January 17, 2018
A lot of people gave up on the two of you last year. Brandon, you had the anxiety issue; Lane, you missed 10 games (suspension). This is a town that embraces a mythical figure in Rocky Balboa, yet the two of you personified that kind of perseverance in real time.
What does reaching the NFC championship mean to you both, especially you two who saw your football careers flash before your eyes?
BB: For me, this is the furthest that I’ve gone into the playoffs, so that’s special in itself. Obviously, anytime you get an extra week when everybody else is sitting at home, it’s your dream. At the same time, we know we have more work to do. It’s not finished yet. We’re 60 minutes away from having that opportunity of winning that ring. But at the same time, we have to take care of that business in the next 60 minutes. The rest had to be handled. We still have work to do.
JL: This is obviously a huge accomplishment. It’s my first playoff win. It was huge for me personally, and for the team, and just with all of that stuff we battled through. We battled through injuries, quarterback goes down, the left tackle goes down, some pretty big pieces of the puzzle go down and we’re still able to persevere and keep going. Everything is right in front of us. We both work hard. This is a special time right now.
You guys have things in common because you guys battled through some things. You guys had a lot of people question you and the thing that I like is no one is questioning you now. You had guys next to you in the locker room that had your back when a lot of people didn’t.
LJ: I dealt with my suspension, I know a lot of guys go through the anxiety, too, it’s not spoken of. I’ve dealt with it, too. I just think it makes you a stronger person, and you become better for it. Moving forward, that’s what fueled us for this season and probably for seasons to come. A lot of doubt does a lot of good for people if you use it to fuel yourself.
BB: Lane is exactly right. People have doubted me, not just us, and the team the whole year. We had to switch it back to us. It really fueled us in our way, the suspension to Lane, the anxiety thing for me, I think there was no doubt in our minds that we would bounce back the way we did, to be honest. Once we were able to get the situation behind us, Lane with his suspension, and I was able to conquer the anxiety, we began looking forward and things began taking care of itself. People doubted us, they had things to say, and there are still people who have things to say.
You take with a grain of salt and life goes on.
People are always going to have something to say. Why did he succeed this way, or why did he win the game by more points, things like that. I let the outside noise be the outside noise. You can control what you can control and go from there.
Why did you guys feel you would win that game on Saturday?
LJ: I think, personally, running the ball. During key situations when we needed to get the first down or move the chains, we were able to do that. I think we put [quarterback] Nick [Foles] in a good situation. We had a good plan as far as run-pass options and getting the ball out quick. We had a real balanced attack for the game.
BB: Lane was spot on. I really don’t have anything to add to that.
If I’m going nuts and can’t wait for Sunday to come, what are you two going through?
BB: Me, personally, I’m super excited for Sunday. But I don’t want to get too high in that aspect. I have to keep my emotions in check and my focus and keep doing everything we’ve been doing for all of these other weeks we’ve been winning games. There’s no difference in the playoffs. When you're into Week One, or the NFC Championship, it’s the same thing. You follow the process and trust the process like we’ve been doing all year.
LJ: That’s really it. As the stakes get higher, anticipation grows and you stay in what you’re doing right now because that’s all you can really control. If you try to solve everything in this world and every problem, you’d go crazy, so as far as we’re concerned, it’s one day at a time. That’s the way you take it when you’re in the line of work that we’re in, that’s what you do for sanity purposes.
Have the two of you ever won a championship at any level of football, or at any level of sports?
BB: Not me. A couple of conference championships, but nothing nationally in college or anything like that.
LJ: All I won in college was a Big 12 championship. That was pretty much it.
Let’s talk about Minnesota, a team you faced last year and beat. What do you guys see that makes them so good?
BB: I would say their front seven and their ends, which Lane can speak of more. They have great ends that can pass rush. Everson Griffen on the right side and [Danielle] Hunter on the other, those are guys that can really rush off the ball. Linval Joseph inside is a big, stout guy who is more athletic than he gets credit for. Their linebackers, [Eric] Kendricks and [Anthony] Barr, are two young, athletic, aggressive linebackers.
LJ: They’re balanced everywhere. They have a great D-line with Everson Griffen, and they’re big and strong. Inside with Joseph, they’re good at stopping the run. It’s one of the more balanced defenses that we’ve faced this year.
Is it a faster defense than Atlanta’s?
LJ: I don’t know about faster, but they’re bigger though.
BB: I would say that they’re more physical than Atlanta, but as far as fast, I probably say Atlanta’s defense was faster.
They also run something different with Hunter, Tom Johnson, Joseph and Griffen, and then, it’s two linebackers, Barr and Kendricks.
BB: They’ll try and roll down the safety into the box.
LJ: There’s only so much you can do, and they do a lot with just four. They’re pretty good with just the four.
What went into the dog mask?
From what I understand, Amazon has sold out of dog masks. I’m sure there is going to be a ton of dog masks in the stadium this weekend at the game. I’m looking forward to it.
LJ: Chris Long and I were having lunch, I don’t know if it was before or after practice, and he says, “Since everybody says we’re the underdogs, why don’t we get us an underdog mask?” We thought it would be a pretty funny idea, so I ordered it and it came in the day of the game. I gave it to Jason Peters to put into his coat and after we won, he took it out and gave it to me and Chris.
The rest is history and it just kind of took off. Peters had it hidden in his coat. The mask is at my house now. My kids are playing with it.
BB: I saw [the mask] and figured Lane would put it on after the game. It was awesome to see, because we were underdogs at home and probably outside of this city, not a lot of people had faith in us as far as winning the game. I thought it was great.
LJ: I think it proves everything that looks good on paper isn’t really true, so ...
BB: Of course I laughed my ass off. Lane is one of the funniest teammates I’ve ever really been around. Nothing ever really shocks me or surprises me when it really comes to Lane. It was awesome that he did it. From what I understand, Amazon has sold out of dog masks. I’m sure there is going to be a ton of dog masks in the stadium this weekend at the game. I’m looking forward to it.
Two people I know that listen to this regularly are going to the NFC championship game on Sunday dressed as Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson, complete with authentic No. 65 and 79 jerseys and … game-worn pants supposedly worn by you both.
LJ: Are they 320 and 340-plus?
The Lane Johnson No. 65 jersey is green and the Brandon Brooks’ 79 is white.
LJ: They don’t have any of those in the pro shops. It’s all of the skill players and the guys who win the games. We don’t win any games, so they don’t care. (both laugh)
BB: Way to call them out Lane.
LJ: I think it’s BS (laughs).
BB: I have to agree (laughs).
What needs to work on Sunday for the Eagles to advance?
BB: As always, we have to control the line of scrimmage. We have to run the ball and protect Nick. When he’s comfortable back there and we keep them off of him, he’s slinging it around and making great plays. We have to keep them off of him and control the line of scrimmage.
LJ: That’s the way it is every week. Coaches kind of emphasize to run the ball and stop the run. That’s what we did last week against the Falcons. Usually, when you win games, you’re doing that pretty successfully. It will be more of the same.
I found it interesting that the Eagles ran quite a bit on the right side against the Falcons, scoring your only touchdown of the game.
LJ: You have to do what you have to do around here. (both laugh.)
And finally a thought for you both: You send Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Chris Maragos, Carson Wentz and Jordan Hicks out for the opening coin toss with the team captains standing behind them.
What do you think of that idea?
LJ: Having all of those guys out there together like that would be an excellent idea. We’ve had them out there before, but all together I think would be awesome. It would send a message to them that there aren’t a whole lot of teams that have lost the guys we have and be in the position that we’re in, so we’re blessed.
BB: I have to agree with Lane. It would be an awesome idea. Those guys are definitely out there. Every day at practice, at games, in warm-ups, around the locker room, I see guys going up to them, having a conversation, just letting them know that although some of their injuries were a little earlier in the season that they’re just as important and just as responsible as everyone else is for the position that we’re in right now.
JP has never been on a team that played in a Super Bowl. Sproles has never been on a team that reached the Super Bowl. You’re not only playing for a city and yourselves, I have a strong feeling that you’re playing for them, too, aren’t you?
LJ: Yeah, the veteran guys, the older guys. Brent Celek, who’s been there for a long time, Sproles, Peters, the list goes on. You could tell in playoff moments that they’re more vocal. They know it’s special to be in the position that we’re in and to utilize every second that we have.
Where were you guys on Sunday during the Vikings-Saints game and how shocked were you by the ending?
BB: I was at home watching the game doing nothing special. My mom was in town and teammate from college. I was an incredible catch and run in the end, but I definitely want to make a statement about the [Marcus] Williams kid [the Saints safety who defended the final play]. I know it’s a tough situation and obviously, he was trying to do the best he can. I want the kid to keep his head up. I just don’t want the situation to define him, because, you know how it is, you make a bad play it’s unfortunate and everybody wants to pile on and tell you how bad of a player you are.
He had a great season and I know there are good things ahead for him.
LJ: To be honest, I wasn’t even watching until the last few minutes. Then I saw that play and I was in f***ing shock. I feel bad for the kid and it shouldn’t define his season by one play. He’s a reason why they were there in the first place. It was one of the craziest plays I’d ever seen, especially in a playoff situation. For the Saints season to end like that, I couldn’t image it.
What’s on your mind?
LJ: Eat and take a nap.
BB: Same thing, eat and take a nap. I hope this continues another few weeks, maybe Minneapolis.
LJ: We can all go up there and freeze together. It will be awesome.
In addition to reading Brandon's and Lane's comments, each week we'll post audio of the full interview so you'll have a chance to hear their words in their own voice.