There was a celebration at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night, even though what Eagles fans wanted to celebrate most must wait one more week. Chants of "We want Dallas!" circulated the stadium throughout the fourth quarter of the Eagles' 54-11 win over the Chicago Bears in front of a national prime-time audience.
It was audible evidence of the excitement ahead of next Sunday's de facto NFC East championship game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. By beating Washington on Sunday afternoon, the Cowboys ensured that the NFC East crown would be determined on Dec. 29.
Coach Chip Kelly was unconcerned about a letdown against the Bears after the Cowboys win, and did not consider resting his starters.
"It's very simple: We're from Philadelphia, and we fight," Kelly said. "If there's a game on, we're playing. End of story."
Sunday's win put the Eagles in a better position for the No. 3 playoff seed and pushed their record to 9-6, sealing a winning season in Kelly's first year in Philadelphia.
"The playoffs start a week early for both teams," Kelly said of the Eagles-Cowboys game.
The Eagles bounced back from a stunning loss to the Minnesota Vikings last week with their best performance of the season. They dominated a potential playoff team on both sides of the ball, with Kelly's offense even more electric than it has been all season and the defense unleashing a redemptive effort after allowing 48 points to the Vikings.
Quarterback Nick Foles finished 21 of 25 for 230 yards and two touchdowns. LeSean McCoy rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns, while Bryce Brown joined him in the 100-yard category with a 115-yard effort. Brent Celek led all receivers with three catches for 58 yards and a score.
"I wish it was that easy, to just go out there and put a 50-burger on a team," McCoy said. "You're going to hit adversity. [The question is]: How do you respond?"
Their response to the Vikings loss started in Sunday's first quarter, when the Eagles scored 21 points. Foles hit Riley Cooper for a 5-yard touchdown on the offense's first drive.
Bradley Fletcher stripped Devin Hester on the ensuing kickoff - yes, the Eagles actually kicked the ball deep - and McCoy ran for a 1-yard score five plays later. Another three-and-out turned into another Eagles score when Foles drove the Eagles 72 yards in 10 plays. He completed 4 of 5 passes on the drive, and found Celek for a 10-yard touchdown on third and goal.
The Eagles offense could generate only three points in the second quarter, but that was also all the Eagles allowed. The defense pressured Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and kept Bears receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery from beating them deep. All they allowed was a field goal at the end of the half, and they prevented a potential Bears scoring opportunity earlier in the quarter by sacking Cutler on first and second down after the Bears sneaked into the red zone.
"They recommitted themselves to step up and take on the challenge of probably the most talented offense we've faced," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "I thought our corners did a great job of handling one-on-one. Our D-line got some pressure. The guys really came and played with an attitude."
The Eagles took a 26-3 lead in the third quarter when Cedric Thornton tackled Matt Forte in Chicago's end zone for a safety after a Donnie Jones punt was downed at the 2-yard line. McCoy's second touchdown of the game came six plays later to give the Eagles a 33-3 lead, and McCoy could be seen standing on the bench after the touchdown waving his arms to the crowd.
The Bears cut into the lead with their first touchdown of the game when Cutler found Marshall for a 6-yard score, but a 22-point deficit was as close as the Bears could make it.
The fourth quarter added an emphatic finishing touch for the fans who stayed. Chris Polk rushed for a 10-yard touchdown to complete a 70-yard drive of all running plays.
Brandon Boykin intercepted Cutler on the next drive and returned the ball 61 yards for another touchdown. With the Eagles holding a 36-point lead, the reserves entered the game. Brown rushed for a 65-yard score, giving the Eagles their most points of the season, padding statistics, and putting the Cowboys on alert.
"Dallas will probably look at the film and understand we played pretty well today," center Jason Kelce said. "I think that was a big reason why we didn't rest our guys, even though this game didn't matter a whole lot."
In a game that could not send the Eagles to the playoffs, they looked like a playoff team. They just need to play this way one more time to get there. So Kelly's message to the team in the locker room after the game was the same as after the other eight victories this season.
"One down," he said, "one to go."
LeSean McCoy moved into second place on the Eagles' single-season rushing list. Here are the top five rushing performances in a season.
Player Year Yards
Wilbert Montgomery 1979 1,513
LeSean McCoy 2013 1,476
Ricky Watters 1996 1,411
Wilbert Montgomery 1981 1,402
Brian Westbrook 2007 1,333 EndText
EAGLES 54 | BEARS 11