Eagles complete remarkable turnaround, look ahead

By the time they reached the locker room after winning the NFC

East title and completing a worst-to-first journey under rookie

coach Chip Kelly, the Philadelphia Eagles already were thinking

ahead to their playoff opponent.

They’ll have plenty of time to reflect on their accomplishments

later.

”The way they shifted their focus to the next game just minutes

after we won was most impressive to me,” general manager Howie

Roseman said Monday night on his radio show.

The Eagles went from 4-12 to 10-6, a remarkable turnaround after

a miserable ending with Andy Reid last year. The makeover started

with the hiring of Kelly, the hotshot college coach who needed

convincing to leave Oregon.

While most people outside the organization expected this to be a

rebuilding season in Philadelphia, players and coaches bought into

Kelly’s way right from the start and accelerated the process.

”It was evident to me on April 1 when I got here with these

guys and got a chance to be with them for the first day that they

were kind of the mind-set: `Whatever it takes, what do you want us

to do and where do we got to be and how are we going to do it,’ and

that’s a credit to them,” Kelly said.

”That’s why we are where we are, because they are the ones that

play. They are the ones that go out there every single day. They

are the ones that train. They are the ones that have done

everything as a staff that we have asked them to do and the results

are everything that they put into, and that’s the great thing about

this game is that you can’t fake football. You get out of it

exactly what you put into it and these guys put in an unbelievable

effort and it’s paying off for them on the field.”

The Eagles advanced by beating Dallas 24-22 and will host the

New Orleans Saints (11-5) on Saturday night in their first playoff

game since Michael Vick threw an interception in the end zone in

the final minute of a 21-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Jan.

9, 2011.

Win or lose, it’s been a successful season. But nobody is

thinking that way around here.

”That’s not how we are built or wired,” Kelly said. ”It’s

what’s the next challenge and what’s the next opportunity, and the

great thing about where we are right now is if you win, you get to

play again. So I think if you get caught up looking back at what

happened or where you were, I think that’s just not how we’re

wired.”

The Eagles are 2 1/2-point favorites over New Orleans. A wins

sends them to Carolina (12-4) on Jan. 12. But they have to beat

Drew Brees and the Saints first. Everyone from Kelly and Roseman to

owner Jeffrey Lurie have already called on fans to be loud and make

it an uncomfortable environment for the Saints, who were 3-5 on the

road.

”I think this is big for the city and for this franchise,” NFL

rushing champion LeSean McCoy said. ”It’s amazing that this is

Coach Kelly’s first year and we made the playoffs. We’re going in

the right direction, but everyone knows that each week is

important. We can’t get too hyped about this game. We’re in the

playoffs, but we should be in the playoffs. We should be the

division champs. Now we have to go out there and get it done

Saturday.”

It took some record-setting performances for the Eagles to get

this far this fast. McCoy had a franchise-best 1,607 yards rushing

and 2,146 yards from scrimmage. Nick Foles had the best

TD-interception ratio (13:5-1) in NFL history, the third-highest

passer rating (119.2) in league history and the club’s best

completion percentage (64.04). The offense set team records for

(442), total net yards (6,676), touchdowns (53), and gross yards

passing (4,406).

And, they’re not done yet.

”Chip and the coaching staff have done a great job,” Foles

said. ”The players have done a great job of buying in and when

adversity happens, guys really stay together. We lean on each

other.”

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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