W hen Lane Johnson has that look on his face, you know something’s up. That mischievous vibe. I see it all the time, man.
I’m sitting at the pregame meal on Friday night before the Falcons game, and it’s me, Lane, Chris Long, Jason Kelce and Brent Celek. When you’re with those four guys, something’s always going on. Jason’s looking at me and Brent, kind of like a little kid who can’t contain himself, you know?
And he says, “Lane, tell ’em. Tell ’em, dude.”
We’re like, “What? Tell us what?”
He says, “Tell ’em what we ordered.”
And so Lane kind of leans across the table all … what’s the word? I guess you’d call it conspiratorial, like it’s Ocean’s Eleven or something. And he’s like, “You know how everyone keeps saying we’re underdogs? Even though we’re the No. 1 seed? Well … we were on Amazon last night, and we ordered these dog masks.”
And I’m kind of confused. I’m like, “What do you mean, like … a puppy?”
Lane says, “No, man. German shepherds. They’re creepy. Real creepy. Two-day shipping. They’re coming tomorrow.”
Before I can even think, like, What the heck are you going to do with a creepy dog mask? Lane says, “Yeah, and when we win, because we’re gonna freaking win, we’re going to do everything in the masks. Media. Postgame. Everything. Dogs.”
Chris and Jason don’t even say anything. They’re just nodding, like, Genius, right? Dogs.
Underdogs. No shot. Dead in the water. We heard it about 10,000 times over the course of that week: The first No. 1 seed since 1970 to be ’dogs in the divisional round. It wasn’t just us who embraced it. The whole city embraced it. If you’re an outsider, you probably don’t really get it. But if you’re from Philly, and if you’ve been following this team all year, then you know. It’s not just Carson Wentz who went down. It was Jason Peters and Darren Sproles and Jordan Hicks and Chris Maragos. We could probably field an All-Pro team of injured guys, but instead of crumbling under all the adversity, it only made us more united.
This is not me just saying this: I’ve never had more fun playing football than I’ve had this year. I’ve never been around teammates who love each other like we do. Everything we’re about right now — the resiliency, the togetherness, the commitment — it’s all embodied by Carson. I’ve never seen a guy who can lead a big group of people like he can.
People think of Carson as this guy from out in the wilderness in North Dakota hunting wild boars or whatever it is they hunt up there. (I wouldn’t know, my mom wouldn’t even let me shoot video-game guns when I was a kid.) But in reality, this dude is a football nerd. He’s obsessed with film. I remember back in October, we were about to play Carolina on Thursday Night Football. We had a day off. Guys were tired. Short week. We did a simple walk-through, and then everyone was just hanging out. I was outside the facility talking with Jordan Hicks.
I get a call from Carson.
He says, “Hey buddy, you around?”
I’m like, “Yeah, what’s up?”
He says, “Come to the QB room real quick, I wanna show you something.”
I say, “Cool, sure.”
So I get to the film room, and Carson’s sitting in there, looking like he’s been in there for a while. He’s got our last game up on the projector. Red zone stuff.
I must have been in there two minutes.
He says, “You see this? If they line up in this zone coverage when we’re in (let’s call it Tiger), I’m gonna audible you into the corner post, and we’re gonna score a touchdown.”
I’m like, Cool. Then I go home.
Cut to the game. We’re in the red zone. Carson calls “Tiger”. Carolina’s in that exact zone coverage they showed us on film. And I’m thinking, Carson, man. Unbelievable. He checks me into the corner post. The next thing I know, I’m jumping into the air and the ball is right in my hands.
The guy scored that touchdown the day before in the film room. I can’t say enough about him, because he’s been an influence on my life off the field just as much as on the field. Last season, I was looking around our locker room, and there were guys like Carson and Tre Burton, Jordan Matthews and Jordan Hicks who are so devout in their faith, and I was so envious of how they never seemed too high, never seemed too low. Everything they did, they did to serve God, and to serve a higher calling. I was a Christian before that season, but after having a lot of long talks with those guys, and really seeing what they lived for, I decided to fully dedicate my life to Christ.
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I remember last season, I was kind of going through a tough time personally. I’ll never forget, Carson came up to me at the facility a few days later, and he could tell I was struggling, and he said, “Man, don’t even worry about it. You’re going to be fine.”
It made me feel so much better, knowing that he cared enough to make sure I was good. That’s why he’s our leader. That’s why he’s just as much a part of this ride, even though he’s on the sidelines. He’s been coming in at six in the morning, limping in with his cane, just to sit with Nick Foles and our coaches and give them as much help as possible.
If Carson finishes the season, he’s the MVP. Easy, in my mind. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. I remember when he went down in December. I was standing on the sidelines because I was out with a concussion. He came over to the tent to get checked out, and he was saying, “Something’s not right … something’s not right.”
He never shows any pain. Never. So I knew right then that it was bad, and that we were going to have to come together and battle for one another the rest of the way. In the locker room after the game, Coach Pederson and Malcolm Jenkins gathered the team together and said the only words that we needed to hear.
“We might have lost Carson, but we’re still 53 guys with a chip on our shoulders. And that’s tough to beat in this league.”
As hard as it is to lose your leader, we all knew when Nick took the reins that the season wasn’t over. This is a guy who threw 27 touchdowns and two interceptions in an Eagles uniform my rookie year. I’ll repeat: 27 TDs and two INTs in the National Football League. Do you even understand the kind of accuracy and confidence you need to reach numbers like that?
When Nick is rolling, he’s rolling. We’ve rallied around him, and we believe in him. And if you don’t believe in us? Well … good. Our fans will definitely let us hear about it. I’ve been trying to stay off Twitter this postseason, but that whole week leading up to the Falcons game, any time I’d go on to check the news, I’d have 99+ notifications with links to every single article out there saying how the Falcons were going to beat us.
That’s Philly right there, man. Heated Emoji. (Link to some haters.)
When you disrespect Philly, you do it at your own peril. Our fans were so ready for that game. When Atlanta had it first-and-goal from the nine at the end of the game, it was the loudest I’ve ever heard the Linc in my whole career.
Rob Tringali/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images
First down. Fade to Julio. Ronald Darby has him blanketed. Incomplete.
Second down. Shovel pass. Incredible push by Beau Allen. Incomplete.
Third down. Slant to Julio. Darby’s got the best receiver in the game blanketed again. No YAC. Holds him at the two.
Fourth down. We’re all thinking it’s a touchdown. We have to. We’re preparing to go down the field and score. Matt Ryan snaps the ball, and man….
The play took seven seconds. Seven full seconds. He’s scrambling around, and it felt like seven years. He throws it to the back corner. I know it’s Julio, and I’m looking at the ball hanging in the air thinking, Please. Please do not catch this ball.
I don’t even see what happens next. I just hear the noise, and I see Jalen Mills with his arms spread out, flying around like an eagle. We still had to go out and get a first down, and when we did, it was just pure jubilation in that stadium. The clock ran out, and the next thing I know, I see Lane Johnson strutting around the field in his creepy dog mask, tongue hanging out and everything.
That’s why you pay for Amazon Prime. Free two-day shipping.
The next night, we were all watching the Vikings-Saints game, seeing who we were going to play the NFC championship, and it was funny because we’ve got this WhatsApp group with all the tight ends, and usually we’re talking about everything but football. But on this night, it was pure pandemonium.
It went from….
“Guess we’re playing the Vikings then. No. 1 defense in the NFL. Let’s gooooo.”
“Saints, huh? Brees. Gotta get our minds right.”
“YOU ARE KIDDING MEEEEEEEE?!”
“DIGGS OMG WHATTTTTTTTTTT.”
“SURPRISED EMOJI SURPRISED EMOJI SURPRISED EMOJI SURPRISED EMOJI SURPRISED EMOJI SURPRISED EMOJI SURPRISED EMOJI.”
At that moment, when Stefon Diggs caught that ball, we were just like everybody else. We were just football fans.
Ultimately though, it took us about five minutes of freaking out before we got right back to square one.…
“Vikings. Let’s goooooooooooooooo.”
Matt Rourke/AP Images
It’s no surprise to us, but we’re home ’dogs again going into this weekend. The Vikings have a heck of a team, no doubt about it. Incredible defense, great resiliency. But they don’t have one thing we got. They don’t get to play in their own building, in front of 69,000 very disrespected and very fired up fans — 30,000 of whom will probably be wearing extremely creepy German shepherd masks.
I went on Amazon last night, and they’re all sold out. I heard they’re sold out all over the city, too. The experts will probably all pick against us again. But you can just look around that stadium on Sunday night and know that Philly wouldn’t have it any other way.
We the dogs. Let’s goooooooooooooooooo!