Alshon Jeffery

Jeffery's role, Pederson's personality, and more in Roob's observations

Jeffery's role, Pederson's personality, and more in Roob's observations

Danny Amendola and Dion Lewis, record-setting third-down conversions, and Vince and Mike Lombardi highlight Monday's edition of 10 random Super Bowl observations, which will appear every day between today and Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4 in Minneapolis.

That should be 140 total random Super Bowl observations! 

1. You could just sense Nick Foles and Alshon Jeffery building up their chemistry over the past few weeks, and in these two playoff games Jeffery has played like the star the Eagles hoped they were getting when they signed him. Jeffery was 4 for 61 against the Falcons and 5 for 85 with two TDs against the Vikings. Foles targeted him five times and he caught every one, including that 53-yard TD on a scramble drill. Jeffery needs 66 yards in the Super Bowl to break the franchise record for receiving yards in a single postseason (211 in 2008 by none other than Kevin Curtis). Jeffery is just blossoming now. His two TDs Sunday give him 11 this year, and only Harold Carmichael, Tommy McDonald, Terrell Owens and Mike Quick have had more in a season in franchise history. He just looks more and more comfortable each week, especially in the red zone, where he has a real flair for going up and getting the ball. I have a hunch he's going to have a big game in Minneapolis.

2. The Eagles have allowed 15 second-half points in their last five games. 

3. Pretty funny after everything that’s transpired over the past few months that the Super Bowl winner receives the Lombardi Trophy. Definitely not named after Mike! 

4. According to Pro Football Focus, 69 of Jay Ajayi’s 73 rushing yards Sunday night came after first contact. That means 94.5 percent of his yards came after he was hit. That’s remarkable and speaks to just what a tough runner he is. 

5. Corey Graham was such an underrated signing. He’s been very solid as a third safety and like newcomers LeGarrette Blount, Torrey Smith, Chris Long and Dannell Ellerbe, he’s a winner and has a Super Bowl ring. He knows what it takes. Graham’s interception Sunday was his third career postseason INT, and only two active players — Antoine Bethea and Tramon Williams, with four each — have more. Solid guy, solid player.

6. Soon after the media was allowed in the locker room after the game Sunday night, linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill snuck over to this panel on the wall and plugged his iPhone into a jack and instantly music began blasting over speakers throughout the locker room. Grugier-Hill closed his eyes and started dancing. Rodney McLeod cracked up but yelled over, “Come on, Kamu. You can’t be playing Lil Yachty in the locker room while the media is in here,” and everybody cracked up. This team is so loose and having so much fun right now. Doug Pederson deserves so much credit for letting these guys show their personality all the time, whether it’s in an end zone celebration, in the locker room before a game or on the sideline with the German Shepherd masks. If you’re loose, you can just go out and play your game. If you’re tight, it’s tough to be at your best. Pederson understands this as well as any coach I’ve ever been around.

7. Amazing that the Patriots’ top two receivers this postseason are former Eagles: Receiver Danny Amendola (18 for 196) and running back Dion Lewis (16 for 111). Amendola spent the early part of the 2009 season on the Eagles’ practice squad before the Rams signed him. Lewis was the Eagles’ fifth-round pick in 2011 and spent his first two NFL seasons with the Eagles before getting traded to the Browns for linebacker Emmanuel Acho.

8. The Eagles’ 456 yards of offense Sunday are the most they’ve ever had in a playoff game, two more than they had in the 2008 NFC Championship Game. It was the second most the Vikings have allowed in their 49 franchise playoff games. The Giants netted 518 in their 41-0 win over the Vikings at Giants Stadium in 2001. The Eagles' 27 first downs are also a franchise playoff record. 

9. I can’t get past the fact that 24 months ago Pederson had never coached above the high school level and Foles was mulling retirement. Twenty-four months ago! Look at ‘em now! This is why sports rule!

10. Maybe the craziest thing about Sunday’s game was the Eagles’ ability to convert on third down against a defense that came into the game historically among the best in NFL history on third down at 25.4 percent. The Eagles were 10 for 14 on third down, good for 71.4 percent. That’s third best against the Vikings in any game — regular season or postseason — since 1991, which is as far back as available records go. To put that 71.4 percent figure in perspective, the Eagles converted more third downs Sunday (10) than the Vikings’ last four opponents had combined (eight). 

Underdog, huh? Eagles headed to Super Bowl

Underdog, huh? Eagles headed to Super Bowl

BOX SCORE

The Eagles have been dead for weeks, right? The only problem is that no one ever told them. 

They're more alive than ever. 

And now, without their franchise quarterback, their Hall of Fame left tackle, their starting middle linebacker, their most dynamic offensive weapon, their special teams captain and their original kicker, the Eagles did it again. 

As improbable as it sounds … the Eagles are going to the Super Bowl. 

The Birds got off to a rough start, but clamped down and absolutely demolished the Vikings, 38-7, at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday in the NFC Championship Game (see Roob's observations). They'll see the Patriots in Minnesota in two weeks for Super Bowl LII (see story).  

The fourth quarter became a party as fans were doing the Skol chant — they changed it to "Foles" — mockingly and the entire Eagles' sideline danced along to a Meek Mill song. 

This is the Eagles' first trip back to the Super Bowl since the 2004 season, when they lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville. 

They'll get another crack at Tom Brady and the Patriots, who beat the Jaguars, 24-20, earlier in the day. The Patriots won the game but didn't look invincible. They needed to stage a late comeback to take down the Jaguars. 

Nick Foles claimed he was calm and confident all week and he certainly looked like it in the NFC Championship Game. Sure, the play-calling helped, but Foles had a simply incredible game. He played loose and demolished the best defense in the NFL (see story).

Foles turned in an all-time performance. He completed 26 of 33 passes for 352 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He had a passer rating of 141.4. 

With the loss, the Vikings missed a chance to become the first team to ever play in a Super Bowl it's hosting. Oh well. 

The Eagles actually got off to a terrible start Sunday. All three phases chipped in. First, the defense gave up a touchdown drive to start the game. Then the offense missed chances and had to punt. Then, they got a fair catch interference call on special teams. 

Things were going badly until that Patrick Robinson pick-six. Chris Long forced the pressure and during the 50-yard return, the Linc got so loud the press box shook. 

After last week's divisional round win over the Falcons, head coach Doug Pederson called another masterful game (see story). He put on a clinic against the Vikings, pushing all the right buttons as the Eagles began to push around the NFL's best defense (see story).

Turning point
Long turned that corner and affected Case Keenum's throw enough to allow the ball to hang in the air for Robinson. After Robinson picked off the pass, he took it 50 yards to the house and momentum had officially swung the other way (see story).

Key stat
The Eagles' 38 points are their second most in playoff history and their margin of victory (31 points) is the biggest in franchise history. 

The 38 points the Eagles scored are the most the Vikings have allowed all season. They had allowed 34 in their last three games combined. 

Offensive stud
For all the questions about Foles over the last few weeks, he answered them Sunday. Foles was incredible. He got into a rhythm early and is now leading the Eagles into the Super Bowl (see report card)

Offensive dud
This was about to go to Torrey Smith for dropping a deep pass early, but he totally redeemed himself when he caught that deep touchdown pass on the flea flicker. 

Defensive stud
Long is 32 years old, but he isn't playing like it. He's rejuvenated and made some huge plays Sunday. None were bigger than the one that led to Robinson's pick-six. 

Defensive dud
Najee Goode gave up that early touchdown to Kyle Rudolph that gave the Vikings an early lead. It looked like he didn't know what was going on. 

Key plays 
• Foles threw his third touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to cap off a 92-yard drive and give the Eagles a 38-7 lead. 

• On 4th-and-goal in the third quarter, it looked like Adam Thielen caught a ball in the end zone, but the replay showed it clearly hit the ground. The Vikings turned the ball over on downs. 

• Pederson dialed up a flea flicker on his first drive of the second half and it worked perfectly. Corey Clement took the handoff, tossed it back to Foles, who hit Smith down the field for a 41-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a 31-7 lead. 

• The Eagles got the ball back with just 29 seconds in the half, but Pederson didn't play it scared. Instead, the Eagles attacked and were able to get down the field and kick a 38-yarder to take a 24-7 lead into the locker room. 

• On 3rd-and-10 from their own 47-yard line with under two minutes left in the first half, Foles avoided pressure and threw a 53-yard bomb for a touchdown to Alshon Jeffery to give the Eagles a 21-7 lead. 

• In the second quarter, the Vikings took the ball from their own 15-yard line and got all the way down to the Eagles' 16 before rookie Derek Barnett came around the left tackle and stripped the ball from Keenum. The Vikings' six-minute drive didn't get them any points. 

• Jim Schwartz dialed up a safety blitz on 3rd-and-2 and Malcolm Jenkins came free to force a quick throw from Keenum, who seemed bothered by the pressure. 

• LeGarrette Blount ran over safety Andrew Sendejo on an 11-yard run to get into the end zone early in the second quarter. That gave the Eagles a 14-7 lead. Just before that, Pederson dialed up a little quick pass to Zach Ertz on 3rd-and-short to convert. The Blount touchdown capped off a 75-yard drive. 

• Long got to Keenum to provide pressure and alter his throw that hung up in the air. Robinson picked it off and had an incredible return of 50 yards for a pick-six to tie the game at 7-7. It was the second-longest pick-six in Eagles postseason history. 

• On the Eagles' first drive, Smith dropped a ball he should have had deep and then Trey Burton couldn't get his feet down on a key third-down pass. For some reason, Burton left his feet and jumped to make the catch. 

• Keenum hit Rudolph for a 25-yard touchdown to cap the opening drive of the game. Goode, starting in place of Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring), looked lost before the play and didn't seem ready. Rudolph blew past him and was wide open for a touchdown.

Injuries
Linebacker Ellerbe (hamstring) was inactive after being listed as questionable coming into the weekend. Ellerbe was questionable last week, too, but was able to play against the Falcons. Goode started in his place Sunday. 

Up next
The Eagles are heading to Minnesota. They'll face the Patriots in Super Bowl LII in two weeks. 

Unselfish veterans key to Eagles' offensive success

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AP Images

Unselfish veterans key to Eagles' offensive success

When LeGarrette Blount was a rookie with the Buccaneers back in 2010, he wanted the ball. All the time. Every snap. Most rookies do.

Didn't happen. Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olsen — who was at the Linc last weekend with the Falcons — made sure former 1,000-yard rusher Cadillac Williams got his touches, as well.

Blount respected Williams but wasn't crazy about the arrangement.

"Obviously, I wanted the football," Blount said of his younger self. "I felt like I was the better back, but Cadillac Williams had been a top-5 pick a few years earlier, he had been Rookie of the Year, he had an amazing career before his knee injury (in 2007).

"And Earnest Graham was one of my teammates, and he would just be like, ‘Man, be patient, wait your turn, it’ll come full circle, I promise you.’ 

"And so I waited and I was patient and my turn did come, and from then on I figured, 'OK, patience is the big key.' Don’t worry about yourself. Keep on grinding and preparing, and when your chance comes just make the best of it."

Seven years later, Blount has essentially become Earnest Graham, the wise old veteran who preaches patience and unselfishness to his younger teammates.

The Eagles don't have a 1,000-yarder rusher, they don't have a 1,000-yard receiver, but they do have 13 regular-season wins, a playoff win over the Falcons and a spot Sunday in the NFC Championship Game.

They're only the fifth team in the last 30 years to play in a conference title game without a 1,000-yard rusher or receiver. And they're the first in 11 years to get this far without anybody even reaching 900 yards.

And without veteran stars like Blount and Alshon Jeffery setting the tone with their unselfish approach, this sort of balanced approach to offense just doesn't work.

“We’ve had games where I didn’t have any carries, we’ve had games where Alshon didn’t have any catches, and we’re winning, and that’s the overall goal," Blount said.

"We couldn’t care less how many catches or how many carries or how many yards any one guy has. We all have one common goal in hand. We all have one thing that we all want more than anything."

We've all seen what happens when a star receiver or running back mouths off about his role or even complain quietly in the locker room to his teammates.

It creates hostility and jealousy. It puts coaches in a tricky position. It can sway a quarterback to target players to keep them happy instead of just running the offense. And worst of all, it can influence younger impressionable players to behave the same way.

These things can all crush a team.

But when guys like Blount, a two-time Super Bowl winner who led the NFL in touchdowns last year, and Jeffery, a Pro Bowler and two-time 1,000-yard receiver, are unselfish, team-first guys, it does the opposite. The young guys always want to be like the veterans, and when those veterans are setting an unselfish tone, it has a ripple effect throughout the roster.

"Me coming in as a young guy I already had that mindset when I got here that whatever the team needs that’s what I’m going to do," rookie receiver Mack Hollins said.

"But when you see your stars doing the same thing? That's huge. If you have guys who are demanding the ball or demanding touches, whatever they’re demanding, once you start demanding stuff, that’s when everything starts to fall apart. 

"You demand stuff, the ball ends up in places it’s not supposed to be and then you stop winning games. Having older guys, your so-called stars, that aren’t worried about what they get, they’re only worried about what we get, that’s critical to our success.”

The last team to reach a conference championship game without a 1,000-yard receiver or runner was the 2006 Patriots. The last to do it in the NFC was the 2003 Eagles and that was more a lack of talent than a real sense of unselfishness. The last NFC team to reach a Super Bowl without a 1,000-yard runner or receiver was the 1996 Packers.

Guess who was a backup quarterback on that team.

Doug Pederson.

It's Pederson who has set the tone for this team's steadfast unselfishness, but it wouldn't work if guys like Jeffery and Blount didn't totally buy in.

"I didn't have to sell it too much," Pederson said. "These guys are unselfish players. They are team players No. 1, and they are great additions to our football team and they have helped us get to this position in this conference championship.

"So it's not a big sell with them. Bottom line is both those guys just want to win the game."

The win last weekend against the Falcons was typical. Six guys had between three and five catches and between 24 and 61 yards.

During the regular season, three receivers had between 789 and 824 yards. Seven others had at least 120 receiving yards. And five running backs had at least 150 rushing yards but none had 800.

It's not going to get anybody to the Pro Bowl, but it sure makes the Eagles difficult to defend.

"It's not basketball, it's football," Jeffery said. "Football, you need everybody. If a lot of players or anyone got a lot of stats besides the quarterback, I mean, I don't think your team is doing too well. I'm just being honest."

Blount had the Eagles' only 100-yard rushing game — against the Chargers back on Oct. 1. Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz and Torrey Smith each had a 100-yard receiving game. 

Nobody had more than one.

"Sometimes you just have to put it all on the line, and you can’t be selfish when everybody has one common goal because you have to make sacrifices for the better of the team," Blount said. "We’ve done that and it’s gotten us this far."

"There’s a lot of things that you can do that could be (selfish) but we’re a family, man. We love each other. We have each others’ back. That’s what’s gotten us this far throughout the injuries of guys and everything else."

The Eagles are one win away from riding this unselfishness, this team-first mentality, to the Super Bowl.

They face the Vikings at 6:40 p.m. Sunday at the Linc in the NFC Championship Game.

If all goes to form, they won't have a 100-yard rusher or receiver, but they'll have something a lot more meaningful.

Another win.

"This is just a pretty unselfish team all in all," Blount said. "From the O-line to the receivers to the quarterback, we have a really unselfish team at every position and that’s what you need. 

"You have guys that go out there and will do anything for a win, and if that requires them not playing as much or playing less, whatever it may be, they’re all aboard. That's why we are where we are."