PHILADELPHIA - Eagles quarterback Nick Foles was mad at himself on Sunday night.
He had just coughed up a fumble after being hit by Dallas defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, putting the Cowboys on the Eagles' 20-yard line in the third quarter.
On his way to the sideline, he crossed paths with Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans.
"He told me, 'We got you. We got your back,'" Foles said Tuesday. "That's what being a team is all about. We believe in each other, we support each other, we believe what we're doing and staying the course. And we play for each other."
The Eagles have been building that chemistry for months, which is a major reason why they won the NFC East and are playing host to New Orleans in a wild-card playoff game Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
One of the first moves coach Chip Kelly made upon arriving in town was to get rid of the cliques that had developed on the team by moving around the players' stalls in the locker room. Offensive, defensive and special teams players were mixed together.
Unlike in previous years, the offense or defense has not been introduced individually before home games. When it's time to leave the locker room on Saturday night to play the Saints, the entire team will run out of the inflatable tunnel together.
"The players have bought in to what we've been trying to build since Day one," Kelly said after the game. "There are going to be times during games when you face adversity, but they just keep plugging away because they believe in themselves."
Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis credits that chemistry for his unit's improvement over the course of the season.
Since the Eagles' 52-20 loss at Denver on Sept. 29, the defense has allowed 22 points or less in 11 of the last 12 games. They also forced a fumble and grabbed an interception against the Cowboys on Sunday, making it 12 straight games that they have forced at least one turnover.
"The biggest thing behind our defense this season has been the chemistry and how they play together," Davis said Tuesday. "They are truly unselfish and always seem to rally around each other. And that's true of the entire team. It's fun to be part of this team element."
The defense is going to need that togetherness to handle Saints quarterback Drew Brees and the rest of his potent offense.
Brees, who attended the same high school (Westlake in Austin, Texas) as Foles, completed 446 of 650 passes this season for an NFC-best 5,162 yards with 39 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions.
Four Saints receivers - tight end Jimmy Graham (83 catches), running back Pierre Thomas (77), wide receiver Marques Colston (75), running back Darren Sproles (71) - have more than 70 receptions. Graham also led the NFL with 16 touchdown catches, which he celebrated by dunking the ball over the crossbar.
"They have a very efficient offense and that's because of their quarterback," Davis said. "Graham is his number one target, but Drew spreads the ball around to everybody. Plus, he's seen every coverage and every tactic. He's a great quarterback who really stresses a defense."
They are not the same offense away from the Superdome, however. The Saints (11-5) are 8-0 at home this season and 3-5 on the road. Although they are averaging 26 points per game this season, they are scoring just 18 points per game on the road.
The Saints also have never won a road playoff game in their history, going 0-5.
Not only will Saturday's game be outdoors, it will be cold at the Linc. Saturday's forecast on weather.com predicts a high of 30 degrees with a low of 18. It should be below 20 by the time the game starts at 8:10 p.m.
"I don't buy into that 'dome team, outdoor team' thing," Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said Tuesday. "I'm sure they have a lot of guys that grew up in the North. We're playing the New Orleans Saints and we're going to get their best."
The Eagles prepared for the cold weather by practicing outside Tuesday.
Curiously, Foles was one of the few players who didn't dress for the occasion. While almost everyone was wearing sweatpants and had hooded sweatshirts under their practice jerseys, Foles had tights under a pair of gym shorts and had short sleeves, along with center Jason Kelce and backup safety Keelan Johnson.
"It's definitely different when you're playing in hot weather," Foles said. "The balls can get slick in the cold, so you have to adjust and maybe put a little extra on the ball. I'll also wear a hand warmer on the field and try to keep myself warm on the sideline as much as possible.
"But when I'm out there, I'm trying to zone out the weather. It doesn't matter whether it's cold or it snowing or whatever. We're still playing football and I have to get the job done."
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