It is a new season, a fresh start. The playoffs offer exactly zero margin for error except this: What happened earlier in the season is in the past and postseason football is a very different game. Ball security is at a premium. Mental mistakes are exacerbated. Missed tackles and opportunities blow up in a team's face.
So as the Eagles and Head Coach Nick Sirianni begin their week of preparation for Monday night's Wild Card Playoff game at Tampa Bay, it's all on the line. And when things are all on the line, leadership takes an even more important role in the fortunes of a team.
That's what Sirianni is counting on with his football team.
"I think anyone can lead when times are easy. When times are hard, this is when you see what you're made of and how you lead. And so, I look at it as a challenge that I know we can get out of this slump that we're in. It's my job to make sure that we do, and I look at it as a challenge and how sweet it will be when we do get out of it because I know we will, and I know we've got the right guys to get out of it," Sirianni said at Monday's virtual press conference. "And what a week to go out there and try to do it this week against Tampa Bay. And so obviously, anytime you're going through challenges, it's a challenge, right? It's a challenge, but it also feels like the steps that have led you to this moment of being in these jobs, or being in a seat where the players are that have built you for this, right?
"We've all faced adversity on our way to get to where we are right now. And I'm speaking of this group of Philadelphia Eagles, right, and I know that I can look at one of the main adversities I've been through and say – maybe the biggest adversity I've been through – and say that's why I'm sitting here in this seat right now. I know that 100 percent.
"And so, like I said, anybody can lead in times of great joy. What's inside you and what can you do in times of trials and tribulations? And so, I look at it as a challenge, and I'm damn for sure up for that challenge."
Philadelphia defeated the Bucs 25-11 in Week 3 in Tampa, dominating on the ground with 201 rushing yards, closing off Tampa Bay's offensive firepower, and eating up the final 9-plus minutes of the clock with a 15-play drive. It was a terrific road win, something Sirianni is reminded of as he watches the film of that game.
His focus was primarily on the offense and how to go after Tampa Bay based on how things went way back in September.
"I'm watching the different ways to attack them, different things that we had done, and so I'm focused more on that. That was a good game that we played back in Week 3 against two good teams in the playoffs right now as the four and five seeds," he said. "And we know we're going to have a battle on our hands because I know how much respect I have for this defense and this defensive coordinator, the players that they have on that field, and we're going to have to be on it to accomplish what we want to accomplish.
"And so that's where my mind was when I'm watching the game. Different things that we did, different things we could do, different things we could do off the things that we did, and all those different things like that. So yeah, that's where my mind was when I was watching it this morning."
Injuries are a factor and Sirianni confirmed that safety Sydney Brown suffered a torn ACL in Sunday's loss at the Giants and faces a long recovery, but he didn't have much to say about wide receivers A.J. Brown (knee) and DeVonta Smith (ankle) and guard Cam Jurgens (eye) other than to say he was "hopeful" on all the players in this long week.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts has a finger injury – middle finger, throwing hand – and Sirianni lauded Hurts' toughness returning to Sunday's game after sustaining the injury.
"We know how tough Jalen is. I mean, this guy has played through a lot of different things and hats off to him because that – again, I don't want to say anyone can play when your body feels good, but it's when your body's feeling the way I know all our guys are feeling, and particularly Jalen, the fact that they played through those things speaks to how tough they are, and Jalen is right there at the top of the list and how tough he is," Sirianni said. "And so, he went back in, as you all saw, I was watching him closely when he came out of the tent and watching him throw. He looked at me and he said, 'I'm going,' got his helmet, picked it up, and that gives you goosebumps to think about one of your best players doing that and fighting through for his teammates.
"And so yeah, we'll see. We'll see as the week progresses, but I know he's going to be sore. There's no doubt about that, and I know that finger is going to get stiff and he's going to have to go through hard work to make sure that he's ready to go. But I have no doubt that he's going to do everything he can do to do that, and that he'll be able to play through his bumps and bruises because I've seen him do it.
"I've seen him do it over and over and over again. And, you guys can ask him more about that question when y'all talk to him, but, man, I can't say enough for how tough he is, and he'll do everything he can do to play and play at a high level this Monday night."