Commentary

Eagles fire warning shot

Philly's destruction of Bears sends message that Cowboys can't ignore

Originally Published: December 23, 2013
By Ashley Fox | ESPN.com

PHILADELPHIA – That should get Dallas' attention.

The Eagles didn't have to play like that. They didn't have to hang half a hundred on Chicago. They didn't have to rack up 514 yards of offense or gain 9.0 yards per pass play or hold the Bears to 5-of-14 on third downs.

Chicago was playing for everything. Philadelphia was playing for nothing. With a win, the Bears would take the NFC North. With a win, the Eagles would gain nothing but momentum. And yet Philadelphia trounced the Bears 54-11 by scoring every way imaginable: on the ground, in the air, a long field goal, a safety and an interception return for a touchdown. It was a thorough whipping.

[+] EnlargeNick Foles, LeSean McCoy
Maddie Meyer/Getty ImagesNick Foles and LeSean McCoy have the Eagles' offense hitting on all cylinders.

And certainly Dallas noticed.

The NFC East championship game will be Sunday night at Jerry World, and Philadelphia will go in with as much momentum as a team on a one-game winning streak could have. All season, the Eagles had been trying to score 50 points. It was a goal. And against a Bears team that is awful against the run, they succeeded in dominating fashion.

Nick Foles was dialed in. He completed 21 of 25 passes for 230 yards, two touchdowns and a 131.7 passer rating. Three of Foles' incomplete passes came when he was trying to throw the ball away. He was poised. He was careful with the football. He froze defensive backs with pump fakes. He thrived in play action.

Foles had as good of an all-around game as he has had since becoming the Eagles' full-time starter. Seven Eagles caught passes, including tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz and running back LeSean McCoy.

And the Eagles' running game thrived. McCoy rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns. McCoy's backup, Bryce Brown, rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Brown's backup, Chris Polk, rushed for a touchdown.

The Eagles completely dominated on offense. They won the battle in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The defense harassed Jay Cutler all day, eventually chasing him out of the game in the fourth quarter. Punter Donnie Jones didn't get much work, but when he did, he pinned the Bears deep in their own territory.

For a team that had lost 48-30 at Minnesota the week before, this meant something.

Few would have blamed Chip Kelly if he had approached the Bears game as an exhibition. He could have rested his starters. He could have protected his stars from the possibility of injury. He could have played for next week. It would have been disingenuous – because Kelly has programmed his players to view each game as a one-week season and to not look ahead – but certainly understandable.

"Very simply, we're from Philadelphia, and we fight," Kelly said. "That's it. If there's a game on, we're playing. End of the story."

It was a corny bit of collegiate rah-rah, but the point was well taken. Fighting against Chicago accomplished a number of things, intended or not. First, it got the Eagles on the winning track. They had a chance to extend their lead over Dallas last week against the Vikings and stumbled big time. This eradicated that.

Second, it gave the Cowboys something to think about. The Bears had no answer for Philadelphia's offense. The Eagles scored touchdowns on their first three drives and led 21-0 in the first quarter before breaking a sweat. They changed the complexion of the game at the jump and forced Chicago to have to, as Cutler mentioned several times, "pass, pass, pass."

Seven of Philadelphia's 11 possessions ended with a score. Six of them were touchdowns. Jones punted twice.

And Philadelphia showed that it is not the team that lost to Dallas 17-3 in Week 7. That was a lifetime ago, before Foles emerged as the Eagles' unquestioned starting quarterback. Foles was awful that game. He looked jittery and confused by the Cowboys' defense. He rushed throws. He threw a ton of incompletions. He took sacks. By halftime, Dallas knocked Foles out with a concussion.

Since sitting out the next week against the New York Giants, Foles has been on fire, leading the Eagles to six wins in seven games to set up this win-or-go-home scenario in Week 17.

When the Cowboys played the Bears two weeks ago, they gave up 45 points and 490 total yards, including 149 on the ground. In the eight games since holding the Eagles to three points, Dallas has given up an average of 31.6 points per game.

The Eagles should be able to move the football. They should be able to score points. They should be able to do what they did to Chicago. It is there to be had.

Consider this: Sunday will be the eighth win-or-go-home game for the Cowboys with Tony Romo as the quarterback. They have won only once – a playoff win at home against the Eagles in 2009 in what became Donovan McNabb's last game for Philadelphia. In those games, Romo has eight touchdown passes and seven interceptions. As big as he came up this Sunday against Washington, Romo has not been clutch in win-or-go-home situations.

He will get another chance next Sunday. The Eagles are coming. Against the Bears, they made that clear.

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