Look around the NFL and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a team who shoot themselves in the foot more than the Eagles. Penalties, fumbles, turnovers, missed tackles, miscommunications, basically any way to throw a lead or a chance of a comeback away, the Eagles have taken at least 12 times.
But as infuriating and mind-numbing as it may be, it may have helped craft a mentality that’s resilient to setbacks and adversity.
The New York Giants took the Eagles to overtime one week ago, just seven days after a deflating loss to the Miami Dolphins. Against the Redskins, it was a similar affair. The offense finally started to click, only to be let down by a leaky defense. It’s been the story of the season in many ways. Leaving plenty of Meat on the Bone and becoming their own worst enemy, the Eagles have had to accept that it was a battle they were never going to win, but it’s a war that they’ll be ready to start.
Sunday’s divisional clash against Dallas will mark the biggest game of the season for this Eagles team. It’s all-or-nothing. Backs to the wall. No more time for excuses, just one last shot at redeeming a season they’ve almost let slip away on countless occasions. But it’s an opportunity they’re now more than prepared for.
You see, the Eagles have battled through so much self-inflicted adversity just to get to this point, that every game for the last month or so has arguably had a ‘must-win’ label on it if we’re talking about a convincing playoff run. And despite all the troubles, they’re kicking and screaming, dragging a wounded offense through the fire for one lost chance.
“I think it just shows that each week you have to play for 60 minutes, and you play the game within the game and there’s going to be highs and lows, and then obviously for us as an offense, it’s great to see the fact that they put it on their back and they go down and have a chance to win the game, and then credit the defense.” Doug Pederson said on Monday. “We fumbled the ball. The offense fumbles the ball and we only hold them to three points at that point, too.”
“You don’t ever hope that it gets to that point during the game, but I think the guys understand that it does take 60 minutes, and quite frankly, when we got the ball back at the end of the game there, I think everybody knew that we were going to go down and score and win the football game at that point.”
I wrote last week about how the likes of Sidney Jones, Boston Scott, and Joshua Perkins injected that raw-underdog energy that the team had been lacking, and the icing on the cake this week came in the form of Greg Ward Jr., who after 16 roster transactions, three years, and a stint in the AAF, recorded his first NFL touchdown and pushed the Eagles offense over the line in the fourth quarter.
“They stay in the moment. Nothing’s too big for them. They overcome a lot of adversity. A lot of it’s self-inflicted obviously and they overcome it, and have given themselves a chance to win and have done that in the last two weeks.”
With a team galvanized through the explosion of young talent, Carson Wentz acted as the catalyst for that success. In the last two weeks, he’s thrown for 591 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT, 2-game winning drives, and completed close to 67% of his passes. If there was ever any doubt surrounding Wentz being ‘clutch’, his ability to pick up the remains an offense and carry it through hellfire to keep the season alive should have extinguished that flame. Wentz has proven to the world and any lingering doubters inside that locker room that he is the guy who can take all of their games to the next level.
“He’s just maturing that way and it’s really good to see.” Pederson said following yesterday’s win. “He’s understanding the game, and it takes time. With young quarterbacks and young players in this league, it takes time, and that’s where he’s headed and it really has been good to see the last couple weeks, especially the overtime win there with New York and then this week to really put the team on his shoulders and say, “Hey, let’s go win the game.”
So, through all the ifs, buts, maybes. The injuries, the errors, the breakdowns, and the anonymous sources, we’re here. The Eagles have an identity again and it’s helped create a new leaf as opposed to trying to salvage what was left of a rotting one. If there is ever a team who can spring a surprise and cement another NFC East divisional title, it’s this one…because that’s what this Eagles team has become known for. Upsetting the odds and proving the world wrong. After proving themselves wrong, it’s now time to shake up the NFL.
“We’re here at Week 16 and again, like I said, there’s a lot of tape out there, another division opponent. There’s probably a little more obviously on the line this week than most weeks, but it’s where we are right now, and we’ve dug this hole, but we’re slowly climbing out of it, and we’re excited for the opportunity.
Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports