‘This is a Jason Kelce Game’
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Plenty of people outside Chicago believe the reigning Super Bowl champion Eagles are going to upset the 12-4 Bears in the final wild-card round game on Sunday.
The narrative usually starts with something superficial like the Eagles' playoff experience vs. Mitchell Trubisky's lack thereof but for one long-time personnel executive it's about the trenches.
"This is a Jason Kelce game," the veteran personnel man told 973espn.com.
Despite fighting through knee and elbow injuries this season the Eagles' cerebral, veteran center was graded as the top pivot in the NFL by ProFootballFocus.com this season and may be the lynchpin when it comes to dealing with the talented Chicago defensive front, the engine to the Bears' brilliant season.
Kelce is responsible for identifying where the rush is coming from and sliding the protection the right way, a job description no one performs better.
In fact when 973espn.com asked offensive coordinator Mike Groh and quarterback Nick Foles about Kelce this week, both lit up when given the opportunity to chat about the 2017 All-Pro.
"You can never underestimate the value of the Jason Kelce and what he does for our offense," Groh explained. "The poise that he plays with; his ability to be able to communicate what we want to get done. His ability to be able to recognize in an instant, get it communicated, and then everybody to be able to be in lock step with what he's called immediately and be on the same page.
"He's invaluable to what we do offensively. And not only that, he's just a really good football player. You can be smart, but not have the ability. He has a ton of ability to go with it, so he's one of our team leaders and one of the reasons why we're successful."
Foles was just as effusive in his praise.
"In my opinion, he's the best in the league," the veteran QB said. "His ability, not only as an athlete but just from a just understanding the game of football standpoint is so impressive. And every time I get to play with him I tell him I thoroughly enjoy it because there is no one better at doing what he does than him. I can't say enough about how he can see different things. He understands coverage, he understands technique, everything it's hilarious [how intelligent he is]."
Typically Kelce eschewed much of the praise, instead focusing on the team as a whole making a late-season run.
“I know everybody here talks about leadership and stuff like that,” Kelce said. “All that is important. But the bottom line is, when you're out there and you're executing and performing well, that's naturally going to come. And that's what you are seeing more of in this team now.”
And if Sunday truly turns out to be "a Jason Kelce game," the Eagles will be on their way to Bourbon Street next week.
"I am not at all focused on which team is more experienced, or really anything to do with Chicago, to tell you the truth," Kelce said. This has to do with us and how we prepare and how we execute. And that's what is going to help us be successful on Sunday.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen