LANDOVER, Maryland – It felt, truly, like an alternate universe.
A FedEx Field crowd of 63,188 – at least, what, 40,000 of them Eagles fans? – roared in appreciation throughout the Eagles' 24-0 win on Sunday over the Washington Redskins and at the same time chanted "Let's Go Bears" and went wild any time a Bears-Vikings game score was shown in the stadium. A road game? Nah, this was a home game in NFC East rival territory. And it was amazing.
"Eagles fans, they are the best," tight end Zach Ertz said after the Eagles clinched their second consecutive playoff appearance and 26th in franchise history with the dominating win. "We heard them. We always hear them and they make a difference. We appreciate every bit of it."
There was almost no doubt from the very start as the Eagles crushed the lifeless Redskins, controlling the football for 43:19, rolling up an efficient 360 total net yards of offense while limiting Washington to a paltry 89, churning out a 19-play, 87-yard drive to close out the first half with a Nick Foles touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery to make it 10-0, and then pulling away in the second half.
All along, the crowd kept an eye on the Chicago-Minnesota game. The Bears prevailed, 24-10, and set up a playoff date with the Eagles for Wild Card Weekend on Sunday at Soldier Field (4:40 p.m., NBC). The Eagles celebrated in a jubilant locker room for a few minutes after that game and then settled into reality: They're in the postseason, and they're dangerous.
"It's a one-game season and we've got our work cut out for us," tackle Lane Johnson said. "We've probably got the best front in football waiting for us in Chicago. That will be a big challenge for us."
"We've had a lot of growth through the ups and downs of the season," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "We have to go back to the process and prepare well for a big challenge. The road hasn't been a straight line to this point. To be here is not surprising, because we expected to be here. We're playing good football and we have to take it up another notch for the playoffs. Most of the guys have been in the playoffs before. We are not sneaking in. We're here because we earned it. We're here to do some damage."
Said Ertz: "Last year was unbelievable. This year we had to battle for each and every win. There were games when we were up 17-0 and couldn't find a way to win, 17-3 couldn't find a way to win, 29-16 lead last week (against Houston) and needed a two-minute drive to win. Guys battled each and every week. It's hard to win in the NFL. I feel like we're peaking at the right time. We won five out of six against some really good football teams and that's all you can ask for right now, a chance at the postseason."
The Eagles will have a normal practice schedule for the week ahead, which helps a team that has a notable medical question mark in Foles, who left the game in the fourth quarter on Sunday with what was described as a chest injury. He said after the game that he was "sore" and that he would know more on Monday with extensive testing. We'll see how his injury picture develops, but you know it would take a lot for Foles not to play in the postseason.
In fact, the Eagles are in reasonably good health for the Bears, as far as the current 53-man roster goes. Certainly, they've lost a lot all year with injuries and the hill they climbed to get back to the second playoff appearance in head coach Doug Pederson's three seasons cannot be underestimated. This team has grit. This team has heart. And this team also has an excellent coaching staff, a dominating defensive line, a stout offensive line, and balance in its offensive plan.
The Eagles are a scary team.
"We just got back to playing our kind of football," Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks said. "We believe in ourselves and what the coaches are doing and when you have that, you are going to win a lot of games."
Eagles fans deserve a game ball for their performance on Sunday – the latest in a many-years show of unyielding support and love – and now it's back to the road for the postseason. The Eagles won't be intimidated. They know that the Bears have had a terrific season and that Chicago's defense is second to none in the NFC. The coaches are already at work as they prepare for Sunday.
The road to the playoffs in 2018 wasn't as pretty and overpowering as it was a season ago. The Eagles bumped along for most of the season before turning it on in December. That's what veteran teams do. They play their best football of the season late in the year and they hope they've done enough to play in the postseason.
"We know what we have to do," wide receiver Nelson Agholor said after catching five passes for 40 yards and two touchdowns. "It doesn't matter who gets the football, it doesn't matter how we get it done. It just matters that we go out there and work hard and play our game. It's just a matter of executing. We just have to go into Chicago and execute. We're not celebrating. We're getting ready for the playoffs and it's a great feeling."
It sure is. The Eagles are where they belong. The Super Bowl Champs played that way in the final six weeks, winning five of those games, establishing some confidence, playing with urgency, and smashing their way to first downs when they needed to roll up their sleeves.
For a moment, exhale and celebrate the moment. The Eagles ended the 2018 calendar year on a winning note, just as it began. It's been the best 12 months of the franchise's lifetime, with so much more ahead to kick off 2019.