Eagles’ DeVonta Smith ready for 1st NFL playoff game vs. Buccaneers – NBC Sports
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Some rookies would be understandably nervous or overwhelmed going into their first NFL playoff game.
DeVonta Smith is not most rookies.
Because the Eagles’ first-round pick hasn’t just played on big stages before, he’s thrived on them unlike almost anyone who had ever played college football before him.
“You gotta know what’s at stake. It’s win or go home,” Smith said. “You win, you advance. You lose, you go home. So I mean, that’s kind of the main thing. It comes down to what we do as a football team, not about them. How we execute our game plan, how we do our techniques and the fundamentals of things.”
That’s about as much as you’ll get Smith to say about the playoffs. Because aside from admitting it’s win or go home, Smith treats every game the same. His preparation, he claims, does not change.
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It’s undeniable, however, that Smith has a clutch gene. And it showed up early on in his Alabama career.
There’s a good chance the first time you heard about Smith was on Jan. 8, 2018. That was the date of the National Championship Game against Georgia when, as a true freshman, Smith caught a 41-yard, game-winning touchdown catch in overtime to lift Alabama to a 26-23 win.
Even after that, Smith still wasn’t Alabama’s No. 1 target the next season but he managed to show up in big games.
In the 2018 CFP semifinal, Smith had 6 catches for a then-career-high 104 yards and a touchdown to put Alabama back in the National Championship Game. Even though Alabama lost the next week, Smith still had 6/65. In 2019, Smith had 3/56/1 against Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.
But the final three games of his senior season in 2020 didn’t just solidify Smith as the Heisman Trophy winner; they forever cemented his legacy in college football history.
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Remember how Smith finished his college career?
SEC Championship Game: W 52-46 vs. Florida: 15 catches, 184 yards, 2 TDs
CFP Semifinal: W 31-14 vs. Notre Dame: 7 catches, 130 yards, 3 TDs
National Championship: W 52-24 v. Ohio State: 12 catches, 215 yards, 3 TDs
So while a wild card playoff game on the road against Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Bucs sounds daunting … Smith isn’t going to be overwhelmed.
His week won’t change.
“It’s the same thing for me. It’s the next game,” Smith said. “Just feels like another game to me.”
His pregame ritual won’t change.
“Treat it the same,” he said. “Wouldn’t do nothing different. My regular routine I always do, I’m going to stick to it.”
Smith had a very promising rookie season. He finished shy of his goal of 1,000 receiving yards but he did reach 916, enough to topple an Eagles rookie record set by DeSean Jackson in 2008.
He had some monster games along the way too — 122 yards against the Chiefs, 116 yards against the Chargers and an 80-yard game in the second Giants game.
Would it really surprise anyone to see him have a big game on Sunday?
“For me, honestly it feels the same,” Smith said. “It’s the next game. Win or go home. Attack it the same way I attack any other game any other week.”