The pressure is off. That was the sentiment given to the Philadelphia Eagles by their Head Coach after a dream-crushing loss to the Panthers that saw them choke away a 17-point lead. The team were completely defeated when talking to the press after such a heartbreaking loss, but that mentality cannot last long if the season is to be saved.
The Eagles travel to London for the first time in franchise history this week to face the Jaguars in what is now a very winnable game it seems. Travel + the benching of Blake Bortles X a deflated defense = a Jags team struggling to find the identity that saw them come within a heartbeat of overthrowing the Patriots in the postseason one year ago. After that, the Eagles play the sloppy Dallas Cowboys at home before heading into the Bye and facing their two other NFC East rivals. Those are three very winnable games that could see this team jump to a 6-4 record in a decision headlined by a 4-2 team. A win against the Panthers would’ve gone a long way in igniting hopes of a deep postseason run, but all is not lost.
“We’re going to find out what we’re made of now going forward.” Carson Wentz told reporters after the game. “I feel like we said that two weeks ago, saying it again. We’re at make-or-break time, almost. It’s hard to say exactly what it’s going to take. Again, we know what we can do, we do it here and there some weeks, but we just have to put it all together.”
As for Doug Pederson, it appears as though there’s a slightly different mantra.
“Basically told them pressure’s off of us.” The Eagles Head Coach explained. “Nobody on the outside world is giving us a chance to do much of anything. Pressure’s off, so we can go play, have fun, and just relax. A lot of football ahead too. We still have a bunch of games, and still anything’s possible, anything can happen. We still treat it as one week at a time.”
What’s interesting is that Wentz stayed true to his guns, despite Pederson’s comments.
“Whether we are 7-9, like my rookie year [or] on that hot stretch last year, it doesn’t matter. I think we put high expectations on ourselves. My approach will never change, win or lose, on to the next week and that’s the way I’m going to approach it.”
The Eagles clearly have some issues to work through. Two games this season have been choked away in the fourth quarter (or beyond) and there are a myriad of problems on defense, partnered by a seeming lack of second half balance on offense. Those won’t magically be fixed overnight, nor will they be miraculously cured with a trip across the pond. Something Zach Ertz was quick to speak on.
“It is not ideal obviously. I wish we had a home game. I wish we were playing on Thursday honestly to get this game out of our system. Jacksonville is a physical football team and we just played a really physical football team so we have to get our bodies right early in the week and attack this week of practice. We can’t go through the the motions by any means, so we have to attack this week and it starts on Wednesday.”
The last thing the Eagles need right now is a miscommunication when it comes to forming an identity? Is Pederson trying to force the underdog issue once more, or will this team suck it up and move to next week? Are they putting too much pressure on themselves? If so, surely switching it up to being underdogs would only make that harder to deal with.
The Eagles have a very important run ahead of them and a Jags team who blow out opponents with ease on this trip due to making it so often and understanding the perfect preparation schedule, await. Both teams are in desperation mode and if the Eagles sink to a loss next Sunday, that leaves them with a 3-5 record heading into a clash with Dallas who will undoubtedly sniff blood in the water.
No pressure? There’s more pressure than there ever has been on this team. That’s what comes with the territory of being crowned Super Bowl champions.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports