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Spadaro: Eagles' mental game making a difference

Jalen Hurts
Jalen Hurts

There are a lot of words used to describe that something special this Eagles team possesses. "Resiliency" is one. "Leadership" is another. "Grinding" is a good way to depict how the players and coaches work through their daily lives and the play-to-play segments of games.

All of those words work, and they all fall under the umbrella of mental toughness, and that is a personality trait and characteristic the Eagles have in abundance. They find ways to win. They don't panic. They stick to the course, they support each other, and they play for the team.

And they win football games, nine of them in the first 10 outings of this 2023 NFL season.

"When you come into a hostile environment, when you win a regular-season game on the road against really outstanding players and coaches, we can't do that alone," Head Coach Nick Sirianni said on Monday night following the 21-17 win over Kansas City. "We have to do that together and that was the message we had all week was play together. It really showed itself tonight how together we were. Whoever was going to win that game, was going to win it gritty, grimy, nasty. All those adjectives. It was not pretty on either side. It was going to be that way.

"The guys just stayed together and kept grinding it out. We were able to come out on top."

This is what happens when a team has mental toughness. It is a product of Sirianni's program, which from day one of his tenure emphasized his five Core Values: Connect, Compete, Accountability, Fundamentals, Football I.Q. He said from the very start that the Eagles would be a team laser focused on improving on a day-by-day basis and by attacking every facet within the day, every drill within the practice, every lesson in film study.

Sirianni's Eagles have shown that mental toughness many times in his three seasons – an early indication was when the team turned around after a 3-6 start in 2021 and won six of its next seven games that year to clinch a postseason berth. It continued through 2022 and now, as evidenced on Monday night, gains strength.

Mental resolve is a hard intangible to measure. Games like the one on Monday night are the best examples, as the Eagles turned things around after a 17-7 halftime deficit and clinched it with a great final series by the defense.

"I feel really confident in our team because they find ways to be resilient," Sirianni said. "That speaks to the character of the men in that locker room. Winning just breeds confidence, too. When you are down 10 at halftime, it was pretty similar to them in the Super Bowl (Super Bowl LVII, when the Eagles held a 24-14 lead after two quarters). They (Chiefs) were down by 10 at half and they found a way to win. Our guys found a way to win (on Monday night). Our guys found a way to stay together.

"We got the ball to start the second half and I think we went three and out. That was not part of the plan. Our plan was to go down and get it to a one-possession game. It didn't work that way. The guys just stuck together. I can't tell you how much I am pleased with how well they stuck together in adversity to win."

Now, it's on to the next challenge, and it's a significant one once again. The Buffalo Bills are 6-5 and battling for the postseason in the AFC. The Eagles have to reach another high emotional level to win this game

They again have to show that special something collectively.

"There is always another test ahead and that's what you have to get ready for," cornerback Darius Slay said. "This team, we play for each other and no matter who is out there, we trust that guy. We know he's going to step in and do his job and help the team win.

"You win games in this league and you move on to the next game. That's how we operate. One day to the next."

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