Let’s get it out of the way. Sunday was one of the greatest days in Philadelphia sports' history. Philly witnessed what turned out to be one of the most improbable days in recent memory.
However, the Birds immediately handed the keys right back to the Cowboys the next day in a frustrating 10-3 loss to the Redskins in which their offense struggled mightily. Following the loss, Philly’s sports radio call-in crazies resigned themselves to arguing over whether a meaningless win over the Cowboys could extend McNabb’s tenure with the Birds.
In a city that lives and dies with its teams, Philly has a pulse after this evening's beat down of one of the most disappointing Cowboys' team ever.
As Anthony Gargano explains far more eloquently in A Sunday Pilgrimage, sports in Philadelphia holds a special place and meaning different from most other cities. Philadelphians invest in their sports' teams in a way that is beautiful, incredibly passionate, and borderline crazy.
When the Phillies won the World Series, you heard tons of fans commenting (many in tears) about how happy they were for their fellow, long—suffering fans. Our individual passion fuels our collective passion in a way that is moving and intoxicating.
When the Eagles went to the Super Bowl in 2004, people around the Delaware Valley were refinancing their houses in order to make the trek down to Jacksonville for that “once in a lifetime opportunity,”. Some might call it crazy; I call it sports magic.
In seriousness, sports have an incomprehensible ability to allow us to transcend beyond the reality of our current situations, even if just for awhile.
I can bet you that people around the City of Brotherly Love didn’t have the Eagles—Cowboys game volume turned down while they discussed the recession’s infringement on this year’s Christmas festivities or layoffs likely to come in 2009.
My brother, Dave, predicted a Raiders’ win earlier this week. He’d watched JaMarcus Russell turn in a strong performance (128.2 QB rating) against the Texans and thought the big guy might be able to turn back a sputtering Bucs' unit.
Turns out, Mr. Bush 'tis the reason for this Eagles’ playoff season.
The Bucs collapse is enough to make you feel sorry for their fans. For those of you not counting, the Bucs were 9-3 as of December 7th, only to finish with a final record of 9-7, twenty one days later.
Following that 9th win, they only had to win one game and they were in the playoffs. With 10 minutes to play, the Bucs were on their way to that win with a 10 point lead and Cadillac Williams was revving up and down the field in fine form.
However, Cadillac got hurt and Bush took it 67 yards to the house, giving the Raiders the lead for good.
Then, the Texans.
"Our whole thing was to ruin their season," Mario Williams said. Beautiful. Enough said.
But, I’ll continue.
Anyone watching the game could see the Bears didn’t want it. Not to take away from the Texans who truly came to play. The Bears looked every bit the flawed team they are watching their own 10 point lead disappear Sunday afternoon. The suddenly feisty Texans was looking for their second straight season finish at 8-8.
Everyone at the Linc knew. The games were on the big screens and the fans crowded out onto the concourses to watch. Around the world, Philly fans stared at sports' tickers and bottom lines in disbelief. My other brother, Jon, out on the town on a trip to Dubai, got a call from me letting him know the impossible had happened.
Raiders 31 Buccaneers 24.
Texans 31 Bears 24.
He immediately went back to his friend's place and found the Eagles game on a satellite broadcast and watched until its conclusion at 4:00 AM.
It’s a tough thing to handle watching your team play “a win and in" game. It’s nerve-racking and devastating to your stomach lining.
It’s another thing entirely when the opponent standing in front of the door to the playoffs is your most hated rival team and rival player in the league, the Dallas Cowboys and the infamous Terrell Owens.
All the potential in the world to destroy a Sunday that had been magical thus far, but the Eagles wouldn't have it.
The Birds turned in their finest performance of the season in whipping their arch enemy by 38 points.
In the process, they dismantled their fiercest rival in a way that makes change seem highly probable in Big D despite Jerry Jones' comments adamantly supporting Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett.
Jim Johnson's blitz packages were beautifully balanced with a tight and well-executed man coverage scheme that drove Garrett's ninth-ranked offense into the ground.
Romo certainly wasn't happy with the play-calling.
"They exposed us, " Romo said. "We need to look at everything in the offseason and do a few things to counter some of the things other teams are doing."
What a day.
When McNabb drew in the defender to free up Buckhalter and spring him for a huge 59 yard run, I was excited.
When McNabb tossed that beauty to DeSean Jackson on third and 9 and then hit Brent Celek on a nice route to the back of the end zone to go up 24-3 before halftime, I was giggling softly.
When Pacman Jones fumbled before halftime, I was jumping up and down.
When Chris Clemons stiff-armed the snot out of the last Cowboy defender between him and end zone, I was downright hysterical.
(in my Monday morning DVR review) Watching Joselio Hansen streak down the sideline again and again, tears came to my eyes.
And just like that, we have a playoff game next week.
A season that saw McNabb benched and an era almost certainly over.
Redemption came and rewrote this season on the back of a remarkable December turnaround. Every Eagle’s fan is and should be realizing that the Birds are hot. Remember, the defending champs won three playoff games on the road last year before winning the Super Bowl.
Does any team really scare you this year? (Ok, I don't want to play the Panthers either)
This playoff race is wide-open.
Hey Eagles fans…
If the Eagles' mastery over the Cowboys’ defensive schemes is any indication of what’s to come, you might want to look into your refinancing options.
MONDAY MORNING DVR REVIEW:
1) Fox showed Brian Dawkins coming onto the field well before the game starts. Spliced together with some dramatic music, Dawkins unleashes blood-curdling screams, showcasing his hallmark intensity that drove one of the best performances in his career. By the way, Dawkins wasn't feeding off a packed stadium as this was before the actual pre-game introductions. He was that hyped up stepping onto the field in a mostly empty stadium with fans trickling in. Brian Dawkins embodies what Philadelphia fans love in their players.
2) Jeffrey Lurie accidentally smacked his wife in the face in a high-five gone awry following one of the Eagles defensive TDs in the 2nd half.
3) The Cowboys are not a team. They got flustered and visibily frustrated with each other as things unraveled Sunday evening. Right before the Buckhalter 4 yard TD reception, you could see the Cowboys yelling at their sideline after an apparent personnel miscue.
4) Troy Aikman hates Pacman Jones.
5) It might've been the way Fox framed it, but what was going on between Tank Johnson and TO?
6) It's been a long time since we've seen McNabb that excited and carefree.
7) Has Wade Phillips ever looked more inept and pathetic when Romo overruled him, telling him to get the punt unit off the field and decided for the head coach that the team would go for it on fourth down? Poor Wade just stood there looking old and confused.