In one of the craziest NFL games you’ll ever see, the Philadelphia Eagles defied both the weather and a seemingly insurmountable second-half deficit to top the Detroit Lions 34-20 and stay right in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt.
Down 14-0 midway through the third quarter, the Eagles looked to be left for dead in the snow. And then All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy put the team on his back en route to a 14-point win that temporarily puts Chip Kelly’s Birds at first place in the NFC East.
To say the Eagles’ turnaround was unexpected is an understatement. The offense couldn’t get in rhythm, Nick Foles’ passes wobbled in midair, and Lions’ kick returner Jeremy Ross torched the Eagles’ special teams. But a little late-game magic vaulted Philly’s offense to 227 rushing yards in the fourth quarter, and a shocking completion to Brent Celek on fourth down sealed the most impressive victory of the Kelly era.
This was a game that won’t soon be forgotten, and it has a direct impact on the playoff picture. The Eagles remain in prime position to take on Dallas for the NFC East title in Week 17, while Detroit now enters almost a three-way battle with the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers for the North crown. Here are five takeaways from the Eagles’ Snow Bowl win over the Lions.
Game Ball Goes to LeSean McCoy
If there was ever a time the Philadelphia Eagles needed LeSean McCoy, it was today. McCoy carried the ball 29 times for a career-best and single-game franchise record 217 yards, and it was his two touchdowns in the fourth quarter that cemented an Eagles’ victory.
The Eagles are now 8-0 all-time when McCoy carries the rock at least 25 times, and McCoy etched his name into the record books with his performance.
That's LeSean McCoy's SEVENTH career fourth-quarter touchdown run of 40 yards or more. Nobody else in NFL history has ever had more than 4.
— Reuben Frank (@RoobCSN) December 8, 2013
Oh, and this performance today came against the team that entered the day with the NFL’s second-stingiest rushing defense. As a unit, Philly rushed the ball 46 times for 299 yards and three touchdowns, which is the seventh-best rushing performance in franchise history.
It’s worth mentioning as well that the Eagles’ front five—Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans and Lane Johnson—turned in another phenomenal performance against a ferocious defensive line. There hasn’t been a better run-blocking unit in the NFL this season, and much of that credit goes to Chip Kelly.
There’s No Way the Andy Reid Eagles Would Have Won This Game
Not to blast a former coach, but I don’t think the Philadelphia Eagles would have won this game with Andy Reid as their head coach.
It seemed eerily similar to the dreadful Tuesday night loss to Minnesota in 2010. Reid was never a great in-game adjuster, and he would have stuck to the pass even when it clearly wasn’t Nick Foles’ day.
Chip Kelly recognized the talent he has in LeSean McCoy though, and he fed the ball to McCoy over and over. The Eagles outrushed the Detroit Lions by 227 yards in the fourth quarter alone, scoring on 40- and 57-yard runs by McCoy, and then a 38-yard run by Polk iced the victory.
If you had polled 100 Eagles fans when it was 14-0 Detroit, 99 would have said the Lions win this game. But Kelly proved us all wrong, and this was a statement win for an Eagles team that really couldn’t afford a loss.
The Eagles’ Defense Continues to Play Well
Circumstances were certainly unique in this contest, especially early on, but that doesn’t negate what the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense did. They held the Detroit Lions to just 228 total yards (meaning the Eagles outgained them by an even 250).
When Philly broke free on offense in the fourth quarter, the defense held firm against the Lions. Matthew Stafford threw for just 148 yards on 10 completions, the lowest completion total of his NFL career.
Calvin Johnson was limited to just 49 yards on three receptions (credit Cary Williams for that), and while LeSean McCoy broke loose, Joique Bell was held to 69 yards on 23 carries. And the Lions’ 228 yards is the team’s lowest single-game output since Week 1 of 2010. And there's the seven fumbles from Detroit, three of which were recovered by Philadelphia.
That marks nine consecutive games Billy Davis’ defense has held the opposition to 21 or fewer points (and 12 of those 20 points allowed today were from special teams). The Eagles were able to figure out the snow and use it to their advantage, but the Lions weren’t, and Davis deserves high praise for his unit’s performance.
Something Scary Happened to the Special Teams’ Coverage Units
The Philadelphia Eagles certainly can’t expect to survive another game in which they allow not just one, but two special teams touchdowns. Electrifying kick return man Jeremy Ross took a punt 58 yards for a score, a kick 98 yards for a score and another kick to near-midfield in the fourth quarter.
Philly entered the day ninth in average yards allowed per kick return and eighth in average yards allowed per punt return, so it’s not as if this has been an ongoing trend all season. But two long return touchdowns, and nearly a third, is unacceptable for a team looking to make a playoff run.
Nick Foles Just Wins Football Games
Say what want about Nick Foles’ performance today. He looked dismal early on, and at one point was 4-of-12 passing for 35 yards and an interception. But he seems to be oblivious to his own early-game failures, and he never lets a previous mistake hang over his head.
Foles made some big throws to win the game. He ended with 179 passing yards on just 22 throws, averaging an impressive 8.1 yards per attempt.
He hit Riley Cooper on a 44-yarder deep down the middle. He found DeSean Jackson in the end zone on a 19-yard touchdown pass, Foles’ only touchdown pass of the game. He lofted a beautiful fourth-down pass to Brent Celek to run out the clock, one that would have been a touchdown had Celek not slid down. And Foles ran for a touchdown himself.
So that’s two touchdowns from Foles in a shaky outing (and obviously that last one to Celek would have been a third had it mattered). Foles is now 7-1 in games this season in which he’s seen significant action. That’s remarkable, and the fact that the Eagles were able to adjust so well today to adverse weather conditions bodes well should the team host a home January playoff game.