Playing just hours after a Dallas win at Washington ensured that the Eagles and Cowboys would play for the NFC East title on Sunday night in Arlington, TX, the Eagles put a major walloping on a Chicago Bears team that needed only a win to secure the NFC North title. It was the most impressive, wall-to-wall performance of the season and it came against a Chicago team that entered the game ranked second in the NFL in points scored and one rolling with two consecutive big wins.
Eagles 54. Bears 11.
Starting with a Trent Cole sack (his first of three on the night) on Chicago's first offensive drive, the defense erased the memory of the poor performance a week earlier in Minnesota. Bill Davis called a masterful game, dialing up a variety of stunts and twists to get some pass-rush pressure on quarterback Jay Cutler (5 sacks), and the secondary, torched a week prior, blanketed wide receivers Brandon Marshall (4 catches, 36 yards, TD) and Alshon Jeffery (6 catches, 76 yards) and stuffed the many talents of running back Matt Forte, who gained only 29 yards on 9 carries and added a mere 25 yards on 4 receptions.
Meanwhile, the offense was at its best scoring touchdowns on its first three drives, deftly mixing the run and the pass. Quarterback Nick Foles was brilliant, completing 21 of 25 for 230 yards and two touchdowns, and running back LeSean McCoy piled up 133 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries and the Eagles gained more than 500 yards of total offense, including 291 on the ground.
The Eagles dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. They came off the ball faster. They were more physical. They wanted it more.
It was a "wow" performance that boosted the Eagles' record to 9-6 and set the stage for Sunday night at Dallas with the NFC East title on the line.
"We want Dallas! We want Dallas" the fans chanted early and often at a frenzied Lincoln Financial Field.
They're going to get the Cowboys to end the regular season.
The Eagles go into the contest with a great deal of momentum and a ton of confidence. They spoke after losing to Minnesota of that game being a "wake-up call," and indeed that was the case. The Eagles were alert, aggressive and absolutely sensational as they won their fourth straight home game and trounced the stunned Bears.
How did it happen? The Eagles got off the field early on defense and the offense just pounded the Bears. On the first play from scrimmage at the Chicago 43-yard line, McCoy ran around the right edge for 19 yards to the 24-yard line, and then gained a yard on a pass from Foles, who picked up 10 yards on a scramble as the Eagles established the line of scrimmage. Finally, on third and goal from the 5-yard line, Foles rolled right and connected into the back of the end zone with Riley Cooper for the touchdown and rout was on.
And on. And on. And on.
"This is a one-week deal and that's what this team is all about," said head coach Chip Kelly after the game.
As has been the case this season, the Eagles received contributions from every facet of the team. The special teams recovered a Devin Hester fumble on the kickoff following the opening touchdown when Bradley Fletcher knocked the ball loose and Cary Williams recovered it. Five plays and 39 yards later
"The playoffs just start a week early for both teams," said Kelly about going to Dallas on Sunday.
"We've got to go there to kind of fulfill our dreams and our goals," said McCoy.
If next Sunday is anything like the job the Eagles did against Chicago, it's going to be one of the all-time great Eagles games. Philadelphia's offensive production was nearly flawless as the Eagles picked up 28 first downs, gained 514 yards of total offense, ran for 289 yards and converted all five opportunities in the red zone.
"The Cowboys didn't see the best of the Philadelphia Eagles in that first game (a 17-3 Dallas win on October 20 at Lincoln Financial Field)," said McCoy. "They're going to see the best we have this time."
It's not going to be easy, as we all know. The Eagles, though, stepped up on Sunday night and played extremely confident football against a playoff-caliber team. That's huge in the development of a team with very little playoff experience and a coach who is in his first year in the league. The Eagles have scored 30 or more points in eight games this season, a team record. The defense has allowed 21 points or fewer in 10 of its last 11 games.
And it's full steam ahead on the way to Dallas with so much at stake. Does it get any better than playing the Cowboys on the final Sunday night of the season with a division title at stake?
"We had fun playing on Sunday Night Football," said Foles. "We've been doing it this way all season, as a team. We stuck together as a team and we fought together. It's the same every week, and we put it all together tonight.
"I'm looking forward to playing Dallas. They had a great win and they're going to be ready to play, so it's going to be a great challenge for us. I can't wait to start preparing for the game."
The preparation starts now, then. The Eagles know they owe Dallas one after the Cowboys won in Philadelphia in October, and they know it's not going to be a cakewalk. The playoffs, in effect, started Sunday against Chicago.
Game 2 is Sunday at Dallas, with so, so, so much on the line.
"That's the way you want it," said center Jason Kelce. "We know what we have to do to win, and it's going to take a lot of work. But I think we're a confident team. I think we're going to play our best football and see what happens."