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January 14, 2018

Eagles silence their critics (for now), and are ready to do it again in NFC Championship Game

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011418_Mills-Jalen_usat James Lang/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills celebrates after beating the Atlanta Falcons in an NFC divisional playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field.

With their 15-10 win over the Falcons Saturday night, the Eagles not only advanced, but also proved the oddsmakers wrong after being made the first No. 1 overall seed to be an underdog against a No. 6 seed.

They are still waiting to find out who they'll be facing next Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, but no matter the opponent, the Birds are almost guaranteed to be a home underdog once again. 

With two weeks between their regular season finale, a 6-0 loss to the Cowboys, the players were asked countless times about their thoughts on being the underdogs despite an NFL-best 13-3 record and home-field advantage. There were signs posted around the NovaCare Complex reminding the team what was being said about them in the media. 

And while most teams will tell you they ignore such outside noise – or so they say – the Eagles appeared to be well aware that they were underdogs. Furthermore, they seemed to relish in that fact. Just look at the dog masks Lane Johnson and Chris Long were wearing after the game. 

Or this GIF tweeted out by right guard and PhillyVoice contributor Brandon Brooks.

The Eagles, now just one win from advancing to the Super Bowl, are feeling pretty good about themselves, and that includes owner Jeffrey Lurie, who decided to express his excitement through interpretive dance.

Following the win, several players were asked about the impact of that underdog mentality, and while some chose to let the scoreboard do the talking, there were plenty of guys ready to serve out some humble pie. 

Making it this deep in the postseason is no easy feat, and for many Eagles players, this will be their first taste of championship weekend. For others, like Malcolm Jenkins, it's been a long road back to this point. But one thing remained constant, no matter who was talking: These guys are enjoying the ride – no matter how many people are counting them out.

Here's a look at some of the best quotes from the locker room:

HEAD COACH DOUG PEDERSON

Q. You were picked to be an underdog at home; a one against a six for the first time ever. Were you and your team insulted about that reality without QB Carson Wentz and do you feel validated after this win and the way that you won?

You know what, at the end of the day, we find a way to win the game. Whether we're underdogs or favored, listen I love all those guys in that locker room right there. They don't care [about being considered underdogs or favorites]. I don't care. Our fans are a big part of the success tonight. And it's about those players in that dressing room, whether we're three-point underdogs or three-point favorites. They really don't listen to that stuff. Of course, they have been sort of force-fed for about two weeks now, three weeks now, the information, and they just stick together. They just stick together and find a way and it's been that way all season.

We’re not worried about [the doubters]. We’re worried about the guys in this locker room. Everyone’s going to say the Eagles don’t have a chance, and we’re going to relish in that opportunity again.

On if he thought they would embrace the underdog role for motivation:

Listen, for about – when did Carson go down? [December 10.] Okay. 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. We're 13-3 and have the best record in football, we've got home-field advantage throughout. Listen, there's not a lot – I mean, 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.

QB NICK FOLES

On if there is personal validation for him winning this game:

You know, I am very humbled to win this game and to be a part of this team. That’s what it’s always been about. I know there was a lot of people against us this last week. Just answering questions, and just hearing about it. But the biggest thing about this is that is sports, that’s part of it. The biggest thing in our locker room is we believe in one another. Everyone believes, and that was shown on display tonight. The city of Philadelphia obviously believes because they were here and loud. So we are grateful for that. Honestly, it’s unbelievable to win this game and we are not finished.

On if he wants to say anything to the people who doubted him:

Honestly, I don’t need to.

On why he feels he doesn’t need to say anything to those who doubted him:

Because it doesn’t matter. They are doing their job, but it doesn’t affect how I play or what I believe. And ya’ll asked me last week am I confident in myself; well, I am confident in myself because I know how hard we work and I know that we believe in one another in that locker room. So there is no need to waste my time to say anything about it because we went out there and played great team football. We played Philadelphia Eagle football tonight and that’s the most important thing. I don’t need to say anything else to anyone.

On the position the team is in right now and the special feeling:

Yeah, I mean, I am really just focusing you know. We have a little bit of time to enjoy this moment and cherish it. Honestly I can’t wait just to go see my family. My daughter was at the game and I know you all know I love my daughter to death, so I cannot wait to go see her. It’s crazy to be here, to have an opportunity to play for the conference championship, I can’t wait for it.

One game closer to that dream that we all have of playing in the Super Bowl. At the end of the day, whatever it takes, find a way to win.

TE ZACH ERTZ

On how it feels being one win away from the Super Bowl:

It’s amazing. It’s exactly how everyone described it. We had guys talking to us all week about the feeling of winning the Super Bowl, and the jubilation that we felt after this win was the most excited I think this team has ever been that I’ve been on. It’s the farthest we’ve ever been as a team since I’ve been here, and the farthest the Eagles have been since [Eagles TE Brent] Celek’s second year in the league. It’s been a long time coming. The city deserves it. They were amazing tonight; the crowd was amazing, and it was a lot of fun today.

On supporting QB Nick Foles and how it feels to see him get the win:

Yeah, it was great. I mean, no one counted us in this thing; everyone picked the Falcons to win, and deservedly so, they are a great team. But coming here and playing the Eagles in the Lincoln Financial Field is tough. [We are] 15-2 over the last two years with this game, so obviously it’s a really tough place to play for the opponents. Nick played his butt off; he made the throws when he had to. We ran the ball efficiently so we weren’t facing a ton of third-and-longs which was huge and that’s going to be the way we can continue to do this thing is not having those third-and-long situations.

On what he thinks about being 3-point underdogs and the odds-makers picking the Falcons to win:

I’m glad they’re not in charge of my finances. It feels like all of those guys that pick the games are typically wrong – same with the guys that usually do the Draft stuff, the Mock Draft, kind of the same thing. All these guys that think they know everything typically don’t. I’m proud of this team. We definitely heard about it all week, that we were the first No. 1 seed ever to be underdogs in Week Two of the playoffs, so, it is what it is. We are so proud of the 53 guys we have in this locker room, the practice squad guys, the guys that went on IR. I mean, you could have a freaking Pro Bowl team with the guys on IR. So, that’s a testament to the guys that we have right now.

On if Foles answered any questions to any doubters today with his performance:

No, I’m sure everyone will have their doubts. We’re not worried about them. We’re worried about the guys in this locker room. Everyone’s going to say the Eagles don’t have a chance, and we’re going to relish in that opportunity again.

RB JAY AJAYI

On how it feels winning and going to the NFC Championship game:

It’s exciting. One game closer to that dream that we all have of playing in the Super Bowl. At the end of the day, whatever it takes, find a way to win. And we did that tonight.

C JASON KELCE

On advancing to the NFC Championship Game:

I’m just happy to get the first playoff win of my career. I’ve been here for seven years and this is the first one. That kind of shows how hard it is to win in this league. It’s been an outstanding season and we’re fired up to keep this thing going, but I’m going to enjoy this one at least for tonight.

You guys doubted [Foles]. We never doubted him. We never said that. We believe in anybody lining up back there at quarterback.

WR NELSON AGHOLOR

On how it feels knowing the team could go to the Super Bowl with one more win next weekend:

I am excited to have another opportunity to play this game. We fought very hard for another opportunity to play this wonderful game and to keep our careers going for a lot of people, so that is what it is.

WR ALSHON JEFFERY

On the feeling of being one win away from the Super Bowl:

It’s a great feeling. We just have to enjoy this moment. Next week, next Sunday, is a bigger stage but at the same time, we’re going to enjoy this and just keep working.

On how they let the skepticism affect them:

Just keep on disrespecting and we’re going to keep proving people wrong. We just believe in one another, we don’t care what anybody else says. We’re just going to keep believing in one another and just keep fighting.

On how he feels about Foles being doubted more than anybody:

You guys doubted him. We never doubted him. We never said that. We believe in anybody lining up back there at quarterback. We believe that we still have 21 other guys out there.

S MALCOLM JENKINS

On how exciting it is to have the opportunity to play in the NFC Championship Game:

You don’t get it many times. This is my ninth year in the league and this is only my second time getting to this level, this stage. So we’ll enjoy it. We’ll get back to work. Focus back on our grind and get ready to complete next week.

On whether he also used the position of the Eagles being underdogs to motivate the team this week:

No not really. I think we heard it loud enough from enough people. It was hard for us to not hear it. You know, all the stuff that was being said. But my message for the whole last two weeks has just been, ‘focus on the small things that win games.’ And the environment, the natural weight of this game is going to bring that intensity. It’s going to bring the energy. But where we need to focus is the small details – blocking, tackling, catching, running, finishing plays. And we did that on every team, every facet of the game – special teams, offense, defense – and we got a win.

DT FLETCHER COX

On being one win away from the Super Bowl:

It feels good. Today was a good day for us and we battled until the end. We knew the game was going to take 60 minutes to get it done. As a team, we came out and got it done.

On quieting the doubters with a win:

It feels great. We believe in each other in this locker room. If we believe the outsiders, we will be all messed up. We want to be focused on the task at hand. We just went out today and proved that we can be the real winning team.

On whether the disrespect from the outside can fuel the team:

Absolutely, I think it can fuel anybody. If you feel disrespected, you just have to go and take your respect because it is not given.

DE CHRIS LONG

On the defense’s potential ability to win a championship:

We’re taking it one week at a time. We’re going to have a tough opponent no matter who comes in here next week but that should be our standard of keeping the points down that way. That was a really good defensive performance for us and a team effort as well. You talk about time of possession, our offense was great with running the ball and grinding it out. That was a team win.

CB JALEN MILLS

On how being the underdog fueled them vs. Atlanta:

I don’t know. I think right now as far as the defense went, we just wanted to key in our assignments. The whole motto and the slogan this week was just do your job. Nobody has to go out there and be superman. Know what you have to do for one, then go out there and execute.


Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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