Last year, it took a miracle for the Eagles to make the playoffs -- a three-cushion bank shot on the last day of the season, an event no one could have predicted.
This year, despite the occasional hiccup, has been so much smoother. This year, the Eagles are in the playoffs with two games remaining following a 27-13 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Now, only two questions remain: 1) will the 10-4 Eagles be able to win the NFC East and get a home game in the playoffs and, 2) will a spate of snowball throwing from the stands in the fourth quarter become a note among the national commentariat or a cause celebre?
Questions, questions. The Eagles were not exactly methodical against the 49ers. Donovan McNabb threw two interceptions and was off on several other throws, ending a month of excellence. But he still threw for 306 yards and hit one huge play, a 59-yard pass to the uncoverable DeSean Jackson on a third-and-2 play, flipping the field and ultimately ending up with a touchdown by LeSean McCoy that snuffed out San Francisco's last realistic chance at pulling the upset.
On the day after 23.2 inches of snow fell in Philadelphia, the field was pretty pristine at Lincoln Financial Field and the stands were, well, more pristine on the north side of the stadium than they were on the south side. The south side, behind the Eagles' bench, is where most of the snowballs came from. Most were delivered without malicious intent, except for one brief stretch when some people dressed in 49ers garb were the targets, and another time when the officials were the target after a flag went against the Eagles. Seeing as how the officials were standing among Eagles people on their bench at the time, this wasn't exactly the smartest act the citizenry ever perpetrated.
But back to the game. In some ways, it should have been easier. At the same time, it really was pretty comfortable throughout. The Eagles spent the third quarter wandering around a bit, and the 49ers cut their deficit to a touchdown, but then they hit the big play to Jackson and that was that. Jackson is now the first Eagles receiver to have back-to-back games with at least 140 receiving yards since Mike Quick did it in 1985.
Those big plays are the big difference between last year's offense and this year's offense -- really, between last year's team and this year's team. That, and the relative ease with which they have reached the post-season.