Philadelphia fans hardly needed another reason to doubt their Eagles, and the skepticism about the team’s Super Bowl possibilities was justified in mid-December when star quarterback Carson Wentz sustained a season-ending knee injury and Nick Foles took the job.
Yet here are the Eagles, one game away from their first Super Bowl appearance in 13 years. In advance of Sunday’s NFC championship game vs. Minnesota, a closer look at the Eagles:
Philadelphia spent most of the season being viewed as the NFL’s best team, but went into its first playoff game as an underdog at home. That’s the case again this week, as Foles tries to beat another fill-in QB, Minnesota’s Case Keenum.
How they got here
The Eagles went 13-3 to win the NFC East title and earn the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Philadelphia beat Atlanta 15-10 in the divisional round, stopping the Falcons at the 2-yard line. Foles passed for 246 yards, including a completion that came after the ball caromed wickedly off an Atlanta defender. That may have been a sign that the Eagles are not cursed, after all.
The Eagles could have a Super Bowl reunion with former University of Utah cornerback Eric Rowe, after trading him to New England last season. Coach Doug Pederson is a member of BYU graduate Andy Reid’s extensive NFL coaching tree, after working for Reid in Philadelphia and Kansas City.
Moment in BYU/Utah opponent history
Eagles receiver Nelson Agholor was a prominent USC player vs. Utah in 2014 at Rice-Eccles Stadium, where the Utes rallied for a 24-21 victory. The Trojans could have run out the clock by converting a fourth-and-2 play at the Utah 28-yard line. After taking a misdirection pitch, Agholor was bumped out of bounds a yard short of the marker. Utah drove down the field for the winning touchdown, via Travis Wilson’s pass to Kaelin Clay with 8 seconds remaining.
Jason Kelce, center. Wentz might have fit this category, because he was playing at an MVP level before being injured. Kelce is a first-team All-Pro selection, and the Eagles’ offensive line will be vital against Minnesota’s No. 1-ranked defense.
Best player you’ve never heard of
Lane Johnson, offensive tackle. Kelce is slightly more famous, so Johnson earns this distinction as another All-Pro pick. The Eagles rushed for 96 yards on 32 attempts vs. Atlanta and will need more production from the running game of LeGarrette Blunt and Jay Ajayi against Minnesota, with good blocking up front.
Reasons to cheer for them
Philadelphia fans are notoriously demanding, but they’ve waited a long time for a first Super Bowl championship. The team’s most recent NFL title came in 1960. Foles deserves to have good things happen to him, after an up-and-down pro career and his unexpected rise to this position after Wentz got hurt.
About the series
Tribune columnist Kurt Kragthorpe introduces the four teams in the Sunday’s NFL championship games. This installment: Philadelphia Eagles.