NFC East Reporter
PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Eagles were inevitable.
They’ve felt that way since long before Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, even before the regular season started last September. The feeling hit them last offseason, when they were sifting through the remains of a .500 season, looking at a young quarterback who still looked raw, a young coach who was still the laughing stock and a team that was barely competitive . a playoff game.
That’s when they somehow decided they were close. That’s when they decided to go all out.
“We thought we had a chance to be really great,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said. “We really felt it was a great opportunity.”
Read more: Brock Purdy’s injury leads to ugly loss to Eagles, ending 49ers’ promising season
They turned out to be very right, because the Eagles punched their ticket Super Bowl LVII at Arizona (Sun., Feb. 12, 6:30 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App) with a resounding 31-7 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. It was the end of a wire-to-wire run as the best team in the NFC, and the culmination of a bid they started in the offseason to go all-in on their pursuit.
From the draft day trade for AJ Brown, to the signing of pass rusher Haason Reddick, to safety CJ Gardner-Johnson right before the season started, to the in-season signings of veteran running backs Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh . , Lurie and GM Howie Roseman spent the year leaving no stone unturned and no expense spared. They had the Super Bowl in their sights and would do anything to get there.
“Sometimes you have to go all out,” Eagles tackle Lane Johnson said. “I feel like we did that this year.”
The Eagles hoist the NFC Championship trophy
The Eagles celebrated the NFC championship with quarterback Jalen Hurts singing “Fly Eagles Fly” with Philadelphia fans.
The fact that they did is not as remarkable as the fact that they even tried. Because when this team fell into a 31-0 hole against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the wild-card playoffs last season (eventually losing 31-15), they hardly looked like a franchise on the brink of a Super Bowl championship. Yes, they rallied from a 2-5 start just to make the playoffs. But quarterback Jalen Hurts was coming off an erratic first year as the starter, and head coach Nick Sirianni’s image was still centered on his strange, rambling, opening press conference and his use of a image of flowers at any given time to try to activate your team.
They were an odd mix and neither looked ready for a championship. But Lurie and Roseman saw a “great young leader” with a “huge upside” in Hurts. And they thought Sirianni had what Lurie called “the secret sauce.” He was more than an unknown assistant they seemed to stumble upon after firing their Super Bowl-winning coach, Doug Pederson, a year earlier. He thought Sirianni had it all and his quarterback would soon follow.
They were sure they had a strong hand and wanted to play it.
“I think we feel ‘just do the right thing and you’ll have a chance to be great,'” Lurie said. “And if you don’t do the right thing, you don’t stand a chance. That’s what it is. You just have to have confidence in what you think is the right way.”
So every time a “right thing” was presented to them, they pounced. They traded a first- and third-round pick to get Brown so Hurts would have a No. 1 receiver and locked him up to a $100 million contract. They knew they needed help in their pass rush, so they gave Reddick a three-year, $45 million deal. They needed help for cornerback Darius Slay in their secondary, so they stole a deal by signing cornerback James Bradberry to a one-year, $7.25 million contract, then traded a pair of late picks for Gardner-Johnson.
Eagles crush 49ers in NFC championship game
Michael Strahan, Rob Gronkowski and the rest of the “FOX NFL Sunday” crew react to the Eagles’ dominant win over the 49ers on Sunday.
And they didn’t stop during the season either. When their run defense needed help, they went out and signed Joseph and Suh to bolster what was already the strongest defensive line in football.
Once they started pushing the chips into the center of the table, they never stopped.
“It was by taking advantage of the perception that we thought we had a chance to be an outstanding team,” Lurie said. “(We had) a mix of veterans in their eighth, 10th, 12th year with a lot of wonderful young players, including a quarterback. But you’ve got to get the right players. And we’ve got the right players. They’re outstanding.”
They are, and almost every new addition Roseman brought in paid off. Brown set a franchise record with 1,496 receiving yards. Reddick has 19.5 sacks this season, including two more on Sunday’s first two series, including one that knocked 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy out of the game with an elbow injury. Bradberry was a second team all-pro. Gardner-Johnson led the NFL with six interceptions despite missing five games.
They didn’t need most of them in what was mostly a non-competitive NFC Championship game on Sunday. It became anticlimactic after Purdy was knocked out in the first quarter, and it really ended when his replacement, veteran Josh Johnson, was knocked out with a concussion on a Suh hit on the first drive of the second half. The 49ers were already trailing 21-7 and suddenly they didn’t have anyone who could throw a ball.
That made the second half a long crowning or the start of a party, a party the Eagles had been planning for some time. And it was a good one. The dressing room was full of cigar smoke. The players celebrated on the field with their families, then posed for pictures in the locker room and generally marveled at what they had finally accomplished.
49ers’ Brock Purdy is out with an elbow injury
Brock Purdy’s NFC Championship debut was cut short by an elbow injury suffered in the first quarter against the Eagles.
It was as if Lurie and Roseman had created it. Maybe they were the only ones who saw the shell of a Super Bowl team in their 2021 roster. Maybe no one else walked past their defeated players last January and thought there was a championship in that room. And maybe no one else thought it would be a good idea to go there, use as much money and as many draft picks as they could to help shore up a young coach and quarterback that the rest of the world still thought were questionable, at best.
But Lurie never cared what the rest of the world thought.
“Never do the conformist or what’s popular,” he said. “That’s the wrong way to be. If you want to be 8-8, go for it. If you want to have a chance to compete in a really big way, do what you really think is right.”
And so he did. And he got what he wanted, the party in his stadium, the green and white confetti, the incredibly loud crowd that didn’t want to go home. But they also know that there is still a bigger party waiting for them.
That’s what Lurie and Roseman always had in mind.
“You don’t see a massive celebration here at all,” the Eagles owner said. “Our goal from June has been: Maximize the talent we have, the leadership we have and go all the way. We’re one game away.
“But again, it’s uno mas. We have one more to do.”
Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him on Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.
FOX Sports Top Stories:
Get more from the National Football League Follow your favorites for information on games, news and more