As the Eagles prepare for their Wild Card playoff matchup with the New Orleans Saints, many fans are wondering how this young team will handle the pressure of the playoffs. It's a fair question to ask. After all, the Eagles' average age is just 26.1 and the roster is very different than it was in 2010, the last time the Eagles made the postseason. But to offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, there is no real curiosity from the coaching staff about how the team will respond because the Eagles have been playing with a playoff mindset for quite some time.
"It's all the same," Shurmur said at his Tuesday. "Obviously, we are one of 12 right now and obviously we are in win-or-go-home mode, but that's been the case the last few weeks. So we feel like we've practiced it.
"We just get them back into the routine and the process of training. We emphasize all of the things that keep someone going. Hopefully they're getting their rest and taking care of their bodies and then you work with them. This is kind of the first step for all of us. You want to be one of the 12, and now we are. Now once you're here, it's win or go home, so I think they all understand that."
Looking at Saturday's opponent, the Saints have been known primarily for their high-powered offense ever since head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees came to town in 2006. This season, while their offense has remained a force to be reckoned with, it has been the Saints defense that has really impressed. New Orleans allows the fourth-fewest yards per game (305.7) and points per game (19.0) in the NFL, and according to Shumur, it can all be traced back to their fiery defensive play-caller.
"It starts with their coordinator," Shurmur said. "Rob Ryan is very aggressive in nature. They get pressure on the quarterback and they create turnovers. They've had injuries in the back end like most teams and they've found a way to kind of compensate for that by getting pressure … I don't think he's going to change what he does. We anticipate that he will come after us."
The Saints defense won't be the only thing that the Eagles have to deal with on Saturday night. With the forecast calling for temperatures in the low 20's, the Eagles will also have to battle the elements. There is no precipitation in the forecast, so don't expect Snow Bowl 2014, but the frigid temperatures will put an extra emphasis on ball control.
"You kind of figure out how cold it is in warm-ups," Shurmur said. "Ball security is always at a premium, no matter what the temperature. What's important is that you go out there and execute. You get yourself ready to go out there and throw and hand it off, and you make sure you do an extra good job of securing it."
The Eagles have been terrific at holding on to the football this season. In fact, they set a franchise record by committing only 19 turnovers in 16 games. That stat becomes ever more incredible when taking into consideration that the Eagles also set franchise marks in passing yardage while setting an all-time NFL record with 99 plays of at least 20 yards. When asked about that accomplishment, Shurmur praised all of the Eagles playmakers for the way that they respect the football.
"I think it's just the basis of how we play offense," Shurmur explained. "We try to keep it simple and make it look complicated to the outside world, and I'll go back to the lack of turnovers- the guys who carry the football and touch the football understand how important it is to possess it. That's first and foremost, and then when we throw the football, Nick if making good decisions and we've got guys that can track the ball down the field. When we're running the ball, we're getting the running back to the second and third level where they have a chance to make big gains. I think all of that is the reason why. It will be a fun thing to study in the offseason. We don't reflect much right now. We're just getting ready to play the next team."
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