Maybe it is because the Eagles are so young they don't understand that this is the most difficult part of an NFL season, a time when mistakes must be minimized and concentration at its highest level. Maybe their bodies don't ache so much after four months-plus of games because they have youth on their side, and the magic of recuperation is with them.
From the very first day of the preseason, and into training camp and now deep into the regular season, head coach Andy Reid has used the phrase "tremendous amount of energy" when describing his team. It hasn't yet reached the volume of "time's yours," or even "I won't go there" in his press conference parlance, but Reid has been very consistent and extremely aware of the vibe provided by the locker room since the roster was torn apart and reassembled in the offseason.
And so he has this team, average age 25 years, competing at the highest level in the NFL. The Eagles have overcome injuries, misfortune and a bad bounce or two (I won't even get into the referees' calls) to stand 9-4, atop the NFC East, with a huge game waiting Sunday at the new Meadowlands against the Giants.
There are a lot more hurdles to get over, and at some point or another the inexperience of this team is going to be sternly tested. But it sure is fun watching the Eagles compete, watching them challenge each other and seeing them bouncing off the walls during the course of a 60-minute game.
"Great effort, the players have responded so well to coaching and they truly enjoy each other and competing," said Reid. "Every day they get after it. They're in the strength and conditioning program and they are studying, getting in and working on their time off. It's been fun to see."
No question, the Eagles are fun, fun, fun. Maybe the most enjoyable group since, well, since the turn of the century when Reid was in his head-coaching infancy leading a mix of veterans and young Eagles into the playoffs for the first time. Those teams were the tip of a highly-successful decade of Eagles football -- five NFC Championship Game appearances, one Super Bowl trip -- and the Eagles appear ready to include themselves in the playoff picture for years to come.
All of that big-picture stuff can wait, though. The here and now is a blast, it really is. Reid has never been more personable, more likeable. These kids have brought to the public forefront his emotion. He is there on the sidelines pointing and urging and kissing, yes kissing, DeSean Jackson in the waning seconds of Sunday night's win over Dallas. The scenes inside the locker room this year have been memorable -- Reid jumping with the team, Jackson clowning around with the head coach and with Owner Jeffrey Lurie, the entire team -- young and not-as-young -- in it together.
I'm not sure the camaraderie has ever been better here, and that chemistry is carrying the team a long way. The Eagles are in the same boat as most of the league, trying to stave off injuries in the stretch run to give the playoffs a chance to happen. Losing Stewart Bradley in the middle of the defense for at least the next couple of weeks gives Jamar Chaney, a seventh-round draft pick from Mississippi State. The Eagles are entrusting the middle linebacker spot to the 220th player drafted in April, and they are doing so with great confidence.
It's possible that defensive coordinator Sean McDermott will spot veteran Omar Gaither in with Chaney to present some different looks. The Giants are going to study Chaney all week to discover some weaknesses in his game. Every player has them, and the best players study themselves, are critical with their games, and take to coaching to overcome those deficiencies.
In Chaney we trust. Why not? The defense has had its troubles this year, but it has had enough stops to win games with rookies and young players and veterans new to the system all over the field.
Somebody will step up. Somebody has stepped up all season. The train is rolling and it isn't about to stop now.
*NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT *
<span id="1292272645683S"> </span>The game against Minnesota on December 26 moves to prime time, the Eagles' sixth prime-time game of the season. It is the most the Eagles have ever been in prime time, playoff seasons included. Remarkable the exposure this team has gained in 2010. And looking ahead, yeah, this team is going to be on national television and in prime time for years and years to come. Enjoy the show.
- The offense remains first in the league in total yards gained and the Eagles rank fourth in the league (first in the NFC) in rushing offense and sixth in passing offense. Defensively, the Eagles are 12th overall, 11th against the run and 17th against the pass.
- Philadelphia is first in the NFC and second in the NFL (behind New England) with a plus-15 in turnover ratio. Talk about key statistics ...
- The red zone offense ranks in the middle of the pack with a 51 percent touchdown percentage. The Eagles have scored on 44 of their 49 trips into the red zone, an 89.8 percentage. Defensively, the Eagles remain last in the league, allowing a touchdown percentage of 77.8.
- Bobby April's special teams are clearly improving in coverage. The kickoff coverage team is up to ninth in the league with an average start at the 25.0-yard line. Sav Rocca is seventh in the NFL with a 39.3-yard net average.
- Michael Vick is second in the league in passer rating, but maybe his most impressive stats are these: He is second in the league in with an average gain of 8.55 yards per attempt, and he is third in the league with a 109.4 passer rating in the fourth quarter.
- Why shouldn't LeSean McCoy be in the Pro Bowl? He has been outstanding all season. He ranks fifth in the league with 1,510 total yards from scrimmage, most in the NFC, on only 254 touches. He is also sixth in the NFL, and second behind Adrian Peterson in the NFC, with 70 first downs gained.