The Eagles left New Orleans after a 48-7 loss on Nov. 18 that put them in a world of hurt at 4-6.
Suddenly, though, the Birds are well again, and they are soaring, ready to defend their Super Bowl title following a 24-0 drubbing of the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on Sunday evening. The win, coupled with the Vikings’ 24-10 loss to the Chicago Bears in Minnesota, vaulted the once-dead Eagles into the playoffs.
They will open as the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs at the NFC North champion Chicago Bears, and the Eagles (9-7) will do so as winners in five of their last six games.
“Looking back I know we were very focused after that devastating loss (to the Saints),” said right tackle Lane Johnson.” Everybody took a good long look in the mirror, took it one week at a time, kept our focus short and here we are. We got in and it’s a new season. I think we’re as dangerous as we’ve been all year as far as our offense clicking, our defense, special teams, everybody is playing together.”
Added tight end Zach Ertz, who had three catches to end the year with 116, the most ever by an NFL tight end: “We could’ve gone one of two ways, 4-6 just got blown out by a good (Saints) team, guys could’ve put their heads down and slouched, but I think everyone rallied together. If you knew the guys in this locker, if you knew the character of this team, I think everyone knew that wasn’t going to be the mindset going forward.
“We just had to get better, we had to work extremely hard those next couple weeks. Were we perfect? No, but the team rallied together, the team stuck together. I think that’s the trait that stands out about this football team.”
It was the Eagles’ first shutout win since they blanked the New York Giants on Oct. 12, 2014 by a 27-0 score. The defense made the Redskins (7-9) offense disappear, holding their hosts to just 89 total yards, eight first downs, and didn’t allow a third down in nine Washington tries.
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was a terror. The four-time Pro Bowler had three sacks and ended the regular season with a career-high 10.5 of them. Michael Bennett also collected a sack to finish with nine in his first year with the Eagles after being traded in the offseason by the Seattle Seahawks.
The real magic, though, belong to Nick Foles, the Eagles’ Magic Man quarterback.
Foles tied an NFL record with 25 straight completions, ending his day 28-for-33 for 221 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Along the way to tying that record, he set a new Eagles record. The previous mark for consecutive completions was held by Donovan McNabb, who completed 18 in a row against the Detroit Lions on Sept. 23, 2007.
“It’s been a crazy year,” said Foles. “It’s really special that we were waiting for the other game (Bears-Vikings) to finish after we had taken care of business on the field. It’s super exciting. Any time you’re blessed to be able to play in the playoffs, especially the road we’ve had these last several week, it hasn’t been an easy ride.
“We got some help today. It’s really special. We get to keep playing. We get to wear the Eagles jersey one more time. I’m really excited. The locker room is really excited and it’ll be hard to sleep tonight.”
The downside to the day was the Foles could not finish the game.
He left after being sacked by Ryan Kerrigan with 13:51 to play in the fourth quarter.
Foles said it was his ribs that were hit and wasn’t sure if he would be able to play against the Bears.
“I’m sore,” he said. “We’re going to continue to figure out what’s going on. We’re going to find out more about what’s going on in the morning. I don’t really have a lot of information right now, so (Monday) will be a big day.
“My plan is to get ready to roll. That’s my plan. Obviously we still have to look into a lot of different things (Monday). It’s unfortunate I couldn’t finish the game today, but I want to get this thing going. I want to wear that jersey one more time and hopefully more.”
Foles yielded to Nate Sudfeld, who threw the first touchdown pass of his career, tossing a 22-yarder to Nelson Agholor to close out the scoring with 7:34 to go in the fourth quarter. It was Agholor’s second touchdown catch of the season – the first time he has done that in his four-year career – and his third in two games.
Sudeld was originally drafted by the Redskins in the sixth round of 2017, but was released and claimed by the Eagles.
“I tried not to think about it,” said Sudfeld. “I’m happy to be a part of the Eagles and have had a great journey in the NFL so far. I really try not to think about it. I have a lot of former teammates over there that I really still care about, but today was just a football game, a faceless opponent like coach always says, so I just tried to play my best football and it was good to come out with a win today.”
The Eagles’ first touchdown drive of the game was highlighted by the length of time it lasted. To take a 10-0 lead, the Birds went 87 yards in 11 minutes, 49 seconds. It ended with a two-yard touchdown catch from Alshon Jeffery, his sixth of the season and first this year from Foles.
It would be all the points the Eagles would need, though there would be more.
They needed a Bears win, and they got it. Now they are back in the playoffs ready to defend the title they won in February.