It used to be that our teams never won games like we saw this weekend.
To be a Philadelphia fan was to suffer. Sidle up to an old-timer at the bar, and you’ll still hear him mutter about the Phils infamous “Black Friday” loss to the Dodgers in the 1977 NLCS when manager Danny Ozark forgot to make a defensive change. Or the time the Flyers missed the playoffs when an opponent’s shot from center ice eluded goalie Doug Favell – with four seconds to go in the regular season.
Our stock in trade was misery. A traveling call on Nova with 11 ticks left, one point down to the North Carolina Tar Heels in the 2005 Elite Eight. And then there was Donovan McNabb’s fourth-quarter pick-six against Tampa in the 2003 NFC Championship Game.
We were the chumps. Always.
That was then, and this is now. And now is great.
The Eagles’ amazing 16-15 win over the Chicago Bears in Sunday’s NFC Wild Card game was just the latest episode of fortune smiling our way. Truth be told, we’ve enjoyed more than our share of miracle finishes in the last decade – from walk-off post-season homers by Matt Stairs and Jimmy Rollins during the Phillies great run; to Kris Jenkins’ buzzer-beater to win the 2016 national title for Nova.
From the Eagles’ goal-line stand against Atlanta in last year’s playoffs; to every dramatic moment of Super Bowl LII, all leading up to Tom Brady’s failed Hail Mary.
We win in the end these days. Just as Sunday, when poor Cody Parkey’s field goal attempt ricocheted off the left upright, made a physics-defying bounce off the goalpost and fell harmlessly to the ground. Doink, doink, jubilation.
Listen, I don’t believe teams win these games because of karma. Or luck. Or a roster boasting more churchgoers.
But I do believe good things happen to good teams. And these Eagles are a damned good football team. They beat the Bears not because they’re blessed, but because they earned the breaks.
Take Parkey’s field goal attempt, for example. Watch the slo-mo replay and you’ll see Eagles defensive tackle Treyvon Hester’s gloved left hand get up there to tip the ball, ever-so-slightly affecting the trajectory. It wasn’t fate that made Parkey fail. It was a big play by the Birds.
They also won because the offensive line held the Bears to one sack and Khalil Mack to zero. They won because Alshon Jeffery made huge catches and because forgotten Golden Tate was discovered in the end zone with 1:01 to go.
They won because Fletcher Cox and Nigel Bradham blew up the Bears running game. And because defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz coached up kids like Cre’von Leblanc and Rasul Douglas enough that they survived in the passing game and made solid tackles all evening.
They won because Nick Foles continues to be clutch – leading them on a 12-play, 60-yard, lead-changing late touchdown drive that erased four minutes off the clock. He also has the highest passer rating (105.2) in NFL playoff history.
And they won because Doug Pederson masterfully held his team together when all looked lost in November. The Eagles were 4-6, blown out, 48-7, by New Orleans. Since then they’ve won six of seven, setting up Sunday’s rematch against those Saints.
Hey, that one won’t be easy. But the Eagles earned this revenge match. They may have literally won by a fingertip Sunday, but none of it is a fluke or providence. As Pederson said at the Super Bowl parade last February, “This is the new normal.”
Spectacular, beautiful finishes have been our new normal, Philly fans. Who’s to say there aren’t a few more coming our way?