UNNOTICED THIS WEEK IN LOCKER ROOM, ELLIOTT QUIETLY PREPARES FOR HIS INCREDIBLE ROLE SUNDAY
At Wednesday’s media session inside the Eagles locker room, there was a buzz of excitement throughout the room.
The Birds are headed to the NFC Championship game Sunday for a chance to play in Super Bowl LII!
All the top players had reporters swarming their lockers including Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, Stefen Wisniewski, Torrey Smith and LeGarrette Blount.
But the man who may be the most important weapon for the Eagles this Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings sat alone at his locker stall like he was still on the practice squad, kicker Jake Elliott.
Last Saturday, the Eagles earned their first playoff win since the 2008 season over the Atlanta Falcons 15-10.
Elliott connected on three field goals including a 53-yarder on the last play of the first half that pulled the Birds to within a point at 10-9. It was a crucial momentum-swinging moment in the game.
The Falcons did not score a point in the second half while Elliott hit two more field goals to help The Birds earn the victory.
Elliott has made 29 of 34 field goals this season including playoffs. The rookie has hit nine of 10 since Nick Foles took over at quarterback for MVP candidate Carson Wentz.
He will no doubt face several more pressure-packed moments before this improbable run is over.
How does Elliott keep from going crazy?
“I think it’s just being relaxed as possible is the key to it all,” Elliott said at his locker in a one-on-one talk. “I’ve talked about this before, you just don’t make it bigger than it needs to be. It’s just another game…yes it’s a much bigger stage, a much bigger setting. But it’s the same thing…just going out and kicking a ball.”
Former NFL linebacker Garry Cobb and Footballstories contributor has a great analogy that may apply here.
People can look great doing somersaults and back flips on an eight-foot wide track that is on the ground, but can they to same tricks if that track is three stories in the air?
Elliott agreed he has to always think the track he performs on it on the ground.
“I think that’s kind of it,” said Elliott, who is listed at 5-foot-9, 167 pounds. “Don’t trick your mind into doing something that’s harder than it needs to be. That’s all it is. I’m going to go out there and kind of be in my zone and not make it bigger than it has to be.”
Elliott is familiar with winds and weather at Lincoln Financial Field. He hit a season-changing 61-yard walk-off field goal against the New York Giants to give the Eagles a 27-24 win that served as the springboard for a nine game win streak that helped earn the Birds the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC playoffs.
He has hit field goals in windy, freezing conditions for several weeks. Elliott talked about the advantages of that going into their game against the Vikings, a team that has been playing in a domed stadium (U.S. Bank) since before the 2016 season.
“I go out there early every game to try and get a gauge of the wind,” Elliott said. “(I may) kick a few extra if I’m trying to play around with it (the wind). But it’s going to change. It’s going to be gusty during the game, you just have to be prepared for that. It has been the last three for weeks here so we’ll see what the conditions are like Sunday. I think that’s to our advantage more than anything else.”
Eagles fans will be counting on it. *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii