By the time they reached the locker room after winning the NFC East title and completing a worst-to-first journey under rookie coach Chip Kelly, the Philadelphia Eagles were already thinking ahead to their playoff opponent.
They will have plenty of time to reflect on their accomplishments later.
“The way they shifted their focus to the next game just minutes after we won was most impressive to me,” general manager Howie Roseman said on Monday night on his radio show.
The Eagles went from a win-loss record of 4-12 to 10-6, a remarkable turnaround after a miserable ending with Andy Reid last year. The makeover started with the hiring of Kelly, the hotshot college coach who needed convincing to leave Oregon.
While most people outside the organization expected this to be a rebuilding season in Philadelphia, players and coaches bought into Kelly’s way right from the start and accelerated the process.
“It was evident to me on April 1 when I got here with these guys and got a chance to be with them for the first day that they were kind of the mind-set: ‘Whatever it takes, what do you want us to do, and where do we got to be, and how are we going to do it,’ and that’s a credit to them,” Kelly said.
“You get out of it exactly what you put into it and these guys put in an unbelievable effort and it’s paying off for them on the field,” he added.
The Eagles advanced by beating Dallas 24-22 and will host the New Orleans Saints (11-5) on Saturday night in their first playoff game since Michael Vick threw an interception in the end zone in the final minute of a 21-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Jan. 9, 2011.
Win or lose, it has been a successful season, but nobody is thinking that way around here.
“That’s not how we are built or wired,” Kelly said. “It’s what’s the next challenge and what’s the next opportunity, and the great thing about where we are right now is if you win, you get to play again.”
The Eagles are two-point favorites over New Orleans.
A wins sends them to Carolina (12-4) on Jan. 12, but they have to beat Drew Brees and the Saints first.