The Eagles know playoff football is different — the Bears are about to find out
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When Matt Nagy started his NFL coaching career, Eagles coach Doug Pederson was Philadelphia’s offensive-quality-control coach. Nagy was below him.
“The assistant to the assistant,” Nagy said Monday.
When Pederson was promoted to Eagles quarterbacks coach, Nagy followed behind, becoming the offensive-quality-control coach. When the two followed coach Andy Reid to Kansas City in 2013, Pederson became the offensive coordinator, Nagy the quarterbacks coach.
“So we keep following this path here,” Nagy said. “So I told [Pederson] at the owners meetings this past offseason that he got that Super Bowl. I’m trying to follow his lead here.
“He probably doesn’t want to hear that right now. But I’m trying to stick on that path.”
A year ago, Pederson was the hotshot play-caller with no playoff experience as a head coach. Nagy, and his Bears, inherited that mantle this season.
Playoff football is different. The Eagles, who won the Super Bowl last season, know that. The Bears are about to find out.
“The intensity is completely different,” Nagy said. “It’s not even close.”
The greatest playoff-experience disparity Sunday will be at quarterback. Nick Foles is the reigning Super Bowl MVP and is making his third trip to the postseason as a starter.
The Bears’ Mitch Trubisky, meanwhile, has started exactly one postseason game since graduating high school: a loss to Stanford in the 2016 Sun Bowl.
Entering the game against Pederson’s Eagles, the Bears have only seven starters with postseason experience — 25 games’ worth.
By contrast, 12 of the Eagles’ starters in their Week 17 victory against the Redskins also started in Super Bowl LII. Those 12 have 52 games’ worth of playoff experience — and that’s not counting offseason pickup Michael Bennett, who played in two Super Bowls and totaled 10 career playoff games with the Seahawks.
Nagy, though, said the Bears gained a glimpse of postseason intensity in their 24-10 victory against the Vikings, who were playing at home for their playoff lives.
“That wasn’t a playoff game, but it was close to it,” Nagy said. “And so those guys felt it, they were on the road. Everything’s faster. It’s a lot faster.”
Trubisky responded well.
“Mitch had a great game,” Nagy said. “He was a leader of the offense.”
Given the Bears’ TV exposure this year, the big stage won’t be new to Trubisky or his teammates.
“There’s a feel to it,” Nagy said. “You’ve got everybody there. Everybody’s watching. The good thing for us is we’ve had some Sunday night games, some Monday night games, some Thursday night games, where this isn’t our first rodeo. So I know how our guys handle it, and now it’s just the deal — if you lose, you’re done. If you win, you keep moving on.”
Some of the Bears’ best players, though, have been through the rigors of the postseason.
Tight end Trey Burton threw the touchdown pass on the “Philly Special” in Super Bowl LII. Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel had 76 receiving yards for the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, and right tackle Bobby Massie played in three playoff games with the Cardinals.
Cornerback Prince Amukamara was a little-used rookie when the Giants won Super Bowl XLVI, and nickel back Sherrick McManis played in two playoff games with the Texans.
Inside linebacker Danny Trevathan won Super Bowl 50 — and lost Super Bowl XLVIII two years earlier — as a member of the Broncos. Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks lost to Trevathan’s Broncos in the 2015 AFC title game, the end of his half-season with the Patriots, and lost in the divisional round of the 2013 playoffs with the Saints.
Bears veterans will try to stress the stakes all week, but they know that players have to live it to truly understand.
“The playoffs are unlike anything else,’’ Hicks said, ‘‘where you have this feeling of, ‘Do or die. This could be it. If I don’t play well, I’ve got to go to my locker and pack up my little black garbage bag.’ ”