PHILADELPHIA -- The players' cheers could be heard through the thick wall separating the visitors' locker room from the outside world.
The Philadelphia Eagles had gathered inside the cramped quarters following a 24-0 victory over the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on Sunday, and waited for Bears-Vikings to go final. There was no missing when that moment arrived.
"We ain’t sneaking in, we’re kicking the m-----f------ door down," safety Malcolm Jenkins said as he gathered his teammates around him. "We’re in this party. Nobody wanted us in, but guess what, they’ve got to deal with us now, man.”
When Jenkins was done breaking down the team, the music was turned up to 11, and it came screaming out behind coach Doug Pederson as he opened the training-room door to greet his wife, Jeannie, with a kiss before heading back to the ruckus. His duties weren't through just yet.
"Once you get in, all bets are off," Jenkins said. "Obviously, the two times I've been part of a championship team, we've had a first-round bye. That helps when you've only got to win two games. But we've seen it all the time where guys fight and scrap to get in, end up in the wild card and somehow just fight their way through. For us, it's the long, hard way, but if you're saying it's a chance, then we'll be there."
To make it happen, it took three straight wins to close the season, two against first-place teams. It took a Nick Foles revival, and it took a Bears win over the Vikings, but Philly found a way into the playoffs. There are a few reasons why that might prove problematic for the rest of the field. The Eagles roll into the postseason with a full head of steam and playing their best ball of the year. They have the benefit of a recent Super Bowl run to draw on. And, having already stared down what seemed like imminent elimination, they're playing freely, as if they have nothing to lose.
"I think it's a dangerous group because it's the next game and everybody is really hungry," said defensive end Michael Bennett. "I think we have a lot of good players and everybody is playing at a high level right now. And the way that Nick is distributing the ball, he looks like Steve Nash out there."
The Eagles are back to their preferred identity as underdogs. The Bears open as 4.5-point favorites for Sunday's wild-card game. It's the largest point spread of the weekend. Last season, the players broke out dog masks during their postseason run. This season, beginning Week 15 against the Rams, members of the defense started bringing ski masks onto the sideline, sending the message that whatever they wanted for the rest of the season -- turnovers, wins, a playoff berth -- they were going to have to take it.
They grabbed it all with authority, the way Jenkins sees it. The Eagles didn't sneak into anything and don't plan on treading lightly now that they've gotten in.
"That's exactly what he said today," defensive end Brandon Graham said of Jenkins. "We're going to kick the door down when everybody is asleep, try to wake them up."