, he didn't touch the ball again until the third quarter.

After his hot start, he didn't even get on the field on the Eagles' last two drives of the first half.

LeGarrette Blount actually had more carries than Ajayi after the first quarter, but netted only 19 yards on nine attempts, although he did score the Eagles' only touchdown from a yard out in the second quarter.

Ajayi never got into a rhythm after his long layoff. He had eight carries for five yards after the first quarter and finished with 15 carries for 54 yards along with four catches for 44 yards, including a 32-yard catch and run that was the Eagles' longest offensive play of the game.

Head coach Doug Pederson said Monday he just wanted to get Blount some work. He also said he likes to go hurry-up after long plays and was unable to sub Ajayi while the offense was going with tempo. But there weren't any plays longer than 15 yards while Ajayi sat.

Pederson said the decision on which back to use rests with him and not running backs coach Duce Staley.

“I ultimately control the personnel," he said. "Duce doesn’t sub them. I’m the one calling the plays, so I call for those guys in particular situations, and a couple times when we broke off a long run or a pass particularly — it’s a good time to go a little tempo. So whoever the back is at the time on the field, I just kept him in there.

"And [Blount] was heating up a little bit and we wanted to get him going as well and it’s just the way it went."

Ajayi had 35 of the 86 net yards on the Eagles' only touchdown drive of the game.

After that second-quarter TD drive, the Eagles ran 15 times for 17 yards, not including three Nick Foles kneel-downs.  

Pederson said all the backs know all the plays, but he just prefers different backs depending on what the Eagles are doing offensively. 

Of the Eagles’ 67 offensive plays, Ajayi played 29, Blount 20, Corey Clement 16 and Kenjon Barner one (see Snap Counts).

"The way it is set up is by design, by scheme design, a particular back might be good at a certain run scheme so we put that back in for that particular play," he said.