Eagles figure out a way to frolic in the snow

LeSean McCoy dashes through the snow for a 57-yard touchdown run, his second long touchdown in the fourth quarter. T he Eagles (8-5) rallied from a 14-0 deficit to beat the Detroit Lions, 34-20, at snowy Lincoln Financial Field. Full coverage in Sports, Section D.
LeSean McCoy dashes through the snow for a 57-yard touchdown run, his second long touchdown in the fourth quarter. T he Eagles (8-5) rallied from a 14-0 deficit to beat the Detroit Lions, 34-20, at snowy Lincoln Financial Field. Full coverage in Sports, Section D. (RON CORTES / Staff Photographer)
Posted: December 10, 2013

Just beyond the stands at the south end of Lincoln Financial Field, the wide lanes of I-95 had become a parking lot by early afternoon on Sunday, a parking lot interrupted by the more-than-occasional muffled collision.

Inside the stadium, there was another pileup taking place in the snow as the Eagles blundered through a terrible first half against the Lions, and didn't start the second half much better.

"Around the second quarter, it got pretty cold," tight end James Casey admitted after the Eagles came alive to beat Detroit, 34-20.

Football, as many people took time to note on Sunday, is meant to be an outdoor game. The NFL, which has scheduled this season's Super Bowl outside in the unpredictable Northeast, is obviously aware of that, too. So, neither the Eagles nor Lions, both of whom were 7-5 and fighting to win their respective divisions, were going to get a do-over even if a freak, weather-related loss would ultimately ruin a shot at the playoffs. Life's unfair, guys, and, hey, it's great television.

"This was a different game than the one we practiced for," linebacker Mychal Kendricks said. "Everything went out the window."

Everything including the organization's faith in the deep and exacting science of weather forecasting.

"We got a report every six hours all through the weekend," said team president Don Smolenski, who heads up the operational side of the franchise. "The last update we had at 9 [a.m.] was still calling for snow to start in midafternoon, around 2 o'clock. That was in the written report."

The forecast was only off by about three hours and the predicted accumulation - somewhere between a dusting and an inch or so - was a little off as well. By the end of the game, Philadelphia International Airport, which had nothing else to do at that moment, reported that a total of eight inches of snow had fallen.

Yes, it was cold and dismal and while cars were being buried in the parking lot, the Eagles were doing a pretty good job of burying themselves against the Lions. Their first eight drives of the game, which extended midway into the third period, went like this: punt, punt, punt, interception (Nick Foles!), punt, downs, punt, punt.

You will read elsewhere and later on here about how much fun the fans had Sunday, and how the crowd threw itself into the wacky nature of the day, and how the atmosphere was just one big, rollicking, winter carnival at the Linc. Well, eventually, but not after those first eight drives, it wasn't. And not after Jeremy Ross of Detroit fielded the last of those punts and reeled off a 58-yard return for a touchdown, something he had not managed in returning a total of 41 punts and kickoffs in what has been a relatively undistinguished three-year NFL career.

That gave the Lions a 14-0 lead and, given the conditions and the ineffectiveness of the Eagles offense, that looked like about 10,000-0, and the same people who would be wacky and rollicking later were merely booing like hell at that point. Hard to blame them.

Different players and coaches had different perspectives on what turned things around and created the Festivus miracle of five Eagles touchdowns on their next five possessions, including 28 points scored in the fourth quarter, on the way to the victory.

"Especially in the trenches, a lot comes down to will," center Jason Kelce said. "You're put in a situation you're not used to, being in an adverse situation, and how you respond, especially on the offensive and defensive lines, says a lot about how the game's going to go. I felt as the game wore on, we were able to get some things going and once that momentum got going, we could do a great job."

What that says, if accurate, is that Chip Kelly's methods, his sports-science training hoodoo, his fitness demands, might actually be more than New Age gobbledygook after all. It certainly appeared that the Eagles had legs after the Lions lost theirs. It seemed that LeSean McCoy still had the power to burst up the middle after Joique Bell was running on fumes. And it looked as if the Eagles offensive line was opening up holes that the Lions could no longer close.

Kelly leaned on McCoy more in the second half and put away the short, sideline game he likes. The line protected Foles and he was able to put a couple of passes over the top to Riley Cooper for good gains as the offense creaked into gear. (Kelly credited cornerback Cary Williams for coming over and telling him the defensive backs were beatable due to the field, and that's nice and all, but the news that snow is slippery had probably reached the New Hampshire native previously.)

And, yes, by the end, the fans were delirious - or just suffering from hypothermia - and the Eagles were 8-5, and they had avoided having their season put in jeopardy by nothing more than bad luck and faulty weather forecasts.

"This is football weather," said Brent Celek, who took a celebratory slide as his late first-down reception clinched the win. "I know the fans were loving it, too. They'll talk about this game forever. ' Remember when it snowed?' "

Eventually, the fans were loving the day, and eventually so did the Eagles. And everyone will definitely remember the day. It didn't have to turn out as well as it did, but maybe, just maybe, the same will be said of the whole season before it's all over.


bford@phillynews.com

@bobfordsports

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