The Eagles are known as a team that has the flash and the dash and the highlight-reel plays. From this point forward, after a 37-34 gut-check win over Washington, should anyone take this team's toughness for granted.
By beating Washington in a dramatic, Instant-Classic kind of NFC East battle at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles moved to 3-0 and gained just a little more trust in each other, in the depth of this roster and in a coaching staff that continues to push all the right buttons.
It was a game that featured another first-half hole, a slew of injuries (Body Bag game, part 2?), an all-out brawl, a quarterback who got knocked down early and often and kept getting up to throw three touchdown passes, a return of a former player who made some plays including a dramatic touchdown and, finally, another fourth-quarter defensive stand to clinch things.
"I love these kinds of games," said linebacker Trent Cole. "Physical games. Nasty. Last team standing wins."
That was the case on Sunday, almost literally. As it was six days prior when the Eagles played in Indianapolis, the Eagles defense was on the field protecting a three-point lead. This time, Washington had the football on Eagles' 41-yard line after a poor 31-yard Donnie Jones punt put the defense with its backs to the wall. And as it did the game before, the defense rose to the occasion.
Fletcher Cox stuffed running back Alfred Morris for no gain on first down. A throw to wide receiver DeSean Jackson on the right side was off. Cornerback Brandon Boykin deftly knocked away a Kirk Cousins pass intended for wide receiver Andre Roberts on third down.
And on fourth-and-10 from the 41, Cousins' throw for Pierre Garcon went harmlessly incomplete and the Eagles had the football with 1 minute, 47 seconds to go.
"Even there, the game wasn't over and we knew it," said running back LeSean McCoy. "Our goal was to get a first down."
The Eagles did just that. Quarterback Nick Foles, outstanding all day, rolled left and threw complete for tight end James Casey, who made the catch and cradled the football for 19 yards and the first down and ... the game.
Whew. What a thriller.
"Every player in this locker room understands he has to be ready to play and play at a high level," said safety Malcolm Jenkins, who made a diving interception in the fourth quarter (his second in two weeks) that turned into three points on a Cody Parkey field goal from 51 yards out that gave the Eagles a 37-27 lead with 5:55 to go. "It's a great feeling to have everyone here trusting in each other, knowing that we're going to find a way to win ballgames."
So much happened on this crazy, wonderful day that it's probably best to take the game apart in pieces. So here we go ...
- Foles was great. Flat-out terrific. His numbers were impressive enough -- 28-of-42 for 325 yards and three touchdowns -- but the way Foles made it happen was so much more remarkable. He took a pounding from a tough Washington defense that loaded the box to shut off the running game (mission accomplished as the Eagles managed just 54 yards on 26 carries including a combined 44 yards on 22 carries from LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles) and brought some major heat with its pass rush. Foles was knocked down at least a dozen times, but Washington did not record a single sack and Foles threw nary an interception. Instead, he found Jordan Matthews twice in the red zone for touchdowns and drilled a scoring pass to Jeremy Maclin from 27 yards out to give the Eagles a 34-27 advantage in the fourth quarter.
- The offensive line lost two more players -- center Jason Kelce to an abdominal injury and left tackle Jason Peters to an ejection after his involvement in a fourth-quarter brawl -- and played much of the fourth quarter with Andrew Gardner at left tackle, Wade Smith at left guard, David Molk at center, Dennis Kelly at right guard and Todd Herremans at right tackle.
- The physical nature of the game was typical of an NFC East Backyard Brawl. It was ugly out there.
"They were definitely trying to make it about something other than football," said Gardner. "We were here to win the football game. That's what it's all about and that's what we did."
- The return of wide receiver DeSean Jackson was an obvious storyline and the drama there was significant. Jackson, playing with a shoulder injury after practicing very little all week, had a large impact in the game. He had five catches for 117 yards, including an 81-yard touchdown catch that tied the game at 27-27 in the third quarter. Jackson was targeted 11 times in the game.
- Bill Davis' defense gave up way, way too much yardage and points -- 511 yards, 34 points -- but tightened things up in the second half, alllowing Washington just 1-of-6 conversions on third down and held strong on four downs in Philadelphia territory late in the fourth quarter.
"Our guys kept their composure and stepped up and won the game and that's what this thing is about," said the defensive coordinator. "We gave up too many points, but we fought to the end and that's how you get wins."
The defense had trouble with Washington's short passing game and just did not pressure Cousins enough, although the late-game stands were huge. And the run defense was strong -- Washington managed just 84 ground yards on 28 rushing attempts.
- Cody Parkey continued to come up huge with three field goals -- of 38 yards, 33 yards and the massive 51-yarder in the fourth quarter. Parkey had eight kickoffs, seven of which reached the end zone and five of which were touchbacks. The returns went to the 18-yard line and the 13-yard line. The only kickoff that did not reach the end zone was a squib kick late in the first half.
- The brawl was not pretty at all, and the aftermath in terms of fines and trash talking will not be pretty. A Foles pass intended for tight end Brent Celek sailed and Washington safety Bashaud Breeland made an apparent diving interception. During Breeland's return, Foles was blasted in the shoulder by nose tackle Chris Baker, touching off a melee that extended to the Washington sideline. Jason Peters rushed in to defend Foles and was ejected, as was Baker. Both players were penalized. The interception was overturned, but the Eagles were without their left tackle and Washington was without its nose tackle.
- The Eagles were 2-of-2 on challenges, a win for Chip Kelly's move to hire replay consultant Frank Kosman. It paid off on Sunday.
- Jordan Matthews was outstanding, as was Jeremy Maclin. The Eagles got 21 receptions, 262 yards and three touchdowns from their wide receivers. Jeff Maehl added a diving 15-yard catch.
- No update on injuries. That will come later in the week. The Eagles are 3-0 and that's all that matters. It's the first time the Eagles have started 3-0 since the 2004 season, a great omen to take into a week that requires some quick recovery before another huge challenge on Sunday in San Francisco.