The 2013 Eagles season is officially in the books and Chip Kelly’s first season as an NFL head coach has been more or less a success. The Eagles may have exited the postseason sooner than many fans expected or hoped, but 10-7 is a respectable record, especially for a new regime. The Eagles have overcome a great deal to earn that playoff berth and things are looking up for Kelly’s young team.
Now, almost a week removed from the two-point loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Eagles will officially turn their attention to the offseason. But first, Eagles fans everywhere should take some time to look back on the 2013 season, which has been as thrilling and exciting as any season in recent memory.
Here are the highlights, both good and bad, of Chip Kelly’s first campaign as Eagles head coach.
Eagles fans couldn’t have asked for a better way to start the season. Kelly’s offense was unveiled for the first time and it was the most breathtaking show the Eagles have put on in years. With a high-tempo no-huddle attack led by Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson, the Redskins were completely shredded for 33 points by the third quarter.
But after a comfortable 33-7 lead, the Eagles defense gave up three unanswered Redskins touchdowns to make the score 33-27, a score too close for comfort. At the end the Eagles barely escaped with the win. It turns out, that late run would foreshadow the Eagles’ upcoming struggles.
Sure, the offense was spectacular, but the defense couldn’t make a stop if their lives depended on it. Michael Vick’s spectacular 428 yards and 123.4 passer rating were wasted in a loss to San Diego where Philip Rivers pretty much threw the ball wherever he wanted to. The Eagles failed to get a win against the Andy Reid-led Chiefs, where Reid received a Gatorade bath in the Eagles’ own stadium to add insult to injury.
And against the Denver Broncos, the Eagles were humiliated, losing 52-20 and pushing their record to 1-3. The secondary seemed completely unable to make stops and Cary Wiliams and Patrick Chung looked like disaster signings. All the optimism from the Week 1 win had completely faded. It seemed like the Eagles were poised for another lowly 4-12 season…
But in seemingly the blink of an eye, the Eagles’ fortunes began to turn around. Great offensive performances led to a two-game winning streak, putting the Eagles at 3-3 and back in the race for the NFC East.
Vick went down with a hamstring injury against the Giants, but Nick Foles stepped in and played admirably, posting passer ratings of 114.9 and 133.3 against the Giants and Buccaneers respectively. Things were looking bright, and it seemed Foles was just one more strong performance away from locking up the starting job for good.
Just when "Nicksanity" was gaining steam, it was quickly snuffed out by a horrendous performance against the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys did not play particularly well, managing just 17 points against the league’s worst pass defense, but Foles was somehow worse.
He completed only 11 out of 29 passes for just 80 yards before leaving the game with a concussion. His replacement, Matt Barkley, was slightly better but still ineffective, looking far from the polished first-round pick talent he was hoped to be.
The general consensus now was that Vick had to return as soon as possible. Even if he was not 100 percent healthy. This strategy would backfire though, as Vick was hurt against the Giants within just a few plays, and Barkley struggled again. The Eagles' record fell to 3-5 and, seemingly without options at quarterback, the Eagles' season seemed over.
Just when we thought the Eagles were down and out, Nick Foles returned with a vengeance. Playing almost as if to prove the naysayers wrong, Foles had a hall of fame day against the Raiders with seven touchdown passes, tying an NFL record. With that, he effectively snatched the starting job for the remainder of the season.
With strong play at quarterback, opening things up for the running game, Foles led the Eagles to wins over the Packers, Redskins, Cardinals and Lions. And just as impressive as Foles, the defense seemed to be improving.
The last win of this streak was the most impressive and the most memorable. The game will forever be remembered in Eagles lore as a classic and one of the greatest Eagles games ever.
In a blizzard, the Eagles stunned the Lions in the fourth quarter for a come-from-behind victory. McCoy shredded the elite Lions run-defense for 217 yards and the Eagles marched all the way from 3-5 to 8-5 and first place in the division.
It was a sloppy game, with mistakes and turnovers on both sides of the ball. But in the snow and in impossible conditions, the Eagles somehow found a way to win. They showed the NFL who they really were that day, they're a team that fights against all odds and never gives in.
Just when it seemed like the Eagles would coast through the rest of their season, they hit a roadblock in the form of the Vikings. The Vikings, playing without Adrian Peterson and with Matt Cassel at quarterback, somehow overwhelmed the Eagles and knocked them down to 8-6. With all the huge wins, a setback seemed inevitable.
But the Eagles responded in Week 16 by blowing the Chicago Bears completely out of the water. With the wild-card eliminated and a Week 17 win needed no matter what, the Birds chose not to sit their starters and annihilated the Bears 54-11.
If the Snow Bowl was the best game of the season, the Bears game was the second best. On a matchup that was flexed to Sunday Night Football, the Eagles embarrassed the Bears, scoring at will and shutting down their star receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall.
Kelly may have instantly made himself a Philly favorite for years with his famous quote “we’re from Philadelphia and we fight.”
In the season finale, Eagles vs. Dallas, winner take all, the game was everything that fans could have hoped for. Scoring went back and forth, and the game went down to the wire. But in the end, even without Tony Romo, Dallas’ season ended in a choke. A poorly thrown pass by Kyle Orton was nabbed by Brandon Boykin and the Eagles locked down the NFC East.
Next week, against the Saints, it was a similarly tight matchup, but one where the fortunes this time did not fall in Philly’s direction. Nick Foles led the Eagles to a 24-23 lead with five minutes to play, but the Eagles' special teams and defense gave way on the Saints’ final drive, as they milked the clock and picked up first downs to kick a game-winning field goal with no time left.
It was a disappointing way to end the season, especially given how far the Eagles had come since their 1-3 start. But the Eagles still ended Kelly’s first season with a playoff appearance and resolved their quarterback situation, at least temporarily, with Foles. And with a weak NFC East, things are looking bright for the Eagles going into 2014.