Only the most optimistic Eagles fans expected the team to compete for a postseason spot during the 2013 season.
After all, the Eagles had finished 4-12 the previous year, at one point losing eight games in a row. The firing of long-time head coach Andy Reid had opened the door for a controversial selection, to say the least, in Oregon's Chip Kelly.
Kelly had been an extremely successful college coach, winning 46 of 53 games during his four years as head coach of the Ducks. His fast-paced, explosive offense was thought to be revolutionary. Even Bill Belichick, one of the best coaches in NFL history, had sought out Kelly during the offseason to learn more about his offense.
But hiring Kelly was a major risk. The NFL had seen a number of college coaches with big reputations crash and burn in the NFL. Who said Kelly wouldn't follow suit, especially with a team that had ranked 29th in scoring offense the previous year?
Well, the exact opposite happened. Sure, there were some growing pains, but for the most part, Kelly's first year as the Eagles' head coach was a major success. He turned the Eagles from an injury-plagued 4-12 team that couldn't score points into a healthy 10-6 squad with an explosive, big-play offense.
He turned Nick Foles into a superstar and reaffirmed the belief that LeSean McCoy was the best running back in the NFL. More importantly, he made football fun again in Philadelphia, whether it was with his witty post-game remarks or just the number of points his teams put up on the scoreboard.
No Eagles fan will ever forget the 2013 season, a year that began with a breathtaking first half against the defending division champion Washington Redskins and ended with a dramatic division title with a last-second interception against the rival Dallas Cowboys.
In between, the Eagles provided 25 memorable moments that will be remembered until the end of time; good, bad and even ugly. In reverse order, they are as follows.
To read the top 25 most memorable moments from the 2012 Eagles season, click here.
As most expected, rookie head coach Chip Kelly had his fair share of early mistakes this season, especially involving in-game decisions. Against the San Diego Chargers in Week 2, he probably cost the Eagles a victory. Here's what happened.
The Eagles trailed the Chargers 30-27 when Mike Vick connected with DeSean Jackson for a 25-yard pass down to the Chargers' 14-yard line. Just 2:17 remained in regulation. The obvious coaching decision would be to wait until after the two-minute warning before running a couple of plays that would hopefully either produce a touchdown or run the clock down to the final seconds of the game and force overtime.
That's not even close to what happened. Kelly elected to have Vick throw a pass with 2:08 remaining in the game. The pass was incomplete and Vick was knocked from the game after a hard hit. Nick Foles entered the game, where Kelly elected to have his quarterback who hadn't even warmed up on the sideline throw a fade to DeSean Jackson, the team's shortest receiver, in the corner of the end zone. Predictably, the play was an incompletion. Kelly also failed to realize that he could have called a timeout to allow Vick to enter back into the game.
Vick entered back in the game on third down and threw an incompletion to Jason Avant. Alex Henery kicked a field goal to tie the game, but with 1:51 remaining, Philip Rivers easily marched the Chargers down the field for a game-winning field goal.
The Eagles were rolling, having won five consecutive games with Nick Foles at the helm. The Vikings were reeling and were forced to start backup Matt Cassel at quarterback and little-known third-string running back Matt Asiata.
Talk about your classic trap game. That's exactly what happened, too, as the Eagles lost 48-30 behind a monster day from Cassel (382 passing yards and three touchdowns) and a trio of short-yardage touchdowns from Asiata. Don't forget about the awful short kickoff strategy that constantly put the Eagles in terrible starting field position on defense.
It was the kind of game the Eagles needed, though. Just ask Cary Williams, who said that he was glad the Eagles lost because they needed to get knocked off their high horse.
Early in the season, Nick Foles was still relatively an unknown. He had turned in a solid rookie season and played well in the second half of the game against the Giants the previous week. But nobody really knew what to expect from the second-year quarterback.
That's what made Foles' dominance against the Buccaneers so special. He completed 22-of-31 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns, while adding a fourth touchdown on the ground. He earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
If you had five weeks in the Michael Vick injury pool before the start of the season, you win. That's how long the 33-year-old quarterback was able to play before he injured his hamstring in the first half against the Giants in Week 5.
Coming in to relieve Vick was Nick Foles, who was just an ordinary backup quarterback at that point. The Eagles held a 16-7 lead when Foles entered the game, but fell behind 21-19 in the fourth quarter. That's when Foles threw a pair of late touchdown passes, one to Brent Celek and the other to DeSean Jackson, to clinch a 36-21 victory.
The Eagles were locked in a push for the division title late in the season, so unlike 2011 and 2012, there wasn't as much of a focus on individual statistics.
But it would have been impossible to ignore the tremendous season by LeSean McCoy. The 25-year-old Eagles running back broke the franchise single-season record for rushing yards, finishing the year with 1,607 yards on 314 carries. That's 5.1 yards per carry.
His most impressive performance came in Week 14, when he rushed for a franchise-record 217 yards in the snow to lead the Eagles to a dramatic come-from-behind victory over the Detroit Lions.
Both the Eagles and Giants entered their Week 5 matchup desperately needing a victory. The Eagles were 1-3 and reeling, having lost three straight games, while the Giants had started 0-4 for the first time in the Eli Manning era.
The Eagles led 19-7 at halftime, but a hamstring injury to Mike Vick had sidelined him for the remainder of the game. The Giants ended up taking a 21-19 lead in the fourth quarter before Foles threw a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes to clinch a 36-21 victory.
In between, the Eagles intercepted Eli Manning on not one, not two, but three consecutive drives early in the final quarter. First Mychal Kendricks picked off Manning and returned it 18 yards. Then Boykin made a one-handed acrobatic diving grab of a pass to Victor Cruz. And Cary Williams clinched the victory by taking away a pass intended for Hakeem Nicks at midfield.
The victory symbolized the fight in the 2013 Eagles, while also standing as one of the signature losses for the 2013 Giants, a game plagued by one interception after another.
For the second straight week, the Eagles had major issues protecting a lead late in the game. The Eagles took a 24-7 lead over the Cardinals but found themselves clinging to a 24-21 lead late in the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals had the ball with just over two minutes remaining, needing to go 90 yards for a touchdown but about 50 yards to go for a potential game-tying field goal. And for once, there was no drama.
After Carson Palmer completed a five-yard pass to Michael Floyd, he threw three straight incompletions, effectively ending the game and clinching the seventh victory of the season for the Eagles.
Nobody expected the Eagles' defense to be competitive in 2013, especially not after switching to a 3-4 defense and adding yet again a new defensive coordinator during the offseason.
But the first four games were a nightmare even for the most pessimistic fans, as the Eagles allowed 27, 33, 26 and 52 points. They were on pace to set single-season records for both points and yards allowed.
That's when defensive coordinator Billy Davis asked the fans to trust him. The defense would improve, he said. At the time, it seemed crazy. But over the final 12 games of the season, that's exactly what happened. The Eagles allowed 21 or fewer points in nine consecutive games. They finished the year with the third-most takeaways in the NFL, including last-second game-winning interceptions twice.
There were no Pro Bowl players on the defense, but there also weren't any major liabilities. In other words, the defense was average, and that's a major victory considering the brutal first month.
Chip Kelly earned all the national recognition for the team's impressive offense, and rightfully so, but it was Davis who emerged as the biggest surprise on the coaching staff.
A 10-game home losing streak was on the line for the Eagles in the final drive against the Washington Redskins in Week 11, not to mention any realistic chance of reaching the postseason.
The Eagles had jumped out to a 24-0 lead, but a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes (plus both two-point conversions by RGIII cut the Eagles' lead to 24-16.
Heading into the final drive, the Redskins had all the momentum in the world. They trailed by eight but needed to march 96 yards and collect a two-point conversion to send the game into overtime.
The final drive was anything but pretty for the Redskins, who converted four third downs, including a third-and-25 conversion. In all, RGIII threw the ball 15 times. His final pass, an errant throw over the receiver's head into the back of the end zone, was intercepted by Brandon Boykin to seal the victory for the Eagles.
The Eagles have had some pretty bad performances by quarterbacks throughout their history. Think back to Mike McMahon, Bobby Hoying or Mike Boryla. Those guys were awful.
But perhaps no single-game performance has ever been as bad as Nick Foles was against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7, a game that had first place in the NFC East on the line.
Foles' stat line is as follows: 11-of-29 for 80 yards. Amazingly, he didn't thrown an interception, but that's only because his passing was so awful that none of his passes were near any Cowboy defenders. He misfired on at least nine passes, including potential touchdown passes to LeSean McCoy, Brent Celek and Jason Avant. He threw an interception that was brought back by a Dallas penalty and took a number of unnecessary hits, including a third-down sack in the red zone where he held the ball for more than nine seconds. The hit on that play mercifully knocked him out of the game.
With Foles under center, the Eagles punted nine times, collected eight offensive first downs and scored exactly three points. Whether it was the pressure of first place on the line, a mysterious injury suffered on the first drive or just a really bad performance, Foles was as bad in Week 7 as he was good for the rest of the year.
The Bears had everything to lose against the Eagles on Sunday Night Football. They could clinch the NFC North with a win but a loss would give the Packers an opportunity to steal the division title in the season finale.
But the Eagles? They didn't really have anything to play for. Sure, a win would help the Eagles earn a No. 3 seed instead of a No. 4 if they ended up winning the NFC East. But the important game, the winner-take-all contest, was going to be against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17. That's the one that truly mattered.
So what did the Eagles do? They went out and played their best 60 minutes of football this season, throttling the Bears by a 54-11 score.
The Eagles jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. Each of the team's three running backs scored a rushing touchdown. Brandon Boykin added an interception touchdown and Cedric Thornton recorded a safety. Oh, and Nick Foles broke a single-game franchise record by completing 84 percent of his passes.
In the end, Chip Kelly's decision to play his starters and risk potential injuries didn't cost him at all. Nobody was hurt and the Eagles collected an impressive victory over a potential postseason threat.
It was certainly an interesting year for Riley Cooper, from creating national news with a racial slur to a couple of breakout games in midseason.
But not all stories have happy endings, and this one certainly doesn't. Scheduled to become a free agent this offseason, Cooper's lasting legacy in Philadelphia may be the awful drop he made in the third quarter of the team's wild-card loss to the New Orleans Saints.
A high school receiver should catch this ball 99 out of 100 times. There's no excuse for Cooper to drop the ball. None. He had open field in front of him. Add a solid block or a broken tackle and Cooper might have taken it 70 yards for a go-ahead touchdown.
Instead, the Eagles punted, the Saints marched down the field, scored a touchdown and took a 20-7 lead. The Eagles would regain the lead but they eventually lost on a walk-off field goal.
What happened in Weeks 7 and 8 is undoubtedly the low point of the season for Chip Kelly's Eagles.
In Week 7, Foles turned in one of the worst games you'll ever see by a quarterback at the professional level, throwing for just 80 yards and failing to lead the Eagles into the end zone. He was knocked out of the game with a concussion late in the third quarter, paving the way for rookie Matt Barkley, who threw three interceptions in just a quarter of play (he actually threw four, but one was called back by a Dallas penalty).
In Week 8, Chip Kelly made probably his worst coaching decision of the year, choosing to start an injured Vick over a fresh Barkley (Foles was out with a concussion). Vick struggled and could barely move before he was lifted from the game after re-injuring his hamstring. Barkley finished the game but couldn't lead the Eagles to any offensive points.
It's just not possible for an NFL team to go through an entire season without suffering a single costly injury. For the Eagles, that injury came at the start of training camp, when wide receiver Jeremy Maclin suffered a torn ACL in a non-contact drill.
Maclin missed the entire season, and as a result, will likely earn significantly less money this spring when he hits free agency. That could be a blessing in disguise for the Eagles, as they may be able to bring him back on a one-year, prove-it deal.
The injury also allowed Riley Cooper to turn in a surprising breakout year as the team's other starting receiver.
The Eagles' quarterback competition dominated the national headlines in 2012, with predictions focusing on whether Mike Vick or Nick Foles would earn the starting job (although there were a few idiots, like me, who picked rookie Matt Barkley to steal the starting job, a la Russell Wilson the year before).
Vick won the job, as most expected. He played well, as expected. And then he got hurt, as expected. His hamstring injury against the Giants in Week 5 opened up the door for Nick Foles to take the starting job. Foles earned Player of the Week honors in a victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 6, but played poorly and suffered a concussion against the Dallas Cowboys in a crucial Week 7 contest.
When he returned in Week 9, he turned in perhaps the greatest single-game performance by a quarterback in NFL history, throwing for seven touchdowns in a win against the Oakland Raiders. But that didn't earn him the long-term starting job. He threw for three touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers the next week. But still he wasn't named the starter, with Chip Kelly preferring to name his quarterback on a week-by-week basis.
It took until November 27, a few days after the bye week, for Kelly to announce what everybody basically knew already: Foles was his guy for the remainder of the season. All it took was three straight tremendous performances and the highest passer rating in a single month in NFL history.
Following the hiring of Chip Kelly as Eagles head coach, many expected Mike Vick to be a slam dunk as the starting quarterback in 2013.
But that's not what Kelly did. He chose to use training camp as open competition for the starting job, with veteran Mike Vick battling against second-year Nick Foles.
As expected, Vick came away with the starting job. And as expected, he suffered an injury barely a month into what will likely be his final season in Philadelphia.
That opened the door for Nick Foles, who threw for 27 touchdowns against just two interceptions.
It was wide receiver Riley Cooper's unfortunate use of a racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert that dominated the sports headlines this summer. Speculation arose that Cooper would be cut, and given the mediocre first three years of his career, he would likely never play again. It helped that Jeremy Maclin suffered a season-ending injury, increasing Cooper's value for the 2013 season.
But Chip Kelly made a bold decision. He decided to keep Cooper, risking a fractured locker room. And the move paid off, as Cooper finished the year with 47 catches for 835 yards and eight touchdowns.
The Eagles have a tough decision to make regarding keeping Cooper as he's scheduled to hit free agency, something not even the most optimistic Eagles fan would have expected a year ago.
A few decades ago, the one place visiting teams didn't want to play was in Philadelphia. Oh, how things have changed.
The Eagles endured a brutal 10-game losing streak at their home stadium, losing their final six home games in 2012 and their first four in 2013. The low point came when the Eagles endured a 17-3 loss to Dallas and a 15-7 loss to the Giants in consecutive weeks in Weeks 7 and 8. The offense failed to score a single touchdown and all three quarterbacks turned in dismal performances.
The streak finally ended against the Washington Redskins in Week 11, as the Eagles jumped out to a 24-0 lead. They survived a late scare from RGIII and Co., winning on an interception in the end zone by Brandon Boykin in the game's final minute.
There may not be a coach in the NFL who is more prepared than Chip Kelly. This man has everything planned down to a science. Literally. Whether it's smoothies, sleep schedules or less hitting at training camp, Kelly knows exactly what he's doing when it comes to players staying healthy.
Kelly's new sports science program worked wonders for keeping the team healthy throughout the regular season. The loss of Jeremy Maclin to an ACL tear in July was brutal, but the Eagles were the only team in the NFL that didn't place a player on injured reserve during the regular season.
As far as significant injuries go, the only key players who suffered injuries during the regular season were Mike Vick, Bradley Fletcher and Earl Wolff (and Vick's was a blessing in disguise).
In fact, the Eagles were so healthy that all 22 starters from Week 1 played in the wild-card playoff game against the New Orleans Saints (Technically Vick didn't start but that was Kelly's decision to switch quarterbacks in midseason).
Call it one of the most unlikely streaks in NFL history.
Nick Foles entered the season as a backup quarterback. Three months later, he had thrown 19 consecutive touchdown passes without an interception.
Sure, there was some luck involved. An interception against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7 was called back because of a Dallas penalty. A deep pass against the Green Bay Packers was tipped by a pair of defenders and turned into a 55-yard touchdown. And a potentially game-losing interception against the Arizona Cardinals was brought back by a Cardinals penalty.
But this streak wasn't exactly about luck. There was some major skill involved. How else do you explain seven touchdown passes in a single game or the lowest single-season interception percentage in history (minimum 10 starts)?
It took a blinding snowstorm to finally end Foles' streak, one touchdown shy of the all-time record. Even when the streak ended, interceptions were still rare. Foles threw one against Detroit, a second against Minnesota and none in the final two games of the season.
It's really not possible to script a more impressive debut performance by a rookie head coach, even considering the lofty expectations for Chip Kelly heading into 2013.
The Eagles opened the season on Monday Night Football on the road against the defending NFC East champions, where they showed the rest of the football world what Kelly's offense would be all about.
In the first half, the Eagles ran 53 plays. They collected 21 first downs. LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson each topped 100 yards. And the Eagles scored 26 points.
It was magical, even with a first drive that ended in Washington's DeAngelo Hall returning a fumble 75 yards for a touchdown. The Eagles were so explosive that the Redskins quite literally couldn't keep up with them.
The storyline the week leading up to the Eagles-Saints wild-card playoff game centered around the Saints' inability to win on the road, especially in the postseason. Throw in the cold weather and it's easy to see why most predicted the Eagles to take care of business on their home turf.
Yet that's not what happened. The Eagles overcame a 20-7 deficit in the fourth quarter to take a 24-23 lead with under five minutes remaining. But the Saints controlled the clock, marched down the field and won on a walk-off 32-yard field goal by Shayne Graham.
For the Eagles, it marked a surprisingly early finish to a Cinderella season that saw the team win seven of their final eight games to capture the NFC East title.
An early December contest between the Eagles and Lions started with both teams trying to stay in the playoff hunt. It ended with LeSean McCoy running all over the Lions in the game dubbed the Snow Bowl.
It looked hopeless early, as the Eagles couldn't move the ball at all in the blizzard conditions, which dumped eight inches of snow in the stadium. Nick Foles even threw his first interception, ending his streak at 19 touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Lions lost three early fumbles but took a 14-0 lead behind a Joique Bell touchdown run and a Jeremy Ross punt return score. The Eagles rallied behind a basket catch by Riley Cooper and a touchdown throw to DeSean Jackson, followed by a 40-yard touchdown run by LeSean McCoy.
But Ross returned the following kick 98 yards for his second return touchdown of the day, giving the Lions back the lead. Enter LeSean McCoy, who added his second long rushing touchdown of the fourth quarter. A two-point conversion gave the Eagles a lead they would not relinquish. Nick Foles added a rushing score and Chris Polk's 38-yard touchdown scamper with 2:58 remaining gave the Eagles a 34-20 lead.
In the final minute, Foles threw a long pass on fourth down to Brent Celek, who provided the exclamation point on the victory by sliding down at the 10-yard line to run out the clock.
In the fourth quarter alone, the Eagles scored 28 points, a franchise-record. Had Celek scored instead of sliding, the Eagles would have broke the NFL record with 35 points in the fourth quarter. McCoy finished with 217 yards rushing, a single-game franchise record, including a ridiculous 148 yards in the final quarter.
The victory showed the overall resilience of the Eagles, as they overcame early passing struggles, a costly interception and a pair of special teams miscues to come away with one of their best all-around victories of the season.
It might be the single greatest performance by a quarterback in the history of the NFL, as well as one of the most unlikely.
The pressure was immense for Foles against the Raiders. Two weeks ago, he had turned in easily the worst game of his short career against the Dallas Cowboys before he was knocked out of the game with a concussion. If he struggled against Oakland, the Eagles would fall to 3-6, likely ending any realistic chance of a playoff berth and giving the Eagles a legitimate quarterback controversy for the final half of the season.
That's when Nick Foles happened. The second-year quarterback completed 22 of 28 passes for 406 yards and seven touchdowns. The seventh touchdown came with four minutes remaining in the third quarter. It's perfectly realistic to think that Foles could have thrown for eight, nine or even 10 touchdowns if Chip Kelly had kept his foot on the gas all game.
Foles became just the seventh quarterback to throw for seven touchdowns in a game. He became the first to accomplish the feat in just three quarters, as well as the first to throw for more than 400 yards.
For each of the last two seasons, the Eagles had to sit at home and watch another team in the NFC East beat Dallas in a winner-take-all season finale. This time, they had their turn.
Although the Eagles had to travel to Dallas for Week 17, they were heavily favored to win, especially when news came out that Tony Romo had suffered a back injury the previous week and would be unable to play.
It wasn't easy, but the Eagles managed to pull out a 24-22 victory, capped off by Brandon Boykin's last-minute interception off Kyle Orton to send the Eagles back into the postseason for the first time in three years.
Chip Kelly's magical first year as Eagles head coach included victories in seven of the last eight games, including wins against teams from Arizona, Detroit, Chicago and Dallas that were all fighting for a postseason berth.