NFL: Eagles want to follow in Phillies’ footsteps
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 13, 2009
PHILADELPHIA ó The city of champions?
New York? Fugetaboutit!
Boston? No wicked way!
Just 2 1/2 months after the Phillies ended Philadelphia’s 25-year championship drought by winning the World Series, the Eagles are two victories away from capturing their first Super Bowl title.
“The city of Philadelphia is buzzing; this team is buzzing,” Donovan McNabb said after leading the Eagles to a 23-11 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants on Sunday.
Fans in this sports-crazed town are downright delirious. They’re walking around chanting “E-A-G-L-E-S” in bars, on sidewalks and anywhere they feel like exercising their vocal cords.
An estimated two million people packed downtown sidewalks to witness the Phillies’ victory parade on Broad Street on Halloween. Who would’ve thought that might be a dress rehearsal?
“The Phillies got it started. The Eagles are next,” said Joe Swanski, one of the many fans who made the trip to Giants Stadium. “Everything happens in threes, so the Flyers will win the Stanley Cup.”
Actually, the Eagles would make it three if you count the Soul winning the Arena Football League championship last summer. Hardly anyone cared, however.
Considering the Flyers reached the Eastern Conference finals last year and currently lead the Atlantic Division, it could happen. The Eagles (11-6-1) have to do their part first. They meet the Arizona Cardinals (11-7) in the NFC championship game on Sunday.
No one expected the Eagles to be in this position when they were 5-5-1 in late November. People wanted coach Andy Reid fired and were ready to move on without McNabb, who was benched at halftime of a lopsided loss at Baltimore.
But the Eagles rallied around their quarterback, took the familiar us-against-the-world mentality and sneaked into the playoffs after getting help from other teams and dominating Dallas 44-6 in the regular-season finale.
Few people gave the Eagles much of a chance as a No. 6 seed. But they’ve embraced the underdog role.
“We’ve got another week of work,” McNabb said. “Everyone believes in one another and given the opportunity, we feel like we can take full advantage of it.”
The Eagles won two straight road games to reach the conference title game for the fifth time in eight years. They’ll have to win another to return to the Super Bowl for the second time in four years.
A 48-20 rout over Arizona on Thanksgiving is one reason the Eagles are 3-point favorites on the road. But these Cardinals clearly aren’t the same bunch that played so poorly in Philly six weeks ago.
“I didn’t think we got their best shot when they were here,” Reid said. “I didn’t think that was their best game. They had been playing good football and they were coming off a tough game, it was Thanksgiving Day, they had to travel all the way back here. This will be a different football team that we will see out there.”
Only two times has one city celebrated World Series and Super Bowl titles in the same season. In 1979, the Pirates and Steelers gave Pittsburgh multiple championships. And in 2004, the Red Sox ended Boston’s curse and the Patriots beat Terrell Owens and the Eagles in the Super Bowl.
Now the most unlikely city has a chance to join the list. A town more famous for its rowdy fans, cheesesteaks and the Liberty Bell is becoming known for winners.
It used to be like that around here three decades ago. In 1980, all four major teams played for the championship. Only the Phillies won, beating Kansas City for the only World Series title in franchise history until this season.
The Flyers lost to the New York Islanders. The 76ers lost to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Eagles lost to Oakland.
“Our goal is to keep winning, get to the Super Bowl and win it,” Eagles running back Brian Westbrook said. “We have to do everything we can to do that.”