PHILADELPHIA — Privately, confidently, the Eagles made it known last week that all systems were go and nothing would hold them back in the second round of the playoffs against the New York Giants.
Someone critical to the Super Bowl cause suggested the game would be over by halftime, which proved to be wrong because there was no fight left in the Giants after the first quarter of their 38-7 beatdown.
Let’s be honest about what happened. The Eagles hadn’t played well in over a month. The last time they put together four solid quarters was that 48-22 beatdown of the Giants at MetLife Stadium. Six weeks is an eternity in a league where each week is its own entity, especially for a team using much of that time concealing the injuries of two of its most important players in Jalen Hurts and Lane Johnson, who, oh by the way, both played 67 of the team’s 70 offensive snaps.
The Giants weren’t the only people wondering if they would be fully functional. Those weren’t the only legitimate worries entering the game. The Eagles have a history of fading in games after they’ve had rest. The Giants were playing better than the team the Eagles hammered in North Jersey. Heck, Daniel Jones looked like he’d studied film of Hurts and could play, what with all the running he did in a first-round playoff win over the Minnesota Vikings.
The Eagles were favored by 7.5 points, not 29.5. Only the Eagles saw this coming, which leads to another point.
Before the blowout, various Eagles players were queried about the other top teams remaining in the tournament. Who better to ask than guys who see more film of the opposition than the talking heads now choking on their own hot takes? The roll call went, 1. Chiefs, 2. Bills, 3. Bengals.
Obviously, that intelligence was gathered before Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes had his ankle rolled in the first quarter of a 27-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Did anybody else flash back to 2002, when Donovan McNabb threw four touchdown passes to beat the Arizona Cardinals on a fractured fibula?
The way Mahomes was hopping around, there is no way he’ll be 100 percent this week against the Bengals, who defeated the Bills 27-10 Sunday. There’s a chance that 37-year-old Chad Henne, the product of Wilson High and native of Wyomissing gets the nod. Barring a medical miracle, the road to the Super Bowl no longer goes through K.C., however.
With Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat and Javon Hargrave, the Eagles have a pass rush that can get to Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. When healthy, Mahomes is 0-3 against Burrow. That title game could get ugly.
In terms of the NFC final, does it matter if the Dallas Cowboys beat the San Francisco 49ers in the other second round NFC game, or vice versa? Some Eagles believe the Cowboys are the better opponent. Others say the 49ers. The big difference between those teams is the quarterback. Twenty-nine-year-old Dak Prescott is the oldest quarterback left in the playoffs. Niners quarterback Brock Purdy, 23, is the youngest. And though he’s played well down the homestretch he’s not only a rookie, but the last (262nd overall) pick in the draft.
No rookie quarterback has even gotten his team to the Super Bowl, let alone win one. Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco got the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens close but didn’t win Super Bowls until later in their careers.
Prescott is 9-5 against the Eagles, but none of those are playoff games. And let’s not forget that he struggles managing games that go down to the wire. Though he’s credited with a dozen fourth-quarter comebacks and 19 game-winning drives you cannot excuse him for failing to understand that the referee has to spot the ball in order for the quarterback to spike it. He didn’t and the Cowboys were beaten, 23-17, by the 49ers in the first round of the playoffs last year.
On paper those teams are no more a threat to the Eagles than the Giants. That is not to say the Eagles will steamroll their way to Glendale, Ariz., the site of Super Bowl LVII. There will be adversity. That can be good for a team. Not as swell as moving on in the postseason.
“I think we’ve proven throughout the regular season and obviously tonight that we can be a very good team when we play well in all three phases,” center Jason Kelce said after the win over the Giants. “We have a very good defense, we have a very good offense, we have great coaches, we have good special teams. I think we can be a dominant force when we don’t make mistakes and we don’t beat ourselves. I don’t think we need to do what we did tonight to prove that. But maybe it’s a nice reminder.”
Truth be told, the acid test with respect to the health of Hurts and Johnson will arrive next Sunday at 3 p.m. in the conference title game. Can they play at the same level with just one week to recover?
Not a lot of suspense there. But at this point it’s better to be good than dramatic.
Contact Bob Grotz at firstname.lastname@example.org; you can follow him @bobgrotz on Twitter
Source: Berkshire mont
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