Good morning, Eagles fans. You have at least one more week of football after the Eagles' 15-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday that advanced them to their first NFC Championship Game since January 2009. This is a special Sunday edition of the Early Birds newsletter. It's free for anyone to sign up here to receive in your inbox every weekday. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.
— Zach Berman
Zach Berman: Is that what you want — being on the field with the playoff game on the line? And you don't want him throwing to other , you want him throwing to your side?
Jalen Mills: "One hundred percent. That's what you want as a defender. That's what you dream of. A fourth-down stop, on the goal line, with the time running down? You can't ask for anything else. … As a competitor, you always want to be the guy to make to make that play. You've got to live and die by it."
Zach Berman: You talk about how you want the defense to carry this team. You held the Falcons to 10 points. Was that an example?
Jalen Mills: "We played good, but at the same time, we're always selfish. As a defense, we're selfish. As a secondary, we're selfish. We don't want guys to get anything. It would be better if we got a goose egg. As far as points go, that means errors were made. But we're a team that always learns from our mistakes. We've got the 24-hour rule; we're going to enjoy this. But when we get back into the building on Monday, we're going to watch the film, make corrections, and won't make the same mistakes again. Because as the games go on and we're in a championship and we have a bigger goal as well, it's only going to get tighter and tighter."
Zach Berman: What was it like in the locker room immediately after the game?
Jalen Mills: "Dancing, partying. It just shows from the bye week, competing at a high level, ones vs. ones, knowing we play the Atlanta Falcons, the whole week of preparation, just seeing laser focus from guys — from the offense, the defense, and special teams. I think it just showed out there regardless of whatever situation we're put in, you've got guys who are going to play four quarters."
They're both tough teams. I think the Saints would be a more difficult matchup because of the way Drew Brees can control a game and his playoff experience, plus the matchup problem that Alvin Kamara presents as a versatile running back out of the backfield. They can attack the Eagles so many different ways — with a power-running game, with a quick-passing game, with big plays, with run-after-the-catch ability. Their defense is improved, although Lane Johnson is the right tackle you'd want against Cameron Jordan and the Eagles should be able to run on them. So I guess if you trust your defense regardless of the opponent, it would be easier to pound the ball against New Orleans. It's hard not to respect what the Vikings are doing, and they would give Nick Foles a lot of problems. Both would be tough — that's inevitable this time of the year — but the Eagles are fortunate to have the home field and an extra day's rest.
I asked Doug Pederson after the game, and he said there weren't enough opportunities because the Eagles couldn't sustain drives. Jay Ajayi said it was just the way the game was scripted. By my count, he missed 14 plays in the second quarter. He played in the second half, but the Eagles were having success passing the ball, and Ajayi was a part of that. The Eagles also like using Corey Clement in passing situations. I didn't understand why they sat Ajayi when he was running so well early in the game. Turns out, they didn't ride him in the second half and still won. But they're going to need Ajayi again next week.