Eagles Refuse to Let Weather Slow Down Cinderella Run to the Playoffs

Ty SchalterNFL National Lead WriterDecember 8, 2013

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It was a more than a snowstorm, and more than a win.

Lincoln Financial Field was blanketed in white before the kickoff, and snow kept falling in sheets after that. In near-whiteout conditions, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles threw his first interception of the 2013 season. Worse yet, the Eagles allowed Detroit Lions return man Jeremy Ross to run both a punt and a kickoff back for touchdowns.

It seemed like the clock was ticking toward midnight on Eagles' Cinderella run to the NFC East title—and then the Eagles' Shady Godmother showed up with glass cleats.

Tailback LeSean McCoy's astounding 217 rushing yards, many of which came late in the game, flipped the script from "disaster movie" back to "fairy tale." A game with almost no offense at all turned into a footrace—and McCoy never loses a footrace.

Pending the results of Monday Night Football between the Cowboys and Bears, the Eagles are in first place with three weeks left in the season. For a team that went 4-12 in 2012, Eagles fans are in the middle of a rags-to-riches tale they may happily remember ever after.


Couldn't Stand the Weather

It didn't take long to figure out what kind of game this would be. On the first snap, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford attempted to, you know, throw the football and largely failed, floating one well short of receiver Kris Durham. Stafford fumbled the second snap, and the Lions went three-and-out.

The next seven possessions all ended in either punts or turnovers. That includes three Eagles three-and-outs, and Foles' first interception of the season:

The pick gave the Lions a 20-yard field to work with, and they capitalized with a two-yard touchdown plunge by Joique Bell five minutes into the second quarter:

With the snow making placekicking all but impossible, the Lions swung it back out to Bell for a two-point conversion. These were the only eight offensive points scored by either team until the 4:05 mark of the third quarter.

The players, coaches, officials and broadcasters all had trouble keeping track of where they were on the field. An early attempt at measuring for a first down was exactly that, an attempt:

After halftime, the Lions had an 8-0 lead that looked like it just might hold up. Neither team could consistently move the ball, and even when they were picking up first downs, neither team could regularly score points.


Fastest Snow on Turf

The Lions found a way around that: Score points without using their offense. Second-year wideout Jeremy Ross, fresh off of a statement game against the Green Bay Packers team that cut him in 2012, took an Eagles punt back 58 yards for a touchdown.

That's when Foles and the Eagles offense came alive, notching the game's only passing touchdown—a19-yard scramble-and-heave pass that seemed to find receiver DeSean Jackson on its own free will:

With the snow slowing down and visibility improving, the nature of the game changed. Suddenly, the advantage a runner in the open field had against would-be tacklers became apparent. McCoy ripped off a 40-yard touchdown, his first of two on the day:

The Eagles failed on the two-point conversion, as Foles' attempted fade pass sailed out of bounds. Then, an odd thing happened: Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was called for defense holding—nowhere near the play—and replays were unable to reveal a committed foul by anyone else.

With a second chance, Bryce Brown and the Eagles converted, making it 14-14. That's when Ross struck again, taking the ensuing kickoff 98 yards to the house:

McCoy seemed to take that as a personal challenge, breaking off a 57-yard touchdown run on the ensuing possession. Suddenly, the Eagles had a 22-20 lead in a game that just minutes before looked like Detroit might take 8-0.

McCoy and the Eagles cut through the Lions defense like a hot knife through, well, snow. McCoy kept slashing through the Lions defense, Foles added a rushing touchdown, and tailback Chris Polk broke off a 38-yard touchdown carry of his own.

With the Lions still fumbling carries and snaps, the Eagles pulled out to a 34-20 lead before something finally stopped McCoy: the game clock.


A Fairy Tale Ending?

The 8-5 Eagles are the belles of the ball right now, but they're a long way from happily ever after. If Dallas (7-5) beats Chicago Monday night, the Eagles still won't be out in front of the Cowboys—or have any margin for error.

With two games coming up against the Bears and Minnesota Vikings, the Eagles will likely need to win both—and even then, they may still face a winner-take-all Week 17 showdown against the Cowboys.

Dec 8, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) warming up prior to the game against the Detroit Lions at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey G. Pittenger-USA TODAY Sports
Jeffrey G. Pittenger-USA TODAY S

If that's how it shakes out, that means the Eagles would have to complete its run of the table from Halloween in. That's a tall, tall task, even for a team as hot as the Eagles, winners of five straight.

If there was any doubt that the football gods are smiling on Foles and the Eagles this season, though, Sunday afternoon's incredible snow-blind shootout should remove it. For that matter, if there was any doubt that Nick Foles can lead the Eagles to huge wins when the chips are down and the pressure's on, this latest result should remove it.

Foles laced up the glass cleats in Week 14, and it's easy for Eagles fans to daydream about dancing in January.