December 15, 2015
Two weeks ago, the Philadelphia Eagles season hit it's low point following their 45-14 Thanksgiving Day loss to the Detroit Lions. Now, after wins over the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills, Chip Kelly's team is suddenly on the rise.
The players haven't changed. Neither has their coach's opinion of them.
Some thought Kelly was mad, borderline insane, with the way he continued to profess his faith in the players to get the job done. As the losses mounted, and Kelly refused to change much of anything in his overall approach week-to-week.
"I told those guys the same message," Kelly said. "It's very simple. I told those guys that sometimes they don't see in them what we see in them. I thought we had a really good football team and what we did in New England and what we did last week wasn't a surprise to us.
"We had great confidence in them as a group and they needed to kind of go out and shake off what control that you can control and that's your preparation and getting ready for whoever that opponent is that you're going to play and then just go out and play. I think some guys over think it a little bit, but I knew we had a good football team. I wasn't -- my confidence in our group wasn't shaken because I've been around them a long time."
But if the message hasn't changed, how do you explain the fact that this team doesn't look anything like the one that walked off field in Detroit following their third straight loss? Kelly has a theory on why things suddenly seem to be clicking for his team. He explained it in depth on Monday:
My theory is that this is an extremely competitive league and there are not just certain words that one person can say that can flip the switch and make a team be good. Just like I said after the Dallas game, when we beat Dallas in Dallas and everybody wanted to know if that was the point in the season when things are going to take off because you beat Dallas, and everybody thought I was the damper on the party saying it's not like that.
I said, ‘You'd better come to play every single week,’ and it's the same thing this week, we've had two good wins, great. We had better go out and train very, very hard to play an outstanding Arizona team coming in here or it’s all for naught. Every week is its own individual set of circumstances, its own individual challenges that you have to be prepared for and that has always been the mantra.
I think sometimes when you look too far and you're looking down the road and you're trying to say, ‘How do we do this,’ you forget about what the task at hand is and the task at hand is getting ready to play Arizona, so we'll see. Maybe we've had success for two weeks. Can we handle dealing with success? And that's another challenge that we have to, as a group, kind of wrap our arms around and embrace.
For the Eagles, they couldn't have picked a better time to come together. Not only are they tied with Washington and the Giants for the NFC East lead with three games to play -- including vs. WAS and at NYG -- but this week, they'll host the Arizona Cardinals, arguably the best team in football, for a primetime matchup.
In the Cardinals (11-2), the Eagles will face one of the more well-rounded teams in the league.
Offensively, they rank first in total yards (417.5 YPG) and second in scoring (31.2 PPG) thanks in large part to Carson Palmer's monster season. He's already thrown for 4,001 yards, 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions, which is good for a 107.2 passer rating. Defensively, Bruce Arians' team is ranked seventh in the NFL in points allowed (19.4 PPG), fourth in yards allowed (322.4) and second in takeaways (25).
"Yeah, they are [as good as any team we've played," Kelly said. "It's an outstanding team in all phases. They have got talent. They are playing really well on defense. Patrick [Peterson] is playing as well as I've seen him play; he's one of the top corners in the league, if not the top corner the way he's playing right now. Tyrann Mathieu is playing outstanding at the nickel spot and safety. They are very active and blitz more than any team in the National Football League.
"Carson Palmer should be in the conversation of the MVP right now in terms of how well he's playing and you have [Michael] Floyd and you have [Larry] Fitzgerald.
"You have a really talented football team that's going to come in here. We played them two years ago here and it was an extremely close game. We played them down there until the last play of the game. We know we have our hands full and are playing one of the top teams in the National Football League this week."
As for the Eagles, they may not be playing on the same level as the Cardinals, but suddenly they're a team on the rise. And the national media seems to have taken notice based on the latest power rankings out there. Here's a look at what some are saying about the Birds following their win over the Bills.
Sam Bradford has improved in the Eagles' offense this season. He has five touchdowns and one interception his past four games, after throwing nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions his first seven games.
A team left for dead just two weeks ago suddenly controls its playoff fate. NFC East membership has its, ahem, privileges.
It's officially OK, Philly sports fans. Pull your Wilbert Montgomery poster out of the closet and put it back on the wall. Shoot, grab your Von Hayes Fleer cards, too. The Eagles are worth going to Chickie's and Pete's to watch the game again. One week after shocking the Patriots, Philadelphia stayed atop the NFC East with a clutch win over a just-as-desperate Bills team. Props to the bendable-but-stout-when-it-mattered defense. Elsewhere, LeSean McCoy didn't return Chip Kelly's phone call. Well, I bet Kelly isn't endorsing Shady on LinkedIn. So there.
After giving up a total of 90 points combined in five days, the Eagles have won two in a row and might be the NFL’s hottest team with a losing record, for what that’s worth.
Sam Bradford has thrown one pick in his past four games. Maybe the Chip Kelly ethos is correct. That ethos: Be patient; a good quarterback’s going to be good, except probably not overnight.
This week's game against the Cardinals will be interesting. If they can win, do we wonder if the Eagles can win a playoff game too? It would give them a three-game winning streak with wins over the Patriots, Bills and Cardinals.
Don't look now, but the Eagles are somehow only a few spots away from being in the top 10. The Birds have won two games in a row. They can win the NFC East by getting two wins in their last two games.
The statement win concept only works if the boost from said win propels a team forward. Although the Philadelphia Eagles' upset win over the New England Patriots in Week 13 was shocking, it also would have been meaningless had they reverted to being the same disorganized team offensively we've seen for much of this season.
That disaster was avoided, and suddenly the Eagles may be building momentum.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin