Believing now? You should … Eagles are in Super Bowl

Believing now? You should … Eagles are in Super Bowl

Corey Clement stood in his locker unable to put a coherent thought together.

"It feels fake right now," the rookie running back from Glassboro, New Jersey, said. "It's surreal. Is this even really happening? This is unbelievable."

Then he looked over at Alshon Jeffery in the next locker.

"Hey, Alshon," Clement said. "Alshon, man. I don't even know what to say. Are we really going to the Super Bowl?"

They really are going to the Super Bowl.

Imagine that.

The Eagles demolished the Vikings, 38-7, Sunday night in the NFC Championship Game and will face Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the hated Patriots in Super Bowl LII Feb. 4 in Minneapolis (see Roob's observations).

Surreal is a pretty good word.

They're in the Super Bowl because Nick Foles is rediscovering his 2013 magic (see story), they're in the Super Bowl because this defense is legitimately the best in the NFL, there in the Super Bowl because Doug Pederson is proving to be nothing less than a brilliant play-caller (see story), and they're in the Super Bowl because 53 guys that very few outsiders believed in never stopped believing in themselves.

“It’s something we said it yesterday, we all got a story here, man," Rodney McLeod said. "Every one of us. Late-round picks. Guys other teams gave up on. Guys nobody wanted. And you know what? Put that all together and you get this group.

"This is a group of guys that grind each and every day. Good work ethic. Come and play their butts off all the time no matter what. Unselfish guys. Just do their job. And that’s what you’ve got to love and that’s what it takes to win a championship."

The Eagles haven't won an NFL Championship since 1960, but don't bet against this team.

There's something special going on here, and if you don't see it, you're just not looking closely enough.

"It's mind-boggling to me," Brandon Graham said. "We went out there, and we did what we said we were going to do."

On offense? Foles was masterful, becoming the second quarterback in NFL history to complete 75 percent of his passes in back-to-back postseason games. The other is Joe Montana.

On defense? The Eagles spotted the Vikings seven points five minutes into the game, then overwhelmed them the rest of the way. They're the 13th team in NFL history to shut out back-to-back opponents in the second half of postseason games.

This was as dominating a performance as you'll ever see in the postseason (see breakdown).

The 31-point margin of victory is the largest in Eagles postseason history and fourth-largest ever in an NFC Championship Game.

"To win like that? It's just surreal," McLeod said. "We were the better team today. In every phase of the game.

"Started off rough. They come out and score on the opening drive, that doesn’t happen often on our defense. Just told the guys, 'Take a breath, relax, get back to basics.'

"Patrick Robinson gets a big pick-six and we start rolling (see story). I looked up at the scoreboard and it was like 31-7 and I was just like, 'Wow. Really?'"

So it's Eagles-Patriots for the second time in 14 years.

"It's going to be crazy," said Zach Ertz, who caught eight passes for 93 yards. "The Super Bowl is a huge stage and a huge opportunity, and it's going to be a lot of fun. It's something you dream about growing up as a kid, and now we're here.

"No one thought we were going to be here after Carson (Wentz) went down, but it's the resilience of this team and how much we love paying for one another. I hope you guys can see it out there each and every game."

Pederson's only previous head coaching experience was at a high school in Louisiana.

Now he's one win from delivering the first championship in 57 years to Philadelphia.

"I love coaching this football team," he said. "I love coaching those players in there. It's a tremendous feeling, quite honestly.

"And the thing about this team is all the adversity and negativity and everything that surrounds this team, these guys don't listen to that. I don't listen to that. They come to work and practice hard every day and they love being around each other.

"[I wanted] that type of culture in the building where people enjoyed coming to work, and our players and coaches really enjoy that. Now we've got to build again.

"When we started way back in OTAs, you kind of know you might have at least a good team that could compete for the NFC East. As the season goes, you start losing some of your top players to injury. You just kind of see the fight in the guys and the resilience in the guys. Then you lose your quarterback here at the end.

"But the guys just kept battling. For us to believe in one another and now to be in this spot? I'm just so happy for these guys."

There have been more talented Eagles teams. But it's hard to imagine an Eagles team that was close off the field, that was this unselfish, that had such a kinship with its coach.

"I can remember this team showing up in April and talking about being in this place, talking about our dreams, aspirations, and focusing on the grind," Malcolm Jenkins said.

"Guys being unselfish, adding guys along the way that added to the team and continuing to push.

"And every time we won and had some success — and we even had some adversity — the team believed more and more. It's been awesome to be a part of."

Nick Foles' journey to Super Bowl hard to comprehend

Nick Foles' journey to Super Bowl hard to comprehend

Nick Foles stood at the lectern in the media room that resides in the bowels of Lincoln Financial Field with a slight look of bewilderment. 

This was well after the Eagles finished off the Vikings by a final score of 38-7 to advance to the Super Bowl (see Roob's observations). It was well after he was pulled from the game early to get a standing ovation from the loudest crowd he said he's ever heard at the Linc. It was well after the Eagles were awarded the George Halas Trophy and after the green confetti swirled in the air above their massive celebration at the 25-yard line. 

Now, he was standing there, wearing his gray NFC champion hat and T-shirt, trying to find the right words. It was really the only time he stumbled all night. 

"Words can't really describe what I feel right now," he said, shaking his head. 

Foles, the 29-year-old who almost walked away from the game less than two years ago (see story), had just played the game of his life to send the Eagles to Super Bowl LII (see breakdown)

But so soon after it all happened, Foles just couldn't put it into perspective. 

"I haven't even had time to comprehend what is going on, to be honest," Foles said. "I don't know if I ever will. When I was up on that stage, that's something you dream about as a kid."

Lucky for Foles, his teammates had no trouble explaining what he did to the Vikings Sunday night in the NFC Championship Game. 

Foles shredded the No. 1 defense in the NFL (see report card).

"The guy was unconscious," his backup, Nate Sudfeld said. "He was making every right decision, making dimes all around the field, doing what we know he's capable of. I was really happy for him."

Before Foles was pulled in favor of Sudfeld with just a couple minutes left in the game, he put on an absolute clinic. 

Foles completed 26 of 33 passes for 352 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 141.4. 

Here's a list of players who have completed 78 percent of their passes for at least 350 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in NFL playoff history: Kurt Warner, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and now … Nick Foles. 

Foles is also just the third Eagles quarterback to ever throw for 350 yards in a playoff game and his passer rating is second in franchise playoff history. 

Sure, Foles once threw a record-tying seven touchdowns in a game, but Sunday's performance came in the NFC Championship Game and pushed the lovable underdog Eagles into the Super Bowl. 

"He was just playing with confidence and playing relaxed," said Alshon Jeffery, who caught two of Foles' three touchdown passes. "He was playing the game plan. That is what we expect and know what he is capable of. In 2013, he did the same thing. There are no surprises." 

Foles spent the entire week trying to act like he wasn't about to play in the biggest game of his life. He was loose, calm, he tried to stick with the same routine that allowed him to get to this point. 

It seemed to work. 

"All week he's been calm, he's been confident," head coach Doug Pederson said. "He's been energetic. He's everything we knew he was. He's been that way now for two weeks and it's shown on the field." 

Although the Eagles' offense sputtered on its first drive, there were opportunities to make plays and the Eagles saw them. They stuck with their game plan and eventually, the field just opened up for Foles. The Eagles had an aggressive game plan and knew they would be able to attack the Vikings downfield. 

Foles said it didn't take him long to realize he was locked in and something special was happening. He saw it in his teammates' faces on the sideline and in the locker room. 

"Everyone was just locked in," Foles said. "I'm going to say it again: we lean on each other, we play for each other and that's what's special about this team." 

Foles isn't Carson Wentz. He's never going to be Wentz. And it's still a shame that Wentz was lost for the season on that December night in Los Angeles. But as owner Jeff Lurie said after the game, this is why they paid a lot of money and made bringing back Foles a priority. 

It seems like an awfully long time ago on Christmas Day, when Foles really struggled against the Raiders. Back then, everyone thought the Eagles were dead, except for the Eagles. 

Foles said his teammates never doubted him. He would have known if they did.  

As Foles was asked about what Pederson said to him as he exited the game, Foles was finally able to reflect. He remembered that it was the Eagles who took a chance on him coming out of college. It was Pederson who led the only private workout he had before he got into the NFL. And now he's going to take that team to the Super Bowl. 

"In that moment," Foles said, "to win that game for him and this organization is something very special."

Turns out he found the right words after all.  

For Blount, Long, Patriots just another 'faceless' opponent

For Blount, Long, Patriots just another 'faceless' opponent

Imagine how rare it is to win a Super Bowl with one team, then sign with another team, then wind up reaching another Super Bowl the next year only to face your previous team once you get there.

The Eagles have two guys who've done that.

LeGarrette Blount and Chris Long, two offseason free-agent acquisitions who have meant so much to the Eagles' 2017 run, will face their former team Feb. 4 in Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis a year after winning Super Bowl 50 with the Patriots over the Falcons in Houston.

“Me and L.G., we made a pact," Long said at his locker, long after the Eagles finished off the Vikings 38-7 to reach the third Super Bowl in franchise history (see Roob's observations).

"We talked about it, that we’d travel together. He’s one of my favorite teammates I’ve had. Obviously, he was a big part of so much of their success there and he’s brought a lot to this team.

“I signed here first and then I hit him up. I was so excited when he signed. Just in a year there, we got to be pretty good boys and we're traveling companions now."

Blount and Long both played key roles Sunday night, Blount with the go-ahead touchdown, an 11-yarder midway through the second quarter and Long with a fumble recovery after Derrick Barnett strip-sacked Case Keenum deep in Eagles territory, also in the second quarter.

The Patriots have gotten big-time contributions from former Eagles Dion Lewis and Danny Amendola.

Now the Eagles are returning the favor.

“It’s extremely special," Blount said of making consecutive Super Bowls with different teams.

"I came here for an opportunity to do something special and we’re doing it. We’ve had a long season, we lost warriors on the way, and we kept grinding and fought through it."

The game was tied 7-all when Blount burst up the middle, trampled Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo and scored to give the Eagles a 14-7 lead.

The Vikings never recovered.

“It was blocked perfectly," Blount said. "Always going to be one guy left for the running back, which was the safety, and you’ve got to either make him miss or make him make a tackle.

“It gives you a spark on your team, those kind of runs. Just the mentality that we run with, that our running backs run with. A mean mentality with a chip on our shoulders. Runs like that spark a run or the defense getting going. A lot of energy transfers."

Blount's touchdown run was his 10th in the postseason, seventh-most in NFL playoff history behind six Hall of Famers — Emmitt Smith, Franco Harris, Thurman Thomas, Terrell Davis, John Riggins and Marcus Allen.

But don't expect him to get excited about that stuff.

“There’s not really enough time to go for a walk down memory lane," he said. "We’re going to enjoy this one and we’ve got two weeks to prepare for a really, really good Patriots team."

Blount spent most of the last four years with the Patriots and is the 10th-leading rusher in Patriots history. But he said facing the Patriots in Minneapolis doesn't mean anything.

"No more special than anyone else," he said. "We play against faceless opponents every week.

“I don’t care nothing about that."

Blount is one of those guys who carries a bit of a bad reputation with him. And certainly, there are some things in his distant past he's probably not proud of.

But he's been nothing but an exemplary teammate in this year with the Eagles.

“You hear certain things about everybody but one of the best teammates I’ve ever had, man," Long said. "He’s just got a bad rap a little bit. I love him. Everybody around here loves him, everyone in New England loves him. Everywhere he goes, people love him."