Merit Play, or How the Eagles Deserve Every Accolade Being Thrown Their Way

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A scene from the Durso household during the Eagles’ blasting of the Vikings last Sunday.

THEY WEREN’T SUPPOSED to be this good this soon, our Eagles. For all of the promise he showed last year, Carson Wentz was still too green. The secondary still had too many question marks. And Doug Pederson was still Andy Reid lite.

Then, of course, the games began, and Wentz played like an MVP, the secondary somehow tightened up, and Pederson proved himself an unexpectedly accomplished play caller who could manage a game and connect with his players. Our Eagles were this good this soon, and it wasn’t a fluke.

Now, of course, the Birds are prepping for the Super Bowl — but that wasn’t supposed to happen, either, not after Wentz suffered a season-ending injury against the Rams in week 14.

The tear of his anterior cruciate ligament broke our hearts and poured cold water on our feverish playoff dreams. These Eagles were now Nick Foles’s team, and without Chip Kelly’s smoke and mirrors, he’d play like the journeyman he ended up being after leaving Philadelphia a few years ago.

Except somebody forgot to tell Pederson, Foles, and the rest of the team.

Foles was dreadful in finishing the Birds’ regular season, but he was able to take snaps in actual games against defensive starters. On top of that, Pederson had a critical few weeks to adjust his game planning to account for Wentz’s absence.

The results speak for themselves. Foles was competent in the Eagles’ narrow divisional win over the defending NFC champion Falcons, and brilliant in their demolition of Minnesota in the conference championship game. The Birds ran the ball well, Pederson called great games, the special teams were mostly solid, and Jim Schwartz’s defense was simply suffocating.

And so the Eagles will play February 4 for the NFL title, and it’s not a fluke. They’ll be in Minnesota on merit.

Just the way we all called it, right? | DL

Takin’ It to the Streaks, or Why I Already Know What I’m Wearing Next Weekend

I told him that a player on a streak has to respect the streak. … You know why? Because they don’t — they don’t happen very often. … If you believe you’re playing well because you’re getting laid, or because you’re not getting laid, or because you wear women’s underwear, then you are! And you should know that!

Crash Davis, Bull Durham

WHICH MEANS that when the Eagles play next weekend in the NFC championship game, I will have to begin the day wearing my black WINNING IS FOR THE BIRDS short-sleeve t-shirt over my white long-sleeve t-shirt with the team’s name and retro logo on it. I will have to watch the first half. Then I will have to change clothes and go out to dinner and keep tabs on the remainder of the game using my phone.

You have to respect the streak, after all. As I’ve mentioned before. | DL

Reid Option, or Why We Should All Cut Big Red a Break

THE CHIEFS ARE UP by two touchdowns over the Titans as I write, and my Twitter feed is filled with snide comments from Eagles fans about how Andy Reid will manage to blow the lead.

I understand the wisecracking. For all of his success in Philadelphia, Big Red never even approached Dick Vermeil-level adulation. He never seemed to care. He didn’t court fans and he didn’t court the media, and as a result he never seemed like one of “us,” whatever that means. So when his Eagles teams fell victim to their coach’s predictable play calling and dreadful clock management, there was no cache of goodwill that allowed us to see past the flaws.

For all of that, though, Reid was, and is, a good guy. There’s never been Rex Ryan-style bluster, or, even worse, Bill Belichick-like douchery. He’s a football coach who chooses to focus on football coaching, and football coaching only.

That Andy Reid never stopped to kiss the asses of sports talk radio hosts or newspaper columnists surely damaged his image in the eyes of Eagles fans. But that shouldn’t obscure his achievements or his character. If anything, it should make us respect him more. | DL

Rants and Faves, or Why Modern Sports Introduces Cynicism to Fans Far Earlier Than It Should

ShadyTHE WORST PART of the Eagles’ purge of LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin (and, last year, DeSean Jackson) isn’t the torrent of drivel it has unleashed on sports talk radio and Twitter. It’s having to explain it to the girls.

“Why would the Eagles get rid of those players? I thought they were good!”

Well, they are, but their cap hits were too big–

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I’m Thankful That I Have Many Reasons to Give Thanks More Than Once a Year

THE FOLKS who research happiness say that regular reflections on gratitude improve one’s mindset. I wouldn’t mind an improved mindset, so I probably ought to think more often about what I’m thankful for. Many of my Facebook friends have spent each day this month posting about the things for which they’re grateful. But the best I can do right now is to offer this list today, Thanksgiving Day, about my gratitude, as I did last year.

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‘Silver Linings Playbook’: A Struggling Pair Face Their Own 4th-and-26

SILVER LININGS Playbook is about football in the same way that Bull Durham is about baseball. Each sport plays an important role — it’s almost a secondary character — but never obscures the larger themes of relationships between damaged people. You don’t even have to be a fan to enjoy each film for the achievement it is.

Bradley Cooper’s Pat is just out of a mental health facility, where he spent eight months being treated for bipolar disorder after he kicked the ass of the guy bonking his wife. He’s living in his parents’ house in the Philadelphia suburbs, trying to jump-start his life and win back his wife. Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany is a young widow trapped by her own demons. She, too, is back with her folks; her salvation is a dance competition for which she’s training. Their uneasy alliance stumbles haltingly into a wobbly friendship in which each tries to help the other.

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EXCLUSIVE: Eagles to Hire Texas High School Coach

Friday Night LightsDILLON, Tex. (AP) — The Philadelphia Eagles searched far and wide for their new head coach before finding their man deep in the heart of Texas.

Eric Taylor, head coach of the Dillon High School Panthers, will be named to replace Andy Reid, according to multiple sources.

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie declined comment, as did Taylor, reached at his home last night. Taylor abruptly hung up the phone when asked whether his extremely attractive wife, Tami, might happen to have a thing for early middle-aged bloggers.

While Taylor lacks the innovative football mind Lurie said he was seeking in his next coach, he is considered a superior motivator, an appealing trait for a team with numerous underperforming, high-priced free agents.

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