Unsung leaders power Eagles
Team-first concept has Philly soaring
Winning is an easy sell.
The Philadelphia Eagles are the first team since the 1990 New York Giants to reach a Super Bowl without a player totaling 1,000 scrimmage yards though running backs Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount and wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith have done so in the past.
That group plus Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz, wide receiver Nelson Agholor and others have bought into a team-first, unselfish concept. They’re not checking their stats after games. The only number they cared about all season was the win column.
One more against New England in the Super Bowl brings home the team’s first NFL title since 1960.
“I think this group of guys is as good as you could ask to be around,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “Really, the character and the work ethic, the camaraderie, just the commitment to the process that Coach [Doug Pederson] and our staff is always talking about.
“There’s a complete buy-in.
“It really helps that we’ve had the success and the execution. It’s always easier to buy in when you’re having the success that we’ve had.”
Blount didn’t even get a carry in a loss at Kansas City in Week 2. Then he ran for a season-high 136 yards two weeks later at the Chargers. It was the only 100-yard rushing performance by Philadelphia this season.
Blount, who led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns with New England last year, led the Eagles with 766 yards rushing but his touches decreased after Ajayi was acquired from Miami.
“You can’t be selfish when everybody has one common goal,” Blount said. “You have to make sacrifices for the betterment of the team. We’ve done that and it’s gotten us this far.”
Ajayi came to Philadelphia with a reputation for selfishness, but it hasn’t been an issue. He kneeled on the turf and sobbed after the Eagles beat Minnesota in the NFC championship game.
“It’s a special feeling to not be done and to still have our goal of winning a Super Bowl right there in front of us,” he said.
Jeffery was the go-to man in Chicago before joining the Eagles. He didn’t have one 100-yard game, but led the team with nine TD catches.
“We’re not looking at numbers, just going out there and playing,” Jeffery said. “No matter who’s out there having a great game, or whoever the ball’s going to, as long as we’re doing our job and just catching and working and getting those wins, that’s all that matters.”
There were no “throw me the damn ball” moments in Philadelphia’s locker room.
“I didn’t have to sell it too much,” Pederson said. “These guys are unselfish players. They are team players.
“I think any time that you factor in the wins, and they’re contributing to the wins, it sort of minimizes or sort of takes away the [idea] that, ‘I’ve got to have 1,000 yards; I got to have 10 touchdowns; I’ve got to rush for this many yards and have this many touchdowns.’
“I think it minimizes that a little bit, because the team is doing well and the success of the offense.”