We're nearing the end of January, and the Birds are still balling. Following a dominant win over the New York Giants in the Divisional Round, the Eagles are one win away from a trip of a lifetime – a ticket to Arizona for Super Bowl LVII. The only thing standing in their way? The San Francisco 49ers. I'll take you inside the locker room and around the NovaCare Complex as Philly prepares for the NFC Championship Game.
BUSINESS AS USUAL
If you walked around the NovaCare Complex at any point this week, you wouldn't know if it was Week 4 or NFC Championship Week based on the demeanor, calmness, and focus this team has maintained.
We've heard from players and coaches alike that "it's just another week," and they certainly have walked the walk.
"If you treat one game bigger than what you treat others, do the other games not matter?" Sirianni said this week. "Does it not matter as much in Week 8? So, when you treat them all the same and you go through the same preparation each game, then you don't ride the roller coaster and the wave of the season."
Fletcher Cox said it's all about routine, and he's been working to set an example for younger players who haven't experienced playoff football before.
"If I walk around the building with good energy and my attention to detail is where it needs to be, then they see me doing that. Well, they're going to say, 'Hey, Fletch is locked in. His attention to detail is where it needs to be. The standard is set. He's setting the standard for us.' And they'll follow," Cox said.
"I think we're trying to stay focused on what's important and that's just truly enjoying the moment – enjoying and attacking the process in front of us this week," Hurts said. "Taking it day by day. Never get too high or too low with it."
His sentiments throughout the week echoed what he's consistently said throughout the entire regular season. As Sirianni quoted his mentor, former Eagles Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich: "No man suddenly becomes different than his cherished thoughts and habits. Meaning, no one suddenly becomes different. You are who you've been the whole time."
The process didn't change for the Eagles one bit – all the way down to Mrs. Slay's Friday delivery of homemade banana pudding. Every Friday, Slay's wife, Jennifer, hand-delivers a box of pudding that Slay passes around to his teammates in the locker room; it's something everyone looks forward to at the end of the week. A tradition unlike any other.
HURTS AND PURDY: AN NFL REUNION
It was November 9, 2019 in Norman, Oklahoma. Jalen Hurts and Brock Purdy were quarterbacking their teams in a Big 12 clash. Hurts and the Sooners ultimately got the 42-41 victory, although Purdy led quite the comeback to bring the game within reach for the Cyclones.
The pair combined for 11 total touchdowns and the teams produced more than 950 yards of total offense. When Hurts and Purdy meet again on Sunday, it will be the first conference championship game since at least 2000 in which the starting quarterbacks also faced each other in college.
"I have a lot of respect for him," Hurts said about Purdy. "He's always been a really good player, has a lot of moxie, makes plays, and he's been doing that since college. So there's no surprise to him that when he was given this opportunity to see the success he's having now."
Purdy also provided perspective this week on the infamous shootout.
"Obviously, there was a lot of points scored – it was almost like you had to score every single time you had the ball," Purdy reflected during a press conference this week. "It was a great experience to go against Jalen. They had a great team, he was making plays and stuff, and I feel like we had to do the same to keep up and stay alive in that game as well. This is a different situation, a different scenario going into Sunday."
THANK YOU, HOWIE ROSEMAN
Heading into Week 11 against the Colts, Howie Roseman set out to beef up the defensive line. He signed veteran defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh within 24 hours of each other. The pair are both in their 30s, have spent 10+ years in the NFL, and combined for seven Pro Bowls.
Joseph and Suh have been true professionals since they touched down at the NovaCare Complex, embracing their roles, quickly learning the playbook, and being mentors to the younger players in the room.
Since they both made their Eagles' debuts in Indianapolis, it's safe to say that the Executive of the Year Howie Roseman did it again. Success.
Suh said when he made the decision to sign with Philadelphia in November, he wanted to be a part of something special. "I think Linval (Joseph) and myself have added some value in that particular space," when asked about his contributions in stopping the run. "But I think there's some great talents with obviously Fletch (Cox), Grave (Javon Hargrave), and Milt (Williams), and Jordan (Davis)."
There'll be a heavy emphasis on stopping the run this week as the 49ers boast a Top-10 rushing attack. Suh faced San Francisco running back Christian McCaffrey for three seasons when they both played in the NFC South – Suh with the Bucs and McCaffrey with the Panthers. He knows McCaffrey's strengths, and it's going to be a full team effort to stop the 49ers from gaining yardage on the ground.
For Cox, he's walking into Championship Sunday, "feeling good," as he reported this week. The week before signing Joseph and Suh, Cox played 70 snaps. As an 11-year veteran, longevity is tough, and Cox is grateful for the rotation that's been established here in Philly.
"I think Howie did a really good job at bringing guys in that can ball," Cox said. "To me, it's not a starting group. To me, it's 1A, 1B because there's not a drop-off when we go into a game. We hold each other accountable, we expect it, we know what that guy's job is to do. In order for us to be really, really good, there can't be a drop-off."
"I feel like we have a good team chemistry," Joseph said. "And we've been doing a hell of a job of keeping everybody fresh and everybody's been able to make plays and have fun doing what they're doing."
For Cox, these additions provide fresh legs, for rookie defensive tackle Jordan Davis, it's the mentorship that's served him well.
"It's everything," Davis reflected. "The knowledge that they have and the experiences – hearing about the experience that they had going through the league, how to avoid problems that they ran into, and stuff like that. It's really valuable information on the field and off the field. I'm grateful for them, those are like my guys, I call them my OGs."
Joseph and Suh were players Davis grew up watching, dreaming to one day have careers similar to theirs. He calls it a "joy" to come to work with them every day. "I love them," Davis said.