Eagles can't match Falcons' playoff experience, but they have enough
Now that they've reached the single-elimination portion of their schedule, the Philadelphia Eagles will need to rely on their more experienced players to help them through it.
That they don't have nearly as many playoff-tested players on the roster as Saturday night's opponent, the Atlanta Falcons, doesn't seem to concern everybody.
They do have eight players and a head coach with Super Bowl rings and feel they have enough to match up with the defending NFC champs, according to tight end Brent Celek, the longest-tenured Eagle and the only player who's experienced a playoff victory with this team.
“Oh, hell yeah,” he said. “We're ready. I think this week off has been good for us too because we got to go out there, play against each other, go full speed, get our legs back, feel good.
“I mean, we don't have any excuses. We're ready to go.”
Celek was a second-year player in 2008, when the Eagles advanced to the NFC Championship Game at Arizona. He was their leading receiver in that game, with 10 catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns. It remains the only multi-TD game of his career.
“That season we had a great opportunity,” he said. “I remember, 5 minutes to go, man, we were winning. And then Kurt Warner drove on us and beat us.
“It was a great opportunity that we had and we didn't take advantage of it.”
That's as good a lesson as any for this squad, which beat both Super Bowl teams that season and hasn't been to the playoffs since 2013.
“There's another one in front of us today,” he said. “They don't come very often. We've got to take advantage of it.”
To do that, they have to stay grounded.
“This is a one-and-done season now,” tackle Will Beatty said. “So you're making sure it's 100 percent effort. There's no, ‘I need to save for next week. I need to give it all now.' Saturday is the only thing that's promised to us, and we need to take full advantage of this home-field advantage by making sure our minds are fresh and we're not focused on the big prize.
“We need to be where our feet are, and that's this game Saturday. . I'm making sure I'm where my feet are and making sure guys here stay in the moment. You want to talk about a ring. If we win this game, we can continue the conversation. But it has to be this game.”
Beatty is one of the eight to have won a Super Bowl.
So is safety Chris Maragos, who's out for the season with a knee injury. Maragos was with the Seattle Seahawks when they won it all in the 2013 season.
He sees the parallels with this team.
“We've got such a great brotherhood here,” he said. “The love for each other on this team is pretty special, and we've got a really talented team. I mean, you look at our O and D lines, our front seven, our DBs flying around making plays, our three-headed running back. You know, ⅛QB⅜ Nick ⅛Foles⅜ was a Pro Bowl MVP. We've got receivers and tight ends that stretch the field.
“So it's a good group and we're playing at home in the playoffs. That's dangerous. So I think everybody's just got to tune in and watch.”
The Eagles don't have as much playoff experience as the team that made it to the Super Bowl last year, but they have more than enough.
Coach Doug Pederson, who won a Super Bowl as a backup quarterback to Green Bay's Brett Favre, is not worried, either.
“I'm going to tell you, listen, these guys are football players,” he said. “I think sometimes the outside, whether it be the media, the fans, can make it bigger than it really is. When you boil it down, it's football at the end of the day.
“. Just go do your job. Do what you've been coached to do all week long and give it your best effort on Saturday. If it's good enough, great. If it's not, then we focus on next season. But it's football. These guys are football players. They are going to be coached up and ready to go.”
EAGLES WITH SUPER BOWL RINGS
RB LeGarrette Blount
DE Chris Long
LB Dannell Ellerbe
S Corey Graham
S Malcolm Jenkins
T Will Beatty
WR Torrey Smith
S Chris Maragos (injured reserve)