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During his Wednesday press conference after a dreadful road loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, head coach Nick Siriani used an analogy of a flower growing to describe how the Eagles will be successful going forward. At the time, Siriani had already been under fire for the team’s poor play, especially its inability to run the football and the analogy only increased the criticism of the first-year coach as it gave way to an abundance of questions about Siriani’s credibility.

Well, fast forward to the postseason and the Eagles are the best run team in football and are in the playoffs. It’s incredible that the Eagles managed to pull themselves out of a 2-5 hole to start the season and clinch a playoff spot with one week still remaining in the season. Following the loss to Vegas, Siriani was ridiculed for his coaching and childish analogies, but perhaps we should have just sat back and listened. As a first-year head coach, he easily could have succumbed to the critics but instead, Siriani remained composed and began building something special in Philly.

So, what allowed Siriani’s seemingly silly analogy to come to fruition? Well, the first and most important thing is the Eagles top rushing attack. Since the week 7 loss to Las Vegas, the Eagles have rushed for over 200 yards 5 times and have gone 7-3 over that span. In the team’s first 7 games, they never rushed for over 200 yards. Aside from it benefitting the offense as a whole, the most important part about the Eagles revamped rushing attack was the pressure it took off of second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts. Since week 8, Hurts has only attempted over 30 passes once after he attempted over 30 passes in 5 of his first 7 games. The one game Hurts attempted over 30 passes was one of his two losses since week 8.

Prior to week 8, the Eagles defense gave up just over 26 points per game. Since then, the Eagles have found their footing on defense giving up just over 15 points per game–another drastic change in an extremely important category.

So it’s clear, the improved rushing attack, as well as the vastly improved defense, powered the Eagles’ incredible turnaround. From 15th in rushing to 1st, as well as 24th in opponents points per game to 8th, this Eagles team has more than found its way. Many will make the case that the Eagles’ easy schedule discredits them as a good team but ultimately, the Eagles have performed very well and beaten these teams handily. Good teams should beat bad teams handily and the Eagles have done just that.

Now that the Eagles are in the playoffs, they face a daunting task in round one. The Birds will travel to Tampa Bay to take on 7-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady and the defending champion Buccaneers.

The Bucs are one of the best teams in football, having only lost one home game all season. They also beat the Eagles earlier in the season in a game where the Eagles were not very competitive. However, this is a different Bucs team and a different Eagles team. Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown are both out. Godwin tore his ACL while Brown was recently released for walking off the field in the Bucs week 17 win at the New York Jets.

Brady’s lack of weapons will help the Eagles’ defense considerably. In the week 6 matchup between the two teams, the Bucs gashed the Eagles for 399 total yards and punted just twice. Brown caught 9 balls for 93 yards and a touchdown while Godwin caught 5 passes. That’s 14 of Brady’s 34 completions against the Eagles. It’s clear that the lack of Brown and Godwin will aid the Eagles’ defense. Defensively, Tampa was also dominant as they only allowed the Eagles to manage 213 yards of offense. Philly knows they’ll need to muster up more than that if they want to dethrone the champs and perhaps, with their revamped rushing attack and improved defense, Jalen Hurts can overcome the doubters and lead the Eagles past the Bucs.

Even if the Eagles fall to Tampa Bay on Sunday, this season is nothing to hang their heads on. Prior to the year, many viewed this as a rebuilding year and thought the Eagles would be awful. Well, making the playoffs in a “rebuilding” season is not too shabby. Whatever happens, the future is bright in Philly.


Photo: Mitchell Leff / Stringer via Getty Images