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January 07, 2019

Angelo Cataldi: 'Football Gods' seem to be favoring the Eagles again

Before you scoff at the notion that the Eagles are being controlled by a higher power these days, consider just how close they came to losing the biggest game of the season yesterday in Chicago.

On the defining drive of the game, quarterback Nick Foles side-armed a pass to Golden Tate that missed by centimeters the outstretched hands of Bears linebacker Leonard Floyd, and then the receiver dashed inches past the pylon to give the Eagles a 16-15 lead with 56 seconds left. So close.

Moments later, with the season hanging in the balance, ex-Eagle Cody Parkey had his 46-yard kick nick the middle finger of Eagles lineman Trayvon Hester, clip the inside of the left upright and doink off the top of the crossbar. So, so close.

I asked Eagles quarterback Doug Pederson and Hall of Fame football writer Ray Didinger this morning on my WIP radio show if they had ever seen a field-goal attempt hit both an upright and a crossbar, and they both said no, never, not a chance. Between them, they have 100 years of experience playing and watching sports.

It may have never happened, but it did on Sunday. Could there something sacred, something otherworldly, at work here?

In mysterious times like these, fans like to invoke the term “football gods” to explain the inexplicable, to provide some logic to an illogical situation. For whatever reason, fate is smiling down on the Eagles. As lucky as they were last season when they won their first Super Bowl, the Eagles seem to have found a new strain of good fortune this season.

How else can you explain their very presence in the playoffs, thanks to the Bears deciding to play their starters against Minnesota when there was no good reason to, a move that not only gave new life to the Eagles but also cost Chicago its coming-of-age 12-4 season? If they didn’t know it then, the Bears must realize by now they were much better off facing the Vikings.

Of course, for those not inclined to believe in divine intervention, the explanation may be as simple as the emergence of Nick Foles, the 29-year-old mystical figure now commonly referred to as Saint Nick. Yesterday in Chicago – like last season throughout the playoffs – Foles used his own religious faith to support him in trying times, to great advantage.

Pederson said this morning that, during the final drive at Soldier Field, Foles was emotionless as he marched the team down the field against the best defense in the NFL, in an environment not conducive to such a measured response. Saint Nick even proposed the final scoring play, just as he suggested the Philly Special in the Super Bowl last season.

After the game, while Philadelphia was losing its mind over the shocking finish, Foles calmly described how he has learned to tune out all the noise, how to believe in himself and his teammates.

Meanwhile, though, the fans were seeking a deeper meaning. Some called in today to declare that the win yesterday was payback for the Fog Bowl 30 years ago in Chicago, for the unlucky bounces in the final game at Veterans Stadium in 2004, and for every other ugly twist of fate before that.

The football gods are on our side right now, the fans believe. The gods will even bounce a football off an upright and a crossbar on the same kick, if that’s what it takes to keep the season alive. The football gods love Nick Foles. Doesn’t everybody?

Next week comes an even bigger test for the Eagles and their newfound good fortune. The will face the New Orleans . . . . Saints.

Saint Nick versus the Saints?

Say another prayer, Philadelphia.

And finally . . . . 

• In year five of Ron Hextall’s rebuilding program, the Flyers are a really terrible hockey team. What I’m wondering now is how the ex-GM feels. Is he happy he doesn’t have to witness this debacle up close, or is he still angry that management didn’t give him another two or three years to produce a winner? My guess is, he still thinks he was right on schedule. And he is still wrong about that. 

• As a card-carrying basher of NFL officials, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the awful Walt Anderson crew called one penalty against Seattle in the first 52 minutes of the game in Dallas, and then four big ones against the Seahawks in the final two drives, ruining Seattle’s chance for a comeback. There are so many bad crews, I’m running out of refs that I actually respect. 

• The NFL has a weird way of assigning refs, don’t you think? For no good reason, the league assigned Tony Corrente to the Eagles-Bears game yesterday, even though Corrente is the most home-friendly official in sports. In the past 12 seasons, the visitors have never — not once — finished with a better record than the home teams in games Corrente officiated. Before the game yesterday, the Eagles were 2-8 on the road when he was in charge. This is supposed to be fair? Really? 

• If you’re looking for something to do before the Eagles face New Orleans next Sunday, it’s always fun to root against ex-Eagles coach Andy Reid. With amazing Patrick Mahomes as his quarterback, it will be even more of a challenge for the Kansas City coach to blow the playoffs again this season. And that’s why it will be so entertaining when Reid, inevitably, does blow it. 

• It appears that the idiotic, fan-unfriendly Booger Mobile has been relegated to the scrap heap by ESPN because it was a bad idea from the start. In theory, this contraption was supposed to keep analyst Booger McFarland on top of the Monday Night Football action, even if it did block the view of the highest-paying customers. In the end, it didn’t matter what McFarland was saying because Jason Witten was ruining the broadcast from the booth above. Who hires these broadcast geniuses anyway? Better yet, who fires them?