In A Perfect World

All is good in Eagles-land.

It’s happening again, Dave Spadaro is getting everyone’s hopes up. He’s making Dion Lewis sound like the next Barry Sanders, Riley Cooper sound like Harold Carmichael and Demetress Bell sound like Jonathan Ogden. Eagles fans everywhere are pumped and can’t wait for the football to begin. In an “Eagles Live!” segment, Spadaro and crew cut to a package put together by the always entertaining E-Rock where he talks to Eagles fans about their expectations for the season. One fan says “Superbowl or bust baby!” and then lets out a rousing E-A-G-L-E-S chant that gets everyone within a few hundred feet all riled up. It’s August and it’s happening again, Eagles hysteria.

Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen hit the road on their annual training camp tour and their praise of the Eagles is effusive. Adam Schefter says “You need to watch out for the Eagles, they’re looking to avenge last year’s disappointment” and Mort talks about the positive energy surrounding the Eagles. Then ESPN cuts to Trey Wingo and the “NFL Live” panel of experts and Eric Allen, Marcellus Wiley and Ron Jaworski all say the Eagles are the team to beat in the NFC East.

And over at NFL Network, the story isn’t much different. Michael Irvin and Marshall Faulk both agree that the Eagles are dangerous and Jaime Dukes proclaims loudly that the Eagles are the winners of the offseason (*cringe*). The camera pans to a confused Rich Eisen who says “Hold on now, didn’t we hear this last year too? It seems like I hear this every year about the Eagles, what is different now?”. Michael Irvin begins screaming about how happy DeSean Jackson is. Marshall Faulk talks about how great LeSean McCoy is and how Michael Vick is getting his first full offseason as a starter since leaving prison. Jaime Dukes mumbles some insufferable crap that makes no sense and then Warren Sapp widens his eyes and says “I don’t know about all that but that defensive line is scaaaaary” and then chuckles.

The press is all over the defense at training camp, they consistently praise how fast and aggressive the unit has become. In a press conference with Andy Reid and Juan Castillo, Juan reiterates the importance of fundamentals and says that “it’s been fun because we’re able to install more stuff this year”. Jeff McClane asks the coaches if they’re concerned about the size of the defense to which Andy replies: “Listen, we’re getting our best players on the field. They might be small but I tell ya, they look good and they’ll hit ya. Cough.” Geoff Mosher in particular has taken a shining to Mychal Kendricks, continuously noting how athletic and fast he is. Jimmy Kempski notes the stark difference between watching Jamar Chaney at strong side linebacker this year and Kendricks this year. And everybody fawns over Demeco Ryans’ leadership skills.

Yep.

Eagles fans for the most part are weary but after witnessing the Eagles absolutely annihilate the Steelers in the first week of the pre-season there is a strong buzz surrounding the Eagles. All of a sudden, some of the bold fans are saying they expect nothing less than a superbowl victory. They cruise through the pre-season, losing only once to the Jets in the last week of the pre-season when Tebow works some of his Tebow magic on the second string defense. The hype train is moving full speed ahead. Then, the Eagles jump out of the gate in the regular season, absolutely trouncing the Cleveland Browns to the tune of 38-7. Suddenly, the media is all over the Eagles bandwagon and they are widely regarded as a serious contender.

Michael Vick shows improvement in the pocket, he goes through his progressions better and after extensive film study over the offseason, he and Jason Kelce show that they can adjust the protections based on what the defense is showing them. All while still maintaining that trademark Michael Vick flair. But most importantly, Michael Vick’s turnover rate drops back to normal levels after an anomaly last season.

DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin both return to form. DeSean is no longer playing not to get hurt, he isn’t hotdogging his routes and he isn’t ducking contact. Jeremy Maclin is back up to speed (and strength) after a cancer scare in the 2011 offseason that clearly hurt him this past season. And Jeremy Maclin is fully healthy too after dealing with an assortment of knicks and bruises in 2011. Michael Vick’s discovery of Brent Celek carries over too so they’ve got DeSean and Jeremy stretching defenses vertically while Brent Celek eats up the middle of the field and punishes potential tacklers.

And LeSean McCoy is LeSean McCoy and he further cements his status as the best back in the NFL not named Adrian Peterson.

The offensive line play doesn’t skip a beat. Sure, Demetress Bell isn’t Jason Peters but the rest of the line more than compensates for the decline at left tackle. Evan Mathis is still putting up rock solid performances. Jason Kelce continues to redeem Howard Mudd for the faith he placed in him, playing at a pro-bowl level just like many in the know have predicted. Danny Watkins develops with a full off-season and he continues to become the Logan Mankins type force that analysts projected him to become. And Todd Herremans is Todd Herremans, the swiss army lineman who just gets the job done and is tough as nails. The line continues to prove they’re athletic, smart and mean.

The defense lives up to the hype that was built up for them over the offseason. With the offense functioning at a high level and putting up points early and often, the defense can just pin their ears back and attack, attack, attack. The team has the highest sack rate in the NFL and Jason Babin and Trent Cole continue to wreck quarterbacks. Cullen Jenkins even knocks Matthew Stafford out of the game against the Lions with a vicious helmet to helmet hit as Stafford tries to slide up the middle. Cullen Jenkins gets suspended for a game but the hit is shown over and over again and the media begins to hail it as an aggressive play that epitomizes the Eagles’ mean (and borderline dirty) defense. And in the Falcons game where Jenkins is suspended, Fletcher Cox steps in seamlessly and records four tackles, two for a loss and a sack. After Jason Babin breaks the non-throwing hand of Matt Ryan, Dan Graziano writes “There is seemingly no stopping the Eagles defensive line, it is nothing short of a force of nature”.

And despite their shorter stature, Brian Rolle, DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks start wrecking people behind the Eagles defensive line. Brian Rolle continues to make plays at weakside linebacker and he continues to hit like a mac truck thanks to his low center of gravity and incredibly strong core. DeMeco Ryans looks every bit the tackling machine he was billed as in Houston. And Mychal Kendricks absolutely flies around the field with his athleticism, backing up every bit of bravado he brought to the table.

And with the front seven playing so well, the secondary is benefitting. With Asante Samuel out of the picture, the Eagles use Nnamdi and DRC in more press man coverage, something that suits them. Nate Allen shows the potential that the big wigs in the organization know he has and Kurt Coleman continues to play like a rabid dog on the field. Jaiquawn Jarrett can’t supplant Coleman but he does get more snaps than last season and he makes his presence felt on special teams.

Everything is going great for the Eagles and then… disaster. In week 10, DeMarcus Ware comes racing around the corner unblocked and crushes Michael Vick right in the back as he tries to spin away. Michael Vick writhes in pain on the field and eventually gets carted off. Troy Aikman immeadiately sympathizes with Vick saying “I know what that feels like and I’ll tell ya, it doesn’t feel good”. Mike Kafka comes in to finish the game but he just can’t execute the same game plan that was put together for Vick and the Cowboys rally for the win. Immeadiately, experts all over twitter claim to have known this hot streak couldn’t last for the Eagles and it was only a matter of time before Michael Vick got hurt. Some even wonder if Michael Vick is out for the season.

Thankfully, Michael Vick is diagnosed with a strained neck and a concussion after fears that he might have seriously injured his neck. With a three game lead in the division and a fair amount of confidence in Mike Kafka, the Eagles don’t feel the need to rush Michael Vick back and he misses the next two weeks.

In what can only be seen as an incredibly lucky break, Mike Kafka gets to face the Redskins and Panthers in his two weeks starting, two teams with secondaries that aren’t exactly the best in the NFL. With game plans that are crafted just for him and some stellar defensive performances against Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III, Mike Kafka and the Eagles nearly beat the Redskins and they soundly beat the Panthers.  Michael Vick is healthy again and just in time to come back and face the Cowboys in what the media is hyping up as a revenge game. The game lives up to it’s billing and Michael Vick unleashes his wrath on Rob Ryan’s defense.

The Eagles end the season at 12-4  (they sit their starters in week 17, losses to Atlanta, Dallas, Washington, New York) and they’re ranked atop almost every single reputable sports network’s power rankings. They only lost one game with Michael Vick starting and finishing the game. They’re the team to beat. Everything is going right and Eagles hysteria is all over the place, including a Sports Illustrated cover with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin on the cover that is titled “Flying High”.

The Eagles have a bye week and they await whatever poor team emerges from the Giants and Bears game. This team ends up being the Chicago Bears, a team that is becoming increasingly annoying to Eagles fans everywhere. On the surface of things, the Bears team is like every other Bears team over the past half decade, nothing flashy and seemingly beatable but they’re scrappy, disciplined and they have enough fire power on offense to win games. The Eagles haven’t had much luck against the Bears lately and some contrarian analysts pick this game as their upset special. Despite a massively better regular season, only 55% of people on ESPN’s Sports Nation predict the Eagles will win the game. On the Fox pre-game show, Michael Strahan uses his magic gap tooth voo-doo to convince Howie Long to pick the Bears to win, leading to only three panel members picking the Eagles to win. Eagles fans everywhere are furious. And then, the game starts… Brandon Boykin returns the opening kick off for a touchdown and the rout is on. With an inspired performance from just about everyone, the Eagles cruise to victory over the scrappy Bears.

But the next game isn’t so easy as the Eagles move on to play Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship. Experts across the nation are afraid to doubt the Eagles again and most predict a win for the Eagles but Eagles fans know better. The Packers are the #2 seed in the NFC and they’ve got one of the best records in the NFL over the past three years along with one of the best quarterbacks of this era. This isn’t an easy game for the Eagles to win.

Both teams slug it out all game. Despite good performances from the defenses, points are still going up on the board. With five minutes left, the Eagles are up by a field goal (24-21) and the Packers are getting the ball back. Aaron Rodgers slings the ball around. He completes multiple passes to Greg Jennings, JerMichael Finley, they pound the ball with James Starks and finally on a slant route, Randall Cobb nearly takes it the distance, nearly breaking Nate Allen’s ankle with a juke move that was inevitably shown on Sports Center’s top 10 plays. With the Packers knocking on the doorstep, the Eagles bring in the big boys but John Kuhn won’t be denied and he powers through for the touchdown.

With two minutes left, every single Eagles fan in existence is dreading yet another NFC Championship loss. The Eagles had the lead and they surrendered a touchdown in the closing minutes of the game. It would be another heart breaking loss for the Andy Reid era Eagles. And as the Eagles get the ball back, Joe Buck says in his monotonous voice “Down 28 to 24 with only one timeout, the Eagles are going to need to put together an impressive two minute drill and put a touchdown on the board”.

First Down: Clay Matthews sack
*Time Out*
Second Down: Michael Vick check down to Avant for 8 yards
Third Down: Vick pass over the middle to Celek for 10 yards

With little over a minute left the Eagles are still only at their own 43 yard line and the Eagles take a deep shot to DeSean Jackson that falls just over his outstretched hands. Fifty seconds. A bullet to Jeremy Maclin on a deep curl route that puts the Eagles at midfield. Forty seconds. Michael Vick scrambles for 9 yards, just short of the first down marker. 30 seconds. The Eagles hand the ball off to LeSean McCoy who stretches the play wide, cuts back upfield inside of Charles Woodson, jukes Morgan Burnett and suddenly it’s a footrace with Tramon Williams to the end-zone. With McCoy running full steam ahead, Williams has the angle and he appears to be in prime position to make the stop  but then suddenly McCoy stops on a dime and Williams goes flying across his face, only able to get a finger tip on McCoy and  McCoy stumbles into the end-zone. Eagles win.

The Eagles meet the Houston Texans in the Superbowl. And I’m sure you already knows how this ends. The Eagles win their first superbowl.

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