CHICAGO — OK, you can all exhale now.
The Eagles are off to New Orleans for a rematch against the Saints in the NFC semifinals after a heart-stopping 16-15 win over the Bears at Soldier Field.
It wasn’t over until former Eagle Cody Parkey missed a 43-yard field goal in the final seconds.
One kneeldown later and the miracle season was still alive.
1. This was such a team win. That’s my biggest takeaway from Sunday. Everybody in uniform contributed in some way, and that’s what you need to win a road playoff game against a great team. It wasn’t just about Nick Foles and Fletcher Cox. There was forgotten Golden Tate with the game-winning touchdown. There was Tre Sullivan knocking down a pass. There was Cre’Von LeBlanc with a huge third-down tackle short of the sticks. And so on. An incredible team win, and Doug Pederson and his coaches deserve so much credit for having the the entire roster ready for a really tremendous challenge.
2. One of the most impressive things about Nick Foles is his ability to shrug off mistakes and play at a high level against really high-level teams. He was bad early, but you never see him hang his head or get frustrated or try to do too much and get it all back at once. He’s extremely strong mentally and we saw that in the second half, when he was 15-for-24 for 123 yards with no interceptions and two TD passes after a two-INT first half. The way he’s able to ignore immense pressure and the longest odds and the worst situations and rally his team time after time is something that’s reserved only for the greatest, and lately every time Foles plays he proves that he’s one of them.
4. Think about this stretch for Foles: He’s beaten the 13-3 Rams in L.A., he’s beaten the 11-5 Texans at home and now he’s beaten the 12-4 Bears in Chicago. This is incredible stuff, and anyone that questions whether last year was some sort of fluke needs to understand that Foles is magical. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and nothing he does surprises me.
5. And how about Golden Tate? I mean, the kid had been playing less and less, he hadn’t made an impact since he got here, and who catches the game-winning pass? What a story. I give Tate so much credit for staying engaged, staying ready and producing when his number was called on the biggest play of his life. Tate had another big 19-yard gain on a third down where he got clobbered and I don’t know how he held onto the ball. He finished 5-for-46 and it might have been the best 5-for-46 in history. Howie Roseman’s a genius.
6. Defensively, the Eagles were just tremendous deep in their own end and on third down. The Bears had drives down to the 18, 11 and 16 but had to settle for field goals all three times, and then the final drive to the 25 on the missed field goal. In a one-point game, those stops simply saved the game. The biggest stop came early in the fourth quarter after Allen Robinson’s 45-yard catch from Mitch Tribuisky gave the Bears a 1st-and-10 on the Eagles’ 21-yard-line. That could have been a real momentum changer after the Eagles had just taken the lead, but the Bears managed only five yards on their next three plays and settled for another field goal. That was huge.
7. It was surprising to see Avonte Maddox beaten on several big plays in the second half, but the Bears really did a good job taking advantage of his aggressiveness. All their big plays came against him, most of them with Robinson on the receiving end. It doesn’t change my feelings about the fourth-round rookie from Pitt, who made a bunch of big plays earlier in the game. He’s going to be a flat-out stud. He’ll learn from this and get better.
8. The job the Eagles did defensively on Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen was truly impressive. The Bears wanted to get both those backs going, but Howard managed only 10-for-35 rushing and Cohen had one carry for no yards and 3-for-27 receiving. The Eagles were so good tackling both those guys, and they never really were a factor on offense.
9. How freaking big-time was Alshon Jeffery. He continues to show what a big-time postseason player he is. He had six tough catches for 82 yards against his former team, including that catch down to the 2-yard-line with a minute remaining to give the Eagles 1st-and-goal. In just four games, Jeffery is now seventh in Eagles history with 301 yards in the postseason.
10. I know the score last time was 48-7, and I don’t know if the Eagles are going to win Sunday in New Orleans, but I do know this is a different team than it was that day in mid-November. They are going to show up and they’re going to play the Saints tough next Sunday. It’s just a tremendous story the way this team has galvanized in the month and a half since that loss. That was a beaten team. An embarrassed team. And since then they’re 6-1 with the only blemish coming in Dallas in overtime, when they got robbed. Things came so easy for the Eagles last year, and that was an unforgettable year. This year, they’ve had to fight and scratch their way through so much adversity, and the season has a whole different feel to it. This was a 4-6 team and down 19-3 to the Giants on Nov. 25. Now look at them. What a remarkable story. What a remarkable team.
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