CHICAGO — Was there any doubt Alshon Jeffery was going to go back to his former city and have a big game?
There shouldn’t have been.
This is who Jeffery has been since he arrived in Philadelphia. When the lights get the brightest, he seems to play his best. He has now played four playoff games for the Eagles and has made big plays in each of them.
Before Sunday’s wild-card game at Soldier Field against his former team, offensive coordinator Mike Groh, who was Jeffery’s receivers coach in Chicago for three years, had a brief chat with him. He just wanted to make sure Jeffery was calm and didn’t let his emotions get the better of him.
I was ready. I was hype. But he talked to me so I just calmed down and just tried to stay within the game.
His numbers weren’t staggering on Sunday afternoon, but Jeffery finished the game with six catches for 82 yards. The most impressive thing was that five of his six catches went for first downs, including the key conversion on 3rd-and-9 on the game-winning drive.
In fact, Jeffery had two catches for 26 yards on that final drive. He nearly caught a touchdown on 3rd-and-goal.
I did several radio appearances with Chicago stations last week and they all seemed to describe Jeffery as a guy who wouldn’t play through injury and wasn’t always engaged. That’s not the guy the Eagles have gotten. Not only has he played through injury, but I don’t think there’s a player on the team that likes winning and hates losing more than Jeffery.
Jeffery tried to downplay his emotions heading into this game, but it was pretty clear it meant something to him.
“Any time you play against your former team, you obviously go out there and you focus and you want to play,” Nick Foles said. “But, yeah, there’s always something. There’s always an added something and I knew that going in here, coming back to Chicago, where you know, he was an elite receiver when he was here, that’s emotional. But he always comes ready to play and he’s a big-time player.”
In his four playoff games since joining the Eagles — also the first four playoff games of his career — Jeffery has averaged 75.25 yards per game. He’s the first Eagle in franchise history to have four straight playoff games with at least 60 yards receiving. Oh yeah, and he played three of them last season with a torn rotator cuff.
In the week leading up to this game, Jeffery didn’t say anything too inflammatory, but he did say he loved Philadelphia and he was just in Chicago for work. Perhaps that’s part of the reason he got the star treatment on Sunday. A lot of boos.
He knew they were coming.
“It is what it is,” he said. “I’m used to getting boos. It is what it is. It comes with the territory of just going on the road and playing football.”
The Eagles will play a road game this coming weekend and they hope one more time after that to get back to the Super Bowl. If that happens, you can bet Jeffery will have played a big part.
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