Such is life in the NFL that the team that pretty much rescued the Eagles' 2018 season, the Chicago Bears, now becomes the enemy.
At some point Sunday evening, Eagles fans celebrated the Bears' win over the Vikings, which nudged the Eagles into the playoffs, and began preparing for an Eagles' wildcard game against ... the Bears.
What a day of drama. What a day of holding your breath. What a day of wishing and hoping and ultimately celebrating the Eagles in the playoffs for a second straight year.
The easy part was beating the Redskins. The hard part was waiting for it all to end in Minneapolis, where in the same stadium that the Eagles won the Super Bowl in February the Bears beat the Vikings to the delight of Eagles fans.
This is a weird league!
And here are 10 instant observations off the Eagles' 24-0 win over the Redskins!
1. Doug Pederson won’t get any Coach of the Year votes this year, but what he's done with this team over the last month and a half is remarkable. Remember how lost this team looked coming out of New Orleans after that 48-7 loss? They were 4-6, they were banged up and they were reeling. They’re 5-1 since then, and he has just pushed all the right buttons. I’m not going to say a better coaching job than last year, but he certainly had to deal with a ton of adversity this year. He has such a keen sense of what this team needs in terms of harder or easier practices, time off, yelling and screaming or coddling. To go from where the Eagles were flying back from New Orleans 4-6 on Nov. 18 to somehow making the playoffs is really astounding. The guy can flat-out coach. He can flat-out lead a football team.
2. And this is a dangerous one. Honestly, I have no idea why Matt Nagy did what he did Sunday because if I’m the Bears I’d rather play the Vikings than the Eagles. But that’s the matchup, and I like where the Eagles are going into Chicago. We don’t know exactly how bad Nick Foles is hurt, so there’s that, but if he’s OK? Doug has kind of found himself as a play caller these last few weeks, the running game has been consistent, the offense has gained balance and the defense seems to get better each week. It’ll be the Eagles’ fourth road game in five weeks, and that’s a rough ask. The Eagles haven’t won a road playoff game since 2008 (the Super Bowl was a neutral site). But this is a Super Bowl-savvy team, a confident team, a team that’s 5-1 in its last six games, marred only by an overtime loss in Dallas. I wouldn't make any plans for the next few Sundays.
3. If you were getting dizzy sitting there trying to watch the Eagles, trying to watch the Bears-Vikings and also trying to keep an eye on the 49ers-Rams — at least early — imagine what the Eagles’ players and coaches were feeling. Once it was clear the lowly Redskins weren’t putting up much a fight, their postseason fate rested on what was happening 1,200 miles away in Minneapolis. The Bears were up 13-0. Then it was 13-3. Then 13-10. And then the Bears scored again and just like 1988, just like 2008, the Eagles had gotten the help they needed to make the playoffs. Those early-season games, those blown leads, those glaring mistakes, they put the Eagles in the position where they had to count on the Bears. The 4th-and-15 in OT vs. the Titans. The missed PAT against the Cowboys. The terrible start in Tampa. The collapse against the Panthers. It worked out this time. Good for them, they earned it. But the lesson here is an obvious one. Take care of business early so you don’t have to rely on anybody else late.
4. I know it was Josh Johnson, but that was quite a defensive effort by the Eagles to finish the regular season. This group really transformed over the last month and a half or so, really since the Saints game, and if I had to point to three things that made the difference it would be turnovers, tackling and pressure. The Eagles forced just seven turnovers in their first 10 games but 10 in the last six. Tackling? Usually you see teams wear down as the season goes on and their tackling suffers. The Eagles got better across the board, especially Nigel Bradham, Rasul Douglas and Kamu Grugier-Hill. And we really saw Michael Bennett come alive once he got comfortable in a new scheme and earned the trust of his coaches, and the combination of Bennett and Fletcher Cox became really potent in generating pressure. Dangerous group heading into the playoffs.
5. What else can you say about Nick Foles? If this was his last regular-season game ever as an Eagle, he went out in style, tying an NFL record with 25 consecutive completions at one point. Which is insane. The guy just keeps finding new ways to find his way into the NFL record book. The body of work he’ll leave here is mind-boggling. The record-setting 2013 season. The seven-TD game. The off-the-charts 2017 postseason. “Philly Philly.” And restoring some juice these last few weeks to what not too long ago looked like a lost season. Foles finished 28-for-33 (85 percent) for 221 yards with two TDs and an INT and another passer rating over 100. But most importantly, another win. That’s what he does best. Since 2013, Foles is 23-6 in meaningful games for the Eagles. Some of them we’ll never forget. And more to come.
6. I just like Wendell Smallwood. Don’t think he’ll ever be a lead back, but I’ll take him on my team every year. He’s got some juice. He’s a good little receiver, he runs hard, he rarely gets thrown for a loss, and I just like how whatever his role is, however little he’s played, he’s always ready, and always seems to do something positive. I still think the Eagles need to address RB this offseason, but I’d be happy with Smallwood as a No. 2 who gets 10 touches a game.
7. The remarkable thing about Alshon Jeffery is that he rarely seems to make easy catches. He’s always leaping, reaching over someone, out-muscling somebody … he’s generally facing the other team’s best corner, so few things come easy for him, but he always seems to come up with the ball. He made a bunch of difficult catches in traffic Sunday and finished the regular season with 65 catches for 843 yards and six TDs. But I feel like he definitely played better than his numbers.
8. Get this: The Redskins managed just 89 yards of offense, the eighth-fewest the Eagles have ever allowed and the fewest since the Seahawks had just 87 yards in an overtime loss to the Eagles at the Kingdome in 1992. In the last 65 years, the Eagles have allowed fewer yards only twice. It’s also the fewest yards the Redskins have netted in 57 years — since they had 82 against the Giants in a 53-0 loss at Yankee Stadium in 1961.
9. How about Nate Sudfeld. He comes in, throws one pass, and it’s a 22-yard touchdown to Nelson Agholor against the team that released him last year. He’ll be No. 2 next year here and I’ll bet he’s a pretty good one.
10. It was so much fun watching the maybe 40,000 Eagles fans who took over FedEx Field Sunday as the Bears scored in the fourth quarter to take a 21-10 lead. Who would have thought we’d ever see a scene where literally thousands of Eagles fans are chanting, “LET’S GO BEARS, LET’S GO BEARS,” at FedEx Field. Incredible scene.