By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS)—They looked finished back on July 27, even before a game was played, when leading receiver Jeremy Maclin was lost for the season with a torn ACL during training camp. The public mess stirred by the toxic, potentially divisive racial slur uttered by Riley Cooper, Maclin’s replacement, compounded their troubles four days later.
They looked done after a 52-20 blowout loss to the Denver Broncos on Sept. 20, sinking to 1-3, and seemed dead again after a 15-7 defeat to the New York Giants on Oct. 27, when they slumped to 3-5 and went eight-straight quarters without scoring an offensive touchdown.
Through it all, through those sloping gorges, the Eagles survived—and it appears—even thrived on the adversity. It’s been that ability to rebound from adversity that’s been one of the stubborn staples in the success story of the 2013 Eagles.
“I think that comes from coach [Chip] Kelly,” Eagles’ center Jason Kelce said. “He showed faith in Riley when Maclin went down, he helped bring us all together with what happened right after that. This team could have fallen apart a million times, but a great amount of credit also goes to the veterans on this team. Look at what Mike [Vick] has done to keep us all together, and how supportive he was with Nick [Foles] when he emerged. You look at guys like Brent [Celek] who are willing to do anything to win. You can down every player on this team and they’ve done something.”
Besides, Kelce also stressed, the Eagles have acquired a keen ability to tune out the white noise that often emanates during the topsy-turvy course of an NFL season.
“The only standard we have is measuring against ourselves and how well we improve, and that’s what Kelly has stressed since he’s gotten here,” said Eagles left guard Evan Mathis, who’s having another all-pro caliber season. “Our process has been a one game season every week. That’s what we’re built to do. We’re not going to change our approach due to external factors. We keep the same methods, we keep the same habits, and we keep this momentum going forward.”
Down 1-3, down 3-5, no one gave up, either.
“That’s not the character of this team to give into anything,” Mathis said. “It’s why we played the way we did [against Chicago, with nothing to really gain from the game]. Most of us in here knew what last year was like and we didn’t want a repeat of that. We knew when healthy that we were better than that.”
That resilient attitude surfaced in Oakland, when Foles threw seven TDs after the Eagles suffered the consecutive losses to division rivals Dallas and the Giants. It showed up in the second half of the snowball game against the Lions, when nothing was going right in the first half. And again on Sunday against Chicago, after the Eagles were coming off a disastrous 48-30 loss to woeful Minnesota.
“What’s helped us move forward is the idea of always getting better each week,” Kelce said. “We only have to prove something to ourselves.”
Regardless of what happens on Sunday in the NFC East showdown in Dallas, the Eagles took a great stride back into the NFC elite fold. They’re a year ahead of schedule, doing this season what many thought could happen next year.
What’s even more frightening is the team that chewed up the Bears 54-11 could beat any team in the NFL.
Who knows what may come next? Limitations don’t appear to be in the lexicon of this group.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.