Reign­ing Su­per Bowl cham­pion Ea­gles aren’t done yet

Philadel­phia gears up for show­down with NFC’s top seed

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS -

— When the Philadel­phia Ea­gles gather around their coach in the locker room af­ter each win, Doug Ped­er­son yells: “We’re not done yet.”

The de­fend­ing Su­per Bowl cham­pi­ons were writ­ten off af­ter a 48-7 loss to the New Or­leans Saints dropped their record to 4-6 in Novem­ber.

They re­sponded with two wins be­fore an over­time loss to Dal­las knocked them out of con­tention for a di­vi­sion ti­tle. But backup quar­ter­back Nick Foles has led the Ea­gles to four straight wins, in­clud­ing a 16-15 come­back vic­tory over Chicago in an NFC wild-card game.

Now, the Ea­gles (10-7) are head­ing back to New Or­leans to face the Saints (13-3) in a divisional play­off game on Sun­day.

PHILADEL­PHIA (AP)

Philadel­phia quar­ter­back Nick Foles re­turned to the start­ing lineup af­ter a back in­jury side­lined Car­son Wentz last month and has led the Ea­gles to four straight wins, in­clud­ing a 16-15 come­back vic­tory at Chicago in the wild-card round last Sun­day.

“We hear dis­re­spect. We lis­ten. It’s hard not to hear. A bunch of talk­ing heads said we were done,” de­fen­sive end Chris Long said af­ter Philadel­phia up­set the Bears.

“I heard some­body say

we needed to start wor­ry­ing about los­ing games so we can get a higher draft pick, some­body that gets paid a lot of money. And that’s fine. Peo­ple are wrong some­times. Not every­body knows what is go­ing

on. We’re a tough team and the chips have been down for us be­fore.”

The Ea­gles are in a fa­mil­iar role as play­off un­der­dogs, but they have a much tougher road this time around as they try to be­come the third No. 6 seed to win the Su­per Bowl.

Last sea­son, the Ea­gles en­tered as the No. 1 seed. They were un­der­dogs in ev­ery game be­cause they were miss­ing start­ing quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz.

They’ve been in play­off mode for a month now af­ter Wentz went down with a back in­jury. They had to win three straight games, in­clud­ing con­sec­u­tive wins over the play­off-bound Rams and Tex­ans, and get help — the Bears de­feat­ing the Vik­ings in Week 17 — to reach the play­offs.

Then they had to rally against the stingi­est de­fense in the NFL, tak­ing a one-point lead over the Bears when Foles tossed a 2-yard touch­down pass to Golden Tate on fourth down with 56 sec­onds re­main­ing. The vic­tory was se­cured when Treyvon Hes­ter tipped Cody Parkey’s 43-yard field-goal at­tempt and the ball hit the left up­right and then the cross­bar.

“We keep winning. We keep putting our­selves in a po­si­tion to be suc­cess­ful,” Ped­er­son said Mon­day.

A re­match against the Saints was dif­fi­cult to imag­ine when the Ea­gles left New Or­leans on Nov. 18. Wentz had the worst game of his ca­reer and Drew Brees dom­i­nated an in­jury­de­pleted sec­ondary. But the team never quit.

“Im­me­di­ately af­ter the game, you flush it and you’re mov­ing on to the next week’s op­po­nent,” Ped­er­son said. “I think you just have to look at where we’ve come and what we’ve done,” Ped­er­son said.

“Just the way this team has come to­gether at the end of the sea­son, to be counted out with even about three games to go. ... This team be­lieves in ev­ery­thing that we’re do­ing, and you saw it yes­ter­day and we’re dif­fer­ent. It’s a dif­fer­ent mind-set. It’s a dif­fer­ent foot­ball team. And we’re a dif­fer­ent group than when we played New Or­leans the first time, and we’re learn­ing from it and ob­vi­ously have been bet­ter since.”

SPE­CIAL TO THE WHIG

North East se­nior Tyler Bane will play for Team USA in the In­ter­na­tional Bowl held at AT&T Sta­dium, home of the Dal­las Cow­boys, in Ar­ling­ton, Texas on Fri­day.

AP PHOTO

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