NFL playoffs

You'll love Dungy's take on Eagles-Patriots Super Bowl

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You'll love Dungy's take on Eagles-Patriots Super Bowl

Tony Dungy knows a thing or two about winning a Super Bowl.

He won Super Bowl XLI as head coach of the Colts and played for the Super Bowl XIII-winning Steelers.

For Super Bowl LII, he likes the Eagles' chances.

Dungy, an analyst for Sunday Night Football on NBC, knows Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots well. He faced New England in the playoffs three times during his seven seasons with the Colts.

And he believes in Doug Pederson's group for a few reasons.

"I think Nick Foles and this running game and the quick play-action passes, running the ball outside, they'll give New England some problems," Dungy said Wednesday on NBC Sports Northwest Rip City Radio. "I just think, and I'm going to wait another week before I say it, but if you asked right now, I think Philly's a team of destiny this year. They've overcome so much and they continue to win. I like Philadelphia in a tight game."

The Eagles have certainly overcome obstacles, including season-ending injuries to Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles, Chris Maragos and Caleb Sturgis.

None of those stopped the Eagles from earning the NFC's No. 1 seed and a date with Brady's Patriots in the Feb. 4 Super Bowl.

"We have a destination that we're getting to no matter who's in front of us," Malcolm Jenkins said (see story)

"We have somewhere to go. We're not worried about what's in front of us. We're going to run through whoever it is."

The adversity-driven bunch is what Dungy likes about the Birds. He obviously sees something special in these Eagles, a team that has fueled on being counted out this postseason.

Dungy won't be one of those doubters.

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."

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, they're 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."