TAMPA, Fla. - The Eagles won a football game on Sunday. Not that long ago, a mere win over an average football team wouldn't have been an occasion for wonderment, but, well, it had been a long two months, and the Eagles also did everything imaginable not to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this time.
"We're stinking happy," Andy Reid said, using one of the favorite adjectives. He could have reversed the sentence, too. The Eagles weren't very good against the Bucs. At times, they were terrible. But in the end, they were happy stinking. They had won a football game.
Way back on Sept. 30, when the Eagles beat the New York Giants for their third win of the season, there were 11 different offensive and defensive starters on the field from the group that opened the game on Sunday. Juan Castillo was the defensive coordinator, and Jim Washburn was the line coach.
The Eagles were 3-1. They had just won an important game in which Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson connected for a touchdown, and running back LeSean McCoy gained over 100 yards. The defense bent but held on a final drive by New York. It was a good time to be an Eagle.
Just 70 days later, they got that fourth win of the season, needing a buzzer-beating touchdown from Nick Foles to Jeremy Maclin to close out a fourth-quarter comeback, 23-21. In another season, it would have been a great win. In this season, however, with nothing at stake aside from pride and draft position, it was just a reminder of all the games that have slipped away and all that has happened since Sept. 30.
The biggest change for the organization - bigger than the two assistants who were fired, bigger than the likely end for Reid's career in Philadelphia, bigger than all the other changes rolled together - is the swap of Michael Vick for Foles at quarterback.
In the four games he has started so far, and in the three remaining games, charting how Foles does is really all that matters for the Eagles. His play and his development will help the front office answer the most difficult question of all: Do we have a quarterback?
It doesn't matter if the Eagles hire a new genius as head coach, or stick with Reid, or put headphones on a schnauzer if the team doesn't have a reliable quarterback. They won't win without one, and, if Foles isn't the guy, they need to formulate a Plan B quickly.
Sunday was a good day for the Nick-Will-Stick believers, although one has to overlook the five possessions that ended in punts to start the game or the sporadic nature of the offense much of the afternoon.
"Early in the game, we weren't running the ball and weren't passing and weren't protecting. It was awful, really," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. "There came a time when we lost Brent [Celek, to a concussion] and lost Stanley [Havili] for a time, and we just had to open it up, and most of it was going to be on Nick."
Foles led them on one first-half touchdown drive, finishing it off with a scramble for the score that, to be kind, took a while to unfold.
"I was rolling out, and no one was there, and I was trying to keep them back [with pump fakes] because I knew it would take me about 10 seconds to go 20 yards," Foles said.
But he got there, and that was the story of the whole day. It wasn't always perfect or pretty, but Foles got them there. When the team trailed 21-10 with just over seven minutes to play, he got them the two drives for touchdowns that won the game.
"There are so many emotions. I'm so excited for my team, and Coach Reid, and our organization," Foles said. "It's very special and very humbling. We were leading and lost it and came back. And there was never a doubt in our minds."
Which can only mean Foles and his teammates have done a good job of blocking out the previous eight games, since any rational human being would have had plenty of doubts.
They pulled it off this time, however, with help from the 32d-ranked pass defense in the league and a terrible decision by Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano to turtle his own offense in the drive between the two late Eagles touchdowns.
Nevertheless, Foles took a big step forward and a big step up in the organization's eyes. It wasn't so much about the 32 completions (in 51 attempts) or the 381 passing yards or even the two touchdown throws.
It was the way he got up from the six sacks, the way he shuffled around the pocket looking for room, and the way the team kept believing because Foles' play told them it was OK to believe. There's no place for those things on the stat sheet, but they count, too.
Once again, it was a good day to be an Eagle. Maybe the wait made it feel better. Maybe the kid even made the wait feel worthwhile.