Five reasons the Eagles won their playoff opener over the Bears on Sunday in Chicago, 16-15:
When Cody Parkey missed that fateful 43-yard field goal Sunday that punched the Eagles’ ticket to the divisional round of the playoffs and a rematch in the Big Easy with the Saints, it seemed to be a case of a struggling kicker who shanked the biggest boot of his career.
Parkey had missed seven of 30 field-goal attempts this season. Five were from 41 yards or shorter. So this wasn’t a gimme for the former Eagle.
But as it turned out, Sunday’s miss had some help. Eagles defensive tackle Treyvon Hester, rushing up the middle with Haloti Ngata, got a fingertip on the ball, as the NFL acknowledged Monday by changing the miss to a block.
It was so slight that no one, including the Fox broadcast crew, even knew it until after the game when Hester mentioned it. It’s impossible to know whether Parkey’s kick would have been good if Hester hadn’t gotten a piece of it.
It’s impossible to tell whether it altered the direction or the velocity of the ball enough to cause it to hit the left upright, then the crossbar, then bounce forward into the end zone rather than over the crossbar.
Hester isn’t tall. He’s only 6-foot-2. His 32-inch arms are about average for an interior defensive lineman. I don’t know the last time he clipped his fingernails.
But he got just enough penetration on that kick and got his left arm up in the air at just the right time to probably influence a field-goal miss that kept the Eagles’ Super Bowl hopes alive.
His overall passing numbers weren’t great. He completed 62.5 percent of his passes, a far cry from the 77 percent he had in his previous three starts.
He threw two early interceptions in Chicago territory that potentially cost the Eagles points. But when the game was on the line, Nick Foles came up big, coolly leading the 12-play, 60-yard touchdown drive that gave the Eagles the lead back.
He completed six of nine passes on the game-winning drive, including two to Alshon Jeffery: a 15-yarder to kick-start the drive and then a huge 11-yarder on a third-and-9 that gave the Eagles a first down at the Chicago 2.
Then, on fourth down, with the Eagles facing playoff elimination, he sprinted out to his right and threw a strike to Golden Tate for the game-winning touchdown.
“He’s a very calm, cool, collected guy,’’ Tate said of Foles. “He understands the game. He wants to live in the now. He doesn’t put too much pressure on himself, or at least it doesn’t seem like it.
“We’ve done a good job of gathering around him and following his lead. But it starts with him.’’