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Didinger: Doug Pederson's historic win as an Eagles quarterback

The Eagles never had beaten the Bears in Chicago, not once in the first 65 years of their existence. They played the Bears in Wrigley Field and Soldier Field and the outcome was always the same. They were winless in 14 tries.

Even the best team in franchise history – the 1949 team that won a second consecutive NFL Championship – couldn't beat the Bears in Chicago. Those Eagles were 11-1 in the regular season. The one loss? To the Bears at Wrigley Field. It wasn't even close. The Bears won 38-21.

Guess which Eagles quarterback broke the streak.

It wasn't Tommy Thompson, Sonny Jurgensen, Norm Snead, or Roman Gabriel. They all lost to the Bears in Chicago. Ron Jaworski and Randall Cunningham couldn't win there either. So which quarterback ended the Windy City jinx?

The answer: Doug Pederson.

It was 1999, Andy Reid's first season as head coach and Pederson was running the offense while Donovan McNabb watched from the sideline. Everyone knew it was only a matter of time before the rookie took over, but Reid didn't want to rush him. He brought Pederson with him from Green Bay to play until McNabb was ready.

It was a rough stretch, with the Eagles losing their first four games and the offense scoring just three touchdowns. They broke through with a victory in Week 5 – 13-10 over Dallas – but they managed just one touchdown in that game.

However, they went to Chicago the next week and Pederson played his best game as an Eagle. He had career highs in completions (22) and attempts (38) while passing for 228 yards and two touchdowns as the Eagles knocked off the Bears, 20-16. His passer rating was a career high, 92.9.

"Doug has done a nice job for us," Reid said. "It hasn't been easy but he has kept working and competing. I'm happy for him because he played well today. This is two wins in a row, so everyone is feeling better right now."

Not only was it the Eagles' first-ever win against the Bears in Chicago, but it was also their first road win since December 1996. They were riding an 0-17-1 losing streak since defeating the Rich Kotite Jets at the Meadowlands.

Against the Bears, Pederson opened the scoring with a 57-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Dietrich Jells and added a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Luther Broughton as the Eagles built a 20-6 halftime lead.

Cade McNown, a rookie like McNabb, started at quarterback for Chicago, and watching him struggle made the impatient fans in Philadelphia understand why Reid was unwilling to rush McNabb onto the field. Pederson started three more games before Reid turned to McNabb in Week 10 and the rookie led the Eagles to a 35-28 win over Washington.

Reid knew the Eagles didn't have many playmakers on offense. Duce Staley was a solid running back – he rushed for 101 yards in the win over Chicago, his third 100-yard game of the season – but the receivers were journeymen types like Jells, Torrance Small, and Charles Johnson.

Reid knew Pederson wasn't going to be his quarterback long term, but he needed a veteran to help install the offense and serve as a mentor for McNabb.

Pederson did all those things. As Reid put it, "Doug allowed me to form a database I can draw from."

"Andy wanted me to come to Philadelphia and get the program started," Pederson said. "There was good communication there regarding him drafting a quarterback but he wanted me to help teach the player he drafted. I understood it but I also welcomed the chance to play.

"I had been in the league seven years (a backup in Miami and Green Bay) and I hadn't had a chance to play very much, so I welcomed that opportunity."

And the highlight was beating the Bears in Chicago. It wasn't as big a moment as Super Bowl LII but it was a slice of Eagles history just the same.

An award-winning writer and producer, Ray Didinger was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995. He has also won six Emmy Awards for his work as a writer and producer at NFL Films. The five-time Pennsylvania Sportswriter of the Year is a writer and analyst for NBC Sports Philadelphia. Didinger will provide Eagles fans a unique historical perspective on the team throughout the year for You can read all of hisEagles History columns here.He is also the author ofThe Eagles Encyclopedia: Champions Edition which is in bookstores now.

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