PHILADELPHIA — Eagles fans once threw snowballs at Jimmy Johnson at the Vet.
On Sunday, they threw bouquets, figuratively speaking, at Chip Kelly as the Eagles coach ran off the field following the Eagles' stunning 34-20 come-from-behind win over the Lions.
Kelly, with handshakes completed, turned and dashed straight for the tunnel leading to the Eagles locker room at Lincoln Financial Field while fans roared with approval.
It was fitting that this day ended with one more straight-ahead Eagles dash because that's what they did to the Lions, turning the snow-covered Linc turf into a winter wonderland with 34 points over the game's final 211/2 minutes.
No one saw this coming.
Not the snowstorm that was supposed to start around halftime and amount to little more than an inch, nor the Eagles' resurgence after doing virtually nothing on offense in the first half.
Kelly learned not to trust the weather forecasters.
"Our weather reports was it wasn't going to snow until halftime," Kelly said.
But since it came earlier and with more intensity than expected, the Eagles had to scrap their game plan and their style of running.
"At times during a game, the crap is going to hit the fan," Kelly said.
Fortunately, he had LeSean McCoy hitting the holes.
Working against the third-ranked defense against the run and on a field more desirable to cross-country skiers than football players, the Eagles rallied from a 14-0 deficit by gashing the Lions for big plays right up the middle.
It helped that a few big passing plays loosed up the Detroit for McCoy.
"We took some shots deep which kind of set them back a little bit," McCoy said. "Nick [Foles] hitting some balls and complete them gives [the defense] something else to look at."
But what the Lions looked at all too often for them was No. 25 blowing by them. The 223 yards rushing by the Eagles in the fourth quarter was the most by any NFL team in any quarter in 22 years. And it was done on a snow-covered surface.
Center Jason Kelce and guards Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis neutralized the Lion kings up front — Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh — and not even the snow could slow McCoy once he got past the line of scrimmage.
Shady wasn't shifty on this day, although he seemed to vanish faster than Frosty the Snowman in the desert once he got downfield.
"The guys up front gave me opportunities one-on-one by blowing those guys off the ball," McCoy said after his 217 yards rushing broke franchise record set by Steve Van Buren more than 64 years ago. "I think everybody was so intimidated and scared of Detroit's guys up front, but I thought the big guys on my team took the challenge and stepped up."
As a team, the Eagles stepped up when the surprise snowstorm seemed destined to ruin their season just as the Fog Bowl in Chicago ended their 1988 playoff run.
A loss to the Lions would been a major blow to their division title and playoff hopes.
However, this team, which has shown resiliency when things were going south before, made some adjustments and refused to fold the way the 2011 and 2012 Eagles most certainly would have.
This team has taken better care of the ball on offense. Foles threw his first interception of the season, but amazingly considering the conditions, the Eagles fumbled just once and didn't lose possession.
And, the defense has played remarkably well, and might have pitched a shutout Sunday were it not for the Foles pick creating a short field and the two Jeremy Ross kick returns for scores.
But what is most important is that this team has resolve, a sense of character and a grit that is still coming to the surface.
For all of that, Kelly deserves credit.
While he's still learning the nuances of the pro game and how to contour his fastbreak offense to a style that best fits his personnel and the situation, Kelly also has shown that he can get his players to respond.
Many other rookie head coaches would have panicked when a change in weather necessitated a vast change in game plan.
Neither Kelly nor the Eagles flinched, however. They just kept pounding
This was a day that many Eagles fans will never forget, a signature win that was far more impressive than the season-opening dazzler in Washington or the Foles record-breaker in Oakland.
At a minimum, Sunday's win ensured that the Eagles won't have the losing season many predicted for them back in the summer or even as late as early November when the team traveled to Oakland with a 3-5 mark.
Tight end Brent Celek, who had provided the final punctuation mark with his fourth-quarter slide into the snow and Eagles fans hearts, has the context to know this team is different.
"Yean, you could just tell even when we were down that we weren't going to give up," Celek said. "Nobody gets down. Everyone believes. That's the biggest thing."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun