Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy developed a strong friendship as assistants on Andy Reid’s coaching staff in Kansas City.
Since then, both men have moved into prominent head-coaching roles. Their friendship will be put on hold for a few hours when Pederson’s defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) visit Nagy’s Chicago Bears (12-4) on Sunday afternoon in the NFC divisional playoffs.
Few know Pederson’s offensive system as well as Nagy does — and few know Nagy’s system as well as Pederson does.
“You can draw parallels from Coach Reid,” Pederson said this week in comments published by The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. “We both kind of learned under him. I know Matt is very — he definitely is an aggressive coach, he has an aggressive mindset, he’s very creative. That’s what you’re seeing on tape and in games. So I think there are some similarities there.”
The coaches’ familiarity could make for a high-stakes, tight-knit contest on the Chicago lakefront.
The Bears enter the postseason having won four games in a row and nine of their past 10. They finished the regular season with the league’s third-ranked defense (299.7 yards allowed per game), which took pressure off of their 21st-ranked offense (343.9 yards per game).
Meanwhile, the Eagles secured a wild-card playoff berth on the final day of the regular season thanks to a win over the Washington Redskins, coupled with a loss by the Minnesota Vikings against the Bears. Philadelphia finished in the middle of the pack on both sides of the ball, posting the No. 14 total offense (365.3 yards per game) and the No. 23 total defense (366.2 yards allowed per game).
But the Eagles have plenty of experience in the spotlight after last season’s title run. This will be the Bears’ first playoff game since 2010.
It will be the biggest test yet for Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who threw for 3,223 yards, 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his second season. Jordan Howard led the team on the ground with 935 yards and nine touchdowns, while Allen Robinson led all receivers with 735 yards on 55 catches, including four for touchdowns.
For the second year in a row, the Eagles enter the playoffs with Nick Foles under center in place of injured teammate Carson Wentz (back). Foles passed for 1,413 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions in five starts on the season. He left the regular-season finale after sustaining a shot to his ribs, but he has vowed to play this weekend despite “a little bit of soreness.”
The Eagles’ top pass catcher is Zach Ertz, who set a single-season record for tight ends with 116 receptions for 1,163 yards and eight scores. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery will return to face his former team after grabbing 65 passes for 843 yards and six touchdowns.
Bears players say they welcome the pressure of the postseason and feel confident with Nagy leading the way.
“Since he got here, our culture has just been shifted into a winning culture,” Bears offensive tackle Charles Leno Jr. told the Chicago Sun-Times. “There’s no more accepting the fact that we’re going to go out there and lose. We go out there expecting to win every game.”
Likewise, Pederson wants playoff success to be the “new norm” in Philadelphia.
“That’s why we train in the offseason and training camp and put all that time in, for moments now like this,” Pederson said. “This is what you play for. You get a chance to be in this tournament and again compete and play for another world championship, if possible.”
—Field Level Media