The Eagles Are All Grown Up

Yesterday's historic comeback against the Giants proves the team has fully formed

“You have to do your own growing up, no matter how tall your grandfather was.” — Abraham Lincoln

The historical markers at the Meadowlands are there for all to see. There’s the Miracle. The blocked FG. The Heavy Bag. The Return. The 2010 Philadelphia Eagles’ ancestors proved themselves often in Jersey swamps, but that didn’t mean anything to this year’s crew, which had to do its own growing up, just like Honest Abe said.

By halftime Sunday, the Eagles looked like a group of pimply-faced teenagers who had challenged their fathers’ friends to a game and were getting some lessons on sports and life. They made mistakes, struggled with composure and looked smaller next to their opponents. Despite nine wins in 13 previous games, the Eagles appeared to be talented youngsters unable to claim their spot in the legacy created by the men in green who preceded them.

And just when it appeared the baby Birds would be at the kids’ table for the remainder of the season, the aging process kicked in with a vengeance. They sprouted whiskers, had their voices deepen a couple octaves and filled their frames out with solid muscle. The same kids who looked scared to ask any girls to the movies were all of a sudden auditioning supermodels for arm candy.

The Eagles’ historic comeback against the Giants answered the last questions we had about them. They have beaten perennial powers, trounced the team that sits atop the NFC heap, survived the short week and now won a classic prizefight against a divisional rival – on the road. All that’s left is the post-season, and after watching the Birds Sunday, it’s hard to believe anybody in the conference has the chops to overcome the Eagles’ character. They may lose, but they can certainly stand among the best of the best.

That’s what Sunday’s comeback proved. The Eagles had responded to every test facing them up until visiting the Giants, but those were like pop quizzes compared to the examination they passed in the Meadowlands. Faced with a dizzying array of problems induced by the Giants’ aggressive defense, some absolutely abysmal defensive backfield play and a jumbo head-scratcher from coach Andy Reid, who abandoned his usual challenge-happy habits at the worst possible time, the Eagles calmly regrouped and charged forward.

Afterward, Reid spoke of his players’ unwillingness to quit and continued belief in themselves, which are qualities found in adults and differ greatly from the youthful brio that we have heard at times from this team. Even DeSean Jackson, whose electrifying punt return clinched the victory and earned a permanent place in Eagles’ lore, showed some maturity – I think – by running out the clock before entering the end zone. Okay, so maybe he scared the hell out of us while doing it, but next to last week’s end-zone splashdown against the Cowboys, this was positively grizzled behavior.

Sunday’s win was so overwhelming and featured so much personality-defining character that it’s almost impossible to imagine a letdown in the final two weeks against the Vikings and Cowboys. Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, and Reid will no doubt spend the next week reminding his players that everything they accomplished to this point will be worth nothing with losses to either one. That’s his job. But you get the sense that this group understands that. More importantly, it has the talent and mindset to take care of business. That means fans are free to root for the Bears to stagger once during their final three games and pave the way for a first-round bye. Had you told any rational-thinking Eagles fan (and after Sunday’s win, they all may be utterly delirious) before the season that a 12-4 record was possible, you might just have found yourself with a corner suite in the Ochocrazy Laughing Academy.

Now, there are some storm clouds on the horizon, most notably in the form of continued injuries. Free safety Nate Allen’s patellar tendon imploded Sunday when he stumbled on the Meadowlands’ fake grass. Linebacker Stewart Bradley dislocated his elbow last week. Asante Samuel’s knee is still cranky. So is Winston Justice’s. Add them to the fallen from earlier (Jamaal Jackson, Leonard Weaver, Ellis Hobbs), and you have quite a lineup in the infirmary. But don’t fret. The Giants had nine rookies playing roles when they won Super Bowl XLII, so Eagles fans shouldn’t worry about the team’s youth. Those young guys are now full-grown men and ready for just about anything.

Sunday’s win proved that. The 2010 Eagles don’t have to worry about how tall their ancestors were, because they most certainly measure up.

  • Here’s hoping I hear from those folks who called me an idiot for saying Donovan McNabb would not be with the Redskins next year. After Mike Shanahan’s move last week, Number Five is definitely gone.
  • Hard to remember a better week in recent Philadelphia sports history than the one we just experienced. Cliff Lee, a remarkable comeback Eagles victory, three Flyers wins and a 3-1 Sixers record. Unbelievable.
  • Hats off to Villanova’s football team for its run to the I-AA semifinals. Things didn’t end the way any Wildcat wanted them to on the Elmo turf in Washington, but VU had a great year.
  • Merry Christmas to all.