All week long, the players and coaching staff heard from just about every outside analyst how the Eagles, the No. 1 seed with 13 regular-season wins, were the underdogs against the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons.
Tackle Lane Johnson embraced the sentiment so much that he paraded around the field wearing a dog mask following the 15-10 win over the Falcons.
“Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion,” said cornerback Jalen Mills, who made the game-clinching stop against Julio Jones in the end zone on fourth-and-goal. “As long as we go out there and execute like we did today, come out with a win, that’s all that matters.”
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery made his playoff debut and had a team-high 61 receiving yards on four catches. He came alive in the third quarter pulling down back-to-back catches for first downs and later a 21-yard nab on a third down to place the Eagles in scoring territory. He, too, enjoys being labeled an underdog.
“I think next week they’re going to have the same noise for us,” Jeffery said. “It is what it is. We’re just going to go out there and play our game. We’re going to be the Eagles.”
Many analysts expected Nick Foles to struggle against the Falcons’ defense that held Rams quarterback Jared Goff to a 24-of-45 passing performance and a 77.9 quarterback rating. After a slow start, Foles had a turnaround second half finishing with 246 passing yards on an efficient 23-of-30 with zero turnovers for a 100.1 rating.
Tight end Zach Ertz is almost certain Foles and the Eagles will be scrutinized again leading up to the NFC Championship Game.
“I’m sure everyone will have their doubts. Everyone’s going to say the Eagles don’t have a chance and we’re going to relish in that opportunity again,” Ertz said.
We’ll all have to wait and see who the Eagles face next Sunday but it seems no one would be surprised if they were given slim chances to advance. Head coach Doug Pederson said after the game that this team has fed off the doubters since Carson Wentz went down December 10 against the Rams.
“Since that point, no one has given us a chance. Nobody has given us a chance. And I understand, Carson’s a great player, but every week, our guys are hearing the same thing – that now we are all of a sudden not good enough,” Pederson said during his press conference. “We’re 13-3 and have the best record in football. We’ve got home-field advantage throughout. The guys are going to motivate themselves just based on what they have done and heard for the last month of football.
“Listen, it really doesn’t matter what you guys talk about because that locker room in there is united and I’ll go to bat for every one of those guys and I’ll go to war with every one of those guys in that dressing room.”