Now that they're in, Eagles turn focus to Vikings
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — On a day that was supposed to start a critical offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles instead began preparation for a playoff game.
Hardly anyone could've imagined the Eagles (9-6-1) would be in this position.
They needed so much to go their way in Week 17 — but once everything fell in Philly's favor, the Eagles did the rest by destroying the Dallas Cowboys 44-6 to secure an NFC wild-card spot.
The wacky ending to an unpredictable regular season was fitting. With the Eagles, it was difficult to gauge what to expect from one week to the next.
So which team will show up to play the Minnesota Vikings (10-6) next Sunday?
Will it be the Eagles who played lowly Cincinnati to a tie, were routed by Baltimore the following game and failed miserably against Washington in a game that could've given them control of their playoff destiny last week?
Or will it be the same Eagles who beat the New York Giants on the road, had three other convincing wins over playoff-bound teams and dismantled the Cowboys in essentially a do-or-die game for both teams?
"Those things happen in this league," coach Andy Reid said Monday when asked why the Eagles can be dominant one game and feeble the next.
The Eagles are here, though, because they were dominant more often than not. They won seven games by 13 or more points and the other two victories (15-6 over Pittsburgh in Week 3 and 20-14 over the Giants on Dec. 7) weren't as close as the score indicated. Overall, Philadelphia's margin of victory was 20.2 points per win.
If the Eagles had better success in the close ones, they probably would be home resting this week with a bye. Five of their six losses were by a touchdown or less, meaning one or two plays could've changed the outcome. Even that ugly 36-7 loss to the Ravens was close for a half. It was 10-7 at halftime when Reid decided to bench Donovan McNabb for the first time in his career.
McNabb rebounded from shaky performances that led to his benching and played well down the stretch, helping the Eagles win four of their last five games to barely sneak into the playoffs.
"For people to just put us out for dead, roadkill, for that door to just open up just one more time for us, you never want to give a team another opportunity, because when that team gets in, it could be that team that you talk about that you don't want to play," McNabb said. "The way that we're feeling in this locker room, we can be that team."
Despite having to play in a dome at Minnesota, the Eagles are 3-point favorites against the Vikings. They'll have to win three road games just to reach the Super Bowl. That seems daunting, but the Giants did it last year and the Pittsburgh Steelers did it in 2005.
The Eagles couldn't win it all when they had an easier path — they lost two straight NFC championship games at home in 2002 and '03 and lost the Super Bowl to New England after finally winning the conference title game in '04.
Now they'll take the tougher road and try to win their first NFL championship since 1960.
"What pressure does, it reveals who you really are," Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins said. "It reveals you. They say pressure busts pipes. It can, but it really reveals who you are. So, in those pressure situations, we came together. We talked among one another and we believed in one another. We didn't allow those troubled situations or those troubled times to get us down and keep us down. We rallied together."