Fortune keeps smiling on Eagles

Bradley Fletcher celebrates with teammate Patrick Chung after Fletcher knocked the ball away from the Cardinals' Michael Floyd. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Bradley Fletcher celebrates with teammate Patrick Chung after Fletcher knocked the ball away from the Cardinals' Michael Floyd. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Posted: December 04, 2013

You watch Eagles quarterback Nick Foles throw an inexplicable fourth-quarter pass that is easily intercepted by Patrick Peterson and then the penalty flag is spotted. The play is nullified by a debatable holding call on Tyrann Mathieu.

Lucky for the Eagles, you say.

You watch Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer throw a pass that has no chance of being completed because Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher is climbing on receiver Michael Floyd's back before the ball gets there. No flag on the play.

Luckier still for the Eagles, you say.

You watch Foles roll to his right as he looks for tight end James Casey before being taken down out of bounds by linebacker Matt Shaughnessy. Another flag, another defensive-holding call, this one on Shaughnessy, and it effectively ends the game.

Must be a four-leaf clover in Chip Kelly's pocket, you say.

It doesn't matter if you think some or all of the above calls were correct. Each one could have gone the other way. Instead, each one went the Eagles' way.

The Eagles' 24-21, hang-on-for-dear-life victory over the Cardinals wasn't the first example of how lucky they have been this season. It was just the latest one.

They've had the benefit of an easy schedule. The Cardinals, in fact, were the first team they've beaten this season that now has a winning record. The opening-day victory at Washington looked good at the time, but we have since learned that the Redskins are a bad team with a struggling second-year quarterback.

The Giants were a winless mess when the Eagles won at MetLife Stadium. Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon was making the second start of his career when the Eagles won at Tampa Bay. Quarterback Scott Tolzien had never thrown an NFL pass before the Eagles showed up and won at Green Bay.

Lucky, lucky, lucky.

And then there is the injury report, which is perhaps the place the Eagles have been luckiest of all. Only three teams in the NFL have placed fewer players on injured reserve this season, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com. The only starter the Eagles lost was wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. The offensive and defensive lines have remained intact.

Compare that to a year ago when three-fifths of the offensive line was lost to injury. Kelly could not have won with all the injuries Andy Reid had to deal with a year ago.

One of the team's most serious injuries this season also ended up being its most serendipitous, which is another way of saying they got lucky. Michael Vick's hamstring derailment led to Foles' amazing run of 19 touchdowns without an interception. It's a streak so good that Kelly named Foles his quarterback for the next thousand years Monday. Foles should have a tremendous grasp of opposing defensive schemes by 3001, but he probably won't have the same blazing speed that makes him so dangerous in the open field now.

Good health and good fortune are not contributing factors lost on Kelly even if he does measure off the charts in the IQ and self-confidence departments. Sure, the first-year coach believes in the preventive preparation behind all the sports science techniques he implemented at the NovaCare Complex upon his arrival. But he also knows that stuff happens when men of enormous size and blinding speed crash into one another and cut on a dime.

And, yet, the Eagles, have mostly avoided those kinds of injuries in this shockingly successful 7-5 season.

"I don't know if there is a science behind breaking a bone," Kelly said. "There are certain injuries that it doesn't matter how fit you are, how trained you are, that if that happens, that happens.

"But . . . there are some little things we do on a weekly basis here from a training standpoint that I think have benefited us. So we'll continue. I think we're doing the right thing. . . . I think there is something to what we're doing here."

Kelly was talking about the Eagles' good health, but he could have also been talking about the team's good fortune as the season heads into the home stretch.

Sure the Eagles have been lucky, but only good teams ever have a chance to be lucky.

The Giants were lucky when somehow Eli Manning escaped a sack and threw a pass that got stuck between David Tyree's right hand and his helmet. The Pittsburgh Steelers' most memorable play - Franco Harris' Immaculate Reception - was nothing more than luck.

You'll never hear about a bad team having good luck because even when they do it doesn't matter.

The Eagles, in Kelly's first year, have learned to believe in his plan and his scheme. If that continues to happen they are bound to keep getting lucky.


bbrookover@phillynews.com

@brookob

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