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Eagles Focus Is On Short-Term Success

Posted Dec 23, 2015

It is the nature of sports fans and sports media to speculate, to dream, to engage in conversations that extend far beyond the week ahead. What's going to happen in the future? That's part of the focus for sports fans ...

It is the nature of sports fans and sports media to speculate, to dream, to engage in conversations that extend far beyond the week ahead. What's going to happen in the future? That's part of the focus for sports fans.

But for a football team, in this case the Eagles, the only thing that matters is beating Washington on Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field, against a backdrop that includes --- in the national talk -- all kinds of questions about the future of this player and that player, the Eagles have to rise to the moment to keep their playoff hopes alive.

That, and only that, is what matters.

"I don't think about things in this big-picture sort of way that maybe you guys (reporters) think about or need to think about," linebacker Connor Barwin said. "For me, it's about preparing for the game on Saturday night. I'm viewing it as a playoff game, essentially, almost as a playoff game. It's win and move on or lose and season is over (as far as playoffs are concerned). We need to play our best football. We need to prepare and have a great week.

"They're going to show up and do the same thing. It should be a great game. Hopefully, we'll come out on top."

The task is a significant one for the Eagles against Washington, a team that has won two straight games, that has a multitude of offensive weapons and a defensive front that has in recent matchups given the Eagles fits. Quarterback Kirk Cousins leads the NFL in completion percentage. He beat the Eagles in Week 4 with a touchdown pass that completed a 15-play, 90-yard drive for the winning points, a game that the Eagles trailed 13-0 before scoring 20 second-half points to take a lead, only to lose at the end.

It was a frustrating day at FedEx Field, but one that has pretty accurately described the season to date. The Eagles offense, expected to be so prolific after an offseason overhaul, was dormant for a half -- a touchdown was nullified by penalty on the final possession of the second quarter, and Caleb Sturgis then missed a chip-shot field goal on the final play of the half -- and then came to life in spurts in the third quarter to get back in the game. The Eagles took the lead a few plays into the fourth quarter and then just couldn't handle the prosperity, couldn't put the game away, and Washington won in the end.

And so here the Eagles stand, 6-8 and in need of a win on Saturday night to keep their playoff aspirations alive.

"It's a tough place to be, but we have a chance and it's in our hands," Pro Bowl defensive end Fletcher Cox said. "We're going out there to win the game. We have no other choice."

There aren't stories to unearth that haven't already been discussed. The running back picture has been dissected beyone recognition. Quarterback Sam Bradford and his progress report has been a weekly debate. The diirection of the defense continues to be a hot topic. But that's for you and me and everyone outside of the NovaCare Complex.

How focused in is this Eagles team with so much riding on Saturday night? This isn't "just another game," not with playoff hopes in the balance. This isn't to suggest that the Eagles would be more focused for this game, because in theory the level of focus is always maximized. But we've seen too many games this year with an abundance of missed tackles and dropped passes and penalties and the kind of mistakes that happen when focus lacks.

Anyway, this is a huge game. Too many times I've written something to the tune this season that "this game will tell a lot about ..." And what have those games really told us? They've told us that the Eagles are 6-8, wildly inconsistent and lacking in areas -- running game, offensive line, wide receivers, red-zone defense, run defense -- that were part of the offseason changes and, thus, were expected to be improved. There is no metric, no locked-in fact, that says the Eagles are better in any statistical category than they were a season ago, except maybe their turnover differential.

And yet, there is life, just as there was last season when the Eagles' playoff hopes ended in a hail of missed opportunities at Fed Ex Field in Week 16. Can the Eagles take advantage of the moment? There aren't going to be a lot of changes to the X's and O's, not after 14 games and on a short week. The coaches knows each other's personnel very well. Both teams have injury concerns.

It comes down to execution, in-game adjustments and, yes, focus and urgency. It's a short-term thing for the Eagles, and as much as the outside world wants to talk about Saturday and everything beyond, the Eagles have their one-game season the night after Christmas with everything on the line.

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