Do you believe in miracles?
If you had written off the Eagles' playoff hopes after a brutal 36-7 loss at Baltimore in Week 12, probably. If you'd given up hope after a lethargic 10-3 defeat in Washington last week, when the Eagles briefly controlled their own destiny, almost definitely.
If you couldn't anticipate the lowly Oakland Raiders, on the road, suffocating a Tampa Bay squad that had started the year 8-3, you probably had company.
All the cards fell into place for the Eagles, who catapulted from an unenviable abyss into the jump-ball second Wild Card slot in the NFC playoff hunt with a nuclear 44-6 win over hated Dallas at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night. Though the Eagles did their job against the Cowboys, it took an unbelievable string of fortune for their season to extend.
A miracle, even.
"I've never been a part of anything like this," free safety Brian Dawkins said. "All those things lined up, and we took care of business."
Dawkins said he would have been "foolish" to assume knowing the outcomes of earlier games didn't give him some extra adrenaline – and it helped.
The Eagles flat-out annihilated Dallas in just about every aspect of the game, which in and of itself would have eliminated the Cowboys – who controlled their own destiny entering Sunday - from the playoffs. That particular consolation scenario against the bitter rivals might well have been considered the Eagles' more likely prize, considering all the pieces that needed to fall into place. Photo Gallery : DAL VS. PHI 12-28-08
But Oakland capitalized on some late big plays to topple Tampa Bay, which becomes the first NFL team to start 9-3 and miss the playoffs since the divisions were realigned in 2002.
Chicago, one of the other two teams that needed to lose for the Eagles to even have a prayer, blew a 10-0 lead in Houston and fell 31-24. Therefore, a Minnesota win against a short-handed Giants squad didn't even matter. The Eagles, by some other act from the beyond, again controlled their own destiny.
This time, they wouldn't blow it.
"We knew we had to come out here and play a tough team that was hungry," quarterback Donovan McNabb said. "We wanted to come out and defend what happened last week and show it wasn't us."
The circumstances that detailed the Eagles' improbable run to the postseason are too extensive and too tiring to list. But the gist is this: Tampa Bay collapsed over the season's last month, putting a team not even on the Eagles' radar on Dec. 1 into a coffin the Buccaneers built for themselves.
And how can anyone forget Tony Romo's pick-six thrown to Deshea Townsend in Pittsburgh just three weeks ago, which capped 17 unanswered points for the Steelers en route to a 20-13 victory? Should the Cowboys hold their 13-3 fourth-quarter lead there, Sunday's game at Lincoln Financial Field would have been for little more than pride.
And how about that much-bemoaned tie in Cincinnati, which leaves the Eagles at 9-6-1, a half-game in front of Chicago, Dallas and Tampa Bay?
So the Eagles, who had hurt themselves nearly too many times with egregious errors for the entire 2008 season, were finally able to claim the last – and best – opportunity given to them this season.
Now, they'll be playing next week in Minnesota.
"Oh, it's the start of something," Dawkins said. "We'll see how special it is after we play (Minnesota). But it's the start of something."