Phil Sheridan: With help from Packers, Eagles clinch division title

A fan dressed as Santa Claus is on the way to Lambeau Field, where the Packers gift-wrapped a Giants loss - and a division title - for the Eagles.
A fan dressed as Santa Claus is on the way to Lambeau Field, where the Packers gift-wrapped a Giants loss - and a division title - for the Eagles.
Posted: December 27, 2010

The Eagles, who once won the National Football League championship while playing in a blizzard, last night won a division championship while not playing because of a blizzard.

They went from Snow Bowl to No Bowl when the NFL announced that their scheduled Sunday night game against the Minnesota Vikings would be postponed until Tuesday night.

With the tundra at Lincoln Financial Field too frozen for football, the eyes of Eagles fans turned to the original Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field, where the Green Bay Packers hosted the New York Giants.

When the Packers defeated New York, 45-17, the Eagles officially clinched their first NFC East title since 2006. When they take the field Tuesday evening for their postponed date with the Vikings, the Eagles will be division champions with a home playoff game penciled onto their brand-new 2011 calendar. But they still have much to play for: If they can win two games in five days - they host Dallas Sunday afternoon - and the Chicago Bears lose their season finale in Green Bay, the Eagles will earn a first-round bye.

All of that is business as usual at this time of year in the NFL. The way Sunday unfolded, however, was remarkably unusual.

The elements have always played quirky roles in football history. One of the most memorable games of all time, the 1967 NFL championship between the Packers and Cowboys, was dubbed the Ice Bowl - and not because of the contents of the tailgaters' coolers. And then there was the 1948 title game between the Eagles and Chicago Cardinals at Shibe Park. Steve Van Buren's 5-yard touchdown run was the only score on a snowy afternoon.

Some 36,309 braved a blizzard to attend that game. Nearly 70,000 held tickets for Sunday night's game. After Mayor Nutter declared a snow emergency, the Eagles and the NFL decided the forecast was too dire and announced the postponement early in the afternoon.

So there was no novel snow game to add to the list of memorable Eagles weather events that includes the '48 game and the 1988 "Fog Bowl" playoff loss in Chicago. The reaction from Eagles players was immediate, thanks to social media not available to Van Buren or Reggie White, and occasionally profane.

"It's only snow!!!" wide receiver DeSean Jackson wrote on Twitter.

"I'm [ticked]," chimed in his partner, Jeremy Maclin.

"Thank you flex scheduling," tweeted guard Todd Herremans, referring to the NFL scheduling policy that saw this game moved from a 1 p.m. start to 8:20 p.m. for national TV purposes.

By game time, however, with heavy wet snow accumulating, high winds and traffic problems all over the region, the decision to postpone the game looked mighty reasonable. With a rare football snow day, then, the Eagles and their fans looked around the country for games that affected the home team.

In Chicago, the Bears held off the New York Jets, 38-34, to remain ahead of the Eagles in the battle for that first-round bye. The Jets later clinched a playoff berth because the Jacksonville Jaguars lost.

Then came the game in Green Bay. The Packers jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but anyone who uncorked the champagne prematurely had cause for concern by the second quarter. The Giants answered with a couple of touchdowns to tie the game. The Packers took a 21-14 lead before halftime, then put the game away in the second half.

It wasn't the first time the Packers had a major impact on the Eagles' season. Way back in September, in their opening game, Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews tackled Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb. The hit gave Kolb a concussion, opening the door for Michael Vick's improbable journey from wildcatting backup to MVP candidate.

This time, the Packers did the Eagles a big favor while hurting only the Giants. But it would be wrong to say the Eagles backed into this division title. Even though this week's game was moved from Sunday afternoon to Sunday evening to Tuesday, the Eagles really earned this title with their unforgettable comeback win over the Giants last week in the New Meadowlands.

The drama of that game should help make up for the lack of a satisfying on-field clinching moment this week. There was nothing to compare with 1988, when a last-minute touchdown in New York coincided with the final gun of an Eagles win in Dallas to secure a division title. Somewhere in Eagles history, Jerome Brown's helmet is still flying through the air above Texas Stadium.

Besides, the next two - or three or four or five - games will give the Eagles plenty of opportunities to create new indelible memories. And the last time a game in Philadelphia was delayed by snow, it was Game 5 of the 2008 World Series. So maybe this was an omen.

Fitting, really. After all, coming into the season, no one thought these Eagles had a snowball's chance.


Follow columnist Phil Sheridan on Twitter: @SheridanScribe.

Read his blog at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/philabuster or his recent columns at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.

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