In his post-game press conference , as Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly was asked why he played his starters in a game with little direct meaning for the Eagles post-season, Chip Kelly endeared himself to each and every Eagles fan:
“We’re from Philadelphia and we fight. If there’s a game on, we’re playing.”- Chip Kelly
And fight they did. When the half-time score showed an Eagles team leading a very dangerous Chicago Bears, they came out fighting even harder in the second half: posting a safety in the midst of a 30 point scoring barrage. When the game ended, the Birds had obliterated a very talented Bears team 54-11. To an Eagles home crowd that has surrendered to losing seasons, losing streaks, and losing hope, the Eagles fight has reignited their spirits of post season play.
For the past week, pundits had been questioning the Eagles motivation in a scenario where the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Washington Redskins. Due to the records of both teams, a Cowboys win against the Redskins forces a showdown in Dallas with the Eagles. By game time, the Cowboys had won and the Eagles fans were anxious to see if this team had any fight in them, despite losing the opportunity to clinch the division.
All anxiety and questions fell by the wayside after the opening kickoff. The Birds’ defense forced a punt in the first possession, and the offense reciprocated by completing a five yard touchdown drive to four year veteran wide receiver Riley Cooper. From that opening offensive possession, the rout was on. Eagles quarterback sensation Nick Foles was nearly flawless in completing 21 of 25 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Even Philadelphia Eagles running backs LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown got into the spirit as each rushed for over 100 yards.
The Sunday night game ended with Trent Cole adding three sacks to reach second place in the Philadelphia Eagles all time career sack leader list with 79 sacks. McCoy jumped to second on the Eagles single season rushing record with 1,476 yards, just 36 yards shy of the record of 1,512 yards set by Wilbert Montgomery in 1979. DeSean Jackson climbed to within 104 yards of the single season receiving record of 1,409 yards set by Mike Quick in 1983.
More team records were set by Donnie Jones, by the linebacking tandem of Ryans and Kendricks, and by “Saint” Nick Foles himself – where his 21 of 25 pass set a franchise completion record of 84%. In the NFL, much is made about the team that peaks at the right time of the year. It would be tough to argue that the Birds are not one of the hottest teams in the league right now. In defeating the Bears, the Eagles ensure a winning season, and will lock up the third place seed in the playoffs should they win their last game.
Sunday’s game set the stage for a “winner take all” season finale in Dallas next weekend. While this will be the first such game for the Eagles, the Dallas Cowboys have played, and lost, similar games in the past two consecutive years. Despite the success of the Eagles team this year, the season will seem a little empty to fans if they do not end up in the post season.
But this is one Eagles sports writer who sees this season a little differently. I see a team that went from rebuilding and learning to exhibiting confidence and poise – from tackling, to turnovers, to stepping up to meet a big game in an even bigger way. You may have questions about Saint Nicholas. But you simply must believe in the resiliency of Nick Foles and the Eagles. While the success of this season may hinge in the minds of fans and writers on the outcome of the game next week in Dallas, to me the success of this season has already occured. Fans believe this team can win again.