BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – It circles back to being unselfish, which equals success, which equals Super Bowl. The Eagles are banking on winning the line of scrimmage on Sunday, on putting a physical pounding on the Patriots.
"It's how we've been doing it all season and we have to continue to do it on Sunday," All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. "We have to go out there and fly around the make plays and impose our will. It's what we do best – get off the ball and be physical and take it to them.
"This is not about one individual. We know that we have to do our jobs to have collective success. That's what it's all about."
The investment the Eagles have made at the line of scrimmage in the last couple of years – using two draft picks (Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai) and signing free agents Brandon Brooks and Stefen Wisniewski in the 2016 offseason to shore up the offensive line and then signing Chris Long, trading for Tim Jernigan, and drafting Derek Barnett for the defensive line – have paid off for the Eagles.
This team has, arguably, the best offensive line in football. The defensive line isn't far behind, if at all. Wearing down the opposition is the trademark of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are as physical a football team as it has ever been.
The Big Uglies don't play around. They're on the field to rip apart the guys on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Combining terrific athleticism, talent, physicality, and, yes, an unselfish attitude has brought out the best in the Eagles.
"I think it's great that we're getting recognition this season," right tackle Lane Johnson said, "but it's not just because of what we're doing. It's how you win football games. Of course it's a team game and all 11 players are important, but the team that wins in the trenches has the advantage. That's where everything starts. I'm glad that people are recognizing the importance of the line of scrimmage. We aren't going to score touchdowns, but we're going to make it easier for the guys who do score touchdowns. You can't do much as a running back if there isn't anywhere to run.
"The way we've come together up front has been great to be a part of. I've had a chance to work with Brandon and really get to know him on and off the field. He's big, athletic, strong, loves the game. He works hard. He wants to be the best. We've been together for two years and I feel like I know everything about the guy."
How much will the trenches dictate the outcome of Sunday's Super Bowl LII?
"It's how the Eagles have to beat New England, and given the strength they have up front, they can win this way," NFL Network analyst and former New York Giants offensive guard Shaun O'Hara said on Wednesday during an interview on Radio Row in the Mall Of America. "Jim Schwartz's scheme is built on penetration, and when you can get up the field, you disrupt everything. You stop the running game in its tracks. You make Tom Brady uncomfortable because he has nowhere to go.
"On offense, I think the Eagles may have the best offensive line in the league. They are really athletic and they play well together. The Eagles have run the ball great this year and they've shown that they can give Nick Foles a clean pocket. Winning in the trenches on Sunday will tell a lot about who wins this game."
But why does it work for the Eagles? What makes the team so good up front?
"It's always been important to build the lines of scrimmage," Howie Roseman said earlier this week. "That's something that we're always going to be aware of. We have put a lot of resources into both lines of scrimmage and you're seeing how much those resources are paying off."
Coaching helps, too, and the Eagles have some fine ones in Jeff Stoutland on offense and Chris Wilson on defense. Both coaches know their personnel and understand how to bring out the very best in the players.
"I love Coach Stout," center Jason Kelce said. "He works us hard, he's very demanding, and we need that. We work on the fine details. We work until we get it right and then we keep working. That's how he does things. We're not here for the glory, not playing the positions we play. We all have to work together for it to work for the team."
Look, Brady and Foles are going to be subject to a lot of the focus on Sunday. Understood. The quarterbacks rule the world. And anywhere the football goes, the attention will follow. That's the glamour part of the game.
But the Eagles are going in with designs on winning in the trenches, punching the Patriots in the mouth, and taking care of the line of scrimmage. If that's the case, the Eagles are going to be in good shape to win their first Super Bowl.