Philadelphia Eagles finally showing Super Bowl pedigree

Updated: 28/05/2024

Golden Tate stands 5ft 9in in his heels. In the context of an NFL dressing room packed with alpha beef this wide receiver looks like an intruder in fancy dress. Some high-pitched dissenters in Philadelphia’s unforgiving Lincoln Financial Field shared that view until he fell across the line on Monday night with his first touchdown for the Eagles.

The Super Bowl champions are on life support, every match a must-win knuckle cracker to keep the 2019 flame alive. On Sunday they go to Dallas, where a year ago they pounded the Cowboys 37-9 en route to the NFC East title and in February Super Bowl nirvana for the first time.

The play-offs never mind a title defence looked fanciful when the Eagles lost to the Cowboys in Philadelphia last month followed by the shellacking in New Orleans to stand 4-6 for this campaign.

‘Just me being silly'

With fixtures against the Rams and Texans to follow, progress remains a notional concept, but at least they have hope and in Tate, who was traded to the Eagles from the Detroit Lions at the end of October, the representation of what can happen when a team allows instinct the freedom to roam.

The drive that Tate, completed so thrillingly, collecting a 19-yard laser from the increasingly authoritative arm of Carson Wentz, was the cherry on the game’s opening sequence and set the tone for what would turn out to be a terrible beating for the Washington Redskins.

The celebratory worm dance detonated by Tate, a kind of out-of-water butterfly stroke, went viral and afterwards. “It was just me being silly,” Tate said afterwards. “I said if I score, I’m going to do the worm, but I was kind of kidding. I was on the ground, so I said, why not.”

In a game that relies on reps and strategy, Tate has yet to decode the Eagles playbook. “I’m still learning my team-mates’ names. I’m still finding my way. It takes time for everything to come together in a new coaching environment,” he said.

Bond with Wentz

The developing bond with Wentz adds breadth to an offensive game that had become overly reliant on the quarterback’s umbilical link with Zach Ertz, who is just 17 catches from matching ex-Cowboy Jason Witten’s NFL record for tight end catches in a single season.

“I thought we were finally really kind of playing together, really executing,” Wentz said. “The things that we always talk about, we were finally able to do.”

And so to the AT&T stadium in Arlington and “America’s team” who sit at the top of the table just one victory from securing passage from the NFC East. That said the Cowboys are a brittle outfit heavily dependent on the power vessels that are running back Ezekiel Elliott and linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander-Esch. The Cowboys won the last of their five Super Bowl crowns in 1996 and have not contested a final since. Kudos these days rests more with the team’s cheerleaders.

That women are still rolled out for display purposes is an anachronism that has yet to trouble the sport. Women with birth certificates stamped in the 1960s preside over a selection process with faces surgically set to 21. Each high line kicked on match days sends awareness sailing over pretty heads, and this they do with pride.

Expect pom-poms to explode should Dallas prevail, especially after Eagles linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill’s motivational observations about Cowboys always choking. “I don’t really believe you have to do that,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “These games are big enough.”

ESPN brings UK fans extensive coverage of the NFL regular season, play-offs and the Super Bowl, including game highlights, breaking news, interviews and in-depth analysis, on and the ESPN app.

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