We have arrived at the Eagles' bye week, and they have just said hello to first place in the NFC East. Maybe Nostradamus, in the midst of predicting all that war and famine, saw this coming in the 16th century, but the most believable football forecast around here three weeks ago was for an occluded front bringing in another season of gloom and doom, with the arrival of a new quarterback expected in the spring.
Chip Kelly and his players swear they had a different view of the Eagles' weather map after two straight NFC East home losses last month in which they did not score an offensive touchdown.
"I wasn't worried, but I knew that was going to be a big test for us," Kelly said late Sunday afternoon as his team celebrated a 24-16 win over the Washington Redskins. "We knew what we had to do. We had to stick together as a group. The only people that really had confidence in us was us, and rightly so because we weren't playing very well."
Forgive the football forecasters if they did not envision Nick Foles' return from a concussion as a sign that an Eagles resurrection was about to occur. But here they are in first place at their bye week with a meaningful final month in front of them.
It doesn't matter that it took them until the middle of November to finally win a home game because they have gone 5-1 on the road and have now shed the 500-pound gorilla. Kelly thought the end of a 10-game home losing streak was more satisfying and meaningful than being in first place in mid-November.
"To win this week was huge," he said. "I think our fans deserved it, the way they've kind of hung in there with us. It was awesome to get this win at home. I think that part was a little bit more special than the fact that it puts us up one over .500."
It doesn't matter that the quarterback carousel went round and round before Foles finally emerged as the team's offensive leader. For the rest of this season at least, the quarterback questions are behind us. Compliments about the quarterback replaced the questions on this afternoon.
"I've admired him," Kelly said after telling the story about the time an under-duress Foles used his left arm to complete a pass against Kelly's University of Oregon team. "Love the fact that I get to coach him and don't coach against him. He's a tough kid."
It doesn't matter that the defense looked so lost early in the season because it has found a way to play well even when hit hard by injuries and confronted by the kind of turbulence that came the Eagles' way in the fourth quarter Sunday against the Redskins.
One minute the defense was pitching a shutout and the next it was in survival mode against quarterback Robert Griffin III and the Washington offense. The Eagles needed just one play to end the game, and it came with 40 seconds left when Fletcher Cox got in the quarterback's face and forced an errant throw that came down in the arms of cornerback Brandon Boykin.
"To play as well as we played defensively for the entire game and then to watch them finish it off, that was really encouraging," Kelly said. "In this game, you know crap is going to hit the fan. It's just how you react to it. I think our guys did a great job from that standpoint."
Kelly was referring to Sunday's game, but those words also sum up the season's first 11 weeks. There was a pretty messy fan with a foul stench spinning at the NovaCare Complex three weeks ago, and the fans had some serious questions about their new coach and all those quarterbacks.
On Oct. 20 and 27, the Eagles suffered consecutive losses to the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants. They managed a combined 479 yards and 10 points in those two games. They've averaged 450.7 yards and 29.6 points in their other nine games this season.
Three quarterbacks played in those games, and the fact that rookie Matt Barkley received the most snaps wasn't comforting anybody, either, coach included. And then, of course, there was the 10-game home losing streak, a monster that haunted the Eagles every time the locker room opened for questions.
The quarterback who has saved the season insists he saw hope even then.
"Yes, because I get to see the guys in the locker room, I get to the see them on the practice field, I get to see the coaches, and you get to look in a man's eyes and see if he's defeated or not," Foles said. "Everyone believed that we could win in our locker room . . . and when you go to work every day with those guys, it's something special."
Something special is what this Eagles season has potentially become even if none of us saw it coming.
"It's all for naught if we don't continue to build from here," Kelly said. "They understand that, too. There's still a lot of football left to be played. We've got five games in December, and we put ourselves in a situation where those five games in December are meaningful."