PHILADELPHIA — Call them the Bird ’Dogs.
The Eagles may be the top seed in the NFC and have home-field advantage in next Sunday’s conference title game after beating the Falcons, but this team feels slighted by each prognosticator, pundit and panelist who has come out in the past few weeks to declare them finished. They so much relish their role as underdogs now that offensive lineman Lane Johnson and defensive end Chris Long walked off the field wearing dog masks following Saturday’s 15-10 win. Johnson was still wearing his in the postgame locker room when reporters entered.
“We used it for motivation, who’s picking who,” Johnson said, noting that he and Long went on Amazon during the week to order their hound headgear. “We had them in [injured tackle] Jason Peters’ coat so after the win we could break them out.”
Peters being sidelined is just one reason why so many have been down on the Eagles’ chances. The biggest reason, though, was the loss of MVP candidate Carson Wentz to a torn ACL in December. The quarterback was on the field with the Eagles on Saturday during warmups and on the sideline during the game, supporting his teammates and soaking in the atmosphere of his first (sort of) playoff game.
“If you feel disrespected, you just have to go and take your respect because it’s not given,” Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “If we believe the outsiders, we’ll be all messed up. We want to be focused on the task at hand. We just went out and proved that we can be the real winning team.”
It’s a rare combination for a squad to use the us-against-the-world, nobody-believes-in-us mantras after being the dominant team during the regular season. Yet it might just be the recipe that can help deliver the Eagles their first championship since 1960.
This is Philadelphia, after all. The home of Rocky. What good would winning as the prohibitive favorite do?
The Eagles will host either the Vikings or the Saints next Sunday, and chances are they’ll once again find themselves in the familiar role of having their guests as the favorites.
“Just keep on disrespecting and we’re going to keep proving people wrong,” wide receiver Alshon Jeffery said. “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.”
The win over the defending NFC champs may cause some to take a second look at the Eagles. They may have convinced a few observers that they can still mount a run for the Super Bowl. The Eagles have a message for those folks, too: Don’t bother.
“We don’t want nobody jumping on the bandwagon now,” defensive end Brandon Graham said. “We’re still the underdogs and that’s how we’ll go out there.”