Nick Sirianni: ‘What an awesome time to be a Philly sports fan!’ Eagles perfect; Phillies advance

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Nick Sirianni came home from work Friday, and, like a lot of you, he walked in through a dreary evening, sat down on the couch with his kids, and flipped on the TV. It was the seventh inning, the Phillies were losing, 2-0, to the Cardinals, and things seemed bleak.

Then, the Phils scored six in the top of the ninth. By the time the Eagles went to bed Saturday in Arizona, the Phillies had swept the Cards out of the best-of-three wild-card series.

Less than 24 hours later, Sirianni’s Eagles had beaten their version of Cardinals, 20-17, and run their record to 5-0, a start that might bring them back here to the desert for Super Bowl LVII. The Sixers are studded with stars. The Union is charging.

The Mets lost, too.

Sirianni, a transplant from Buffalo, knows what it means for a blue-collar town to have its teams on the rise.

“What an awesome time to be a Philly sports fan!” Sirianni exclaimed.

He wore a Mike Schmidt shir-sey, and he said he hoped to be able to score some tickets for Game 3 of the National League Division Series, when the Phillies host the Braves on Friday night.

What do you think? He’s the head coach of the undefeated football team whose owner, Jeffrey Lurie, is best pals with Phillies managing partner John Middleton. Sirianni better wash that shir-sey.

Nick Sirianni was all of us Sunday night in the desert. Philadelphians don’t have many Monday mornings like this one. Not many this gleeful. This happy. It’s been 14 years, since the Eagles went to the NFC Championship game and the Phillies won the World Series.

Most weeks in the Delaware Valley begin with at least a bit of sports-related sadness. Somebody dropped a pass, or blew a save, or refused to dunk a basketball. No town does Monday morning malaise quite like Philadelphia.

Not this Monday morning. On this Monday, with sunny skies and 70-degree temperatures, birds will sing and fans will grin. There will be no malaise. Not with the two big teams rolling toward titles.

This Monday morning, when everybody’s huddled around the coffeemaker, the city will be drowning in Brotherly Love.

“It’s about to be crazy,” said Brandon Graham, an Eagle since 2010.

“It’s a good time to be a Philly sports fan,” agreed Jason Kelce, an Eagle since 2011, the last time the Phillies were good. “I’ll be watching on Friday. When a lot of the teams are good, it’s a joy to be in a sports town like this. The energy that surrounds them is more exciting.”

“Oh, man, I hope the city’s gonna be on fire,” said running back Miles Sanders, a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State product who completely understands the Philly ethos. “I like it when these fans get excited. And basketball starts on two weeks. It’s going to be an exciting time.”

The Eagles are 5-0 for the first time since 2004, when they went to the Super Bowl. They grinded through a game-winning drive and got a field goal from rookie kicker Cameron Dicker in his NFL debut, with 1 minute, 45 seconds to play, delighting the green-speckled crowd at State Farm Stadium. They went crazy 90 seconds later when Cardinals kicker Matt Ammendola pushed a 43-yard try wide right and ensured a 20-17 win.

“I tried to go to as many of them as I possibly could and say, ‘Thank you,’” said Sirianni. He compared the takeover in Arizona to the Eagles fans’ descent on Washington two weeks ago. Like Carson Wentz, Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray got flustered — at home. “I could see him struggling, sometimes, to make calls. We’re in Arizona! They have a five-hour flight home!”

He paused.

“This is such a great sports town.”

Little does he know.

The Phillies will play at Citizens Bank Park on Friday, the first home playoff game in 11 years. They won two games that came down to the St. Louis Cardinals’ final out of the ninth inning. The Phillies made the postseason as the sixth and final National League seed, but so what? The Giants won it all in 2014 as the lowest seed. Why not the Phillies?

Hmmm.

What else?

Well, Tyrese Maxey looks like a superstar, Joel Embiid is acting like a grownup, and James Harden is thin, for now.

What’s not to like?

If you want to whine about the luckless Flyers, well, consider the mighty Union.

» READ MORE: Dániel Gazdag’s hat trick leads the Union to a 4-0 rout of Toronto and clinches first place in the East

If you want to resent the added drama in Arizona, blame Sirianni for sending in a doomed third-and-goal play for Quez Watkins, the team’s sixth-best pass catcher, with better options available and with the run game cooking, but please, blame him kindly.

The Phillies avenged their 2011 playoff defeat to the St. Louis Cardinals, the loss that ended the Phillies’ Golden Era, with a two-game wild-card sweep Friday afternoon and Saturday night. That set up Sunday evening for a decimated Eagles club facing a desperate team in the desert.

The Eagles put together a fourth-quarter drive that would’ve made Steve Van Buren and Wilbert Montgomery proud: 13 runs that devoured eight minutes of clock, ate up yardage, and demoralized the Cardinals.

They scored their second touchdown with similar machismo. Sirianni called four straight power runs, up the middle, on the road, and telegraphed it every time. And he scored a touchdown on Jalen Hurts’ quarterback sneak, which was the play of the day, over and over and over.

Eagles fans, glowing and satisfied, leaned back on their pillows and lit a cigarette.

“I wish the running game could’ve been more efficient,” said Sanders, who gained 58 yards on 13 tough carries, “but we got the job done today.”

They did these things undermanned. on the road.

Avonte Maddox, their nickel corner, Jordan Mailata, their giant left tackle, and Jake Elliott, their kicker, gave way to Jack Driscoll, Josiah Scott, and the rookie kicker — Dicker. After the first series, starting left guard Landon Dickerson was out, too, and Kelce left just before halftime having sprained both ankles, although Dickerson and Kelce returned after intermission.

» READ MORE: Eagles-Cardinals analysis: Perfect record intact as Cameron Dicker wins in a battle of replacement kickers

They weren’t perfect. The Cardinals are good, 2-2 coming in, with a Pro Bowl quarterback in Murray, and a future Hall of Fame defensive lineman in JJ Watt.

Well, the Phillies weren’t perfect, either. They got great pitching, but they needed some mistakes and some failure from the St. Louis Cardinals to advance. Nolan Arenado’s botched play at third base in the ninth inning Friday was almost as painful as Ammendola’s failed kick.

Philly won’t care. Both teams won. That’s what everyone will be talking about; that, and how they’ve both got a chance to keep winning.

Which will make this Monday the best Monday in Philly in a long, long time.

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