Eagles to ring bell at tonight's Sixers' game

usa-jason-kelce-brandon-brooks-lane-johnson.jpg
USA Today Images

Eagles to ring bell at tonight's Sixers' game

There’s going to be Eagles mania at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Super Bowl champions will be in the building Tuesday evening for the Sixers game against the Wizards.

The Eagles' starting offensive line composed of Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Stefen Wisniewski, and the injured Jason Peters will ring the ceremonial pregame bell.

They won’t be the only ones in the arena. Other Eagles players and front office members also are expected to be there.

And judging by this quick Twitter poll last night, Sixers fans (loudly) will be showing their appreciation for the Eagles bringing the Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia.

Big V excelling with help from Hall of Fame mentor

usa-vaitai-peters-eagles.jpg
USA Today Images

Big V excelling with help from Hall of Fame mentor

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Having Jason Peters as a mentor is kind of liketaking piano lessons from Vladimir Horowitz or acting lessons from De Niro.

You can't help but improve.

And Halapoulivaati Vaitai sure has improved.

Vaitai played his best game yet in the NFC Championship Game, neutralizing feared pass rusher Everson Griffen in the Eagles' 38-7 blowout win over the Vikings at the Linc.

"Yeah, I was just locked in that night," Big V said. "I didn’t have any worries. I just try not to have any worries going into a game, but yeah. In my opinion I think I played pretty good."

And Peters was there the whole way to encourage him, support him, help him.

"He's been playing great, man," Peters said. "I always encourage the guy and keep him calm. He's been doing great. I'm just happy for him.

"It's going to take time. Guys are going to beat you. You just have to have a strong mindset to just keep coming back and battling."

Peters, a nine-time Pro Bowler, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second Redskins game. Big V struggled at first but has gradually grown into the left tackle role.

With Stefen Wisniewski healthy and solidifying left guard, the left side of the offensive line has gone from liability to a real strength of this offense.

“It’s gotten (more) calm as each week’s gone by," Vaitai said. "Still not comfortable, still have to work to do, but as the weeks go on I guess my nerves have calmed down a little bit.

“The more repetition, the more experience I get (the better I'll play). I just have to continue doing what I’m doing. It’s night and day (over earlier this year)."

With All-Pro Jason Kelce at center and Pro Bowlers Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson at right guard and right tackle, the Eagles have dominated on the right side all year. Now the left side is holding its own.

The Eagles' offensive line muscled the Vikings' vaunted defensive line out of the Linc in the NFC Championship Game and will have to play just as well Sunday if the Eagles are going to have a chance in Super Bowl LII against the Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

"He's made strides throughout the year," Brooks said of Vaitai. "He did the same thing last year (at right tackle).

"The biggest thing J.P. told him out of the gate, there's no replacing Jason Peters. Just be you and do what you do well and he took that to heart."

The Eagles have had elite left tackles in their two previous Super Bowl appearances.

Stan Walters was a two-time Pro Bowler in his ninth NFL season when the Eagles faced the Raiders in 1980. And Tra Thomas was a three-time Pro Bowler in his seventh NFL season when the Eagles faced the Patriots in 2004.

Vaitai is a second-year fifth-round pick who has still only started 18 games in his NFL career, including the postseason.

On Sunday, he starts in a Super Bowl.

“It’s always been about the next man up," Vaitai said. "It’s crazy to be in a Super Bowl and actually be the left tackle here, but I’ve got to give it all for J.P.

"It’s unfortunate for him to go down but it’s just one of those deals. It’s crazy, but it’s just another game. Just another game.

"I treat every game like a big game. But it’s really cool to be in this spot, on this stage."

Obviously there are a ton of factors, but in the seven games Peters started, the Eagles' offense averaged 27.4 points and 381 yards per game and went 6-1. With Vaitai at left tackle, those figures were 24.5, 361 and 9-2.

Vaitai is clearly holding his own.

"He's a great player," said Peters, one of the best ever. "Once he gets his confidence up, you just can't really stop him. I'm going to be by his side all the way."

Brady's SB flaw, Pederson's staff, and more in Roob's observations

ap-uspresswire-brady-reid-pederson-vaitai.jpg
AP Images/USA Today Images

Brady's SB flaw, Pederson's staff, and more in Roob's observations

A shocking lack of big Super Bowl plays by Tom Brady, Big V's resurgence, Doug's Pederson’s coaching staff vs. Andy Reid’s and one of the most mind-blowing Nick Foles stats you'll ever see.

It's all right here in Wednesday's edition of Roob's 10 random Eagles Super Bowl observations!

Only 11 more to go before kickoff!

1. The Eagles’ ability to virtually eliminate big plays by opposing offenses has been huge in their surge to the Super Bowl. The first four games of the season, the Eagles allowed eight plays of 35 yards or more. In 14 games since, they’ve allowed five, including just one in their last four games and none in the playoffs. They’re the only team in the playoffs that hasn’t allowed at least one 35-yard play. With the coverage the Eagles are getting from the corners and the pressure they’re getting up front, it’s just going to be very tough to put together a big play against this defense.  

2. Which brings us to this: Brady has thrown 309 passes in his seven Super Bowls, completing 207 of them, but he has only one career Super Bowl completion of 35 yards or more. That was a 52-yarder to Deion Branch against the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston. His next-longest Super Bowl completion is a 33-yarder to Daniel Graham in the same game. And those are his only career Super Bowl completions of 30 yards. That's fascinating to me. Donovan McNabb in his one Super Bowl had more 35-yard completions (two) than Brady has in seven. Heck, Antwaan Randle El has just as many, and he was a wide receiver who threw one pass. Interesting. I don't know how many 75-yard drives you're going to manage against this Eagles defense without at least one chunk play. If the Patriots stay true to their Super Bowl history and Brady focuses on high-percentage, low-yardage plays, I think that's good news for the Eagles' defense.

3. If you re-watch the Vikings game again, keep an eye on Jalen Mills. We haven't talked about him much this week, but he was money Sunday night. He allowed just two completions for 15 yards — seven- and eight-yarders to Stefon Diggs in the second quarter. Other than that, he gave up nothing. This kid has come so far. Gotta root for a seventh-round pick who wasn't even supposed to make an NFL roster, who never backs down from any player or any situation.

4. Someone asked Malcolm Jenkins Wednesday who the most fun one or two guys on the team are, and Jenkins' answer was honest and moving and really sheds some light into just what makes this team tick: "There’s not one or two guys. Everybody by nature just enjoys being around here, enjoys each other, has a good time, and nobody’s asking them to change that. We understand that this season in the NFL is a grind and we put a lot of work in here, a lot of hours, so when we get the opportunity to play or spend time with each other outside this building, we’re going to have fun. We’re going to enjoy our time together. Because the fact of the matter is that at the end of the season, this team will never be the same. No team in the NFL will ever be the same. So in this finite moment that we have, we’re going to enjoy it.”

5. After his first couple games, a lot of fans out there decided Halapoulivaati Vaitai can't play. After the Raiders and Cowboys games, I got too many tweets to count suggesting that Nate Sudfeld should start against the Falcons because Foles was struggling so badly. Remember Patrick Robinson's summer? Fans wanted him cut before training camp was halfway over. Now all three are key guys on a Super Bowl team. I hope people remember this next time a guy is struggling: Players can and do get better. They grow more comfortable in the scheme. They improve their technique working with position coaches. Their confidence grows. They learn what it takes to be a pro. Sometimes something just clicks and you never know how long it's going to take. It's hard to be patient sometimes, but there are very few NFL players who are stars or even finished products right away. Just keep that in mind next time you're about to tweet to me that some rookie "CAN'T PLAY." Maybe not. But in a year or two? In a week or a month? He just may be starting on a Super Bowl team.

6. Which leads me to this: Vaitai played extremely well Sunday (see story). Did not allow a single pressure. Like Mills, another second-year pro who's come a remarkably long way. It was Big V's best game as pro.

7. We always talk about how important turnover ratio is, and it always is. But it’s magnified in the Super Bowl. The Eagles were able to beat the Falcons two weeks ago despite being minus-two, but that was the Falcons. In the Super Bowl, you're almost never going to get away with that. Consider this: Teams that are plus-one or better in turnover differential are 33-7 in Super Bowl history. Pretty strong odds.

8. Reid's original coaching staff included Jim Johnson, John Harbaugh, Brad Childress, Leslie Frazier, Pat Shurmur, Ron Rivera, Sean McDermott, Rod Dowhower, Juan Castillo and Steve Spagnuolo. And you can really make a case that Pederson's original coaching staff is every darn bit as good.

9. Somebody asked me this week how mad Carson Wentz must be that he's missing out on playing in a Super Bowl. But you know what? I don't think there's a jealous or envious bone in the dude's body. Knowing Wentz, I'll bet he's just happy for Foles and his other teammates. He's the ultimate team guy, and I'll bet he'll be just as happy if the Eagles win it without him as he would be if they won it with him.

10. Mind-blowing Foles Stat of the Day: Foles had four completions of 36 yards or more in the span of 11 passes spanning the second and third quarters Sunday. That's more than he had in his previous 361 pass attempts in parts of 17 games over three seasons for three teams (three).