Monday, January 24, 2022

Eagles Reveal New Playoff Mantra: Leave Dog Masks in the Closet

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When Lane Johnson posted a photo of him wearing a dog mask, people thought he was going to message. They said: The underdogs are back, baby! keep that thought Johnson laughed it off as something “funny” he wanted to post there. No one compares the 2021 Philadelphia Eagles to the 2017 winning team.

The three-time Pro Bowl right tackle said a pal sent him the picture and there was no greater meaning behind it. In fact, Johnson said he didn’t even know what happened to that original dog mask. He thinks it might be buried somewhere in his basement.

“I don’t even know where the dog mask is, I have to find it.” Johnson to reporters. “Not even really talking about it [being underdogs]. The big message is not to get emotional with the game or where we are or anything really. It’s just one day at a time and that’s where we are.”

Johnson missed the first matchup against Tampa Bay on October 14, a 28-22 loss at Lincoln Financial Field. It was one of three competitions he missed while struggling with mental health issues. In fact, the 31-year-old said he didn’t watch the Buccaneers-Eagles game until weeks later. This can help put everyone at ease and provide a nice outside perspective.

“I’m trying not to get overly emotional in this game,” Johnson said. “Care about our responsibilities and take it game by game and if you do that I think you put yourself in the best position to win.”

The Eagles opened as seven-point underdogs against the Buccaneers, with that number rising to 8.5. Masks or not, stop some barking.

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Some have pointed to Week 6 as a turning point in the Eagles’ season. It wasn’t long before the team decided to start playing football and leaning on their dominant offensive line. The Eagles rushed for 135 yards on 32 attempts in Week 7 and 236 rushing yards on 42 attempts in Week 8.

Head coach Nick Sirianni didn’t want to use the word “watershed” to describe it, but the coaching staff sat down and reassessed everything after that first game in Tampa Bay. The real turning point, players say, came flying home from Las Vegas after a 33-22 loss to the Raiders.

“I think what you saw is that it started to turn that game around in terms of who we were and what we were doing,” Sirianni said. “Not just in the running game, but also in the passing game and the way we did some things in the passing game as well to make it a little bit easier for Jalen [Hurts] and being able to see things a little differently and our receivers, tight ends and running backs.”

The Eagles will hit the rock to the ground. Everyone knows that. Nobody could stop it. But the Buccaneers have the third-best rushing defense in the NFL (first in the NFC) while giving up just 1,573 rushing yards, or 87.4 yards per game.

Why are they so good at defense? First off, her talent on the defensive line is unmatched. Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh, William Gholston, Jason Pierre-Paul are all impact players, plus pass-rushing outside linebacker Shaq Barrett. The unit is led by Todd Bowles, one of the best defensive coordinators in football.

“I think he’s really good at creating matchups. The NFL is always about creating discrepancies,” Johnson said of Bowles. “As for the D-line, it’s the best, if not one of the best, in the league, across the board. Their D-Linemen, Edge Rusher, Linebacking Corps are really top units in this league so it’s going to be a really big challenge for us.”

Barrett (knee) and Pierre-Paul (shoulder) were limited participants in Buccaneers practice this week. Keep an eye on the damage report.



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