September 28th 2014 02:38
The 2014 season for the Philadelphia Eagles has been a wild ride for the Phaithful thus far.
There were the three sketchy first halves that saw them get outscored by a combined 54-27 - lowlighted the general ineptitude of the pathetic, season-opening 30 minutes that left the Birds down 17-0 to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars - and raised the collective blood pressure of fans across the Delaware Valley.
Then there were the three magnificent second halves, which saw Chip Kelly's resilient charges roar to life on both sides of the ball, ringing up a combined 74 points scored against a stingy 26 allowed that left the team standing at an improbable 3-0 heading into their NFC showdown against the formidable yet struggling 49ers.
There have been sparkling individual performances, from Darren Sproles' torching of the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football in Week 2, to rookie wideout Jordan Matthews' two touchdown coming out party against the Redskins last week, to newly acquired safety Malcolm Jenkins' pair of clutch 4th quarter interceptions the past two weeks, and Jeremy Maclin's dominant, 8 catch 154 yard outing against the 'Skins last Sunday, which featured his third score in as many contests.
There have been a myriad of injuries along the offensive line, with Pro Bowlers Evan Mathis and Jason Kelce out with knee and abdominal injuries, respectively, until November at the earliest. Starting RT Lane Johnson has served three of the four games from his suspension for violation the NFL's substance abuse policy, and his replacement, Allen Barbre, was injured in the first half against Jacksonville and is out for the season.
There have been some scuffles, notably the full-scale brawl after Jason Peters (wisely) took exception to a cheap shot on QB Nick Foles following an interception and attacked the offending party in DL Chris Baker.
There's even been a little drama following what was a relatively quiet training camp, courtesy of veteran CB Cary Williams - who never met a microphone he didn't like - and his postgame comments regarding the overly strenuous nature of Kelly's midweek practices that the resulting lethargy from the overuse of his legs.
The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde factor with this group has fans and media experts alike wondering which team is the real 2014 Philadelphia Eagles? The group that at times looks like it's still in the middle of the summer preseason schedule, or the squad that is firing on all cylinders on offense, and making just enough plays in key spots on the defensive side of the ball to pull out the all-important W?
The common themes the team has shown thus far is that they are an extremely resilient bunch, who don't let a lot of things faze them and get their focus off of finding ways to win games. Down 17 early? Come back with 34 unanswered. Get in a huge brawl and lose Peters to an ejection? Stay poised and score the next 10 points of the game to put it away.
The afore-mentioned Kelly practice program has also played a big part in the early successes, as the team's collective conditioning has been on display in the 4th quarter of every game thus far as they were able to cap off comebacks and put teams away with big plays on both sides of the ball.
Following tomorrow's showdown in San Francisco, we should all have a better handle on who, exactly, this Eagles team is. The Niners present the biggest test for the Birds by far, as Jim Harbaugh's group has won 37 games over his first three seasons at the helm, and advanced to three consecutive NFC Championship games, including a Super Bowl appearance two years ago.
Some key stats to keep in mind: the 49ers are the highest scoring first half team in the league, at 19.7 points per game, but are the lowest scoring team after halftime, posting only a field goal through three games, and 0 in the 4th quarter.
If the Eagles can keep it relatively close in the first half, the numbers play right into their second half excellence, and they have a real chance of getting out of this huge matchup with a key road win and the team's first 4-0 start since 2004, when Andy Reid & Co. went to Super Bowl XXXIX.