EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -– Saturday night, the night before the final game of the Eagles' 2014 season, head coach Chip Kelly thanked his players.
Kelly's Eagles traveled to MetLife Stadium to take on the New York Giants Sunday, a game they won 34-26. The team was already eliminated from playoff contention Saturday night, but Kelly thanked his team nonetheless.
They brought their full effort day in and day out for their coach, and that's all he could ask for from his players.
"I love this group," Kelly said after Sunday's season-ending win. "They came to work every single day. Everything we asked them to do, we did."
Kelly said his team obviously wasn't as healthy as he'd hoped it would be this season, with the offensive line suffering a number of setbacks, as well as his linebackers.
But this team didn't use injuries as excuses. The players suited up each and every week in training, determined to make the best of what they were presented with, and they closed out the year with a win in Week 17.
"I told them last night ... just a big thank you for how you come to work every day," Kelly continued. "For [the coaches] as a group, it's a lot of fun to coach. [The players] are very receptive to everything, they've bought into what we're trying to do, they compete and really care about the guys that they're playing with.
"From that standpoint, I really can't say enough about those guys."
That character showed on Sunday afternoon. The Eagles entered the game without playoff chances and riding a three-game slide that had seen losses to Seattle, Dallas, and Washington. They didn't have a postseason to play for, and being discouraged after three straight losses could have been understandably hard to overcome.
Not for this team. The Eagles came out Sunday afternoon, scored 14 points in the first quarter, 17 in the first half and 17 in the second half, and ground out one last win before season's end.
"It's what we expected," Kelly said of his team's effort Sunday. "I think this team played extremely hard and I think they played with great effort. Obviously a couple of games didn't bounce our way, but I think we all felt that this week, it was important to get to double digit wins, to win 10 games."
Kelly said his players didn't have any less motivation during the week of training leading up to Sunday's showdown with the division rival Giants. They wanted to win one last game, their last game together in 2014, and Kelly's methods - win each day, one day at a time - shined through in what was a tough spot to put a team once thought to be playoff-bound.
"I was proud of the way they came out. When they came back on Tuesday, their first time back, I didn't see anybody feeling sorry for themselves. They came out and they really worked."
The work paid off in the final game of the year. The Eagles aren't heading to the playoffs this season, despite finishing the season with 10 wins.
But Kelly had more than enough reasons to thank his players for the way they finished the season off Sunday afternoon, and the ride that preceded it.