Adversity no problem for this season's Eagles

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Adversity no problem for this season's Eagles
December 9, 2013, 3:00 pm

The Eagles were down 14-0 late in the third quarter on Sunday, before rallying back for the win. (USA Today Images)

When things start going wrong, that’s when they’re at their best. When the fans are getting restless and the other team is picking up momentum and it seems like the roof is caving in, the Eagles always seem to respond.
 
Dealing positively with adversity has gradually developed into the personality of this 2013 Eagles team, and considering that the last two Eagles teams simply folded up and crumbled to dust at the first sign of trouble, it’s a remarkable and encouraging sign.
 
Whether it’s the Redskins roaring back with 21 consecutive points and driving toward a game-winning touchdown or three straight losses early in the season or allowing 52 points in Denver or a historically bad loss to the Cowboys or a disastrous first half in terrible conditions Sunday against the Lions, the Eagles have dealt masterfully with adversity this year.
 
Each time, they’ve remained calm, they’ve kept fighting and battling, they’ve stayed together as a team and they’ve navigated their way through it.

“We just have a lot of good guys, positive guys,” cornerback Brandon Boykin said. “We’re upbeat, we’re positive and when you stay positive and keep working and keep battling, good things happen.”
 
Sunday may have been the biggest challenge yet for this young team.
 
Down 14-0 late in the third quarter, unable to get anything going offensively, snow piling up rapidly on the Lincoln Financial Field turf, snow swirling, a struggling quarterback from Texas who had never played in these conditions, Lions getting more confident with each passing series …
 
Things really did look bleak.
 
“It’s cold, both teams aren’t used to being in that situation, and it’s all about how you handle the situation, and we handled it much better than they did,” Eagles center Jason Kelce said.
 
“In any sport, you’re going to face situations that are unexpected and you’re going to face challenges and adversity, and it’s the teams that are able to not panic and figure out how to deal with the situation the best that are going to come out on top, and [Sunday] was a great example of that.”
 
The Eagles outscored the Lions 34-6 over the game’s last 19½ minutes – it would have been at least 40-6 if Brent Celek had elected to jog into the end zone late in the fourth quarter – and rolled to a 34-20 win at the Linc.
 
A year after going 4-12 and losing 11 of their last 12 games, the Eagles find themselves 8-5 with a five-game winning streak in Chip Kelly’s first year as head coach.
 
“We’ve just got a lot of character in this room, and we’ve got a lot of guys who aren’t going to give up,” Boykin said.
 
“It just comes from the way we practice and the way we prepare for each game. We just grind each week, and we just know that no matter what, like Coach says, if we just give effort every play, good things are going to happen, and [Sunday] was a great example of that.
 
With the snow falling, with conditions worsening, with Nick Foles’ passes sailing high over his receivers’ heads, with the Lions leading 14-0, it would have been easy for the Eagles to just decide, ‘Hey, it’s not our day. Let’s just get ready for the Vikings.’”
 
But that isn’t how this team thinks.
 
The Lions outgained the Eagles 179-115 in the game’s first 40 minutes.
 
At that point, late in the third quarter, the Eagles’ drive chart looked like this: Punt, Punt, Punt, Interception, Punt, Downs, Punt, Punt.
 
Then Riley Cooper made that wild tumbling catch for 44 yards, and the Lions never recovered.
 
The Eagles scored 34 points in 16 minutes and outgained the Lions 363-39 over the game’s last 19 minutes.
 
Talk about responding to adversity.
 
“It’s a strong belief in the team, a strong belief in each other and trust, and it comes from the leadership, from Chip and the rest of the coaches, not leaving any room for excuses to kind of creep up into your mindset,” linebacker Connor Barwin said. “It’s the way we think and the way we handle ourselves.”
 
Kelly said if the football universe didn’t know before what type of character his team had, they should know now.
 
“I think it showed everybody what we know about them, and I don't think this group gives up,” he said. “I think they've got way too much invested, and I think the more you have invested in something it's a lot more difficult to quit.
 
“It's an extremely hard‑working group, and they understand that it's a long game, and you've just got to keep plugging away, and you can't get discouraged when you're not successful early.
 
“There are so many good players on the other teams that it's always going to be a battle, and they just know if we kind of hang in there and keep fighting and keep banging away that good things are going to happen for us.”
 
This doesn’t just happen. Teams don’t just suddenly learn how to deal with adversity and develop tremendous character by accident.
 
It starts with a healthy culture instilled by the coach, and it can’t happen without the right 53 people in the locker room.
 
And we’ve all seen what happens when you don’t have the right people. Last year happens.
 
You can even make a case that the Eagles had more talent on last year’s roster – they certainly had a lot more Pro Bowlers.

But with 53 guys who are all working for the same goal, it works. That’s why the Eagles have won seven of their last nine.
 
“I’ve got to give the front office a lot of credit,” Kelce said. “They brought in a lot of quality guys, guys who are all positive guys and good guys and great in the locker room and are willing to go fight for their teammates and keep fighting when things aren’t always going the way you want them to.
 
“And I think they did a great job getting rid of guys this past offseason who didn’t share that outlook, guys who were cancerous on the team, especially guys on defense.
 
“Everybody is genuinely team-first. Offense, defense, everybody in here just wants the team to do well, and that really creates a healthy atmosphere because you know the guy next to you is fighting for the same thing you’re fighting for.”