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Eagles face biggest hurdle yet in worst-to-first season

By Frank Pingue

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - The Philadelphia Eagles have overcome obstacles throughout their worst-to-first season and now face the biggest hurdle yet as an underdog heading in into Sunday's Super Bowl clash against the defending champion New England Patriots.

The Eagles, who remarkably won the NFC East division a year after finishing in last place, are not being given much of a chance to beat one of the most dominant franchises the NFL has ever seen but that does not matter to this group.

Philadelphia were home underdogs throughout the NFC playoffs and are comfortable taking that label into the biggest game of the year where they will seek their first Super Bowl title after falling short in the game twice before (1981, 2005).

Part of their reason the Eagles feel confident is because they have managed to overcome injuries to several key players this season and not lose sight of their ultimate goal.

Philadelphia lost their most dynamic running back, Darren Sproles, for the season. They also lost Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters and starting linebacker Jordan Hicks. Then in December, starting quarterback Carson Wentz was lost for the year with a knee injury.

Stepping in for Wentz has been Nick Foles, a quarterback who nearly retired in 2016 but now is one win away from a maiden Super Bowl title and perhaps that team's best shot at winning.

In this postseason, Foles has completed 77.8 percent of his passes for 598 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

The Eagles are led by second-year head coach Doug Pederson, who has gotten his players to buy into his next-man-up attitude and shut out the noise about the mighty Patriots.

"Our guys don't read into too much about what's written or said. Our guys just go about their business every single day. We know what we're faced against, we know the opponent we're going against," said Pederson.

"It's about what we do. How our players handle this week and eliminate distractions and eliminate the noise and how well they prepare and get themselves ready to go."

The Eagles will certainly be flying high in the confidence department after rolling through the playoffs with a dominant defense that has allowed a total of 17 points in two games.

Despite their defensive success, the Eagles' secondary will have their work cut out for it against the Patriots' deep passing game.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Rory Carroll)