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The Day After: A Team To Enjoy

Posted Dec 9, 2013

Think back to January and your immediate reaction when the Eagles hired Chip Kelly as head coach. What were your goals for 2013? How much improvement would we truly see from this team? ...

Thirteen games into the season, the Eagles are surging toward the playoffs. They've won five games in a row. The defense hasn't allowed more than 21 points in nine straight games. Nick Foles has delivered 20 touchdown passes and thrown only one interception. LeSean McCoy is on top of his game, on top of the league, and feeling fresh as a daisy after a 217-yard afternoon. The draft classes of 2012 and 2013 are contributing and building a promising core of talent to move forward with in the years to come.

A coaching staff with a mix of those from the college ranks and those with NFL experience has worked wonderfully in short order to put this Eagles team squarely in the mix at the top of the NFC East and in the conference playoff picture.

It's been a really fun ride.

And it isn't even close to being over.

The Eagles are playing outstanding football as we bask in the glow of Sunday's 34-20 win over Detroit in a game that will be remembered by Eagles fans and players and coaches and everybody as The Snow Bowl. Eight inches of snow dumped on Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday and the Eagles overcame a sluggish start and a 14-0 deficit to put together a second half for the ages. Philadelphia outscored Detroit 34-6 during that time and accumulated nearly 400 yards of offense in the quarter and a half of play that was as dominating as it gets.

I could talk about Sunday's game for a long, long time. But I'm not going to do that. Instead, there are some big-picture conversations that need to be had here, and some observations about this team that simply must be discussed ...

  • In-game adjustments are such a huge part of the game, right? I've said this for years, that the NFL is about coaching and quarterbacks. Well, Chip Kelly and his coaching staff are fantastic. I loved the way the Eagles changed up the offensive game plan and put Foles under center and had more of a "downhill" running game with McCoy lining up as a single back behind Foles. The stretch plays and cutback opportunities that McCoy runs so brilliantly on a dry field didn't work on Sunday, so the offense changed its approach in the second half on Sunday and roared. Kelly and his staff made sure to find out early the limits the players had. How much could they cut? What was going to work in the passing game? How could the Eagles win in the trenches against such overpowering defensive tackles? There was no panic. The coaching staff analyzed the situation and adjusted and you saw what happened.

  • Haven't the Eagles shown in these last two games just how far the offensive line has come? Injuries ruined the group last season, and having Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans healthy has made a huge difference. So has the addition of Lane Johnson at right tackle. He's a big-time player and, when you look at the top of the first round from April's draft, could be the best of them all. The Eagles also have been able to get excellent in-line blocking from the tight ends.

  • Foles threw an interception on Sunday and, frankly, it's OK that it happened when it happened. Certainly, nobody was pleased that the interception led to a Detroit touchdown, but Foles at least doesn't have to carry the "zero interceptions" burden around any longer. Foles came back from a rough start to the game to generate some big plays down the field. He was secure with the football and he again made strong decisions. Foles is a gamer, no doubt about it. Smart, tough, good quarterback. You have to like the way he's playing down the stretch.

  • How much do you love the way the offense approaches conventional wisdom? The fourth-and-12 call late in the game, when Foles threw the ball to Brent Celek was pure genius and an example of thinking outside the box. Only Kelly, Foles and Celek knew the call on that play. Celek slid down instead of scoring, and it set off a wild celebration at Lincoln Financial Field. That play -- and all of the photos of it are just fantastic -- is one of those iconic Eagles moments. It isn't in the category of any of the Miracles At The Meadowlands or Fourth And 26, but it's going to be one of the plays by which Celek will be remembered. Wasn't it a great way to touch off a victory celebration?!

  • Good test this week, filing away Sunday's win and preparing for a tough road game in Minnesota. The Vikings are hobbled and struggling and they lost an amazing game in Baltimore on Sunday, but it's going to be a hard game to win. Mall Of America Field is loud and obnoxious, but the Eagles have practiced every day with loud music to prepare for hostile venues like this. Superstar running back Adrian Peterson has a right foot sprain and is a question mark. Minnesota plays hard and has some good, young talent. The Eagles must play with urgency and continue this must-win mentality.

  • The defensive front gets better and better. Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, Vinny Curry, Bennie Logan, Damion Square and Clifton Geathers are playing very well. Here's where it all begins for the defense, and if the Eagles can keep this young group growing, the rest of the defense will follow. If you are strong up front, the defense is going to be outstanding.

  • More on McCoy: He leads the league with 1,305 rushing yards and, boy, is he awesome. Give him a sliver of daylight and he goes for 10 yards. There has never been a running back better at making defenders miss at the second level of a defense. McCoy is the best Eagles running back I've seen, and that includes Wilbert Montgomery and Brian Westbrook. Those two were great players, but McCoy is a class above. Montgomery ran for 1,512 yards in 1979, the franchise record. McCoy, obviously, is on track to own that record. Enjoy every game we have with McCoy. He is special.

  • He won't pile up numbers in terms of sacks and interceptions, but linebacker Connor Barwin is one of the impact players on the defense. He's been key at taking away the underneath passing game and his physical play against the run has been huge for the defense. Barwin is always in the right spot at the right time.

  • Having big cornerbacks who aren't afraid to play a physical game has really helped the Eagles against these star receivers the last couple of weeks. Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson combined for 8 catches in the two games. Looking ahead, the challenges are still significant. Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall from the Bears and Dez Bryant in Dallas are still on the schedule.

  • I'll chalk up the breakdowns on special teams to the elements on Sunday, but there is no question the coverage teams have a huge assignment on Sunday against rookie Cordarrelle Patterson in Minnesota. He averages a league-best 33.3 yards per kickoff return, with two touchdowns.

  • It seems as if the Eagles emerged healthy from the win over Detroit, and we will find out later in the week if safety Earl Wolff will be ready for Minnesota. It would also be nice to get Najee Goode back on special teams.

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