By the time reporters poured into the Eagles’ victorious locker room late on Saturday night, Lane Johnson was already fully dressed, head down, making a bee line for the far exit.
Even after playing an entire game with a painful groin injury, Johnson was spry as he ducked the media.
His play did enough talking anyway.
And Johnson’s teammates were more than happy to brag on him.
“He’s a warrior,” Jalen Hurts said. “He’s a true warrior and a very important piece of this team. He’s been doing great things for a very long time, and I’m very grateful to have him. We’re grateful to have him and I’m happy that he’s kind of coming out of this thing clean.”
Johnson, 32, made his return in the Eagles’ 38-7 drubbing of the Giants in the divisional round of the playoffs. It was his first game action since suffering a torn adductor on Christmas Eve against the Cowboys.
That adductor, by the way, is still torn. It’s still painful. It will still need surgery to repair his groin whenever the Eagles’ season comes to a close, parade or not.
But Johnson made a selfless decision to push off that surgery in an attempt to deliver a second Super Bowl to Philadelphia. That sacrifice means everything to his teammates.
“It means the world, man,” fellow offensive lineman Jordan Mailata said. “It means the world. Sacrificing his body for the boys. Just being selfless and getting out there as fast as he can. And then this week, when he was like, ‘I’m ready to go,’ I was like, ‘Crazy.’ He looked great in practice and he looked great tonight. He’s a machine.”
Johnson missed the final two games of the regular season and then rested up during the wild card round after the Eagles earned that No. 1 seed and bye week.
Johnson on Saturday night played 67 offensive snaps before the Eagles pulled Hurts and a few offensive linemen late in the game. Early on Saturday night, Johnson could be seen looking uncomfortable and even grabbing at his injured groin. But he stayed in the game. And he played extremely well.
There’s no doubt that the Eagles’ offense is a completely different animal with a healthy Hurts and Johnson in the lineup, something the Eagles didn’t have down the stretch in the regular season.
Since the start of the 2016 season (including playoffs), the Eagles are 60-29-1 with Johnson in the lineup and 10-22 without him.
“Obviously having Lane, Lane is the best tackle in the NFL, so to have him back and just shutting down a side, that's huge,” head coach Nick Sirianni said. “It was awesome to have him back. He makes us go. That entire offensive line makes us go.”
The Eagles on Saturday night rushed for an incredible 268 yards (6 yards shy of the franchise record) behind the strength of their star-studded offensive line. And the team surrendered just one sack all game.
It didn’t really seem who was running the football on Saturday; it worked. Kenny Gainwell had 112 yards and a touchdown, Miles Sanders had 90 and Boston Scott had 32 and a touchdown. Hurts chipped in 34 and a touchdown of his own.
The reason the Eagles were able to run the ball so effectively was because of their offensive line. And having Johnson back on Saturday was a huge part of that.
“You don’t gotta say much,” Dallas Goedert said. “He’s the best right tackle in the game for the last year. Having him out there is obviously a plus for us.”
It was encouraging that Johnson held up throughout the game on Saturday. Next week, the Eagles will need Johnson again. This time, he’ll either be facing DeMarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons or Nick Bosa.
That won’t be easy.
But Johnson is as tough as they come. And that isn’t lost on his teammates.
“That’s tough right there, man,” Gainwell said. “To be battling through an injury that had him out for a little minute, he decided he wanted to come back. That’s just big right there. That just shows the toughness on this team. All the guys that work hard just to make sure we get a win.”
Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast
Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | Watch on YouTube