Sep 28, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly on the sideline against the San Francisco 49ers during the fourth quarter at Levi
Eagles Magic Number Is Four
The Philadelphia Eagles, as each of the other thirty-one teams in the NFL, are looking to the ultimate prize – which is hoisting the Lombardi Trophy following a victory in this year’s Superbowl. The game has been played fourteen times in the new millennium. And with the exception of four teams, the winner of each Superbowl so far has had no more than four losses.
Now, this is not to say that the game cannot be won by a team with more losses in the season. It can be. The 2007 New York Giants won with a record of 10-6, as did the 2010 Green Bay Packers and the 2012 Baltimore Ravens. Only the 2011 New York Giants, with their 9-7 record, took it all from such a modest post-season launch point.
So while the magic number is four, teams can and do have success. What is that common thread? Let’s perform an autopsy on the exemptions, and then take a look at this Eagles team, who are barely into the 2014 football season.
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The 2007 New York Giants were not particularly newsworthy in the regular season that year, finishing a mere 10-6. Their defense was not particularly stalwart that season, nor was their offense especially dominating. However, the team played all out in the last game of the season against the New England Patriots and lost a highly contested game 38-35.
Despite their loss, this close to the best in football seemed to launch the team into the playoffs with such momentum that when the eventually did face the Patriots in the super bowl that year, they claimed the game and the national prestige.
The 2010 Green Bay Packers were not particularly stalwart on defense. But oh how that offense could score! The defense was a bend but not break defense, holding opposing teams to far fewer points than their yardage would indicate. But they won the big game. The 2012 Baltimore Ravens were a prolific road team, with an emotional boost from captain and middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
This was the year that Joe Flacco played with incredible effect, and secured a huge contract. Some believe that the Ravens would be a better team now if they had lost that year. But they won their Superbowl. But the team that did more with less was the 2011 New York Giants, whose defense got healthy at the end of the season, carrying them into the playoffs and all the way to a Superbowl victory.
The Eagles are hardly a Superbowl team today. They win, but the comments from the fan base would lead you to believe that they lose regularly. They seem to do just enough to win a game. No less, but no more. Imagine if San Francisco did not know the Eagles plays? Imagine a 5-0 start for this team while everyone languished that the wins were deceptive and not real.
The magic number is four. That is the real point where teams earn bye weeks. That is the point where teams seem to gain momentum going into the playoffs. Most of the Superbowl winners (with the above exceptions) have four or fewer losses. Whether by special teams, penalties, defense, or offense, a 12-4 team in the NFL playoffs gets a likely bye week, gets home field advantage for at least one game, plays one fewer game, gets that extra week to heal and to rest and to prepare.
When you cheer these Eagles, keep your eye on the losses. We are at one now. If we keep it at four or fewer, no matter WHAT the reason for the win or HOW they seem, this team gets a huge advantage in post season. In 2013, the Eagles did not get their fourth win until November 3rd. This year, they are finding ways to scrap, to eek, to scrounge, and to manufacture victories. But they’ve managed to win. Some of the Eagles most memorable victories have been miraculous. There are even two games that have become famous in the history of the NFL: “Miracle in the Meadowlands” and “Miracle in the Meadowlands II”.
In both games, the victories were downright ugly. In both games plenty of Eagles did NOT make plays until the very end. And, in that moment of truth, the Eagles victory happened. Somehow, this year’s Eagles team has found the way to channel that energy into virtually every week. The magic that was once felt by the New York Giants has been felt by four NFL teams this year, and nearly a fifth. Why are we not rejoicing?
For one thing, we are about to face another moment of truth. Next week the 4-1 Philadelphia Eagles take on a surprising 3-2 New York Giants. There is no way to sugar coat the game against the New York Giants. If the Eagles have a weak spot, the Giants will expose it. That’s what division rivals do. But if the Eagles are playing down to their competition, the mirage will evaporate against those same Giants.
It’s been a tough 4-1 or a soft 4-1. It’s the same thing. We’re 4-1 and we’re right back on Tuesday getting ready for next Sunday.” – Chip Kelly
The game will not determine the outcome of the season, but a win results in the Eagles going into a bye week at 5-1. A loss puts the Eagles at 4-2, still an enviable position at the bye week, but will place pressure on the Eagles coming off the bye. Without a game against any division rival for five weeks following the bye, the Birds will be forced to play three very difficult road games and two dangerous home games before traveling to Dallas to face the Cowboys on a short week of Thanksgiving.
It’s better to be 4-1 with questions than 2-3 with answers. I’ve read some fans believe these Eagles were better in 2013. That’s not accurate. As Chip Kelly said in the post-game wrap up.
"“I think offensively we have to do a better job of finishing people off when we’re up 34-7. I talked to the guys on the sidelines about not being complacent with that score and let’s finish this thing off. Then, a couple key plays there we could have made, we should have made. Obviously the fumble (by quarterback Nick Foles) hurt us, we’ve got a drive going and we’ve got a first down. We need to stay on the field but I thought before those last couple of drives (by the Rams) I thought our defense had done a really good job. They had a lot of pressure, getting four or five sacks (the total was four) and caused a couple fumbles from their quarterback, they were really hitting him… we scored on defense again. We need to do a better job offensively. It’s been a tough 4-1 or a soft 4-1, it’s the same thing. We’re 4-1 and we’re right back on Tuesday getting ready for next Sunday. ” – Chip Kelly"