PHILADELPHIA -- Eight games into Chip Kelly's first season as the Philadelphia Eagles' head coach, his team was 3-5 with back-to-back road games to Oakland and Green Bay directly in front of them. A division title and playoff berth did not seem very likely at the time.
But the Eagles proceeded to win seven of their next eight games, including a 24-22 division-clinching win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.
"They stuck together as a group, and one of the things we talk about, really, the only thing we talk about, is we are mentally and physically tough and we don't make excuses and we work hard and they stuck to that," Kelly said.
"When you're 3-5 and you have a plan, there's times when you are 3-5 and you can start to question the plan. But these guys didn't question the plan. When we made mistakes we all made mistakes, but owned our mistakes. And I think when you own up to your mistakes, then you can correct them. But if you never make them and you constantly make excuses, then you're never going to fix it.
"I think these guys owned up to it and did that, and I think each week, I saw us improve because of that. I think because of their mentality and that they stuck together as a group and knew that the only group that was going to get us out of that situation was them. And when you start pointing fingers and doing those other things, it makes it extremely difficult. But they never did that."
One of the big reasons for the Eagles' turnaround this season has been turnover differential. Last year, they finished last in the league with a minus-24 turnover differential. This season, they are tied for fourth at plus-12.
"(Turnover differential) is a huge statistic whether it's college or the pros," Kelly said. "We were very, very good at it when I was at Oregon, and it was the reason we won so many games. (Here) our offense has done a very good job of taking care of the football (just 19 giveaways). And our defense has been very opportunistic."