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January 30, 2023

What they're saying: The Eagles are a different beast going back to the Super Bowl

The Eagles are going back to the Super Bowl a completely different team

It's Monday and the Eagles are in the Super Bowl. 

They wrecked the defensive powerhouse 49ers, 31-7, the city partied, and up next is a date with Andy Reid and the Chiefs down in Arizona in two weeks.

Sometimes the storylines just write themselves.

Here's Jalen Hurts leading the Eagles fight song: 

How you feeling, Philly?

Here's what they're saying about the NFC Champion Eagles...

Their own team

Zach Berman | The Athletic ($)

The Eagles are off to the Super Bowl again five years after the 2017 underdog run finally brought home that first title. 

But make no mistake, these are two way different teams as Zach Berman wrote

The “last time” was the 2017 season, when the Eagles won Super Bowl LII. It was the first Lombardi trophy in franchise history and remains an unforgettable run in Philadelphia. But every team has a unique story, and this year’s version is writing its own. There were no dog masks in the Eagles’ locker room on Sunday. The 2017 team is famous because of the improbability of its championship, playing with a backup quarterback and spending the postseason as an underdog.

This season, the Eagles have been favorites. They earned a No. 1 seed with the best record in the NFC. They’ve been favored in all but one game, and that one game came with their backup quarterback starting on the road. The Eagles open as 2.5-point favorites over the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. They had all 22 starters healthy for the conference championship. They outscored opponents by 133 points in the regular season and now 55 points in two playoff games. They’re a juggernaut. A Super Bowl bid was not inevitable, but it certainly is not a surprise.

“Tale of two different teams,” said All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson, who’s one of seven players still on the active roster from the 2017 team. “We were underdogs in ’17. This year, we have a heavily loaded roster. Expected to do good things.” [The Athletic]

Play through the pain

Dave Zangaro | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Keeping the spotlight on Johnson, the All-Pro right tackle – still playing through a torn adductor – was phenomenal once again. 

Against the Niners, Johnson surrendered no sacks or QB hits and was charged with just two hurries, according to Pro Football Focus

Even when injured, he's still a wall, and had the likely Defensive Player of the Year in Nick Bosa rendered completely ineffective. 

He's still hurting, Dave Zangaro wrote postgame, but with a ring at stake, Johnson's pushing through:

In order to play on Sunday afternoon, Johnson said he got his groin shot up and numbed some before the game and for the second half. And he played really well against the 49ers and likely Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa.

With a chance to earn another Super Bowl ring, it’s all worth it.

“Like I said, man, my sense of urgency is high,” Johnson said. “You get in the back half of your career. I think we had a good team, I knew we had the parts to get where we’re at. Yeah, man, it’s just a week-by-week thing. Shout out to all our veterans and all our young guns, they’re the engine behind this team. So I’m happy.” [NBCSP]

Howie's finest hour

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Sticking with NBC Sports Philly, Reuben Frank noted in his 10 observations from the NFC title game that this may be GM Howie Roseman's finest work yet. 

And when you think about it, yeah, it really might be. Within six years, he's built two entirely different rosters led by a different coach and a different QB. 

He's made mistakes for sure, but this offseason especially, he's made some of the best trades and signings of his tenure, leading to possibly the most dominant Eagles team ever. 

He definitely came a long way from the Chip Kelly banishment, wrote Frank

Howie Roseman has now built two Super Bowl teams in a six-year span with different coaches and different quarterbacks and about a 90 percent different roster, and it’s incredible to think how far he’s come personally since losing the GM title in 2015 and then having it restored.

It was going to take an awful lot to make up for his 1st-round misses — Fireman Danny, Marcus Smith, Jalen Reagor — but he’s done it and much more. Lurie gave Roseman the opportunity to grow and learn from his mistakes, and Lurie paid him back by building two Super Bowl teams.

This past offseason might be the best the Eagles have ever had. One more win and the guy who was demoted to overseeing medical tape seven years ago will be on his way to Canton. [NBCSP]

The one-hander

Josh Tolentino | The Philadelphia Inquirer

The shot of DeVonta Smith stretching out his arm to catch the ball one-handed on 4th down is going to be a poster in kids' rooms across the Delaware Valley in no time, and probably be the scorn of Niners fans for years to come.

There's an argument over whether he actually caught it or not, but it's too late for that now. His part in franchise lore stands. 

Wrote The Inquirer's Josh Tolentino:

Optics aside, the still capture of Smith’s fully extended body will forever go down in franchise lore, and his reception stands firm inside the final game book. Smith finished with two catches and 36 yards, while Hurts attempted just 25 passes and completed only 15. Pitted against one of the league’s best run defenses, the Eagles relied heavily on the rushing attack, and their gutsy game plan catapulted them to a conference title and their second Super Bowl appearances in five seasons.

“From OTAs to training camp to now, all these guys came everyday and busted their ass,” Smith said. “Everybody around here is like family. Everybody knows this team won’t ever be the same. I’m cherishing this moment.” [The Inquirer]

A true identity

Sheil Kapadia | The Ringer

Was Sunday the best performance of the Eagles' season? No. But they stuck to what they do best, which was more than enough against a 49ers team that had its quarterback depth completely depleted. 

Jalen Hurts wasn't lights out, but protected the ball and kept them trucking forward until the run game found holes to exploit, Nick Sirianni stayed aggressive in his playcalling, and a pass rush that's been vicious all season just continued to hammer away on a Niners O-line that was out of gas. 

It's worked all year. Why stop now?

Wrote Sheil Kapadia:

It wasn’t the Eagles’ cleanest game, and it didn’t have to be. Hurts threw for a season-low 121 yards, but he didn’t turn the ball over and had to be accounted for in the run game, particularly in the second half, and the Eagles improved to 16-1 this season with him as their starter.

After the game, Hurts joined his teammates for a victory cigar at his locker. Smoke filled the room, and coughs interrupted players’ sentences as they spoke to reporters. As Hurts told the crowd at the Linc in the fourth quarter, this wasn’t the final step, but it certainly was worth celebrating.

Sirianni walked over to the defensive backs, found cornerback Avonte Maddox and safety Marcus Epps, and gave them hugs. Sirianni coached this game like he’s coached every other game this season: without fear. On the Eagles’ first drive of the game, with the offense facing a fourth-and-3, Sirianni went for it. The offense converted (thanks in part to the 49ers not challenging a DeVonta Smith catch) and went on to score a touchdown. Later, with six minutes and 39 seconds left in the second quarter, the Eagles faced a fourth-and-1 from their own 34. Sirianni got aggressive again, keeping the offense on the field. Hurts converted on a QB sneak, and the Eagles would eventually finish that drive with a touchdown to take a 14-7 lead.

“I don’t know how Sirianni walks around with the set of cojones that he has, bro,” left tackle Jordan Mailata said after the game. “That’s crazy. How’s the man walk around like that? Fourth down in a big playoff game? Dude, kudos to him. But big cojones, that guy.” [The Ringer]

The Kelce Bowl

Since the Eagles had the early game, there was the wait to see who their Super Bowl opponent would be out of the AFC and it turned out almost too perfect. 

They're getting the Chiefs after Kansas City sent the Bengals home, 23-20. 

Andy Reid will coach against his former team, both now going for a second ring, and Jason and Travis Kelce will be the first set of brothers to play each other in the Super Bowl. 

Gonna be a wild two weeks in the Kelce family.

One more thing

Opposing fans really need to stop doing this. It never goes well for them. 

On second thought, keep doing it. It's hilarious seeing every "takeover" go up in flames.

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