I probably wouldn't be writing this article if the Phillies had not won the World Series. I know I wouldn't. But the Phillies did win. On Oct. 29 of last year, Brad Lidge struck out Eric Hinske to clinch the first championship for a Philadelphia team in 25 seasons.
This singular moment opened up a new world I had never seen before in my entire life. Winning. I'm not talking about playoff appearances, or even deep playoff berths. I'm talking about the whole thing.
The Eagles defeated the NFC North champion Minnesota Vikings 26-14 on Sunday afternoon, advancing to the NFC Divisional round, where they will travel to New York to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Giants.
It was on Sunday that I realized something about the Eagles: We are a championship-caliber team.
I've never had this feeling before, with the obvious exception of the 2004 Super Bowl run. I didn't even have this feeling after we throttled the Dallas Cowboys 44-6 to clinch the final wild-card spot in the NFC.
But I have this feeling now. There is something special about this team. It's something that I have never seen before in any Philadelphia Eagles team in my lifetime, including the 2004 Eagles. It's something that I saw in the 2008 world champion Philadelphia Phillies.
Lots of it.
This Eagles team has more heart than any team I've ever seen before. They have as much heart as the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies.
Let's face it, heart might be more important than talent. Just ask the Dallas Cowboys, who possess as much individual talent as any team I have ever seen in my entire life. They finished the season one game above .500 and failed to qualify for the postseason.
Now look at the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies. We were not the best team in baseball. The Cubs were probably better. The Red Sox. Maybe the Angels. But we had as much heart as any team I have ever seen in my life, and it came out at precisely the right time.
The result? The 11 postseason wins needed to call one group of 25 players "world champions."
This year's Eagles are the NFL's version of the Philadelphia Phillies. We didn't have the best record in the NFL—not even close. We needed one of the biggest upsets of the year to even have a chance to make the playoffs.
But when it counts, this team has been amazing.
We throttled the Arizona Cardinals by four touchdowns on Thanksgiving night. We knocked off the Giants in New York. We destroyed the Browns in Cleveland. And after a slip-up in Washington, we turned in arguably the greatest game that any NFL team has played in the past 10 years.
What happened yesterday? We played a C+ game at best, and won by 12 points.
It might be desperation, and not heart, but something is driving this team.
Maybe it's the fear that Donovan McNabb still may not be back next season.
Maybe it's the realization that Brian Westbrook turns 30 years old next September.
Maybe it's the thought of future Hall-of-Fame safety Brian Dawkins retiring at the end of the season.
But I think it's something else. On Nov. 23, Andy Reid made perhaps the biggest decision of his 10-year career. He benched his star quarterback. In benching McNabb, Reid showed what many players—and fans—had taken for granted. He showed that no job is secure in the National Football League.
As Dick Vermeil says in the movie Invincible, “I don't care what your story is. Veteran. Rookie. Free agent. I don't care. You earn a spot on this team by what you show me on this field. I play no favorites. None.”
Since Nov. 23, the Eagles have played with a passion unlike any I've ever seen before. They have won five of six games. They defeated three playoff teams and one other with a winning record. They have outscored their opponents by 18 points per game.
We are the hottest team in the National Football League. There's not a single team in the playoffs that wants to play the Philadelphia Eagles right now.
Our offense has been great. McNabb has been firing on all cylinders. Westbrook cannot be stopped for a full game. Our receivers, particularly Avant, are picking up their game, especially on third-down situations. Brent Celek is playing for a starting job. The offensive line might be the most valuable aspect of the team.
The defense has been unbelievable. Every game, it seems that Darren Howard, Juqua Parker, Trent Cole, Mike Patterson, or any other defensive linemen comes up with a big play. Stewart Bradley leads our young linebacking corps, arguably one of the top five in the league.
And the defensive backs have been playing out of this world. Asante Samuel, Brian Dawkins, and Quintin Mikell are all Pro Bowlers, and are playing the best football of their lives right now. Sheldon Brown and Joselio Hanson have been clutch recently, and Lito Sheppard might be the best No. 4 cornerback in NFL history.
The special teams are the hottest I've ever seen. David Akers simply doesn't miss anymore, even from above 40 yards, even above 50 yards. DeSean Jackson is better than Brian Westbrook was at returning punts, and Quintin Demps might be the best kick returner under Andy Reid.
Bottom line: This might be the most complete Eagles team I have ever seen. Not only are they poised to do some damage in the playoffs, they might be on the verge of giving Philadelphia the greatest year in sports history.
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