A guy or girl walk into a bookstore (no, this is not a bad joke premise), they ask one of the workers where they would find the book about the NFL team that lost its starting quarterback, starting left tackle, middle linebacker, returner, special teams captain and kicker. Oh, and that team still managed to reach the Super Bowl. Oh, and it'll play the same team that beat it 13 years ago in said game.
After the worker finished laughing, they pointed them to the fiction section instead of sports.
That Cliffs Notes version of the Eagles' season really doesn’t begin to do it justice. This has been the most improbable ride in the history of the organization.
The Eagles' over/under win total prior to the season was 8½ in most sports books. Optimistic fans thought this team would top out at 10 wins and a playoff appearance. And that was if the Birds remained healthy. They are now 15-3 and playing in the Super Bowl.
Carson Wentz was the best player in the NFL until his season-ending injury Week 13 in Los Angeles. The second-year starter had thrown for 3,296 yards, 33 touchdowns and a 101.9 passer rating with only seven picks. That was with three-plus games left to play in the regular season. Enter Nick Foles, fresh off a season as a backup in Kansas City following a disaster of a year in St. Louis as a benched starter. Right there, most seasons would have been written off. Or perhaps when Foles threw for a combined 34.3 passer rating in his game-and-change to close out the regular season. Surely he had lost his mojo and this would be a one-and-done in the playoffs with him at the helm. Not so fast. Foles not only beat the best defensive team in football in the NFC title game, he took it apart to the tune of 26 of 33 passing, 352 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 141.4 passer rating.
The Eagles' defense was excellent all regular season long. Including the Falcons game in the divisional round. It had allowed 9.2 points per game in its last six home games prior to the Vikings. Yet all the talk entering this past Sunday's game was about Minnesota’s defense. Final score: 38-7 Eagles. Enough said.
Everson Griffen racked up 13 sacks in the regular season. He was the first Vikings player on that side of the ball who Doug Pederson mentioned in the week leading up to the game. Griffen is on a milk carton today. He was a non-factor. And the man who put him there is Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who was the supposed weak link after future Hall of Famer Jason Peters was lost in Week 7.
Beneath the “awe, shucks” demeanor lies a smart, in-tune, competitor whose players buy in. That’s what we know now about Pederson. Prior to the season, at least on the outside, the jury was out. Was he nothing more than the anti-Chip, a Reid-clone? Would he be the Eagles' head coach in 2018? These were all the questions. Little did we know, Pederson had all the answers.
The Eagles were underdogs against the Falcons in the divisional round, ditto in the conference title game vs. the Vikings and will be once again in the Super Bowl in their rematch with the Patriots. Few, if any on the outside, have believed. And this team likes it that way. Not since Rodney Dangerfield has any person or team fed more off the disrespect angle. New England is installed as a 5½-point favorite in less than two weeks in Minneapolis. There could be no better final chapter written to a season or for a franchise than avenging a loss in the sport's biggest spectacle to the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady-led Pats dynasty.
And that most certainly is fact, not fiction.