The Eagles beat the Lions 34-20 Sunday at the Linc in breathtaking fashion. The way the game unfolded added to the drama, but the most important factor that made this game one for the ages began long before kickoff.
Snow at a football game always adds an element of majesty to the event. When it is unexpected snow, as it was Sunday, it adds to the texture of the magic that much more. And when it is an important game, well, then it can become a game no one who was there will ever forget.
Walking in to the Linc, one could see neither the players on the field, nor even the huge, high-definition flat screen across the field, which is usually crystal clear.
The game began abysmally for Eagles fans as at the outset, the dome-dwelling Lions dealt better with the driving snowstorm and the half-foot-deep standing snow on the field.
The Eagles managed exactly zero yards in the first quarter. The Lions didn’t score in the first quarter, but were winning the field position battle so decidedly that it was only a matter of time.
In the second quarter, Nick Foles’ miraculous streak of 237 passes without an interception finally came to an end. The Lions capitalized and took an 8-0 lead into the half; neither team would kick a PAT this game due to the conditions.
The second half saw lighter snow falling, but it was still eight inches deep on the field. Men with shovels and gas-powered snow-blowers cleared the yard lines during every break, creating mini-drifts on either side of the narrow paths they cleared.
When Lions returner Jeremy Ross ran back a punt for a TD halfway through the third quarter, the situation looked dire because points seemed to be at a premium in such horrific conditions.
On the ensuing possession, the Eagles finally came to life. Aided by Cary Williams’ advice to Chip Kelly that the Lions defensive backs would be susceptible to post routes—drawing on his firsthand experience of having trouble doing so—Nick Foles finally got the Eagles offense in gear.
After a tremendous 44-yard catch-and-throw to Cooper, a third-down strike to Desean Jackson, and a 19-yard touchdown to Jackson, the Eagles cut the lead to 14-6.
Then the fourth quarter started. In such conditions, facing a deficit in game they had to win, this fourth quarter would test the mettle of this Eagles team and reveal to fans whether this team had the resilience to pass this latest test.
Lesean McCoy busted a 40-yard run for a TD. Riley Cooper caught the two-point conversion and suddenly, fans had reason to hope. Then, Jeremy Ross struck again, this time a 98-yard kickoff return to make the score 20-14 Lions.
If ever a team was going to fold, this was the time. The kickoff return could have been a backbreaker for a team that had anything but the strongest intestinal fortitude.
Again, Lesean McCoy broke ankles of defenders on a tremendous 57-yard TD run that resurrected the Eagles’ hopes and gave them a 22-20 lead.
The Eagles defense stiffened, got the ball back, and then the offense went on a drive that ended with a Nick Foles 1-yard TD on a QB keeper to extend the lead to 28-20 amid pandemonium in the Linc stands, the likes of which has rarely been seen since it opened in 2002.
The Lions were clearly buckling under the weight of the snow and the onslaught of the Eagles’ offense. They had one foot on the bus for the escape out of the nightmare South Philly had become for them when RB Chris Polk ran for a 38-yard TD to make the final score 34-20.
When the dust (or more accurately, the snow) finally settled, the numbers were staggering. The Eagles had scored four rushing TD’s in the fourth quarter against a Lions team that had not surrendered one rushing TD since Week 4!
In the previous four games combined, the Lions had given up just 240 yards on the ground. The Eagles had gained 237 in the fourth quarter alone.
Lesean McCoy set an Eagles record for rushing yards in a game with 217 yards. After fewer than 100 total yards in the first half, the Eagles amassed 478 total yards for the game—more than double the Lions’ output on the ground (299).
All this against the second-ranked rush defense in the NFL. In eight inches of snow. In a game that put the Eagles back in first place in their division.
Words like “magical” and “destiny” naturally flow from the communal experience the fans and the team experienced at the Linc on Sunday.
However, it is important for the fans who filed out of the Linc on Sunday, almost as spent and exhausted as the players, to remember it was one game and that things change quickly in the NFL.
The euphoria only lasts if the Eagles win again next week; their 6th in a row. That is the nature of the NFL and why it is so tough.
But the Eagles proved their toughness Sunday. Nick Foles has had much bigger statistical games. That being said, there is no question the game he played Sunday, was as impressive as any he has played for the Eagles.
He shook off an abysmal first half to lead this team to a victory under the most difficult of circumstances. To be sure, Lesean McCoy carried the day, but Nick Foles is the quarterback.
The defense held Megatron to just three catches for 49 yards; an accomplishment almost as impressive as holding a ninth straight opponent to fewer than 21 points, this time just eight. They also caused and recovered three fumbles.
It has to be said that the Lions were a perfect foil for the Eagles heroic effort Sunday. While talented, they are poorly coached, undisciplined, cocky and unlikable, all except number 81.
This was the most enjoyable game in what has already been the most enjoyable season in a long time. Remaining in first place and earning a playoff berth would make this whole season cause for euphoria as intense as it was Sunday. This coach and this team have already given fans something they will never forget. Now, let’s see what else they have for us. GO BIRDS!