MINNEAPOLIS — For one day, the Eagles had the Super Bowl to themselves.
They arrived in the Twin Cities on Sunday afternoon, early enough to enjoy roughly 24 hours in the area before their opponent is scheduled to land Monday afternoon.
That Minneapolis monopoly won’t last, of course. Pretty soon the Patriots — the team that has become synonymous with Super Bowls for most of the past two decades — will take over. They’re so familiar with these surroundings, from media days to meetings in hotels to practices on foreign fields, that they’ve become as comfy as their beds at home.
The Vikings were one win away from hosting and playing in Super Bowl LII. The Patriots pretty much accomplished it.
So how does a team like the Eagles, a franchise that never has won a Lombardi Trophy and has minimal experience in these situations, handle this intrusion on New England’s turf?
By claiming it as their own.
“You know what? If I make this all about them, we’re in trouble,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said this past week. “Honestly, we’re in trouble. Everything’s going to be written about it — everything has been written about it — talked about it, debated, and it’s about us. I’ll keep saying that. It’s about what we do and how well we execute, and I can’t worry about that.”
Asked how he and his team will handle the mystique of the Patriots, of Bill Belichick and of Tom Brady, Pederson noted that the Patriots’ successful past is, in fact, in the past. The five previous titles are previous.
“That’s a real issue that you have,” Pederson said. “These guys have been there. They’ve done it. They’ve proven it time and time again. My biggest focus with the team is let’s just focus on today. Let’s just win today. Let’s get better today, and we’ll worry about that when we get to the game. Obviously, it’s a credit to what the Patriots have done, and their careers, and their history, and everybody is trying to win championships like that. But we’ve just got to focus on today.”
In facing the Patriots’ aura, the Eagles may have some secret weapons — two players who were part of the machine a year ago. Running back LeGarrette Blount and defensive end Chris Long won rings with New England a year ago before signing with the Eagles during the offseason.
Blount made it clear that you can take the player out of New England but you can’t take the New England out of the player. There are no emotions, no feelings. Just a Terminator-type drive to move forward.
“Straight enemy mode,” Blount said. “Ain’t no friends, no homies, none of that. We know what we’re going to do, they know what they’re going to do. We’ve got the same goal in mind. It ain’t no hard feelings. It just is what it is.”
Long, giving a public scouting report of his former team, said: “Everything runs through number 12 [Brady] and 87 [tight end Rob Gronkowski]. In my opinion, those are two of the greatest to ever play at their positions. You can make an argument that they are the greatest.”
On Super Bowl Sunday, they’ll be looking to improve that legacy. And the Eagles will get a chance to do something no team besides the Giants (twice!) has been able to do in this century.
Added Long: “They have the same objective we have. They’re a great football team, we’re a great football team.”
They put their pants on one leg at a time, in other words. They just happen to have pockets filled with rings when they do so.