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Most wonderful time of Eagles' year

By: Reubon Frank

Burlington County Times

It's happened too often to be a coincidence, it's happened too regularly to be a fluke. It's not just what the Eagles do, it's who they are.

The personnel has turned over almost completely, the coordinators have changed, the stadium has changed, the league has changed. Even the quarterbacks have changed. And through it all, the Eagles remain virtually unbeatable in December.

Thirty-one wins, 11 losses.

Remove Mike McMahon's 1-4 record in December 2005 from the equation and you're left with 30 wins and seven losses under Donovan McNabb, Jeff Garcia and A.J. Feeley in December games this decade.

Head coach Andy Reid in December this decade is 17-4 on the road and 15-5 against the NFC East. These are insane numbers (and they don't count the last two games of 2004, when Reid played the subs after the Eagles had clinched No. 1 seed).

Their only road losses in December this decade were at San Francisco (2001), in overtime against the Giants (2002), at Arizona (2005) under McMahon and at Washington last year.

It's becoming an annual tradition. The Eagles sputter out of the gate, suffer a bad midseason loss - usually on the road to an AFC team - and then everybody wants to bench Donovan and fire Andy, and somehow, they gather themselves up, start winning games, put together a winning streak, and by the end of the season they're among the hottest teams in football.

The Eagles' last three playoff runs all followed the same script.

The 2006 team left Indianapolis 5-6 after Garcia's first start, a 45-21 loss to the Colts. They went 5-0 the rest of the way and won the NFC East.

The 2008 team left Baltimore 5-5-1 after a 36-7 loss with McNabb reeling after the first benching of his life, then went 4-1 the rest of the way and rolled all the way to the NFC Championship Game.

And this team left San Diego 5-4 six weeks ago and hasn't lost since, winning five straight going into this afternoon's home game against the Broncos.

Even going back to Reid's early years, the pattern was the same. In 2000, they opened 5-4, then went 6-1 the rest of the year. In 2001, they were 6-4 and came back 5-1. In 2002 they were 6-3 and finished 6-1, and in 2003 they started out 3-3 and went 9-1 the rest of the way.

Every year, they get better.

Ask any Eagles player why Reid's teams are at their best in December, and he'll tell you it has to do with Reid's practice regimen. Reid beats up his guys in training camp (hence a relatively modest .588 September winning percentage), starts taking the pads off in October (which has resulted in a .622 winning percentage), shortens practices dramatically in November (.663 winning percentage) and by December is keeping players off their feet, ending practice early, and focusing on making sure everybody is fresh and rested (.738 winning percentage).

But a lot of coaches go easier on their players later in the season. So there's more to it.

Some of it has to do with Reid's lack of hesitation to make personnel or lineup changes. If Chris Gocong isn't making plays, get Moise Fokou in there, even if he's a rookie seventh-round pick. Even if it's Week 15.

Some of it has to do with roster depth. If six linebackers get hurt, a seventh one will be waiting in the wings.

And some of it has to do with intangibles. When a team has won this consistently late in the season, it develops a certain aura. It expects to win.

So here we are again. The Eagles are two wins from their sixth NFC East title in nine years, and they still have a slim chance at a first-round bye. All the teams that were so hot in September and unbeatable in October have fallen by the wayside. Now it's the Eagles' time of year. Again

Bad news for the Cowboys next week. If only Fat Andy could figure out how to harness his December success into January.

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As much as I hate to say it, the Eagles are currently the best team in the NFC right now, and have a very good shot to get their first trophy.

They call Reid/McNabb choke artists? Seriously - at least they have a rock solid resume over the last 11 years, while my Cowboys and Romo sits to pee still have a big monkey on their backs. I will say one thing - their young guys, especially on O, have stepped it up this year.

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I think this is their year. I HATE to say it but I see it from a mile away. This is the year they finally get the parade. I will throw up.

What is it with Pennsylvania teams winning championships recently? All in one cycle(in a span of a year) in all of the major sports, the Phillies win the World Series, the Steelers win their 6th Super Bowl, and the Penguins win the Stanley Cup. Not to mention too the Phillies went back to the WS this year, while 2 PA teams went deep into the NCAA BB playoffs.

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I think this is their year. I HATE to say it but I see it from a mile away. This is the year they finally get the parade. I will throw up.

I'd feel the same way if they pull it off. The ONLY person I'd feel the least bit happy for is Matt (WhoDel).

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