Eagles thrive in so-called underdog role

By Andy Jasner, The Sports Xchange  |  Jan. 13, 2018 at 10:28 PM
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PHILADELPHIA -- In the victorious locker room, the Philadelphia Eagles' players were mocking the national experts labeling them as an underdog despite being a No. 1 seed.

The Eagles dispatched the sixth-seeded Atlanta Falcons 15-10 Saturday in the divisional playoffs at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles (14-3) will now face either the New Orleans Saints or the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game Jan. 21 in Philadelphia.

They hope to embrace the underdog label once again.

"Keep calling us underdogs, man, keep doing it!" Eagles defensive end Chris Long bellowed across the locker room. "We love it! Keep it up. We stink."

Long was obviously being sarcastic.

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was not.

"I think negativity by so many can certainly fuel you in a positive way and we felt it," Cox said. "We felt disrespected, sure, but it wouldn't have mattered unless we had won, which we did. We earned our respect. No one gave it to us. We feel good about it because I don't feel like many people gave us much of a chance."

When quarterback Carson Wentz went down with a torn ACL during the game against the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 10, the Eagles' chances of reaching the Super Bowl suddenly looked bleak.

Except to those inside the Eagles' organization.

Backup quarterback Nick Foles was 23 of 30 for 246 yards and managed the offense nicely.

"Since that point (of Wentz's injury), no one has given us a chance," Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. "And I understand that Carson's a great player. Every week our guys are hearing the same thing, that we're not good enough."

The Eagles were in this game against a team that advanced to the Super Bowl last season.

"It really doesn't matter what you guys talk about because that locker room in there is united," Pederson said. "I'll go to bat for every one of those guys and I'll go to war with every one of those guys."

The Eagles made enough plays, especially on fourth-and-goal from the 2 with less than a minute left when Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had his pass fall incomplete in the end zone.

"You don't get it many times," Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said of playing in the NFC Championship game. "This is my ninth year in the league and this is only my second time getting to this level, to this stage. So we'll enjoy it. We'll get back to work. Focus back on our grind and get ready to compete next week. We're all excited and we all know what's ahead. We have one more and suddenly, we're in the place we want to be and we'll go from there. We want the ride to continue."

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