NFC East: 2013 Week 16 CHI at PHI
December, 23, 2013
By Phil Sheridan | ESPN.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Chip Kelly became the Eagles' head coach in January. He might have become Philadelphia's head coach Sunday night.
At about 4 p.m. ET, the Dallas Cowboys beat Washington with a late comeback, robbing the Eagles of a chance to clinch the division against the Chicago Bears. By about 9 p.m., the Eagles had a 21-0 lead on their way to a dominating 54-11 victory over a team that had its own division title on the line.
All that speculation about resting starters for the must-win game in Dallas next Sunday? Forget about it.
"Very simply, we're from Philadelphia and we fight," Kelly said. "If there's a game on, we're playing. End of story. And all this stuff about backing in, not worrying, all these other things, I have no idea.
"So many scenarios. What if there's a tie when we go play Dallas next week and we gave a game away last week? If we're going to line up and kick off, tell us what time to show up and we'll be there."
If there aren't “We're from Philadelphia and we fight” T-shirts rolling off a silk-screen machine somewhere, someone is missing a golden opportunity.
Kelly's demeanor might have been different if one of his key players had been injured. But that didn't happen. Even better, the players who might have been candidates for the injury-avoidance program were the ones who delivered the biggest momentum-building performances of the game.
LeSean McCoy ran for 133 yards and two touchdowns to retain his place atop the NFL rushing leaders list and position himself to break Wilbert Montgomery's franchise record for yards in a season next week. McCoy needs just 37 yards to break the mark of 1,512 yards.
Quarterback Nick Foles was nearly perfect, completing 21 of 25 passes (84 percent) for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Coming off an inconsistent performance against the Vikings, Foles now goes to Dallas with a hot hand.
“I'm just excited to play another game,” Foles said. “I know what's on the line. Everybody knows what's on the line. I'm excited for the opportunity.”
Trent Cole, the oldest player on the Eagles' defense, sacked Jay Cutler on the Bears' third play from scrimmage, setting a tone and forcing the Bears to punt. Cole had three sacks, his most in a game in three years.
“I was very excited for this game,” Cole said. “This is just the start. Coming off a loss like that, it's good for confidence in the team. This does build momentum for us going into Dallas. That's the start of our playoffs right there.”
Kelly convinced his team to treat this as a big game. The way his players responded has to be considered a good sign as they prepare for the franchise's biggest game since a playoff loss to Green Bay here after the 2011 season.
“It's going to be the biggest show on earth,” Cole said. “It's going to be a circus down there, like always.”
“This is what we want,” said linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who sacked Cutler twice and forced a fumble. “We're on the biggest stage. We're in Dallas' stadium, which is a great place to play. We're excited.”
Not only did the Eagles not want to sit this one out, veterans were volunteering for hazardous duty. With key special teamers Kurt Coleman and Colt Anderson sidelined by injuries, starting cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher were covering kickoffs -- as if holding receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in check wasn't enough to worry about.
“Whatever it takes, man,” Williams said. “No 'I' in 'team.' Coach needed me to do that, then dang it, I'm going to do it. It didn't matter. It was a great game plan we had in place. There were a lot of DBs out there. It didn't bother us, because the game was so significant. We wanted to get back to winning ways.”
Fletcher forced Bears kickoff returner Devin Hester to fumble in the first quarter. Williams recovered, giving the Eagles the ball at the Chicago 39.
“That's what we do,” nickel corner and special-teams regular Brandon Boykin said. “That's our personality. The starters on kickoffs, that's the want-to, that's the attitude of our team. Get the job done no matter who's out there.”
The Eagles scored on McCoy's 1-yard run five plays later, their second touchdown in 2 minutes, 10 seconds. It was 14-0, and the Eagles were on their way.
It was hard to believe they were the same players who got crushed by the Vikings the week before.
“Redeeming ourselves,” Boykin said. “That was huge, man. It was a great team win. Knowing where we are, knowing our possibilities, we wanted to come out and get our momentum rolling again. Especially at home, Sunday night football. There's nothing better.”
It's also hard to believe this is the same Eagles offense that failed to score a touchdown against the Cowboys here in the teams' first meeting this season. That was Oct. 20. The Eagles lost the next week to the Giants, falling to 3-5 at the midway point of the season.
They are 6-1 since then, with the only loss that mystifying game in Minnesota.
“We stumbled when we were in Minnesota,” Kelly said. “Minnesota beat us and played better than us that day. But we weren't going to let Minnesota beat us twice.”
Now the task is not letting Dallas beat them twice. Win next week, and they earn the No. 3 seed in the NFC. For Kelly, it also would mean eliminating the rival Cowboys. There's no better way to win over Eagles fans.
“One down, one to go,” Kelly said.
December, 22, 2013
By Phil Sheridan | ESPN.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles' 54-11 victory against the Chicago Bears Sunday night.
What it means: The Eagles will play the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC East title next Sunday night in Arlington, Texas. Coach Chip Kelly motivated his team to play perhaps its best all-around game despite an oddly deflating turn of events. When Dallas rallied to beat the Washington Redskins earlier in the day, the Eagles lost the ability to clinch the division. Considering their awful performance against the Minnesota Vikings last week, they very well could have come out flat again. Instead, they jumped all over the Bears, smothering a high-powered offense and striking quickly for a 21-0 first-quarter lead.
Stock watch: Rising: Chip Kelly. The NFL rookie will have a winning record and, with one more victory, a postseason appearance in what was expected to be a rebuilding year. Kelly said right away he would treat this game the same regardless of its impact on the NFC East race. And he did. Every coach talks about focusing only on each week’s game, but the Eagles turned that cliché into a belief system this season. Less obvious, but equally worth noting, was the way the Eagles continued to play well in the second half. They had let big leads get whittled down by Washington and Arizona in recent wins. This time, they piled 30 second-half points onto the 24 they scored in the first half.
Defensive rebound: The Eagles' defense got humiliated -- there's no other word for it -- in Minnesota last week. Giving up 48 points to a Vikings team without Adrian Peterson made you question just how much progress the defense really had made. It also made you wonder how much worse it would be with Jay Cutler throwing to Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and the rest of the Bears. But the Eagles' defense was outstanding from the beginning, allowing a season-low 11 points. The Eagles scored nine points with a safety and a late pick-six by Brandon Boykin. Their defense sacked Cutler five times and held Matt Forte in check. The performance allows the Eagles to go into Dallas with a huge shot of confidence.
What’s next: A virtual playoff game in Dallas next Sunday night. With a victory, the Eagles would be the third seed in the NFC, hosting the second wild-card team in a first-round game. The Eagles lost to Dallas at home 17-3 on Oct. 20. That was Nick Foles’ worst game of the season, the first of two consecutive home losses in which the Eagles failed to score an offensive touchdown.