PHILADELPHIA (AP) — When Chris Long and LeGarrette Blount joined the Philadelphia Eagles after winning a Super Bowl in New England, both players envisioned another title run with a team on the rise.
They had more faith than most, but the Eagles are two wins away from a parade.
“I knew we’d be a playoff team and that’s why I decided this would be a good place to be and then what separates you is winning a game or two,” Long said as Philadelphia prepared for Sunday’s NFC championship game against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Eagles were 7-9 last year in the first season under coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz. Expectations were moderate entering 2017 with many experts projecting the team to be a year away from serious playoff contention.
But Blount saw a team that was close. The Eagles added receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, traded for defensive tackle Tim Jernigan and signed Long before giving Blount a one-year deal in May.
“I chose the Eagles for the reason of me fitting in really good here, having a championship run, having a banner season,” Blount said after he signed. “And they’re a really good team. They’re a really good team before I came. I just want to fit in.”
He was right and he’s fit in perfectly.
Wentz had an MVP-caliber season before he tore his ACL in Week 14 and the Eagles (14-3) secured the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Blount was the team’s leading rusher, though he’s played a secondary role since Jay Ajayi was acquired in a trade in October.
Blount hasn’t complained about fewer carries and has provided veteran leadership. He led the NFL with 18 touchdowns rushing last year when he earned his second Super Bowl ring in three seasons with the Patriots.
“We’re winning and that’s the overall goal,” Blount said. “We don’t care about personal success. You can’t be selfish when everybody has one common goal. You have to make sacrifices for the betterment of the team. We’ve done that and it’s gotten us this far.”
Long played 65 percent of the snaps last season and posted four sacks, four tackles for loss and a forced fumble. His role has decreased in Philadelphia — he played 48 percent of the snaps — but he’s been an instrumental part of the team’s success and keeping a deep defensive line fresh.
“His attitude and the way he approaches things, coming from New England, coming off winning a Super Bowl, I think the biggest thing that Chris has brought here is a bunch of leadership, especially being the older guy in our room,” Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “Not being here, coming in the room with a bunch of new guys, man, he fit right in. I think the thing about Chris is when he goes out on the field, he means a lot. He doesn’t play a whole lot, but when he is in the game, man, he wrecks shop.”
Former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky said Long is the one player on Philadelphia’s defense that he would be concerned with most because “he never stops.”
“He has a next-level motor,” Orlovsky told The Associated Press . “It’s unusual.”
The Eagles have other players who’ve won Super Bowls — Smith, Malcolm Jenkins, Corey Graham, Dannell Ellerbe, Chris Maragos, and Will Beatty — but Blount and Long did it most recently and were part of the Patriot Way so they’ve shared valuable experiences.
“There’s a lot of good resources on this team for Super Bowl experience,” Long said. “Younger players really need to stick to the script, prepare hard and don’t try to do too much. The key is to take it out of your head that it’s the playoffs and show up and do your work.”
Blount echoed those feelings.
“You have so many things going on and it’s not something you can get away from it because it’s on TV, it on your phone, it’ on every bit of social media,” Blount said. “So you have to make sure you zoom in and zone in on what you have to do and focus on what our goal is and the task at hand.”