Losing is a feeling the Eagles had not experienced since the end of the October. But rather than worry about his team's response to a loss, head coach Chip Kelly has already seen how his young team handles such adversity. This week, he has sensed the same resolve and attitude that enabled the players to bounce back and rip off five straight wins after two particularly difficult losses at home to the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants earlier this season.
"Just their consistency in terms of how they approached it," Kelly said. "They don't really pay attention to outside noise. They came to work every day the same way they did when we first got here and the same way they came to work this week."
The team's ability to leave its most recent loss in the past will be even more crucial now that it's the end of the season and the playoffs are on the line with the hot Chicago Bears coming to town. The Bears pose a lot of different challenges on offense and force opposing defenses to pick their poison between focusing on taking away Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery or Matt Forte.
"That's what's the tough thing to defend, when you have a team like that because they have an outstanding running back, but they also have two outstanding receivers," Kelly said. "Sometimes when you play you can really slant things one way or another and say, 'Hey, we need to stop this.' That's the one thing about them that sticks out – they're so multiple in terms of their talent at wide receiver, at tight end and at running back. It makes it tough. You just can't say, 'Hey, if we stop this one guy we're going to be in pretty good shape' because the other guys can hurt you."
Forte, in particular, flies under the radar a bit in the media, but he is still a primary focus for the Eagles. He leads the league in touches with 324, has racked up 1,722 total yards to this point and is perhaps the best pass protector among running backs.
"He's just such a multi-dimensional player," Kelly said. "He can do everything. He's maybe as good a running back as there is in pass protection, he's a mismatch at times in the passing game depending on who you get matched up with him and he's a big, physical presence when he's running the football."
A lot of talk throughout the week has centered on what happens on Sunday when the Cowboys travel to Washington to play the Redskins, and how the result of that game might affect the Eagles' players when they take the field at night. Kelly, in keeping with his laser-like focus on the task at hand, does not concern himself with any hypothetical scenarios and doesn't think his players will either.
"We control what we control, and what we control is how we play against Chicago, not what goes on anywhere else," Kelly said. "We're still in a situation where we can control what the outcome is, and that's the way we'll always be. It's going to play out. We're not going to say don't watch the game or don't pay attention to the scores. If it happens, it happens."
Lastly, Kelly dropped some knowledge regarding an oft-cited idiom that is so popular in sports – that a team "controls its own destiny."
"You know you can't control destiny?" Kelly refuted. "Destiny is a predetermined set of events. Therefore, if it's predetermined, you can't control it."
Whether it was predetermined or not, the Eagles sit at 8-6 with two games remaining. What the team can control is whether or not they finish 2-0 and stand alone atop the NFC East.
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