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Numbers Tell The Story Of Eagles Resurgence

Mychal Kendricks #95 of the Philadelphia Eagles reacts in the second half against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 29, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Mychal Kendricks #95 of the Philadelphia Eagles reacts in the second half against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 29, 2013 in Arlington, Texas. (Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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By Joseph Santoliquito

Philadelphia, PA (CBS)—The Eagles are playing a meaningful game in January for the first time since 2010. Much, if not all of that, has to do with Chip Kelly’s system and the coaching staff he put together.

They resurrected a team that finished 4-12 last year to NFC East champions, hosting a New Orleans Saints team that has never won a road playoff game in its history on 8 p.m. Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.

By winning the NFC East title Kelly became the first rookie head coach in Eagles history to win a division in his first year. Since the NFL merged with the AFL, Kelly also became the second head coach in history to win a division title in his first season. Kelly is interesting company, joining Barry Switzer, who did it in 1994, inheriting a Hall of Fame loaded Super Bowl Champion.

Crunching the numbers, some glaring differences emerge from the debacle under Andy Reid in 2012 to the transformation the Eagles have taken under Kelly.

The biggest difference is turnovers. The Eagles turned the ball over 37 times in 2012 (15 interceptions, 22 lost fumbles) and caused just 13 turnovers for a minus-24 turnover margin. This year, they’ve turned the ball over 19 times and forced 31 turnovers, for a plus-12 turnover margin.

This year, the Eagles are averaging over 10 points more than what they averaged last year (27.6-to-17.5). And though the Eagles defense got off to a horrid start this year, they’re still better than last year’s, permitting teams 23.9 points a game to 2012’s 27.8.

LeSean McCoy benefitted the most under Kelly. He had his best season, rushing for an NFL-best 1,607 yards, becoming the first Eagle since Steve Van Buren in 1949 to lead the league in rushing. The 1,607 yards also established a team single-season rushing record (formerly held by Wilbert Montgomery, who rushed for 1,512 rushing yards in 1979).

McCoy’s 2,146 yards from scrimmage established another team record, eclipsing the old mark set by Brian Westbrook (2,104 yards in 2007).

As a team, the 2013 Eagles shredded the record book, creating team milestones for points (442), total net yards (6,676), touchdowns (53), and gross passing yards (4,406) in a season. With 4,110 passing yards and 2,566 rushing yards, the Eagles became only the second team in NFL history to post 4,000-plus passing yards and 2,400-plus rushing yards in one season, joining the 1998 San Francisco 49ers (4,256 passing, 2,544 rushing).

Defensively, Billy Davis deserves some accolades, too. Since beginning the season 1-3, the Eagles have held opponents to 19.4 points a game over the last 12 games, down precipitously from the 27.5 points they allowed over the first four. The Eagles have not permitted an opening-drive point in 11-straight games, and have held opponents to less than 100 yards rushing in 10 of their last 12 games.

Over the first four games in 2013, the Eagles forced punts 2.8 times a game, last in the NFL—then. Over the last 12 games, they’re forcing opponents to punt 5.3 times a game. Over the last 12 games the Eagles have 17 interceptions and are allowing 2.3 TDs a game. The TD average is a gaping drop from the 4.0 TDs allowed per game in the first four games, which was ranked 29th in the NFL.

“You can’t fake football,” Kelly said.

Numbers don’t lie, either.

Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.