It is a private moment for a team that has just finished the daily practice at the NovaCare Complex, when everyone comes together and the group breakdown happens. Usually, it's Head Coach Doug Pederson who breaks down the team as it huddles, but in one post-practice instance this past week it was quarterback Carson Wentz, who felt the need as a team leader to address the group.
So he did it.
"Obviously, coming off a loss there are a lot of different things going on outside this building, I just wanted to remind everybody to stay together in this building," Wentz told me in an exclusive interview for the Eagles Insider Podcast. "Just keep believing. Put everything behind us. I'm excited for this last half of the season and I know everybody else is. For me, it was simply reminding everybody like, hey, I still believe in them, they still believe in me, and let's put everything else behind us and keep that (noise) outside the building and take care of what's in this building and take care of each other and hopefully good things happen."
We will see the impact Sunday (1 PM, FOX) when the Eagles kick off in Cleveland against the 6-3 Browns, a team that has playoff aspirations at this point in the regular season for the first time in a long, long time. The Eagles have hung together through the frustrations of a 3-5-1 start in 2020. They're not in the least bit pleased with that record. But they also have the experience of turning the last two seasons around and reaching the playoffs, and they've got enough veterans here who know how to navigate the challenges that this difficult stretch of the regular-season schedule presents.
Wentz included, of course. He has been the most challenged of any Eagle this season with his uncharacteristic spate of giveaways (12 interceptions, four lost fumbles), overseeing an offense that just hasn't yet found its foundation. That hasn't deterred his confidence.
"The biggest thing for me that I love about this team, that I've always loved about this team – win, lose, draw, good, bad, ugly, when we go out to practice, we come ready for work," Wentz said. "That hasn't changed. That didn't change a couple of weeks ago, that didn't change yesterday, and guys are always coming in ready to work. I think it's more of a mindset, a mindset for guys to keep believing, block out all the noise – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and let's go play."
It's been that kind of week for the Eagles – days of introspection and self-evaluation after the team lost at New York last Sunday in such disappointing fashion. The Eagles face a critical moment in Cleveland, the first of five games against teams with plus-.500 records. The road to the NFC East title for a second straight season is difficult.
The Eagles know, as Wentz said this week, how important it will be on Sunday to get a lead on a Cleveland team that has an offense built to play ahead on the scoreboard. More than that, really, is that the Eagles are striving to play with consistency offensively, something that has eluded them to date this season.
A lot, then, is on the line on Sunday and Wentz is, of course, in the spotlight.
"We have good plays and we have good opportunities and it might just be one little thing here and there that's really keeping us from being great and keeping us from winning ballgames," Wentz said. "You can have 10 guys doing the right thing and if one guy is off – if everybody else is doing the right thing and I miss a throw by a foot – it's those things that are keeping us back. Whether it's a mental mistake or a physical error, we can all just lock it in just a little bit more, starting with myself. Guys are seeing how close we are to being a great team, a great offense."
Cleveland won't have its superstar defensive end Myles Garrett, who reportedly tested positive for coronavirus and is on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. That's a big loss for the Browns, but at the end of the day it will come down to the Eagles and the way they execute. Last week at New York, the Eagles struggled on first and second down and ended up missing on nine opportunities on third down, with an average yard-to-go of 9 yards.
Every play matters. Every decision is important. The Eagles are in this together, as Wentz emphasized to his teammates during the week.
"I'm excited," he said. "We have a great test and we need to find a way to come out on top together. This is a big moment, like every week. That's what I love. Let's go out there and play with confidence and support each other and win this football game."