The biggest thing we learned about the Eagles Thursday night?
It’s that they were listening.
Just three days after the Eagles won the Super Bowl, Doug Pederson was back at the NovaCare Complex, laying out his plan for the offseason to his players.
He spoke about sacrifice. He spoke about staying hungry. He spoke about not being satisfied with just one Super Bowl title.
More than anything, he spoke about turning the page. Enjoy the parade. Enjoy the ring ceremony. Enjoy all that comes with being a champion.
But do it all with an eye on tomorrow.
"There's a side of success that's not the glamorous side, and it's the side that's … 'Who's going to hold out in OTAs? Who's going to want the next big contract? Who's going to miss this or that for an endorsement deal or an autograph signing? " Pederson said about 62 hours after the Eagles put the finishing touches on the Patriots in Minneapolis.
“It's the not-so-glamorous side of success.”
All offseason, you sensed that Pederson’s message was getting through. But you couldn't be sure.
Nobody held out of OTAs or training camp, even guys like Ronald Darby, Jay Ajayi and Brandon Graham, terrific talents whose contracts are up after this season.
Nobody missed a practice for an autograph signing and nobody missed a meeting because of an endorsement deal.
Nobody made trouble. Nobody embarrassed the team. Nobody showed up out of shape after hitting the banquet circuit too hard.
As opening day grew closer, there were a lot of positives signs.
Training camp was very tough, very hard, very physical, very grueling. Pederson certainly didn’t go easy on anybody just because they had won a Lombardi Trophy.
He worked them hard, and they embraced it. They wanted it.
And as training camp went on, it almost seemed like talking about the Super Bowl was taboo. The celebrating was over. The dog masks were in mothballs. The last echo of that unforgettable parade had long since faded.
Everything pointed to a team that had moved on.
Taking down the Super Bowl LII signs in the locker room was a symbolic gesture, but it’s one that really said a lot about where this team’s head was at. They didn’t want any reminders of that game because it had nothing to do with beating the Falcons.
The game? It was ugly, like openers often are. You have teams playing meaningful football for the first time in half a year and they’re often not particularly well-played games.
But what stood out Thursday night in the Eagles' 18-12 win over the Falcons was that, despite their mistakes, the penalties, the mental errors, the Eagles battled and fought with just as much hunger and determination and motivation and passion as they did every Sunday a year ago (see Roob's 10 observations).
Super Bowl hangover? Complacency? With this team?
You saw nothing of the sort.
The Eagles didn’t play particularly well Thursday night at the Linc, at least not on offense, but you couldn’t ask for a stronger effort.
The defense fashioned four brilliant goal-line stands, holding the Falcons to just one field goal on trips to the 1-, 3-, 5- and 15-yard.
And the offense, shaky and sputtering and awful much of the night, always seemed to make a play late when it absolutely, positively had to make a play.
The biggest thing I wanted to see Thursday night was how hungry this football team was just seven months after Super Bowl LII.
Every team talks about moving forward and avoiding complacency. But it’s very difficult to actually do.
But there’s something special about Pederson. He has a clear, simple message and he knows how to get it across, and he has a group of players that will run through brick walls to carry out that message.
That’s what Thursday night was. A team overcoming a big giant opening-day brick wall and finding its way to 1-0 over a really good team in a game with huge NFC playoff implications.
And after 70,000 fans watched a banner raised to the sky commemorating one Super Bowl, 53 Philadelphia Eagles were on the field starting their quest to win another.