Repeat victories are hard to win. If they want to overcome the “Super Bowl hangover,” the Eagles have to start now.
By Dave Spadaro
Here is the fact: Only eight teams have repeated as Super Bowl champions, substantiating the point that it’s awfully difficult to go back-to-back in the parity-laden world of the NFL. Eagles center Jason Kelce, not only a great speechmaker but a thoughtful and intelligent man, would like to add some context to that fact.
“The whole message of ‘repeat’ is odd. It’s hard to win one, and the reality is that even if you have the talent there are so many things that have to go right in a season, there are so many things that culminate into a team winning a Super Bowl, that’s why it’s hard to continually go back and continually win Super Bowls,” he said. “I think we have the talent here to get it done again, we have the players but ultimately it’s going to come down to little things in games and how we handle certain situations.”
Kelce makes a strong point. In 2016, the Eagles lost six games by seven points or fewer. In 2017, they went 4–1 in one-score games on the way to clinching the best record in the NFC (they lost a meaningless regular-season finale to Dallas by six points as well). One year after fumbling and stumbling in the fourth quarter of games, the Eagles learned to win in the final stanza and, well, you saw what happened in Super Bowl LII.
Still, there is something proven about a “Super Bowl hangover,” and if there is ever a challenge for the Eagles, it is overcoming that stigma starting Thursday night when the Atlanta Falcons come to town to open the 2018 NFL season.
The Eagles look great on paper, but they’re entering the season with all kinds of questions. The offense is banged up with quarterback Carson Wentz still not cleared for practice and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery not 100 percent with a shoulder injury and running back Jay Ajayi nursing a foot injury. Defensively, much of the front seven from last year’s dominant group is a question mark. Tackle Tim Jernigan is out for the first six weeks of the season, at least, as he recovers from back surgery. End Brandon Graham didn’t play in the preseason. Tackle Haloti Ngata is in his 15th season. There is age creeping up on ends Michael Bennett and Chris Long.
But maybe the most significant question mark is the one between the team’s collective ears. How much do the Eagles still believe the Super Bowl hype?
“I think we’re just as hungry as we’ve ever been,” wide receiver Nelson Agholor said. “My focus is to get better every day. To be honest, I haven’t thought about the Super Bowl in quite a while.”
Yeah, but there will no avoiding it on Thursday night. The players will see the Super Bowl championship banner unveiled at Lincoln Financial Field. They’re going to be emotional, whether they know it now or not.
“It’s going to be a lot of energy in that first and second quarter,” Ajayi said. “To me, it’s going to come down to the second half and which team bears down and plays the best football and executes most effectively. We have to show that we’ve moved on from the Super Bowl. It’s a new year. We’re 0–0, just like every other team.”
Thursday, a new journey begins. How ready are the Eagles going to be to start anew?
“We’ll see,” cornerback Jalen Mills said. “The record will speak for itself. That’s what’s good about the season. All the talk stops. It comes down to winning games.” ••