Philadelphia Eagles, Nick Foles Finding Stride at the Perfect Time

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistDecember 22, 2013

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The Philadelphia Eagles didn't need to win Sunday night. Technically, beating the Chicago Bears wasn't necessary because they were locks to play for the NFC East title next week at 8:30 p.m. ET, regardless of their Week 16 result. 

But the Eagles actually needed a performance like that. A young team with a brand-new coaching staff and a green quarterback needed to know that what happened last week was an anomaly.

They had to get their confidence back after the three-win Minnesota Vikings trampled all over their five-game winning streak last Sunday at the Metrodome, blowing Philly out 48-30. 

They had to be reassured that LeSean McCoy wasn't hitting a wall after running for only 38 yards in that loss—his lowest rushing total of the year. 

They had to be convinced that the defense hadn't returned to earth on a permanent basis after giving up 48 points and turning Matt Cassel into Fran Tarkenton in Week 15. 

Done, done and done. 

In what was Chicago's most important game of the season, the Eagles dominated the Bears with the kind of swagger that indicated this mentally tough team was never fazed by what happened one week earlier in the Twin Cities. The 54-11 final made it the fourth-most lopsided victory in franchise history.

Largest victories in Eagles history
GameFinal score
1. 1948 vs. Giants45-0
1. 1948 for Redskins45-0
1. 1948 vs. Yanks45-0
4. 2013 vs. Bears54-11
5. 1945 vs. Steelers42-0
Pro Football Reference

With his offensive line opening up holes the size of my condo against a vulnerable front seven, McCoy had 133 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. If he hit a wall, he and interior offensive linemen Evan Mathis, Todd Herremans and Jason Kelce crashed through it like the Kool-Aid Man. Sidekick Bryce Brown added 115 yards and a score on nine carries.

The defense didn't give up a touchdown until the final play of the third quarter and held the Bears to just three points during the two quarters in which the game was still competitive. Jay Cutler got nothing going in the first half, while Matt Forte, who entered Week 16 as the league's third-leading rusher, was completely smothered. Forte had just six yards on five carries through three quarters. 

There was some concern that a susceptible defense with no elite cover guys would find it nearly impossible to slow down Chicago's superstar receiver duo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, but Cary Williams and Co. provided Super Glue coverage, with neither Marshall nor Jeffery hitting the 80-yard mark. 

Now, with the division title on the line next Sunday night in Dallas, the Eagles can prepare to face Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and the Cowboys knowing that this D can handle the NFL's No. 2-rated scoring offense, which is vitally important. 

Quarterback Nick Foles didn't go anywhere. He was still solid in Minnesota and had a valiant performance in eight inches of snow one week earlier in a win over the Detroit Lions. But if anyone was wondering if the 24-year-old Foles would start suffering from a lack of big-game experience down the stretch, they also had their concerns quieted Sunday night. 

Foles didn't have to be Superman against the Bears, but he put together an efficient, turnover-free performance, throwing only four incomplete passes and posting a passer rating of at least 130 for the fourth time in only 10 qualifying performances. 

Eagles: Most games with a 130+ passer rating in one season
QuarterbackYear130+ gamesTotal games
1. Nick Foles2013410
2. Donovan McNabb2004315
3. Randall Cunningham1992215
Pro Football Reference

And more importantly, Foles and every other offensive and defensive starter made it through Sunday's game unscathed. The injury gods have been good to the Eagles this season, but losing a key player in a game that didn't matter on paper would have been demoralizing. 

This wasn't just a convincing victory; it was also a clean one. 

We talk a lot about the importance of getting hot at the right time, and that is admittedly a cliche. But cliches aren't necessarily false. The Eagles have now won six of seven; Dallas has lost two out of three. After dominating the Bears, the Eagles can now forget about that one blip within this seven-game stretch.

In a Week 17 game that is expected to come down to the wire, that could be what puts Philly over the top against a less confident and less healthy Cowboys squad.

"Tonight, as a group, we got fitted for the crown," McCoy told NBC's Michele Tafoya after the game. "Next week, we win against Dallas and we get the crown for good."