Now that the 2013 season is officially in the books, thoughts begin to turn to a myriad of things. Some turn to what might have been. Others turn to looking ahead to the Draft and free agency. Which ever way your thoughts turn as you sit and read this post, certainly, as a fan, that”s your call. I choose to let my mind wander, though. I wander through a place of “Did this really happen” and “Can this guy really coach”. I look back on the season, as a whole, and pronounce it a success, not just from a division championship perspective, but, from the view of “Who would have thought…..”.
For starters, Training Camp 2013 began with a thud when WR Jeremy Maclin was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Yikes! That was bad. But, not nearly as bad as when his replacement, Riley Cooper, starred in a YouTube video that instantly went viral. Now, I don”t have to go into what all Cooper said here. We all saw it. But…….who would have thought, that the first man to come to Cooper”s defense, was none other than Michael Vick? The same Michael Vick that served time for federal charges. The same Michael Vick convicted of a crime so reprehensible, I refuse to mention it here. Vick could have let this fester. He could have let it divide the locker room. He did neither. He stepped in, and all but completely defused a highly volatile situation. Who would have thought, right?
Then, the season begins. On a Monday Night, no less, prime time. And, in front of a raucous 82, 743 fans in the nation”s capital, Chip Kelly showed he could coach in this league, as the Eagles defeated the defending division champion Redskins 33-27. And, though the final score was close, the game, itself, wasn”t. The Eagles came out, and right from the start, imposed their will on both sides of the ball. Against a 2-time Super Bowl winning coach, an upstart rookie league coach won. And won convincingly. Who whould have thought, right?
Now, the season begins to unfold. A close home loss to the Chargers here. A clunker against the Chiefs there. Losses to NFC East foes Dallas and New York were also included. But really, were those surprises? It”s what the NFC East does. They beat up on each other. That”s why so many people say this division isn”t as up to par as others, because our division beats up on each other every time out, no exceptions. No stunner there. But, somewhere, in this stretch of games, the team found a quarterback when Vick went down with an injury. Yes, you could ask the “Who would have thought” question on that statement alone. But, nobody really saw Nick Foles as a true answer at quarterback. Not until his game at Oakland, where he threw for 406 yards, and 7 TD”s, tying a league record. Foles. The kid out of Arizona, that looks at times as if he”d rather be on a beach, surfing, than playing football. Nick Foles. Who would have thought?
Now, the season continues to unfold. And, somewhere, along the way, the team finally learns how to win at home. Wins over Washington and Arizona give the team confidence heading into a December 8 showdown with then-division leading Detroit. Pre-game, everything looked fine. But, just before the game, well, you saw it. I believe FOX called it Snowmageddon. And, in that game, when the Eagles kept giving up big special teams play after big special teams play, somehow, they found some heart underneath all of that snow, and figured out a way, not online casino just to win, but to make a statement to the rest of the division. Their 34-20 win basically said that the East will be decided on Week 17. Who would have thought, since most pre-season predictions had the Eagles as a last-place team?
Then, regular season, when it mattered most, the Eagles stepped up. Their embarrassment at Minnesota was pushed aside by a miraculous Green Bay comeback win at Dallas. The Eagles then were flexed into prime time for their final two games, and they did not disappoint. They closed out the Bears, by dominating 54-11, and then, went into JerryLand, and sent the Cowboys home for the holidays, and claimed the division 24-22. They finished the season with 10 wins. Who would have thought that a 6-game turnaround would be possible, AND a division title, all in one year?
Now, we can all look back at the playoff loss against New Orleans and wistfully think about what might have happened if this or that had taken place. But, it”s an exercise in futility. The game played itself out, and, in the end, the Eagles lost. Give the Saints credit. They ran when they wanted to, and where they wanted to. The Eagles just couldn”t stop them. But, somewhere in there, the Eagles showed something they found against Detroit: heart. They showed the heart to keep fighting. They showed the heart to claim the lead late in the game. And, they showed the class at the end, when the Saints had won, to shake their hand and wish them well. No disarray, as there could have been to start the season. No turmoil, as there could have been when they were sitting 1-3. Basically, this entire team became its new starting QB, a very quiet, unassuming kid who let his play do his talking. Who would have thought a team from Philadelphia, known for brashness, would display grace in defeat, and in turn, show the rest of the league that this team will be a force to reckon with in future seasons?
So, there it is. My thoughts and views on a great season. I can say great, because, here in North Texas, it still gives me great pride when Cowboys fans grumble when they see me wearing my Eagles colors. Granted, I”d love for them to still be playing, but, if you had told me that, before the season ever started, that my team could lose its #2 WR, and still win the division? I would have taken that deal every time. 2013 NFC East Champions. It still sounds great to say. And, just before Alex Henery kicked off so long ago in Washington……who would have thought we”d be able to say that?