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."

Why Jeff Lurie's response to national anthem policy was disappointing

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Why Jeff Lurie's response to national anthem policy was disappointing

On the latest edition of Roob Knows, an Eagles podcast, Reuben Frank discusses the NFL's new national anthem policy and why he was disappointed by Jeff Lurie's reaction. 

Roob also looks at the Eagles' linebacker situation, what's the next move after a couple losses and why you shouldn't bet against Carson Wentz.

Also, rookie cornerback Avonte Maddox joins the podcast. And a look at some Zach Ertz statistics that may surprise you.

Subscribe and rate Roob Knows: Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Stitcher / Art19

Roob's 10 observations: Anthem policy, Kendricks' career, Wentz

Roob's 10 observations: Anthem policy, Kendricks' career, Wentz

Some thoughts on the NFL’s new anthem policy, Mychal Kendricks’ release, Carson Wentz’s return to practice and — of course — the Joe Callahan Stat of the Day!

It’s all in this week’s OTA edition of Roob’s 10 random Eagles observations!

1. The NFL’s anthem policy banning players from peaceful demonstrations during the anthem bothers me for a few reasons. First of all, it’s a dangerous precedent for the league to unilaterally restrict any such form of personal expression. Legislating opinions never works. Players are going to find other ways to express their opinions, and the policy is only going to breed resentment between the players and the league, which is the last thing the league needs right now. But more than that, I really have problems with the word “disrespect.” When someone arbitrarily decides what is and what isn’t “disrespectful,” you really get yourself in a lot of trouble. Nobody who’s listened to Malcolm Jenkins so eloquently discuss his reasons for raising his fist during the anthem would ever accuse him of being disrespectful. And also, since this is a policy that affects mainly African-American players, it has strong racial implications. These are issues that aren’t going to just go away, whether or not the NFL tries to make them disappear.

2. And I found Eagles owner Jeff Lurie’s statement uncharacteristically tepid and vague. Lurie has been courageously supportive all along of Jenkins, Chris Long and all the players league-wide who’ve used their platform to fight for equal rights and social justice. All that statement did was avoid taking a stand on the new NFL policy. Disappointing.

3. Onto football matters! There’s no question the Eagles are a better football team with Mychal Kendricks on the field. Kendricks was solid last year and very good in the postseason. But the bottom line is Kendricks has felt unwanted and disrespected for a long time. The Eagles have been trying unsuccessfully to unload his contract for a couple years, and Kendricks knew he had no future here. If a team doesn’t want a player and the player doesn’t want to be with the team, it’s not a healthy relationship. And that’s why Kendricks is gone. But Kendricks handled what could have been an ugly situation with class and professionalism, and he’s got a Super Bowl ring to show for it. He never became the Pro Bowl player I expected when I first saw him play in 2012, but he was a decent player here for six years, and he leaves as a champion.

4. Jason Kelce announced the start of the 5K at the Eagles Autism Challenge at the Linc in terrible conditions and parodied his Super Bowl parade speech: “They said it was too cold! They said it was too rainy!” Hilarious.

5. Watching Carson Wentz actually participate in individual drills at practice Tuesday morning was pretty wild. For him to be out there looking comfortable and fluid taking drops and firing passes just 5½ months after hobbling off the field at L.A. Coliseum was awfully encouraging.

6. I’m really starting to think Wentz plays Sept. 6.

7. One note about the Eagles’ linebacker depth. The days where teams ran three linebackers out there on every play are long gone. The Eagles last year played three linebackers on about 12 percent of their defensive snaps. In the Super Bowl, the Eagles played a total of three reps with three LBs. So if Jordan Hicks can stay healthy and Nigel Bradham plays like he did last year, the Eagles will be fine. Big if with Hicks. When the Eagles do play three ‘backers, I expect Corey Nelson to handle that role. Really, it comes down to Hicks staying healthy.

8. Career completion percentages of current Eagles quarterbacks:

82.6 percent … Nate Sudfeld
71.4 percent … Joe Callahan
61.5 percent … Carson Wentz
61.1 percent … Nick Foles

9. Was fun watching Mike Wallace run around at practice on Tuesday. Excited to see what he brings to this offense. He’s 31, an age where many receivers are slowing down, but he was one of just two receivers in their 30s last year who caught 50 passes and averaged 14.0 yards per catch (Ted Ginn was the other). And with Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery here, he doesn’t have to be THE GUY. None of them do. That’s the beauty of this offense.

10. Potentially, this is the best trio of receivers the Eagles have ever had. Would you rather have DeSean, Maclin and Avant or Jeffery, Agholor and Wallace? I think this group is more versatile and slightly more talented. It’s close.  

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