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Years since last time Capitals reached Stanley Cup Finals

Every dog has his day

Posted by Eric Fisher On January 21

The Eagles are underdogs in Super Bowl LII.

Just the way they like it.

The Eagles earned a shot at the defending-champion Patriots with a resounding 38-7 stomping of the Vikings before a raucous crowd at Lincoln Financial Field, setting off celebrations all around the Delaware Valley.

The Vikings were denied an opportunity to be the first team to play the Super Bowl on its home field. Instead, it will be the Eagles representing the NFC in Minnesota on Feb. 4, as they try to avenge the 24-21defeat the Patriots handed the Birds in Super Bowl XXXIX by winning the franchise’s first Super Bowl.

The Eagles will likely be underdogs against the defending champions, which means they can still carry that sizable “disrespected” chip on their collective shoulders.

“When people doubt you, you can feel it,” quarterback Nick Foles said. “When people doubt you, you know it.”

Vindication for Foles

Perhaps no individual player has received less respect than Foles. With the Eagles scuffling toward the end of the season after Carson Wentz suffered a season-ending torn ACL, the Foles doubters were out in full force. Having Foles at quarterback was a major factor in the Eagles, despite being the top seed and playing at home, being underdogs in their playoff games against the Falcons and Vikings.

But Sunday’s victory provided vindication for Foles. He completed 28 of 36 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns. Despite the lack of respect he receives, Foles’ quarterback rating has been above 100 in all three of his postseason starts (including against the Saints while with the Eagles four seasons ago), with Sunday’s rating at an astronomical 141.4.

“I couldn’t be happier for him,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. “I told him (when Foles came out of the game with 2 minutes remaining) that I was so proud of him and I love him.”

After the game, Vikings quarterback Case Keenum, who was Foles’ teammate with the Rams and shares a “backup” label with the Eagles quarterback, told Foles, “There’s nobody who deserves this more than you.”

Pederson answers his critics

The victory also provided vindication for Pederson. There were many doubters when Pederson was hired nearly two years ago. Many more desirable coaches were hired elsewhere. Pederson didn’t have much of a choice. His only head coaching interview was with the Eagles. The criticism of Pederson continued through the early stages of this season, with former NFL executive Mike Lombardi being the most vocal critic earlier this season.

But Pederson has guided his team through incredible adversity, including season-ending injuries to his starting kicker, All-Pro left tackle, most versatile running back, starting middle linebacker, top special teams coverage player and, of course, the starting quarterback. Pederson has designed outstanding game plans during the wins over both the Falcons and Vikings.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Pederson said. “I love coaching this football team. I love coaching the players in (the locker room). It’s a tremendous feeling. It hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

Pederson deserves a lot of credit for the atmosphere that has developed around the Eagles.

“We lean on each other,” Foles said. “We play for each other, and that’s what’s so special about this team.”

 

Roseman builds a winner

Sunday’s victory is also vindication for executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman. It was just a few years ago that Roseman was stripped of his responsibility for shaping the team’s personnel so it could go to then-head coach Chip Kelly. When Kelly was fired, Roseman regained control of personnel.

Roseman jettisoned players acquired by Kelly with bad contracts, maneuvered up in the draft to select Wentz with the second overall pick, filled in holes during the offseason by signing running back LeGarrette Blount, defensive end Chris Long, receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith – Jeffery had two touchdown catches Sunday and Smith had one – and, yes, Foles. Roseman traded for cornerback Ronald Darby just before the season started, and then, when injuries hit the Eagles this season, Roseman signed kicker Jake Elliott, re-signed running back/returner Kenjon Barner, special teamer Bryan Braman and traded for running back Jay Ajayi.

Big turnovers

He also drafted rookie defensive end Derek Barnett, who forced a fumble that was recovered by Long when the Vikings were inside the Eagles 20-yard line while trailing 14-7 with 3:16 remaining in the second quarter. Long was also involved in the first turnover, hitting Keenum as he threw, resulting in a dead duck throw that was picked off by cornerback Patrick Robinson. Robinson started down the left sideline, and then cut back across the field to the right side for a 50-yard momentum-changing interception return for a touchdown that tied the game and set off a thunderous sustained ovation that might have blown the roof off Lincoln Financial Field if The Linc had a roof.

“I don’t think it just pumped up the offense,” Foles said in response to a question asking about the impact on the offense. “I think it pumped up the whole city of Philadelphia.”

The city has two weeks to reflect on what the Eagles accomplished Sunday night.

“At the end of the day, we beat a really good football team,” said Long, who won a Super Bowl with the Patriots last season, “and we did it convincingly.”

These two weeks can also be a time to reflect on what the Eagles have overcome this season.

“How you face adversity is who you are,” tight end Brent Celek, the longest tenured Eagle who has won as many playoff games in the past two weeks as he had his entire career, told NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Derrick Gunn. “And this team has faced adversity better than any team I’ve seen in my life.”

But the Eagles have one more obstacle to overcome to reach their ultimate goal.

Doubt them at your own risk.

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