Heading into the 2013-2014 season, the Philadelphia Eagles had little expectations. Chip Kelly was hired as the team’s new head coach after Andy Reid was fired after an abysmal 4-12 season, and Kelly was bringing his offense made famous in his six years at Oregon with him to the NFL. Many did not know if his new offense and new style would work. Some said that Kelly was the worst head coach hire of the off season, including that his offense would never work in the NFL. Those critics were proved wrong.
The Philadelphia Eagles did not exceed expectations, simply because there were none set for this team. No one knew what Kelly’s offense would look like and their predicted last place finish in the NFC East was based on what they did the previous season, but there was definitely talent on this Eagles roster.
One of the first questions about this Eagles team before any games were played was who the starting quarterback would be. There was no doubt that Kelly and most of the fan base wanted Michael Vick to start. He clearly was more mobile than Nick Foles and seemed like the best fit for the offense that Chip Kelly was trying to implement with the Eagles.
To open up the season, the Eagles were given the first Monday Night Football game of the year against the reigning NFC East champions, the Washington Redskins. Two different Eagles’ teams appeared in a 33-27 win over the Redskins. The first half team dominated in all aspects, outscoring the Redskins 26-7. The second half team got outscored 21-6 and seemed to struggle to control the clock on offense and all of sudden couldn’t get a stop on defense.
Chip Kelly made it clear before the season began that he did not care about time of possession, but in that first game against the Redskins in the second half when the Eagles were up three scores, Kelly’s offense tried to slow the pace down which in turn slowed the offense down as the Eagles could not pick up a first down, nor could they put together any type of drive.
Also in the second half of the Redskins game, the weakness of the defense was exposed. RGIII completely shredded the Eagles weak secondary and it became evident that the secondary would be a huge issue for the Eagles.
The Eagles dropped their next three games to the Chargers, Chiefs, and Broncos, all three teams who made the playoffs, and were 1-3 in second place of an atrocious NFC East. There were three different Eagles teams in all three losses.
Against the Chargers, Chip Kelly’s offense once again looked spectacular, but the defense looked the opposite as the Birds lost 33-30. The following Thursday, against Andy Reid’s Chiefs, the defense held their own ground and looked as if it was improving as a whole, but Kelly’s offense was ineffective and Michael Vick had three turnovers (2 INTs along with a fumble). After the loss to the Chiefs, it was Peyton Manning’s turn to dismantle the Eagles defense, as the Broncos put up 52 points and only gave up 20 points, 13 of which were scored by the Eagles first offensive unit and the seven came in garbage time when Nick Foles threw a touchdown to Jeff Maehl.
It seemed as if the Eagles would once again finish below .500 and there would be a third straight year without playoff football in Philly, but then Nick Foles happened. In week 5 against the New York Giants, Nick Foles took over for Michael Vick, who got injured early in the second half, and never looked back. Foles completed 16 of 25 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns, but most importantly, the Eagles got the win and were back in business.
For the Eagles next game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Foles got the start and picked up another win to put the Eagles at 3-3 which set up an important match-up for the Eagles against the Dallas Cowboys, where the winner would walk away with full control of the NFC East. Not only was the offense clicking in the two game winning streak, but the defense was playing excellent. After the loss to the Broncos, a nine game streak of giving up 21 points or less started, the first of those two games coming in the Giants and Buccaneers wins.
It was all set up perfectly for the Eagles. They were going to end their shameful home losing streak against Dallas, then would pick up another home win against the Giants the following week bringing their record to 5-3, and Chip Kelly’s Eagles would be flying. Well, the winner-takes-first place did not exactly go well for Nick Foles and the Eagles. The defense played great, only giving up 17 points to Tony Romo and company, but Nick Foles had one of the worst quarterbacking performances of all time. A performance that ended early, as Foles was knocked out of the game early in the fourth with a concussion. But even with Foles out, it did not get any better when Matt Barkley came in and threw three interceptions in the matter of eight minutes.
After the thought of there being a quarterback controversy in Philadelphia, Michael Vick had the opportunity to secure his job after Foles’ terrible performance. Not only did Vick do just as terrible as Foles had against Dallas, he did it against the New York Giants, a team that started off the season 0-6. Vick left the game early with an injury, no surprise there, and Barkley finished the game with an average performance, adding another interception to this total.
The biggest concern with the loss to the Giants was that the Giants defeated the Eagles without scoring a touchdown. Five field goals got the job done, and Chip Kelly’s critics were looking like geniuses. LeSean “Shady” McCoy only had three games with over 100 rushing yards, and there were games, the Giants loss being one of them, where he could not get anything going.
Eight games into the year and the Philadelphia Eagles were 3-5, inconsistent on both sides of the ball. Throughout the first four games, the defense was the issue, then in the last two games against Dallas and New York, the offense was anemic.
With Michael Vick out for week 9 against the Oakland Raiders, Nick Foles was the starting quarterback again after clearing concussion protocol. What Nick Foles did to the Oakland Raiders can only be described in one word: Folestastic. Foles finished the 49-20 win with a perfect passer rating of 158.3, a QBR of 99.1, 406 passing yards, a completion percentage of 79%, and tied a NFL single game record of seven touchdown passes. After the Oakland game it was clear, the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles would be Nick Foles.
The Eagles would take their next four games after defeating Oakland and would also end their home losing streak. First came a win against an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, then came the first home win in over a calendar year against the Washington Redskins. Heading into their bye the Eagles were 6-5, clicking on all cylinders.
People were questioning the Eagles based on their strength of schedule and called them lucky for not having to face Aaron Rodgers. Well, their next two wins came against potential playoff teams in the Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions. The Eagles escaped the Cardinals and the late run made by Carson Palmer, and then beat the Detroit Lions in a game that will be known as the “Snow Bowl” or the “Shady McCoy Fest”. If anyone doubted Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, or the Philadelphia Eagles as a team, they were silenced after the Birds came back and defeated the Lions in a foot of snow.
Against the Lions, Shady McCoy set an Eagles single game rushing record with 217 yards on 29 carries along with two phenomenal touchdown runs. The Eagles winning streak was halted with a surprising loss to the Minnesota Vikings who did not have Adrian Peterson or Toby Gerhart.
Minnesota set a trap for the Philadelphia Eagles, and they fell right in, but that loss did not stop them from finishing the season strong, capturing the NFC East crown. In a Sunday Night game that many people deemed “meaningless” for the Eagles, since they could not win the NFC East and would have to beat the Dallas Cowboys at Jerry’s World in the season’s finale in order to finish a top the NFC East, the Eagles came out and straight up demolished the Chicago Bears 54-11, setting up for the perfect showdown week 17.
The news came out earlier in the week that Tony Romo would be unable to play against the Eagles due to a herniated disk, but lets be honest here, the result would’ve been the same. With or without Romo, the Philadelphia Eagles were not losing the division to the Dallas Cowboys, who wrapped up yet another 8-8 season. Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles were headed to the playoffs, bringing playoff back to Philadelphia for the first time in three years.
Although the Wild Card playoff game against the Saints was not in the Eagles favor, the 2013/2014 season was still a great one. Sure, the Eagles let an opportunity slip through their hands, but they still have something to work with, and will be back in the playoffs next year.
One thing the Eagles have to work with is a franchise quarterback. Nick Foles is the guy and this is his team now. He statistical had one of the best seasons ever, and he didn’t even start every game, which is incredible. Foles finished with the third best passer rating of all time (119.2) and only had two interceptions in the process.
LeSean McCoy proved this year why he is in fact the best running back in the NFL. Shady took home the NFL’s rushing title before the Eagles final game against Dallas. What does that mean? That means Shady McCoy was better in 15 games than the rest of the league was in 16, simply remarkable. McCoy finished with 1,607 rushing yards on the year, along with nine rushing touchdowns. He also had the most yards from scrimmage, as McCoy 539 yards receiving and tacked on two more touchdowns from the air. McCoy broke the Eagles all time rushing record for a single season as well.
Riley Cooper battled early season controversy and had a career year. Cooper finished the year with 835 receiving yards with eight touchdowns on 47 receptions.
DeSean Jackson had a career year receiving as well, finishing with 1,332 receiving yards with nine touchdowns on 82 receptions. Jackson is one of the most explosive weapons in the NFL and once he’s cut loose, he’s gone, no corner can catch him.
Brent Celek and rookie Zach Ertz developed into a respectable tight end duo. Celek’s veteran presence was key for the Eagles offensive success this year, and Ertz became a key target for Foles down the stretch of final games.
One of the unsung heroes for this Eagles team was the offensive line. This is arguably one of the best units in all of football, and they were the reason why the Eagles offensive weapons had the success that they had. There is no rushing record for Shady McCoy without the offensive line, and Nick Foles does not have as great a season without excellent protection, although he still would have done well enough to get the starting quarterback gig.
There is no Eagles season review without talking about Brandon Boykin. This dude is a flat out play-maker. He finished tied for second in the NFL with six interceptions, and always came up big when it mattered the most. Boykin clinched the Eagles playoff berth when he intercepted Kyle Orton right after the two minute warning to defeat the Dallas Cowboys.The Eagles need to find more Brandon Boykins.
Mychal Kendricks developed into a football player and a solid linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles after his disappointing rookie season. He finished second on the Eagles with 106 total tackles along with three interceptions. DeMeco Ryans asserted his dominance at middle linebacker, leading the Eagles with 127 total tackles, which ranked 12th in the NFL.
Trent Cole and Connor Barwin although not spectacular, were key assets to the Eagles edge pass rush. Without them, the Eagles pass rush would have been non-existent.
The Eagles defensive line held its own defending the rush, as the Eagles finished 10th against the rush, allowing 104.4 yards per game.
There was no doubt that the weakest part of the Eagles was the secondary. But, Nate Allen developed into a serviceable NFL safety, which he was not when the season began. Earl Wolff was having an impressive rookie season before he was hurt, and the corners held their ground when they had to.
Finally, shout out to Donnie “Long Ball” Jones, who was snubbed from the Pro Bowl and was one of, if not the best punter in the game.
The hat goes off to Chip Kelly and his coaching staff for transforming 4-12 into 10-6. With the Eagles success, no one is questioning Kelly’s offense and it is now no longer referred to as a “college offense” but rather an “NFL offense”. Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis brought a fresh philosophy and made the Eagles defense respectable again. Although ranked last against the pass and ranked 29th in total defense, the Eagles ranked 17th in points given up per game with 23.9 which is ultimately the stat that matters the most.
Of course, the Eagles still have some holes to fill before they bring a Lombardi Trophy to Philly. They need to part ways with kicker Alex Henery, who could never make the big kick when it mattered and was one of the few kickers who couldn’t get the ball into the back of the endzone on kickoffs. Patrick Chung needs to go and the Eagles need to get more depth in the secondary, particularly at safety. A presence on the pass rush and on the interior defensive line needs to be found as well.
With a few off-season moves, two of them being to resign Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper, along with a solid draft on the defensive end, and there is no doubt that the Philadelphia Eagles will be flying into the playoffs next season.
Image Source: Bleacher Report