PHILADELPHIA — Many Philadelphia Eagles players saw the Minneapolis Miracle live. Others chose a bad time to stray from their televisions.
“I was actually in the kitchen. I was cooking pancakes,” said cornerback Jalen Mills. “But I was watching with my older brother and was just like, ‘Whoa, did he really miss that tackle?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, he missed it.’ And I was like, ‘Man, that’s crazy.’”
For anyone who didn’t catch the improbable 61-yard walk-off touchdown from Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs that propelled the Minnesota Vikings past the New Orleans Saints and into the NFC title game against Philly, the coaching staff had it ready for them when they entered the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday.
“We watched it in the defensive meeting room, then we go back in our [defensive backs] room and watched it again,” said Eagles safety Corey Graham. “We’ve seen it. [DBs] Coach [Cory] Undlin showed us. Everybody’s seen it.”
The Eagles’ defensive backs all expressed support for Saints safety Marcus Williams, who missed the tackle on the play. Graham pointed out all the different things that were likely running through his mind at the moment — maintain outside leverage, don’t commit pass interference, don’t let Diggs get out of bounds …
“He’s thinking about all this at the same time, so you can see how — when you’ve got so much going through your mind, everything’s on the line — you can see how that could happen,” Graham said, adding that the basic teaching point is to “play the ball … or just tackle the guy, either or.”
The Eagles’ focus is on making sure it doesn’t happen to them. They have been excellent at closing games out, with the defense not allowing a score in the final two minutes all season. That nearly changed last Saturday in the divisional round of the playoffs against the Atlanta Falcons, but safeties Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins sniffed out the final fourth-down play pre-snap, and Mills defended Falcons receiver Julio Jones well enough to help force an incompletion in the end zone to secure the win.
McLeod said they had gone over that Falcons play both in practice and in their final walkthrough and suggested the “Seven Heaven” play that helped spring Diggs will be a point of emphasis this week.
“A lot of games come down to these two-minute situations. Last week, one of the keys to the game for [coach] Doug [Pederson] was just knowing and understanding situational ball, and that’s going to be a teaching moment for us as we go into this week’s game,” McLeod said.
“It just shows you, little things matter. I’m sure that guy made that tackle 100 times, and it all comes down to that one play. When you don’t execute, that’s what happens in the playoffs, man. … Just like that, your season can be taken away from you in the playoffs.”