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Spadaro: The message from inside the Eagles' locker room: 'Win or it's over'

Lane Johnson
Lane Johnson

Win or it's over, and the energy in the Eagles' locker room at the NovaCare Complex very strongly leans in the direction of keep playing. Philadelphia plays at Tampa Bay on Monday night and as the intensity builds and the weekend plays itself out, the Eagles will travel to Florida and prepare for the final game of Super Wild Card Weekend.

Keep winning. Keep playing. That's the message from Around the Locker Room ...

Lane Johnson: 'Get this running game going'

The hope, All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson says, is that the pressure of the playoffs pushes the Eagles into their best football of the season. The locker room has a slew of players who have been here before and who understand what it means.

"We've been playing like (expletive) the last month and a half and so hopefully with the pressure on, hopefully we will play to a certain standard," Johnson said. "There have been times here when we've suddenly turned things around – Nick's (Sirianni, head coach) first year, for example, some years before that – and I think that us not playing well lately is going to impact our focus and try to be the team we were early in the year.

"Hopefully we get this running game going, be balanced, and have a clean game. Pound the rock. There hasn't been a game where we feel like, 'This is the Eagles.' We've always felt like we're wanting more."

Philadelphia ran for 201 yards in the Week 3 win over the Bucs and the Eagles will look to establish the line of scrimmage against a tough and aggressive front on Monday night.

"They've got good players and bring a whole lot of different blitzes and disguises," Johnson said. "Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay head coach) is probably the best as far as disguising stuff and bringing different blitz packages."

Olamide Zaccheaus: Excited for first time in playoffs

Ask wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus to name the biggest game of his NFL career and he pauses.

"Probably ... this one," he said. "This is my first time in the playoffs. I'm really excited to get out there. It's been a great week, but it feels like business as usual. Not everybody in this league makes it to the postseason, but you have to understand the task at hand. You have to treat it like a business, keep your focus, and get ready to play your best ball, like every week."

Zaccheaus had a touchdown catch in the Week 3 win at Tampa Bay and he and quarterback Jalen Hurts have chemistry and confidence in each other. Both teams are different so many weeks later, and that's a key to understand.

"I'm in the moment. I'm not living in the past," he said. "It's playoff football and we know what's on the line. Tampa Bay, they're a little bit different than what they were before. Teams have wrinkles throughout the season, but we have a great challenge ahead of us. I know this: We're going to be ready to play. It's been a great week."

Eli Ricks: Tampa Bay's receivers are a challenge

In the Week 3 win, the Philadelphia defense did a terrific job limiting Mike Evans to 2 receptions and 13 yards through three quarters, by which time the Eagles had a commanding lead. Tampa Bay has more than Evans, who led the NFL with 13 touchdown catches this season. Chris Godwin had 83 receptions for 1,024 yards and Trey Palmer had 39 receptions and 3 scores.

Ricks, whose remarkable journey started this season as an undrafted rookie, has been in overtime mode preparing.

"We always pay attention to detail and that hasn't changed, but you know we're all aware of what a win means. That's the difference, I think," Ricks said. "The stakes are so high and that is the emphasis. The Bucs have a great receiving corps, with Mike Evans potentially a Hall of Fame guy. Baker (Mayfield, Bucs quarterback) has played better and better throughout the year. We expect a lot from them and we're ready for anything.

"The focus can't just be on Evans because Godwin works out of the slot a lot and runs the intermediate routes and Baker looks a lot to him when he needs a first down. Evans is the guy who goes and gets it down the field. No. 10 (Palmer) is a fast, speedy guy and their running back (Rachaad White) catches a lot of passes (64 for 549 yards, 3 touchdowns), so they're a really good offense."

Ricks will have his family in the house on Monday night, adding to the expectations.

"It's going to be a special night, but the only thing that matters is that we win," he said. "That is the entire focus."

Kevin Byard: A lot of guys around the league will be watching

To keep it in perspective, there are 32 teams in the NFL, and there are only 14 in the postseason. That's fewer than half the teams and half the players who will be in the playoffs.

It's a big deal.

"Those guys watching, they're going to be jealous a little bit," safety Kevin Byard said. "I was like that last year so we've really got to take advantage of the opportunity. At the end of the day, it's sudden death. We've got to go out there and play our best, play fast and free, and put it all on the line."

Safety Reed Blankenship hasn't practiced this week because of a groin injury, so there is uncertainty with the plan should Blankenship not play. Adding to it is the loss of rookie Sydney Brown, who incurred a knee injury against the Giants.

"We know the key is to start by stopping the run and then dealing with their weapons in the passing game," said Byard. "They are explosive and we can't let them wreck the game, especially with the deep ball."

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