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The Joke’s on Us (Falcons at Eagles; 2017 NFL Playoffs)

Robert Cole/The Florida-Georgia Star

 

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

 

PHILADELPHIA — Do not put it past members of the Philadelphia Eagles, during the lead-up to Saturday evening’s playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons, to have watched old standup routines of Rodney Dangerfield.

The legendary late comic, whose shtick revolved around all the hilarious ways society had disrespected him in his “I get no respect” monologues, probably would have reveled in waving a white towel over his head in the Lincoln Financial Field stands like the rest of near-70,000 Eagles fans that saw the team eke out a 15-10 victory over Atlanta to advance to the NFC Championship Game for the first time since the end of the 2008 season.

In true self-deprecating fashion, however, Dangerfield probably would have deadpanned that, as he was waving that white towel, he could hear the towel yell back to him, “Let me go, I surrender!”

All joking aside, it was clear that members of the Eagles not only felt disrespected coming into tonight’s game – reports were that a few members of the Eagles had posted various articles around the practice facility which contained predictions by journalists favoring the Falcons to win on Saturday – but that they were not afraid to voice those Festivus-like grievances after the job on the field was done, directly against the usual protocol of not revealing too much to the media about perceived slights from members of the fourth estate and other outsiders.

“Just keep on disrespecting and we’re going to keep proving people wrong,” said Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery in the joyous locker room. “We just believe in one another, we don’t care what anybody says. We’re just going to keep believing in one another and just keep fighting.”

The biggest slight towards the Eagles might have come from a city, one that someone in Dangerfield’s line of work would be very familiar with: Las Vegas; The oddsmakers installed the Falcons as a 2.5-point favorite, the first time in league history that a No. 1 overall seed was made an underdog in the NFL Divisional Round. Most of those doubts came from the fact that Philadelphia started the game with Nick Foles at quarterback, a signal-caller with a proven track record of winning games, but a quarterback that had led the Eagles to just one offensive touchdown combined in the last two games. Those games came two weeks after MVP favorite and starting quarterback Carson Wentz tore his ACL early last month in a win at Los Angeles against the Rams.

Here’s what Foles did to quiet the doubters on Saturday night: 23-for-30, 246 yards, no turnovers. Sure, it was far from the dynamism that Wentz brought to the table, but efficient, turnover-free football, especially with the staunch defense the Eagles have possessed all season, has always been a recipe for playoff success. Even with that, Philadelphia was almost universally pegged as the home team most likely to lose this weekend. 

They did not lose, but even the Eagles head coach had to acknowledge the public groundswell that had become a burr under Philadelphia’s saddle for almost one month running.

“The biggest emotion for me was the team, the guys, and the resiliency of this football team,” said Pederson in explaining his emotions after the game. “And our back’s against the wall; people discount us, don’t give us much credit, whatever it might be.”

Given Pederson’s career arc as a player, one which saw him serve as a backup quarterback who started just 17 of the 100 career regular-season games he appeared over a seven-year NFL career (1993, 1996-2004), the lack of faith shown by many experts in Foles’ ability to lead his team to victory might have also been personal to the head coach.

“Since [Went’z injury], no one has given us a chance,” Pederson said defiantly. “Nobody has given us a chance. And I understand: Carson’s a great player. But every week, our guys are hearing the same thing: that now we are all of a sudden not good enough. We’re 13-3 and have the best record in football. We’ve got home-field advantage throughout. Listen, there’s not a lot – I mean, the guys are going to motivate themselves just based on what they have done and heard for the last month of football.”

Truth be told, Atlanta was just one play – and 72 inches – away from proving the prognosticators correct (including yours truly) in picking the Falcons to win. On that play, a fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line with under a minute to go in the fourth quarter, Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, who had nine catches for 101 yards and hauled in a 20-yard catch on a fourth-down play earlier in the drive, slipped and fell in the end zone coming out of his break, forcing quarterback Matt Ryan into a hurried throw towards Jones that fell incomplete, sealing the Eagles’ place in the conference championship.

Many of the experts were proven wrong, as well as the oddsmakers in Vegas, and, to symbolize the underdog tag that this team has now embraced, offensive tackle Lane Johnson and defensive lineman Chris Long, inarguably the two biggest jokesters on the team, were spotted wearing dog masks while walking around the field after the game – an object that reportedly was bought by members of the team on Amazon.

There has to be a joke somewhere in here involving dogs, right? Well, here’s one, from the comedic king of being the ultimate underdog.

“With my dog, I don’t get no respect. He keeps barking at the front door. He don’t want to go out. He wants me to leave.” – Dangerfield.

The Philadelphia Eagles are not leaving, and, next Sunday, they will be playing for a chance to play in the Super Bowl for the third time in franchise history.

That’s no joke.

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday night’s game, with all photos taken by ALOST’s senior photographer, Robert Cole. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are currently 36 pictures in the gallery.

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